History

All posts in the History category

Kesari Wada – Hidden Gems In Pune

Published October 17, 2017 by vishalvkale

I was on my way to a business meeting, when I chanced upon something that looked a lot like it as related historically to someone I hold very dear to me heart – Lokmanya Tilak; so, on a lark and with an attitude of “wont hurt to see what this is”, I walked in. It was rather late, around 7-ish, so the place was closed – but there was enough present in terms of indication and signboards to tell me that I had indeed hit on a hidden gem, a vintage place of historical significance in my hunt for the origins of the Indian Independence Struggle, documented regularly on my blog for the past several years. 


The next day, I walked in on the next leg of my pilgrimage – a visit to Kesari. As I have noted before, there was a complete absence of people there, which was immensely saddening and tragic to my eyes & heart, which was sold to the Independence Struggle and the people who achieved the impossible. To be fair, the people present there did state that there were visitors to came – but on my visit, the silence was total, and the presence of visitors a grand total of zero. This is near-par for the course, and what I have seen in my previous experiences, with limited or zero attendance at some other places.


  
To be doubly fair – these are out-of-the-way places, and are out of the public consciousness. Though I am an ardent admirer of The Mahatma, I frankly admit that there is a dire need to highlight the other leaders who gave their all in the quest for independence. This isn’t just about The Mahatma; we place emphasis on Panditji, The Sardar, Bhagat Singh, Netaji – these are all key players. Each played a major role, and each deserves our undying gratitude for their sacrifices. But there were many, many others, some vital – like The Lokmanya, and some unknown, like Vasudeo Balwant Phadke. Why we cant have organized tours of these places, well marketed & backed up – and highlighted properly in public? Why should we not have proper systematic importance in visibility given to these vital places as well?


The Lokmanya was by no means a small figure; he stands as one of the most important figures of our Independence Movement; that is why, the zero attendance in the Kesari Museum was stunning. I will of course visit again – it is too mesmerizing a place to visit but once. I noted the same lackadaisical presence in The Aga Khan Palace – another landmark in our struggle, and another places that merits multiple visits. This was the same scenario in Wardha, also documented on my blog. Each of these are exceedingly well preserved, maintained – yet were near empty to empty on my visits.


Why should we not visit these places? I know, gathering from heated, not-so-heated, calm as well as reasoned discussions on social media, our organized media articles as well as my personal interactions with people that the entities in whose honour these memorials are made and preserved have a following and a sense of gratitude among us.  It isn’t as though we have forgotten. Why should we not have it in our hearts to, at the very least, spend some time at their memorials, if for no other reason – then just to bow our heads, have a tear in our eyes, and say thank you? Is that too much to expect?


Speaking of myself, I was immensely saddened and disheartened by the emptiness of the place; the caretaking managers assurance that people do visit was small solace. Having seen the emptiness in other vital places before, I was not assured. To my readers – rest assured, if I do find people visiting – I will also document that faithfully. As for now, basis my previous experiences, I am slightly disheartened. Even at the Army Memorial the attendance wasn’t upto the mark, though visitors were present. Again – next time if I find the situation better – I will certainly document it.


I know for sure only one thing – as I wandered around in that museum, I felt I was in a temple, almost: this was the place where The Lokmanya sat, discussed in nightlong discussions with eminent leaders of that time; launched his newspapers, planned for Indian Independence, and more. You can find more details about it here. As for me – I felt blessed; I felt “dhanya” – like I was lucky, and chosen to be here in that moment, in that holy place. My heart was heavy, yet proud… it was a moment I shall carry to the funeral pyre with me; it was one of the most special moments of my life… 



Advertisements

Drama Review – Yugpurush {Marathi}

Published July 9, 2017 by vishalvkale

YUGPURUSH : THE PLAY

The play is directed by acclaimed director Rajesh Joshi of ‘Code Mantra‘ fame, and scripted by well-known playwright Uttam Gada of ‘Maharathi’ fame. The music direction is by popular composer duo Sachin – Jigar. Duration: 120 minutes with intermission. This play has a series of awesome reviews and testimonials, in addition to being from the stable of one of the most powerful dramas in Marathi – Code Mantra. Click the link to see the testimonials



How did The Mahatma become just that : The Mahatma? How did Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi traverse the journey to becoming a Mahatma? This is the subject the current play under review attempts to tackle, which it does remarkably well. This, however, is not a play on the Indian Freedom Struggle; neither is it a play on The Mahatma per se, in that it doesn’t have The Mahatma in the primary role; the central character is a man who should be known to us all – Raichand Mehta. {Click link to know more about this great soul}  This is the story of The Mahatma’s Guru, who played a key role in the formation of the views of The Mahatma.


