Population: 1 billion. That’s 1,000,000,000 and growing all the time.
Languages:There are 14 printed on the rupee and countless dialects. Hindi and English are widely spoken and then others are strong regionally. The most popular of these are Punjabi, Bengali, Maharati, Tamil and Gujurati.
Race: A touchy subject. Indians have brown skin and all aspire to be as light skinned as possible. Hence the sales in whitening skin cream. Each language group and religion would like to consider themselves a people apart from the rest.
Government: Democratic, corrupt and incompetent. The British ruled until 1947 and though they robbed India blind they were ar least honest about it. Today’s bunch of crooks in charge are the reason that India remains a poor country.
CIA India Information Visas and Overstays in India
The standard thing is to get a six month visa before you get there that begins from the moment you get it. It’s very hard to extend and the best way to stay longer is to leave the country to Thailand, Pakistan or Sri Lanka to get a new one. This is always changing though as the Indian Government has decided that they don’t want Western hippies hanging around for years at a time. You cannot get a new tourist visa in Nepal and even in Thailand they like you to wait a month or two before you come back. Ask around and see what the current situation is.
If you overstay it can be complicated to get out. You’ll have to head to Delhi and literally throw yourself at the feet of various bureaucrats to beg the necessary permits to leave. An alternative is to sneak over the border to Nepal. You can either pay baksheesh to the Indian border guards for an exit visa or sneak past them and bribe the Nepalese border guard instead for a visa into Nepal despite not having your exit stamp from India. Choose one of the small border points like up from Lucknow or by Nepalganj. These guys make next to nothing so a hundred dollars should go a long way. Try to get an Indian you trust to mediate for you though.
There are people in India who provide fake visas but you’re not advised to take these though the airports where they have infra-red lights to check their validity.
When to Travel in India
India has 4, arguably 5, seasons. Most travelers head to India in September time, just as the monsoon is finishing and coincidentally when the charas harvest comes in! It’s a good time to be in the mountains which are green and lush after all the rain though the Himalayas get pretty fucking cold by November.
The temperatures begin to cool across the country by December and in Delhi it can even drop to near zero at night, killing scores of homeless with no cover. The winter does make the burning hot south bearable though and December is when the season in Goa really kicks off.
The heat begins to pick up around March and by April all the travelers are running for the Himalayas to get rid of their prickly heat. The country begins to burn up through May and June, wells run dry and tempers overflow. It can reach up to 50 degrees centigrade in the plains and you see why the British were so keen on their little hill stations for the benefit of the ladies and officers of delicate temperaments.
When monsoon breaks in June and July there’s often a big party in areas that really depend upon the rain for survival. Monsoon in India is like rain you never saw before, pouring down for days at a time, leaving you wondering how that much water can be held in the sky.
It used to be that the arrival of the monsoon could be predicted to the day and hour of the first rain. Deforestation and general worldwide environmental sabotage have meant that the monsoon is now a capricious creature and every year local populations are threatened with destitution if the rains fail. Governments can fall in India depending on the weather.
The monsoon is awesome but rather tedious after a while in most places and a little dangerous to the health as the purity of water supplies gets dubious and all the humidity breeds all kinds of infections. At least in the Himalayas the water runs off fast.
If you really want to avoid other travelers you can do like one old sadhu we knew did and hang out in the Himalayas all winter and head to the south of India in summer. There he told us he spent the monsoon in a small village in Tamil Nadu where a famous local junkie would paint pictures in candle wax. At the top of the picture he’d leave drops of paint and then he’d hang it on the tree. The village came out each day before the rains started and as the first drops of water hit the paper, the paint started to run and the portrait briefly came to live in front of them; the colours ran down the wax contours, showing the hidden design before the painting was once again washed clean.