I have always felt that India, notwithstanding its many defects, is an eccentric combination of a myriad of cultural entities that just somehow harmonise and coalesce into a single union. The distance between our northern and southern frontiers and the western and eastern borders is so vast, that I had half-expected this integration to undo itself in the course of a few decades after Independence. This distance brings with itself difference; in society, in language, in culture and in identity. Vast, mind-boggling differences that cannot be comprehended as a mental exercise, primarily because of the scale on which this country operates. Statistics may tell you that the distance between the Karakoram Pass and Kanyakumari is over 4000 kilometres. What they fail to mention is the enormous geographic and cultural difference the land undergoes in the journey between these places. A gradual gradation in land, from the mountains to the plateaus and then on to seas brings with in changes in costume, in food and pretty much the way of life. As lifestyle goes, someone in the metropolis of New Delhi may have very little in common with somebody in Raichur, Karnataka. The nuanced, lilting language of the Tamilian seems very strange to the harsh sounds of the Punjabi. The coarse grain swelling with ghee that the Rajasthani consumes seems almost outlandish to the rice and rasam of Andhra Pradesh. When these differences collide, there is unpleasantness because we fear the unknown and unheard. But somewhere down the line, we are all subservient to our identity as Indians. We acknowledge this fact with pride, that cultural differences may divide us but it is this feeling of national pride that unites us. Our diversity is our strength, we exist in our differences, nay, we revel in them. We’re Indians first, and all else next. The nation exists in the minds of its people. Defining state lines onto a piece of paper is one thing, believing in those lines and identifying yourself with people encapsulated within them is another. Once this belief gets ingrained in our identity, there is nothing that can stop the progression of harmony and peace from occurring in this country. And by degrees, it has occurred. Just by glancing at its history we can determine that the subcontinent has gone from a plethora of warring kingdoms to an amalgamated state. At Independence, we could have broken up into hundreds of tiny nations, as did Yugoslavia, but it was the genius of two men, Vallabhbhai Patel and V.P. Menon, that made the existence of this country possible. And existence is a compulsory pre-requisite to sustenance. Whatever challenges the world threw at us, we survived and emerged shining, victorious. And it is this indomitable spirit that leads us on, onwards into the caliginous future, with our people lighting the dark.