Beam me down

This week's random co-ordinates chosen by the computer are:

28 31' N 75 51' E

FIRST REACTION

Oh to be in India in the spring.

COUNTRY AND REGION

This is the Harayana state in Northern India, which encompasses Delhi. If you have beamed in from the UK, you won't feel too homesick - it is called "the green state".

NEAREST SETTLEMENT

You've touched down just north of the market town of Loharu. Accessible by road and rail, it is on the border with Rajasthan.

NATURE OF THE TERRAIN

Just before the wheat harvest, the land is at its greenest this time of year. Although it is now the dry season of a dry region, this flat state has the most developed irrigation system in India.

ALTITUDE

You are on a vast inland plain, 1,000km from the sea, but not more that 275m above it.

LIKELY WEATHER CONDITIONS

Sussex-cum-Provence, with January temperatures ranging between 7C and 20C and lots of crisp sunshine. Cold nights typical of inland plains.

USEFUL LANGUAGES

Separated from neighbouring Punjab in 1966, the people of Harayana are mainly Hindi-speaking. English will help.

POSSIBLE HAZARDS

Health facilities in the country as a whole are improving. Most travellers suffer from little more than diarrhoea, but be wary if you do need drugs. There are few controls and most can be bought without prescription.

TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER

Since the general elections of March 1998, the Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, has been the largest party. The prime minister is Atal Behari Vajpayee.

REASONS FOR HANGING AROUND

If you are open to modern as well as ancient India, visit the regional capital, Chandigarh. The town was constructed around a blueprint by Le Corbusier in 1950.

GETTING THE HELL OUT OF HERE

Wait until nightfall and make for the river of headlights which mark the Peshawar to Calcutta grand trunk road. This, the mother of all Indian roads, was described by Kipling as "the backbone of all Hind". Catch a bus with comfortable seats, and set your alarm clock for seven days hence. Once in Calcutta, find the airport.

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