India is a crazy, chaotic, beautiful place. There is nowhere in the world quite like it. Within this inherent craziness there exists all number of eccentricities and contrasts. Such is the case that many people who visit the country report acutely different accounts and experiences of their time there. For me, ever since I set foot in the country, life has been an unquenchable Indian love affair.
India manages to simultaneously meet and defy all expectations. Every aspect is matched and perfectly contrasted by another. Notice one condition or aspect and you are sure to find its polar opposite somewhere else.
Home to hundreds of different religions, India’s culture is colorful and expansive. Its diversity stretches to almost all areas, in particular language. While there is no exact consensus, it is estimated that over 1,000 languages are spoken in India. The six big languages - Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil and Urdu - are each spoken by more than 50 million people. Staggering figures by any measure.
Within this motley landscape, it is perhaps unsurprising that there exists rather a few world-record breakers and all-in-all curious facts.
Here I have compiled just a few of these head-scratches and thought-provokers. If India can guarantee to do any one thing, without fail, it has to be its ability to surprise you.
1. Mustaches Rule (literally)
In the state of Madhya Pradesh, policemen are given bonuses if they cultivate a mustache. No joke. The mustaches are seen as a sign of dignity and are apparently well-rewarded for this reason.
2. Largest postal network in the world
Perhaps unsurprisingly, India is home to the most extensive postal service - anywhere! There are post offices in almost every town, city and village (and there’s a lot of them). These unite to make the intricate web that is the world’s largest postal network. What’s more, India is unique in the fact it has its very own floating post office, situated on Dal Lake. The postal wonders don’t end here though, with India also breaking records with the world's highest post office - 15,500 ft up in the Hikkim region of the Himalayas.
3. Highest number of road deaths
Indian roads are notorious for their uncontrolled, dangerous conditions and this is not without reason. As the country holding the greatest road death figures, it is wise to be cautious when travelling in India. Around 200,000 people die on Indian roads each year.
4. Railways like you wouldn’t believe
The Indian railways are simply enormous. They employ 1.4 million Indians - a larger number than the entire populations of countless countries, including Iceland, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Mauritius. A whole nation of train peoples.
5. Indians invented Shampoo AND Chess
You heard it, without the Indian genius, we would have greasy locks and a big hole in our gaming repertoire. They also invented lots of algebra-related things, such as that “pi” we were taught about in school - but who wants to hear about maths?
6. Home to the world’s biggest family
No seriously. One man, 39 wives, 94 children and 33 grandchildren. Pretty hard to comprehend. Oh, and they all live happily together in the same house.
7. Bringing veg to fast-food favourites
Pizza Hut, KFC and McDonalds had to design their first vegetarian menus for the Indian masses. Yup, that’s right, they were way ahead of all of us on that trend. But considering India has the largest amount of vegetarians in the world, perhaps this isn’t so surprising.
8. Mangoes, mangoes, mangoes
Who doesn’t enjoy the sweet, delicious, mouth-watering taste of a mango from time to time? As India’s national fruit, there is an absolute abundance of mangoes in the country. By abundance, I mean several hundred variations. It’s unlikely you will find a greater selection anywhere in the world.
9. Samosas are not an original Indian dish
I know, I know. How can this be? Perhaps the most shocking fact of all - samosas have become a somewhat infamous Indian delicacy and when many people think of India and its food, this little puff of pastry is an iconic symbol that comes to mind. But no. Samosas were first eaten in Central Asia, not India.
10. Yoga originated in India and has been around for over 5,000 years
Forget the recent crazes, yoga has been around for centuries! Again proving that they’re always one-step ahead, Indians have been practicing yoga about 4,999 years longer than us.