AT 17, one can be very exacting in one's standards and highly intolerant of any deviation from them. Thus it was that the magic day 50 years ago, for which I had waited ever since gaining consciousness, was nearly ruined for me by the girl next door shortly
after it dawned. Pestered by a younger brother anxious to know why there was so much excitement all round, she blandly told him: "Aaj Pandit Nehru ko taaj pehnaya ja raha hai" (today is Pandit Nehru's coronation). I was infuriated.
Here we were, 330 million Indians, ushering in the largest democracy the world had ever known, and this stupid girl seemed to think that we were establishing a new monarchy in place of the British Crown. My impulse was to give the ignoramus the tongue-lashing she deserved. I was deterred by my brother and college friends, who reminded me that we had a bigger problem on our hands and should not be distracted by a blabbering neighbour.
All five of us were staying at Nangloi, a small satellite village where my father was then station...