Historical fiction has always been my favorite genre. One of the reasons is that it gives me a glimpse into the life of the people who lived and faced various atrocities of the past. But I believe fiction is always aggravated and it can sometimes convolute the reality. That’s why it’s important to read history too. To differentiate facts from fiction.
The most accessible historical data is from the time of world war. There are so many books both fiction and non-fiction and well-made documentaries. And same is true for world history in general. But I was saddened to see that there weren’t that many good books and a documentary on Indian history that gives an unbiased account of the events.
I have read about Indian history only in school textbooks. But I feel those textbooks just give us facts and dates and it has failed to paint the true picture of atrocities that were subjected on the people. Reading this book has made my heart tear at the pain of the people.
But I am not feeling this pain because I am Indian. Yes, I identify myself as an Indian but it is only second to identifying myself as a normal human being. I am born in a subcontinent whose borders and the name is defined by some other humans many years ago, and hence I am an Indian. If they would have decided to crave the borders in some other way I would have identified myself from some other nationality. And I don’t feel special pride or affinity towards a country based on the boundary defined by some other person.
And that’s the reason my heart bleeds equally for the people who lived during the rule of the British and faced anarchy, to the Jewish people who faced genocide, to the Africans who were sold for slavery, or to the Afghanis who are denied human rights by Taliban. All of them are subject to the ambitions of yet few humans who are the ones who defined these boundaries, these nations, and these divisions, just to serve their purpose.
While reading this book I was wondering if the British would not have come we would have been happy? Who was the leader at that time who would have lead and united India to glory against all other Afghan or European nations? Were the Mughals true leaders of India? Or the mighty Marathas, but again there are accounts of them plundering the village they attack too? Or the Rajputs, who were just happy with the end of the Mughal era and too ignorant to see the dangers of the British in India.
Either way, everyone was just serving their own purpose at the cost of the life of common people. But are the common people blameless? After all, they are weak and powerless. They chose sides that seemed to give them the best security and protection. Too self-centered to care for the heat from the neighbor’s home until their own house was on fire.
After reading about the state of fragmentation in India I am even more appreciative of the leaders who came in later part of British India to lead India to independence. I am looking forward to reading more books to learn how our leaders got us united in the end and why it took us more than 250 years to get united against the Britishers or thousands of years to awaken against all the external raiders/rulers who extorted from India for so much time.
About this book
I find the voice of the author a little biased towards Britishers. I understand that India was quite fragmented during the initial days, but putting most of the blame of anarchy during those times on Indian rulers was a little unfair.
I know that William Dalrymple is quite a favorite historian for so many, but I differ in my opinion. If you read this book, I would recommend you to read with an open mind and do a little bit of research to know about the other side too.
I am looking for some recommendations with a neutral voice on Indian history. Please drop recommendations(book/documentaries) if you have any.