Jawaharlal Nehru's speech on Aug. 14, 1947, is one of the great pieces of oratory, something that still puts a chill down my spine whenever I read it. Nehru referring to India's "unending quest" from the "dawn of history" knew that there was something odd about celebrating political independence as if it was a dawn: colonial masters didn't invent India when they first arrived there or when they left. At the same time, shaking off the European yoke plainly marked a change, not just for the subcontinent, but the world. "A new star rises," said Nehru, "a new hope comes into being."
Even those who love India with the crazy passion it engenders would admit that such hope has not always been made flesh in the past 60 years. But when we came to prepare our special issue on the anniversary of independence, we saw sign after sign that many of the old doubts and disappointments had fallen away. "I was born in the 1970s," says Nilanjan Das, deputy art director of TIME Asia, who designed the issue, and is Indian himself. It was, he says, "a time of indecisiveness and insecurity. But now we are in the middle of this amazing ride."
It's well known that economically, India is going places. "Western businessmen who have been losing sleep over China may be worrying about the wrong country," says senior editor Jim Erickson, who managed the project wonderfully with his customary sure editing touch and attention to detail. "It is Indian corporations that are proving to be formidable competitors in the global, information-driven economy." At the same time, we wanted to make sure that we captured the human dimension of change, which New Delhi bureau chief Simon Robinson did by looking at three generations of a family. The Malhotras, Robinson says "were gracious in their welcome and generous with their time their tale is a great reminder that the changes in India over the past 60 years are not just abstract numbers on paper but the stories of lives and families." In her study of Islam on the subcontinent, Aryn Baker looks at the way in which such lives and families have been shaped by faith, and by memory. "It always amazes me," she says, "how the past is very present in Pakistan's politics and society."
Our writers and editors were, as always, supported in their endeavors by our terrific art and photo team in Hong Kong. Graphics maestro Dennis Wong worked alongside Das, and TIME Asia picture editor Maria Wood and deputy picture editor Wei Leng Tay did a tremendous job tracking down the photos needed to make the package sing. Tim Morrison, with Robinson and reporter Ishaan Tharoor, ensured that what couldn't fit in the magazine was beautifully displayed on TIME.com.
I'm grateful to all of those who produced this issue and trust that you will enjoy reading it. India, says Tharoor, whose essay on democracy you will find inside, is a place that one sees through a "kaleidoscopic prism, its cacophonous street unafraid of its blemishes and warts." We hope you'll find evidence of that newfound Indian confidence a confidence for which Nehru yearned 60 years ago in this issue.