THE HISTORICAL ASPECT – AN EXAMINATION
First, let us look at the claim that the play makes – as that Guru. There is some historical basis for this claim – as we can see from The Mahatma’s Autobiography, Pg 81-83, and Pg 189 of The Story Of My Experiments With The Truth, Navjivan Publishing House {To be reviewed on my Blog}. I quote : “Thus, though I could not place Raychandbhai on the throne of my heart as a Guru, we shall see how he was, on many occasions, my guide and helper”. It is clear from this that while the claim that the play makes is not fully borne out by the book I have, it is reasonably accurate. We can proceed from this assumption.


Further, reading on in the same paragraph, we read : “Three Moderns have left a deep impress on my life and captivated me: Raychandbhaiby his living contact, Tolstoy by his Book – The Kingdom Of God Is Within You, and Ruskin by his Unto The Last”. This sentence is most interesting and critical in analyzing the script of this play – Raychandbhai has been specifically mentioned by The Mahatma as the only living person who has influenced The Mahatmadeeply by his living contact. From this, we can accept the gist of the play, we have sufficient indication for this acceptance.
THE PLAY
This is not a subject that is amenable to a theatre presentation; this is more suited to motion cinema. Adapting the story to the stage presents several challenges : how does one write the script to fully show, with power and sufficient impact, the change in beliefs and thoughts, personality and attitude of a simple man with normal failings and weaknesses into one of the greatest living souls to walk our holy land? How did this incredible transformation happen? The limits of space, time, content and technology seem insurmountable – at first sight. At least, until someone of the caliber of this team steps in and decides to do the seemingly impossible!






The aspect that impressed me the most was the innovative usage of characters : normally you have one person playing a part – here, we had two different people playing the part of The Mahatma, which was a treat, as due to this single seminal decision of the Team, the message of the play became all the more clear and strong. This understanding requires a more than basic knowledge of the actual history of The Mahatma is the most siginificant downside to this. Nonetheless, even to normal viewers, the message ought to have been more than clear.

Due to this, i.e.two people playing The Mahatma, a few significant advantages were achieved. You could see a flashback almost as you would in a cinema. Second, you get to see The Mahatma in two stages of his life at the same time on the stage : making crystal clear the massive difference that had come in him by the time of his last years. History is clear – The Mahatmawas increasingly isolated during the last years of his life, which is forcefully brought home through this as you get to see the juxtaposition of the young and the old Mahatma. The palpable difference in approach as well as personality was there for all to see – the confident, at times brash, yet sensitive young man, and the painfully old isolated elder Mahatma. Third, it becomes believable, when you see two different people portray the two stages of a long life; this is the advantage of the Drama genre as opposed to movies.


The core – the personality change, belief formation of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi as he slowly transforms into what he finally became is also put forward with panache and elan; you have to keep in mind the limitations of the genre – theatre / drama – and within those limitations, what is there is actually stupendous. This is, as far as I recall from my readings as documented on my blog, alongwith a few not yet reviewed there {The Story of My Experiments with the Truth; Jinnah, Partition, Independence; India’s Struggle for Independence etc} – close to documented history. That said, such is the power of the play  – due to its remarkably amazing perfomances, useage of stage space, direction and props – that I could actually hear two ladies sitting behind me, enraptured and commenting how they didn’t know this aspect of history. Now that is true praise – as it comes from somone not an expert on the topic, and yet was sufficiently impressed by it to comment as such.
CONCLUSION
Yes, there were weaknesses – but they weren’t mission critical, and some of these were further limitations imposed by the genre adopted for the adaptation of this story. There is actually little more you can do to show this exceptionally hard change-over from one personality type to another, deeper and far more powerful personality type. Thus far, I have focused only on The Mahatma – not on the central character. That is by design. Suffice it to say that I am stunned by this majesty and the power of the personality, views and transparent genius of Shri Raichandbhai Mehta. To know more – please watch the play!
The Best part about the play is it serves to give a series of exemplary lessons to us about the deep aspects of the purpose of our life, our approach towards it, dharm, and duties etc. These are driven home to superb anecdotal evidence-based presentations, and sheer class of a performance and direction. One dialogue and anecdote has stayed with me – “mag kaay dharmaache paalan fakt sanvaari, ravivari karaave kaa?” Translation – So, one should follow dharm only on festivals and auspicious days only? This was the response of Raichandbhai on being asked how do you do business while strictly following Dharm? A simple, hard-hitting question. And observation – you should follow a dharmic life in all aspects, which is also what the Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta says… all in all, if it were feasible, I would rate it 7 stars out of 5! 

