India is a place where life is vibrant and full of contrast, colour and interest. So, it is difficult to generalise about the country. The caste system, over 2,500 distinct ethnic groups and their accompanying languages, ancient histories, climatic and geographic variables, all form a highly complex nation. The population of at least 1,200,000,000 seems unfathomable to un-crowded New Zealanders. This mass of people places India as the top country in the world of most human need.

India has also been called the land of 330 million gods. Hinduism is the world's third-largest religious system. The all-pervading belief in the necessity for religious observance relates to all aspects of everyday living.

As glimpsed in the movie, Slumdog Millionaire, there is an emerging "New India". Urbanisation and technological advancement, call centres, the Bollywood-craze and of course, cricket... the youthful population is increasingly 'global-minded' and re-inventing Indian culture with modernity and economic ambition. However, newfound success does not tend to 'trickle down' to lower castes so gaps between rich and poor persist.

Chennai (Madras) is the fourth largest metropolitan city in India with a population of more than 8 billion people. Out of this population, 60% are living in absolute poverty and unhygienic conditions in the city. But due to economic development in the country, the city is filled with high-storied buildings, malls, all brands of cars and dining places which a common man cannot afford. The gap between the rich and poor is increasing. Begging is a common scene in the roads of the city. Children on the streets and old aged people starving for food are increasing at an alarming pace.

How Has God been at work?

When God calls us for His work, He always opens doors and provides all we need. During this year, God enabled us to start a new ministry among the Street Children in one of the worst slums in the city. Also, we were able to start two new Rallies at two more places in the outskirts of the city. It is amazing to see how lives are transformed. Colleen - South India

Are there any things about this country which would surprise or shock a Kiwi?

Chennai still follows the traditions and culture where men will not shake hands with ladies. Instead, they either greet them with a word or just with a smile.

Congested and constant flowing traffic...motor bikes with two pillion passengers and a kid perched on the front...cows on the busy roads...people living in slums. Colleen - South India

The surprise is that the jumble of electrical wires and cables can be deciphered by the wiremen AND that it all works!!

The second wonder is the smartness of Indian drivers who can gauge the distance between vehicles to within a fraction of an inch! Phyllis

What else about this region is interesting?

One of the beauty spots of Indian culture is that even when you go to the poorest of the poor families, they welcome you with a smile and they share with you even the little they have.

The bond and relationship between members of the family, parents and children, are so strong. They deeply respect and value one another.

Chennai is situated in the southern part of India. It is now the hub of IT industries and manufacturing companies. Except for a few days of rain, Chennai is always warm with the hottest period in May - the mercury shoots up to 45 degrees!!

The natural beauty spots rival New Zealand – hence the Tourist promotional pamphlets call Kerala as "God's Own Country". Phyllis

Tags: Feilding | India | South Asia

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