If I ever had to choose someone to rewrite history William Dalrymple would definitely be top of the list.
Wonderful book to read if you are interested in Indian history but can't read through some of the textual, verbose and factual books you usually find on Indian history.. books that my dad would love, but I find the writing styles extremely difficult to relate to.
It was refreshing to read about a culture crossover at that time and age. WD's curiosity as to how after being in India for 300 years, the British at large didn't carry Indian influence with them. Shilpa Shetty and Indian curry are still alien and exotic for them.
WD's depiction of historical figures makes them actual flesh and blood, rather than just names. Reading through the really thick but gripping book, you can see these people of centuries back..
WD's detailed research of the letters, between all the different historical figures, makes for a very interesting read. You can almost see where they sat while writing those letters, their clothes, the expressions on their face, hear their thoughts through the letters in the colloquial language. James Kirkpatrick is not ancient anymore. His thoughts, his feelings that you see through the letters makes him contemporary. Khair un-Nissa from 200 years back has the same stubbornness and determination to insist on getting her love,her way as any young girl today might.
Smart and sensitive James, beautiful and in love Khair un-Nissa, old man Nizam, wily Aristu Jah, villainous Mir Alam, ambitious Henry Russell, dancing courtesans and poetry in moonlit gardens, wow.. what a story! Quite the inspiration for a blockbuster Bollywood movie.
Its a heavy book, but I'm definitely carrying it with me to Hyderabad to do a "White Mughal" tour through the city. See the British Residency, the Mah Laqa Bai Chanda's tomb, the Maula Ali shrine.. see where they lived.. the river, the bridges, the pleasure gardens.
WD's interpretation of the reasons behind some of the political decisions of the Mughal and British empire makes you question what you've been fed as kids in school history books. The hero's and villains of pre-independence era are very subjective. Something you see in contemporary politics too.
History seems fun now.. Maybe I will try reading Discovery of India again..and if I go beyond a few pages, you'll know about it. :)
chica Labels: British Raj, Chica read..., Indian History, Mughal Lit, Travel