Book Review – Culture Of Encounters: Sanskrut At The Mughal Court

Published April 21, 2017 by vishalvkale

THE BACKGROUND
We are witness to, in the current socio-political mileu, increasing critical examination of especially The Mughal Period, which is being examined, at times without any basis in fact, threadbare on Social Media and the population at large. Therefore, the current book under review represents a timely intervention as well as a much-needed fresh look at the history of that period from a literary and cultural perspective. This is critical, since the Political, Military history is well established; the Economic History and the Cultural History is what needs further research and clarity
Akbar-watches-Tansen-take-lessons-from-Bhakti-music-composer-Swami-Haridas
Image Courtesy : Google Search

Whereas the British Period is examined in great detail by Dr Shashi Tharoor, Jaswant Singh, NS Sarila and many other contemporary writers in the past 4-5 years, The Mughal Period shows a lamentable lack of authoritative research at least in the popular realm. What is more disturbing is that there is evidence and research of the Socio-Cultural Realm of the British Empire and its searing horrifying damage to the Socio-Cultural fabric of India – Maria Misra and Pavan Verma come to mind here – the same is marked by its total absence with reference to the Mughal Times, at least from what I gather in India.
THE BOOK
This is where the current tome – Culture Of Encounters : Sanskrut In The Mughal Court by Audrey Tuschke fills a major gap, by analyzing the literary aspect of Mughal activities in India, thereby telling a story totally unknown, even to an avid amateur history researcher like self, a person read and learned in and with several dozen top history books in the past 8 years. The content comes as a complete surprise and shock, and a welcome reminder to an amateur like me to continue reading, keep up to date with latest research and not get a bloated head, to be frank!

Audrey Truschke
The book delves deep into The Socio-Cultural realm of the Mughal Court during Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb’s time, giving us a surprise every few pages that causes us to recalibrate our thoughts and our knowledge. The book contains proof and evidence which you can check for yourself; more of this in the bibliography. The book is a unique and fresh look at a period of history that we clearly do not understand fully, one that needs scholarly examination. The one regret that I have is that this was thought of, researched and written outside India by a person not an Indian!  Why cant such telling research be conducted in our universities; and if it is being conducted – why isn’t it being made popularly available?
This is an examination of the socio-cultural multiculturality of the Mughal Court, and the focus of successive Mughal Emperors to engage with Sanskrut {and increasingly Hindustani – precursor of Modern Hindi, which was standardized & Sanskrutised into the tongue we now speak}. This covers translations as well as deep engagements with Sanskrut texts – a myriad of Sanskrut texts, right from the most Famous, like The Mahabharat & The Ramayan to the comparatively lesser known works like Nal-Damayanti and many others folklores and books.
It looks in depth at the Brahman and Jain influence at The Mughal Court, the Sanskrut translations and texts written for the court, translations of Sanskrut works into Farsi {Persian}, examination of Indian History basis Sanskrut works, re-examination / alteration / rejection / questioning / acceptance of both Sanskrut literature & {Sanaatani} practices as well as  questioning {in one case} prevalent Islamicate Practices, literature on The Mughal Empire in Sanskrut, and incorporation of Sanskrut in the Persian world. The book closes on a deep but potent note – asking as to how did Sanskrut become extinct, a question that naturally arises from the text, given that it was a living, thriving and robust tongue right till the early 1700s, and given that texts were produced in it right till the late 1700s, and early 1800s.
THE ANALYSIS
This is an in-depth and solid research; I traced the bibliopgraphy repeatedly while reading the book, and the sources seem impeccable. I made the effort  of downloading one of the translations of the Ain-i-Akbari, and read a few pages of the 3rd Volume, which pertains to Sanskrut textual history, from The National Digital Library. This text – The Ain-I-Akbari is extensively referred in the current book. From that experience, I can state this is, in addition to a ground-breaking research, a great resource book for further reading, with a plethora of great resources of ancient documents to choose from.

