I just had a fascinating lunch with a bunch of Indian colleagues from all over the country - Bangalore, Kerala, Rajasthan and West Bengal. Most of it consisted of a series of good-humoured but increasingly vociferous disagreements on subjects ranging from the proportion of people to gods in the country (we agreed in the end on approximately 400:1, discounting the various monotheistic Indians from the equation) to the day on which it is appropriate to pay homage to the goddess Lakshmi. The most strident note of conflict was about whether it is possible to buy beef in India (and, on a side note, whether Dominos put ham on their pizzas here), which gave rise to some quite stirring speeches about India being a "dietary democracy".
It was both entertaining and fascinating for me, a newcomer to this country’s ongoing dialogue with itself to understand what “Indian” means. It’s a truism that India’s ability to hold together as a democracy in the face of both overwhelming diversity and large-scale poverty makes it an outlier in the world of political science. I don’t know how they’ve done it either. But democracy at the very least allows people the space to have these discussions, to negotiate their way through their vast differences and find their real commonalities. This is happening at a million lunch tables, in a million parks, on a million streets every day, and has been for the last sixty years at least.
It's kind of incredible, really.