The place where the zero was first used. Where it still carries a wealth of meaning beyond mathematics. A country which proudly holds the title of being the ‘largest secular democracy in the world’ and sadly ignores the well-deserved upcoming one of the ‘most populous nation on earth’. The newly independent country with the ages-old civilization. Where most people are proud of their ancestors and give a lot of thought to where they come from and unfortunately don’t think about where they are going. A world of cut-throat competition where a missed day of work or class counts as a calamity. A world in itself with hundreds of languages and thousands of dialects. Where people from one end of the country sometimes think those from the other end are aliens, yet where you find communal harmony reigning in the most unexpected places. A place with superbly developed and highly efficient mass transit systems yet no place to walk on the roads. A food heaven where you can sometimes find many gastronomic pleasures, but only if you turn a blind eye to the hygiene arrangements. Where the slightest move ahead sometimes means unravelling yards of red-tape, especially if you don’t know all the right people. Where ‘privacy’ is merely a word, and ‘graft’ a very significant piece of life. Where the concept of God is used by the deeply religious and the Godless alike. Where the seasons are perfectly delineated with no trespassing into the other’s territory. Where there are a hundred different Gods each with a special festival. Where localities comprise of effervescent rich, demoralized poor and unperturbed middle-class. Where apathy shouts from the rooftops and subjugates the softer voice of the truly concerned. Where two negatives don’t always make a positive. Where Myth, Magic, Mystical, Polluted, Crowded, Noisy, Rural, Poor, Tranquil, Metropolitan are only some of the words enveloping the surroundings.

A place where differently hued skins mingle to make the most colourful kaleidoscopes. Where lilting accents mix harmoniously in an orchestra of rolling syllables, unpronounceable tongue-twisters and guttural tones. A place which foreigners love to hate yet are inexplicably drawn back to.

And home to me. A beautiful country despite all the things going wrong with her.