Why the best way to experience India is by road trip

You never know what you'll see next along an Indian road. To some a road journey is an exhaustion of dusty heat, car horns, potholes, chaotic muddle and perennial alarm. Relax. There's a way to enjoy Indian roads. Don't fret over thoughts of impending doom. Instead, take your coach or car as a brilliant mobile box seat from which to stare out at India's grand opera of antics and improbabilities.

Absorb one of the greatest shows of humanity on earth. There are businesspeople in suits, beggars in rags and wandering holy men in nothing at all. You'll see Sikhs in neat turbans, Muslims in white caps, Rajasthani women in red and pink saris shot through with gold thread. Temple priests walk by in orange robes, foreheads smeared with yellow and white powder. Ascetics draped in beaded necklaces sit cross-legged in the shade.

Along the road's edge are handcarts from which vendors sell lumpy vegetables, deep-fried samosas or garlands for Hindu temples. Store owners gather to sip tiny cups of tea. The road itself is a dodgem course of creaking bullock carts, motor-rickshaws and hurtling buses. Teenagers zip past on motorbikes laden with cardboard boxes. Camels decked with tinsel and elephants chalked with pink flowers might trundle by like hallucinations.

A wedding procession may come into view, with a groom on a caparisoned horse followed by musicians playing trumpets and drums. Behind, a flock of women in bright saris dances in celebration. The parade is illuminated by neon lights carried on men's heads and powered by a diesel generator hauled in a wheelbarrow.

You see glorious things from the road. Waterfalls and Himalayan mountains, Rajasthani fortresses rising from rocky desert outcrops, huge temples and monuments. The flow of humanity turns them all into inconsequential backdrops to daily life. Mughal emperors and British imperialists come and go, but ordinary Indians flow on. Gaze from your car window and there's always a sense of drama, even theatre. People are begging, hauling goods, selling clothes, banging sheet metal, cajoling from political posters, washing in rivers.

From the road, you see all the problems and potential of India, all its boundless energy. Soak up the kaleidoscope of colours, the smell of burning cow dung and wet marigolds and strange spices. After a day on India's roads, your brain will fall into exhausted disbelief. Until then, simply settle back and enjoy the whirligig of delights and strangeness.

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