Nowhere else can you be so mesmerized by bursting colours and exotic smells of a spice shack, be stuck in a rickshaw on a chaotic street waiting on bovine to cross, have your heart broken by poverty so unfamiliar only to be lifted to unimaginable heights by baffling acts of profound kindness, all in the same morning. Nowhere will you be so put in your place by overwhelming natural beauty alongside stirring and romantic feats of humanity. But once you visit, India's bold imprint will remain branded on your soul forever.
It's hard to believe that India (as an independent nation) is only 60 years old. Once ruled by the British with southern pockets claimed by the Portuguese, it lost territory to the new nations of Pakistan and Bangladesh but still remains the largest country in the Indian Subcontinent. Today, it is an emerging super power that stands at over a billion strong. Within that billion people are over 400 different spoken languages and all of the world's major religions.
In landscape, the people and their culture and just about everything else, India is as diverse as it gets. From the snowy mountain peaks of the Himalayas in the northeast, through the Thar dessert and fertile river-fed plains to forested jungles, the mangroves of the Sunderbans and endless stretches of stunning beaches, it's all here.
With at least a six month stay and a valiant effort, it's possible to see it all but few do. The casual visitor's 'musts' should include the capital of Delhi and the Red Fort, the golden beaches of Kochi, Kerala and Goa, the Bollywood of Mumbai, the Pink City of Jaipur, the colonial buildings and culture of Kolkata, Hinduism's most sacred city in Varanasi and of course, Agra's majestic Taj Mahal. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Regardless of where you go, sweet spiced chai and sweaty curries will keep thirst at bay and bellies satisfied.
Unpredictable, spiritual and surprising at every turn, India is an exercise in patience where you learn more about yourself than about the country that is teaching you as India's intricacies are too complex to simply figure out. No matter how prepared one thinks they may be, they aren't. Even those that have visited other South Asian countries aren't, they can't be, for India is simply incomparable.