If a single moment could be said to symbolise the contemporary transformation of India, it was probably the unveiling earlier this year of the Tata Nano, the Indian built super-cheap super-Mini. The Nano is an expression both of the growing aspirations of the Indian masses and of the burgeoning confidence of Indian entrepreneurs not just of meeting those aspirations but also of making their mark on the world stage.
Yet if the Nano gave us a glimpse of the new India, it also reminded us of the old. ‘Even as the world is acknowledging India’s new promise’, Nandan Nilekan observes in Imagining India, ‘the opportunity of the global economy has highlighted our internal differences – between the educated and the illiterate, the public and private sectors, between the well- and the poorly governed, and between those who have access and those who have not. ‘Whether or not India becomes a global player depends at least in part, he suggests, on how India deals with these contrasts.