'India is being built by its people, not by its government'
What is it about India that tugs at the chords of our hearts?
What makes this often beautiful, often frustrating, country the best country in the world for us?
What makes it tick? Why does it deserve to be celebrated and constantly nurtured?
Why the journey for its Freedom is a continuing one and how we must build this country every day.
This Independence Day, well-known Indians tell Rediff.com what they love most about India.
Boring banker turned happy author
One of my earliest memories of singing the national anthem goes back to the time when I must have been five or six years old and was attending an Independence Day ceremony in my school in Orissa. My chest was filled with pride as I sang it with my classmates and our families looked on. This was probably the first time I remember feeling patriotic.
Memories of that day came rushing back recently as I watched a video of young school children singing the national anthem in a cinema hall recently. There is a phrase in Hindi that sadly doesn't have an adequate English equivalent -- rongtey khade ho gaye -- that is exactly what I felt.
This version of the anthem is, I believe, crowd-sourced; it is made by the people, not the government and has an indescribably strong impact on its viewers. For me, it worked a lot better than any government-sponsored, NFDC-produced 'patriotic' film.
This video in many ways is a testimony to the fact that India is a country being built by its people, not by its government.
We are a bottom-up country, not a top-down one. It isn't surprising then that as we raise our aim towards greatness, we are also rediscovering our rebellious spirit now and fighting for our rights more vociferously than ever.
Freedom begins with a fight for one's rights; but it meets its true destiny when we become conscious of our duties.
In some sense, the fight for freedom for some sections of our society -- such as women who continue to remain oppressed -- has only just begun.
As for the rest of us who are enjoying the liberties afforded by our country, we must remember and fulfill our duties as Indians. Only when we do that, will we become truly free.
As an Indian, I am tremendously proud of our country; I am not, however, a blind patriot. While I am proud of our culture, our rich heritage, I am aware that India lacks in a lot of respects -- be it in the areas of infrastructure or economy or social issues like the safety of women.
Having said that, I also believe that the reason India continues to prosper the way it does is because of the liberalism that is ingrained in the fabric of our country.
Somehow, we seem to have a unique ability to be proud of our local culture and yet celebrate and accept other cultures. That is the secret of our national strength.
A vast majority of Indians believe that it is perfectly alright for people to have different, even opposing, points of view; that is the true definition of liberalism. This doesn't mean we don't have debates and arguments. We just don't kill each other at the end of it. We can see, in the examples of other countries in our neighbourhood, the effect of cultures which refuse to accept diversity.
I believe that every country is made (or unmade) by its people. There is no denying that life in India can be extremely difficult but the beauty of it is that its people somehow make it work, even in the face of all odds. In spite of all the problems, people don't resort to crazy uncontrolled violence.
Think of it, New York, despite its much quicker justice system, superior infrastructure and a better-equipped police force has about ten times the serious crime rate of Mumbai.
So yes, I am proud of India and its people.
I am proud of our heritage and the knowledge that we've inherited from our ancestors who we can look up to, be inspired and be driven to do great things.
I am proud of the energy that is so visible amongst our youth today, our liberalism and our ability to get along with others and find our way through life.
Most of all, I am proud of our founding fathers who realised that gaining Independence from the British was possibly the least of our worries and that it was more important to figure out what sort of country we would become.
Mahatma Gandhi, above anyone else, created a culture that saw stalwarts as diverse as Ambedkar, Patel, Azad, Nehru, Rajagopalachari, Prasad amongst many others come together on a single platform and create one of the finest documents in human history -- the Constitution of India.
Yes, I am a very proud Indian. And with good reason.
Amish Tripathi is one of India's most-loved novelists. The author of three books known as the Shiva Trilogy, he calls himself a boring banker turned happy author. His book series are the fastest selling in Indian publishing history.
He spoke to Abhishek Mande Bhot.
Image: National Cadet Corps members during a dress rehearsal for Independence Day in Srinagar, August 13, 2013.
Photographs: Danish Ismail/Reuters