Despite its recent financial and political struggles, India has taken rapidly to the web. Chris Martin tunes in to the sub-continent's cybercafe culture
India is undoubtedly one of the most historic and romantic countries in the world. A huge melting pot of culture and races, its diverse landscape spans merciless deserts and lush verdant hill stations. Though it's had its fair share of problems in recent years, both political and financial, it's fast becoming one of the foremost Eastern nations on the Internet.
A thriving information technology industry has emerged and the people have taken the web to their hearts. Through India's vast network of cybercafes, the technology offers them a cheap and efficient way to communicate with each other and to get information about India and Indian issues out into the world.
India's on-line scene reflects the country's triumph of integration, while celebrating all that is diverse in its culture, art, food, wildlife, business, lifestyle and spirituality. The national government has been extremely active in India's on-line life. Many sites have the backing of, or are maintained by, India's Ministry of External Affairs. Most notable is its official site Discover India (http://www.indiagov. org) which offers an excellent introduction to the country. The site provides more than just photo galleries and a calendar of festivals. Its tourism section allows you to pick your destination alphabetically or by holiday type such as 'hill station' or 'beaches'. Once you've chosen, the site gives you in-depth reports and information on how to get there, where to stay and what to do. There's also invaluable information on visas and the often exhausting business of travelling in India.
The Ministry of External Affairs is also responsible for the Indian Parliament's site (http://alfa.nic.in/). It's a bit slow to load and far from easy to navigate. However it is worth the effort if only to gain some insight into India's complex political system. Politics is a labyrinthine and heart-felt subject in India and this site gives a general overview of the main parties as well as a chance to meet the current president.
However, if you really want to know what's going on in India you can always read the daily on-line version of The Times of India (http://www. timesofindia.com). This historic newspaper has been published since the days of the Raj and shares the reputation of its UK counterpart. The times of India comprehensively covers news, business, sport and entertainment across the country; you can even buy books from Amazon.com. India is nothing if not a country of opposites and the websites developed by individual provinces demonstrate this. A good example is Rajasthan Web …