Fifty years ago the British divided and departed from their most prized imperial possession, handing over the new Indian state to a small nationalist elite led by Jawaharlal Nehru. The new country was then driven by a belief in a political construct, the idea of India, an idea that for decades animated the citizens' efforts to unite their huge, diverse, and poor society and to transform it into a modern state fit to join the irreversible movement of world history.
Khilnani addresses the paradoxes and ironies that have surrounded this project of inventing India—a project that has brought Indians considerable political freedom and carried their enormous democracy to the verge of being Asia's greatest free state but that has also left many of them in poverty and that is now threatened by divisive religious nationalism. His historical analysis conveys modern India's energy, fluidity, and unpredictability—in its democracy and its voting patterns, in its visions of economic development, in its diverse cities and devotion to village culture, and in its current disputes over its political identity. Throughout, he provokes and illuminates this fundamental question: Can the original idea of India survive its own successes?