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Friday, October 30, 2015

Meet Alex Rutherford

> Meet Alex Rutherford- the authors of the Empire of the Mughal Series
> Alex Rutherford is the pen name of Diana Preston and her husband
> Michael. Both studied at Oxford University reading History and English
> respectively. They are keen travelers and have now clocked up visits
> to over 140 of the world's countries. So far 3 books of the series
> have been published the latest being- Ruler of the World.
> 1. How did it all begin? Your fascination with Mughal History and the
> will to convert it into a series?
> A. It all began about 25 years ago when we first visited India and looked at
> the Moghul architecture and motivated to look at some of the history that
> laid behind it. Our interest then intensified when we wrote a non-fiction
> book about the Taj Mahal and the background to it. we then decided the
> historical Fiction format would allow us to get into the minds and
> motivations of some of the great characters and personalities that inhabit
> our stories. Such a great saga couldn't be contained in one book, hence the
> quintet.
> 2. The Mughal History is a vast ocean in itself. Compressing it into
> books must have been a mammoth task. How do you go about the process
> of assimilating and sifting through the wide variety of information
> available? What is the rule of thumb you use while selecting what goes
> in and what does not?
> A. We try to read as many of the chronicles and accounts as possible and
> then to remove those things, although interesting in themselves, do not
> contribute to a strong storyline. An example of this is that we've only had
> limited opportunities to mention Akbar's interest in arts and cultures and
> in the next book in the series, we won't have space to go into too much into
> detail about Jehangir's scientific interests. Also, we omit many subsidiary
> stories about rebellions and subsidiary campaigns. If I recall correctly,
> Akbar's chronicler says that there were 144 rebellions against him during
> his reign, non successful of course, but several with interesting stories
> which we didn't have time to cover.
> 3. Akbar's rule was the longest of all Mughal rulers, apart from
> Aurangzeb who ruled for as many number of years. It is not a surprise
> that the book on Akbar is voluminous. But this book gives as much
> importance to Prince Salim. Was that consciously done because Salim
> loses most of his ruling years in the shadow of his father? Will the
> next book focus more on Salim or on both Salim and Khurram- the
> favourite grandchild of Akbar who is seen as being groomed for the
> role in Book 3?
> A. We thought it important to look at both Akbar's outstanding successes as
> an Emperor, but also some of the problems in his relationships within his
> family, for example, his chief chronicler Abu Faizal said that Akbar loved
> his grandsons more than his sons and this prompted us to try to see him
> through the eyes of both of his son and his grandson. The next book which is
> in the final stage of editing will indeed explore the relationship between
> Salim and Khurram and we hope to show a little of how this was influenced by
> their relationship with Akbar.
> 4. Akbar is the most familiar of all Mughal rulers among all-
> including children. The familiarity arises with the numerous tales of
> the nine jewels- Navaratnas of Akbar's court- especially Birbal that
> we have grown up with. It was quite surprising that there is no
> mention of the Navratnas/ Birbal at all in the book.
> A. We hope we've shown Akbar's religious tolerance which was outstanding in
> an age when Europeans were fighting and persecuting each other because of
> their belief in different sects of Christianity. The reason for not covering
> some of the most famous Navratans one of space and keeping a strong
> storyline, focused on a few characters. It would be a wonderful thought to
> be able to write about the Navratans in a future occasions.
> 5. How many more books are in the offing before the series conclude?
> Two and possibly a third.
> When is the next book coming in the market?
> A. Next year.
> 6. The Mughal Rulers has at least one fascinating aspect- be it love
> for religion, astronomy or the arts. Each of them has contributed to
> the Indian culture in their own way. With Akbar we had an elaborate
> understanding of his religious learning. What awaits us in the next
> books?
> A. With Jehangir, we will look at as far as space allows at his contribution
> to sciences and the arts. With Shah Jahan, it would be both architecture and
> his love of painting and also jewels. A French Jeweller who visited him in
> court described him as an outstanding gemologist. Some of Shah Jahan's
> happiest times were in Kashmir, just as were Jehangir's, where for example,
> Shah Jahan built a black marble edifice which may have been a precursor of
> the counterparting black Taj Mahal which he might have had in mind for
> himself but of course being imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb he never had an
> opportunity to put it in practice.