In This Review

The Idea of India

The Idea of India
By Sunil Khilnani
263 pp, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1997

Amid the popular ferment that forged an Italian nation out of a congeries of principalities and statelets in the nineteenth century, the novelist Massimo Taparelli d'Azeglio memorably wrote, "We have created Italy. Now all we need to do is to create Italians." Oddly enough, when the British pulled down the Union Jack in 1947, no Indian nationalist succumbed to the temptation to express the same thought-"we have created India. Now all we need to do is to create Indians."

Such a sentiment would not have occurred to the preeminent voice of Indian nationalism, Jawaharlal Nehru. India's first prime minister would never have spoken of "creating" India or Indians, merely of being the agent for the reassertion of what had always existed but had been long suppressed. Nonetheless, the India that was born in 1947 was in a very real sense a new creation: a state that made fellow citizens of the

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  • Shashi Tharoor is the author of The Great Indian Novel and other works of fiction. His most recent book is India: From Midnight to the Millennium.
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