United States of India
The word federalism finds its way into the discussion, and the author offers compelling portraits of the men at the heart of the country's formation. I learned who the thinkers were, who gave the most inspiring speeches, and who were the gifted administrators who held everything together.
The country's most revered figure is quoted as having said he would like to see a woman from the most despised class as the new nation's first president, however, so I knew I was no longer in the United States. In other respects, though, the process and problems of constitution formation were strikingly similar in India and the U.S. It's no wonder that the book quotes one scholar as calling India's constitution "perhaps the greatest political venture since that originated in Philadelphia in 1787" — three short blocks from where I sit as I write this post.
The book — India After Gandhi, by Ramachandra Guha — offers other surprises, as well (to me, at least). One that might resonate with readers today is that a leading voice against reserving seats in the Constituent Assembly for India's leading minority — Muslims — was herself a Muslim. That's right, herself. Separate electorates, said Begun Aizaz Rasul, are "a self-destructive weapon which separates the minorities from the majority for all time."
I see no reason yet why anyone who admires the great-spirited secular idealism of the American founders should not admire the similar qualities and the people who advanced them in modern India. As for what eventually happens to those qualities, well, don't spoil my fun.
© Peter Rozovsky 2015