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Friday, April 09, 2010

Babar, Humayun, Akbar.....

So would we recite as we studied Mughal History in our school until the last mughal ruler we would have read about.
Even as a lesson, the Mughal History was interesting. I have always been fascinated by them and their lives. And therefore Jodha Akbar was also interesting as a movie for me- because it carried the story of someone from the clan.
I recently read Empire of the Moghul- Raider's from the North by Alex Rutherford.
Before getting into the details of the book- I loved the cover- the cut out of the jewelled sword was so regal. May be that's the new trend in book covers- the jewelled look- it was the samefor Palace of Illusions also.
Frankly I was apprehensive about the book.I did not want to take a history lesson no matter whatever my fascination with the Empire. But I read this review at the Book Lovers and decided to trust their judgement and go ahead with it.
Right from the word go I was hooked. I knew it is going to be a slow read because I needed to get used to the names and the relationship between the characters. But that is all part of the fun in reading historical novels.
All those who have studied Mughal History in school would know that Babur was crowned king of Ferghana at the age of 13. In a text book format, part of the drama and romance is just lost. Bit not here. The author has woven the story like a Jeffery Archer drama and added grandiose together with depicting realistically what would be going on in the mind of the young Babur whose life tranforms in a snap as he is crowned King. Right from the behaviour of the attendants in the women's chamber who now treat him as their King rather than a kid coming to meet his mother and grandma.
It also puts into perspective the fact that lives of Kings were not as hunky dory and luxurious as we imagined but full of horror, tough decisions, dangers, and an ever lurking threat of conspiracy.
And more than anything else, the King had a job to do. A kingdom to expand and leave behind, trade to let flourish in his kingdom, by fair means or foul.
The story is gruesome at points- and dealt with in a very matter of fact manner- the cruel punishments, rolling of heads in the battlefield- dealt out with deliberate ease - by young Babur- all with the aim of making a statement to his followers-loyal or otherwise- to proclaim that theKing is no mere child- but a fit ruler for the kingdom- tough, talented and well versed in governence
Tough job eh!
The story flows through Babur's various conquests- of kingdoms and "begums" and there are chapters retelling all the famous warrior stories that we have read in history and in Amar chitra Katha- Rana Sanga for instance. It has shades of condescending attitude towards the one-armed warrior, but then the story is being told from Babur's angle so it is expected to be carrying that tone.
On the whole, the book is quick paced, page turner, racy and told in a very realistic way with lighthearted instances- especially when there is mention of the humourous thoughts that go on in Babur's mind as a young ruler.
I am waiting eagerly for the next instalments.

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