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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Few Lines From 'The Last Mughal' by William Dalrymple


I am in the midst of reading one of the most impressive and wonderful historical texts that has ever been written - 'The Last Mughal, the fall of a Dynasty. Delhi. 1857' by William Dalrymple.

I had heard so much about this book, especially as it is about my homeland, and one of my ever-and-most favourite cities, Delhi, that I was more interested in reading it. And as I began turning the pages I realised this would be one of the most precious books I will ever own, not in a monetary sense alone, but more because of the priceless information that lies between the 550-odd pages.

More on this book will keep appearing in other posts as I keep reading, but for now, I simply had to share these lines from the book, these lovely lines that talk about my city, Delhi, and bring back beautiful memories, of a city that has raised me and made me fall in love with it despite its many pitfalls.

Excerpts from the book, describing William Dalrymple's first encounters with the city of Delhi:

'I would take a rickshaw into the innards of the Old City (Old Delhi) and pass through the narrowing funnel of gullies and lanes, alleys and cul-de-sacs, feeling the houses close in around me. In particular, what remained of Zafar's palace, the Red Fort of the Great Mughals, kept drawing me back, and I often used to slip in with a book and spend whole afternoons there, in the shade of some cool pavilion."

"I have now divided my time between London and Delhi for over twenty years and the Indian capital remains my favourite city. Above all it is the city's relationship with its past which continues to intrigue me: of the great cities of the world, only Rome, Istanbul and Cairo can even begin to rival Delhi for the sheer volume and density of historic remains. Crumbling tomb towers, old mosques or ancient colleges intrude in the most unlikely places, appearing suddenly on roundabouts or in municipal gardens, diverting the road network and obscuring the fairways of the golf course. New Delhi is not new at all; instead, it is a groaning necropolis, with enough ruins to keep any historian busy through several incarnations."

"I am hardly alone in being struck by this: the ruins of Delhi are something visitors have always been amazed by........
For miles in every direction, half collapsed and overgrown, robbed and reoccupied, neglected by all, lay the remains of six hundred years of trans-Indian Imperium....hammams and garden palaces, thousand-pillared halls and mighty tomb towers, empty mosques and deserted Sufi shrines - there seemed to be no end to the litter of ages."

"One of the most enjoyable aspects of working with him (referring to William Dalrymple's colleague Mahmood Farooqui) on Bahadur Shah Zafar has been gradually piecing together the events and shape of this book over a Karim's kebab, a Kapashera biryani or, more usually, a simple glass of hot sweet National Archives chai."

"...Delhi has always been quite clear about its superiority to the rest of the country. It was the seat of the Great Mughal and the place where the most chaste Urdu was spoken. It believed it had the best-looking women, the finest mangoes, the most talented poets."

And here is a look at the treasures that lie hidden in the National Archives in Delhi:

"Yet all this time in the National Archives there existed as detailed a documentation of the four months of the Uprising in Delhi as can exist for any Indian city at any period of history - great unwieldy mountains of chits, pleas, orders, petitions, complaints, receipts, rolls of attendance and lists of casualties, predictions of victory and promises of loyalty, notes from spies of dubious reliability and letters from eloping lovers - all neatly bound in string and boxed up in the cool, hushed, air-conditioned vaults of the Indian National Archives."

Truly, just the first few pages and this book is already such a revelation !!!!!

I have only just begun, but if you have not read this book yet, really, it is time you do so. For this is the first book ever that has impacted me so much into reading on history and reliving all those events and memories that happened at some era in the past.....Thanks Mr. Dalrymple....