The book takes pain to look at the extensive Multi-Culturalism of The Mughal Court, and the extensive interaction and erudite, surprisingly open and well-informed debates between Islamic and Brahman/Jain scholars at The Mughal Court. The extent of Mughal support for Sanskrut, and later Hindustani, literary activities comes as a total shock. Did this extend to the Cultural sphere? That is a tantalizing thought – I just hope someone does some research on that.
The best part is the even, fair and balanced tonality of the research. I could not detect any western bias, which is pretty much a first {or rather, second – Will Durant being the only other Westerner I respect in this regard}; the book is transparent and very, very logical throughout. It maintains a fine line between Multiculturalism and secularism, which is welcome. That said, this research work does clarify to a very large extent some of the fog around The Mughals, and provides strong irrefutable evidence of their Muticulturalism, as well as tantalizing evidence that The Mughals after and starting from Akbar regarded themselves as Indian, which is a welcome thought.
What this seminal research does bring out is the difference between the Colonial approach – that of an alien power, and the Mughal approach. While, as painfully portrayed in Pavan Verma’s classic {or indeed in the classic books – What India Should Know & Operation Red Lotus, which showed up the shoddy way Indian history was written by The West} , the colonial period saw a subjugation of all things Indian. By complete contrast, The Mughal Interaction was on a different scale, very open to local sensibilities, accepting of divergent views. This method managed to keep both traditions alive and healthy; they {The Mughals} managed to keep their culture, their world views intact; while we Sanaatanis managed to keep our language, culture and literature intact.
It created what I can best call a Win-Win situation, leading to the right conditions. This hypothesis can only be established by a further examination of the Cultural Realm of The Mughal Era, but there is strong evidence in support of this in the Economic and now Literary sphere. In a telling contrast, while 300 years of Mughal Rule did not impact our language or culture too much, 150 – 190 years of colonial rule redefined or rather suppressed the Local Linguistic, cultural, literary and social landscape. So much so, that it has taken 6 decades for the local arts, culture, vernacular languages and economic landscape to rise to something resembling what it was in Pre-Colonial times!
All in all, rated 5 stars; one of the finest books in the History Genre I have read!

Book Review – An Era Of Darkness {An Analytical Examination}

Published March 25, 2017 by vishalvkale

BOOK REVIEW : AN ERA OF DARKNESS
THE BRITISH EMPIRE IN INDIA









AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME
Each idea has its own time; and each movement requires an inflection point, the point from which the momentum changes rapidly. This book marks one such inflection point in our nation’s history; it is a watershed moment for us. Living in an era where the past was considered to be done with & forgotten; when its lessons in danger of being unlearnt; and when colonialism was all but forgotten – one could not have hoped for anything better than this book.
Image result for dr shashi tharoor

The Author is, first and foremost, a very famous Indian, a very famous international diplomat, an Indian Parliamentarian, and a very well known figure in Indian literary circles with more than several top-notch books to his credit in the realm of fiction as well as non-fiction. And when such a famous and erudite personality puts his knowledge forward through social media and books, it both makes a tremendous impact as well as acts as a force multiplier as public interest is kindled. 


