My grandfather, who was born in what is today Bangladesh, had to run away from a place he called home for much of his life after the brutal partition of the subcontinent.
While the last souvenir of British colonialism was overthrown, generations of history and heritage were abandoned in a mass migration that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
A new country, a democracy, took shape in front of his eyes.
With a constitution that guaranteed equality to all castes and charismatic leaders who heralded a new future, India completed its transformation from ancient civilization to modern nation.
But self-determination came at a cost.
Reeling under debt and deficit, India saw meager economic growth. Bureaucratic regulations killed the spirit of industry and commerce resulting in massive unemployment.
Societal ills like female infanticide and dowry pulled back development, with gender equality remaining off the table.
To add to the mix, India went to war with Pakistan in 1971 — a war that saw the liberation of Bangladesh, only a few short years after my grandfather had passed away.
My father saw large food shortages and long electricity cuts, yet — struggling under overwhelming odds — young India seemed to be plodding forward.
Seeds of change had been planted — illiteracy rates were falling, satellites were being sent into space, and democracy seemed to be thriving with the young nation electing Indira Gandhi as its first female Prime Minister.
When I was born, the Indian economy was still struggling but winds of change were swirling around the country.
With increasing levels of education, steps were being taken to ensure that equality existed not only on paper but in practice.
In 1991, the economy was thrown open to global capital markets in a landmark move that saw India join the globalized world, forever changing the country’s economic landscape.
Today, India has changed — and how.
With a booming software and information technology sector, there is an entrepreneurial buzz all around. Even the national space program is thriving and India has already sent two missions to Mars.
The social fabric of the country has also come a long way.
Rapid advances are being made to ensure that people can make a living, regardless of their gender or sexuality.
A record number of women are entering the workforce, aspiring towards careers in fields ranging from wrestling to engineering.
Despite all this, there remain startling contradictions. India, after all, is a country with many countries.
Corruption still exists, minorities are still in a vulnerable position, violence against woman, politics has been reduced to sweeping populism.
Paradoxes exist; more people have a mobile phone than access to clean toilets. The country is trying, and the pessimistic spirit of the past is again replaced with the optimism of the initial years of independence.