On this day in 1947 was born the world's largest democracy when India managed to shake off the colonial rule of its most recent occupiers. Nevertheless, the British Raj (effortlessly embodied by Lord Mountbatten) had the last laugh when it partitioned the country into a secular India and a Muslim Pakistan - the source of considerable tension in the region ever since, especially once Pakistan developed nuclear capabilities under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The two countries have been rattling increasingly dangerous sabres at each other over Kashmir ever since, providing the rest of the world with precisely the kind of invigorating stress it could do without.
Leading India into the brave new world of modern nationhood were Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the country's spiritual father, Mahatma Gandhi; it would be 1950 before Rajendra Prasad was elected India's first President, despite the fact that Nehru favoured another candidate, Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari, who had previously replaced Lord Mountbatten to serve as the country's second and final post-independence Governor-General.
The events surrounding Indian independence and the country's early years are pithily recounted by Sir Salman Rushdie in his 1981 novel Midnight's Children, which in 2008 was again voted the best Booker Prize-winning novel of them all on the fortieth anniversary of the prize, as it was in 1993 on the lucrative award's twenty-fifth anniversary. No work of fiction has ever come more highly recommended by the Pop Culture Institute...
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