This has reversed the trend of Indians forgetting The Raj, and indeed revealed to all that the majority Indians have, in fact, not forgotten anything – as can be judged from the response to this magnificent book from all corners of India, as the entire Nation rose as one in adulation for this work. For the first time, a book has taken centrestage, and is getting accolades cutting across all divides, becoming a MAJOR national talking point. Kudos, Dr Tharoor! 
THE BOOK
This book is unique among the 40-odd I have read on The Indian Independence Struggle; I rate it as among the 3 best in this genre. The other two are the ones by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, and the masterpiece, the best of them all – the one by Narendra Singh Sarila. There are many other top notch ones- you can find them on my blog, or I shall shortly be reviewing them; like Jaswant Singh, The Mahatma’s Autobiography, Pankaj Misra, Bipin Chandra, etc. But this one – An Era OF Darkness – is unique among all these.
The reason for that is the book isn’t a plain regurgitation of facts and the attendant analyses; it also analyses British opinion, reasons of their actions. It also looks at contemporary issues in the light of the history, like the Kohinoor {Which was, is and always will be Indian}, or the self-examination of the suggested Presidential System of Governance. It brings new facts to light, such as, in the early phase of Colonialism, there were several British voices who felt the evil they were doing.
But more than even this, this book is unique as it is the first one that attempts to collate the entire damage caused by Colonialism into one book {I am indicating a few readings in parenthesis to underscore the massive ground this book covers}; you will find everything here, and with proof. It looks at the extensive monetary damage {Mukherjee, RC Dutt, Irfan Habib, and others}. 



It looks at the creation of Agricultural Distress {Irfan Habib, Tope, and many more}, Industrial Destruction {Durant, Tope, Habib, RC Dutt}, Opium {Tope – extensively covered} , Famines {Dutt, Mukherjee} , creation & hardening of caste divisions in India {Misra} , creation & hardening of the communal issues in India {Azad, Sengupta, BC Pal, Nehru, and many others} , and much, much more. This is what elevates this book to among the top Three.

It also systematically takes on the proponents of the Colonialism-wasn’t-all-bad brigade, and destroys all their arguments with clinical, relentless and brutal precision. No quarter is asked for, none given to these people and their hopeless arguments-  and all in completely parliamentary language. Be it Democracy, or be it The Railways – each Colonial “benefit” has been ruthlessly delinked from the Colonial Enterprise. As a matter of fact, that is also counter-factual. One of the first known forms of Democracy {Oligarchy}, is known to be present in India long before Christ… “The Ganasangh {Early India – Romila Thapar}”. If we can do it once- we can certainly do it again.
That said, the book doesn’t mention this; it takes a more contemporary analyses, proving that if we are democratic, it has nothing to do with The British, and everything to do with us and our decision in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And India? Well, as others – Sanjeev Sanyal, Tope and others state – India is an Ancient Concept. And doubters would do well to note the rise of a major central power in the Marathas just before The Raj. {Sanjeev Sanyal, Tope, book on Shivaji}

It also brings to fore the continuous waxing and waning views on colonialism from a British viewpoint, as well as American viewpoints, with consistent references to criticism emanating from their own nations, as well as the mass public support Colonialism had. The total lack public condemnation of Colonial Atrocities by the citizens of The UK, and indeed the overt support for such atrocities {Gen Dyer, anyone?} makes you sick to the core of your heart. 



This brings a question to my mind – how can any civilization who held such sickening views claim to be civilized? I think it is we, The Indians, who Civilized The West. The book also suggests the same, though not in so many words. The author has to be commended for his incredible control.
THE WEAKNESSES
There aren’t many, to be perfectly honest. The only errors, or rather ommissions I could notice were slight, not worth the mention. I would just like to highlight a couple of points that were missed, to set the record straight and introduce new reading suggestions to the public. The first is Sati, and Thuggee. As Pavan K Verma proves in this book, this was a victory won squarely by Indians, with the first law against it being by A Mughal Emperor. In fact, by the time of the British, Sati was a dead practice- as Mr Verma proves with British Facts and Figures. Thuggee, well, Mr Verma also has a lot  to say on it… it was never a major threat! {Becoming Indian – Pavan K Verma}
The second miss is, sadly, a major one. That said, some reference has been made towards this, as Dr Tharoor does discuss the loss of Self-Respect and a couple of other points. And that miss the aspect of & destruction of our languages and culture, as has been eloguently put forth in the book by Mr Verma referenced above. It is a fact that Indian local languages, arts and cultures were denigrated, and lost patronage. 



The latest Marathi movie – Katyaar Kaalzaat Ghusli – gives an idea of the kind of lavish patronage local arts and artists enjoyed. The loss of this patronage was so severe, that it is only now, 70 years after independence, that they are getting closer to there they used to be; so much so, that at long last, local languages & arts are getting contemporary support of the teens and twenty somethings, that the vernacular media is rising faster than the English Media.
THE CONCLUSION
One of the finest books ever penned on The Indian Colonial Experience, especially the damage it caused. If you are looking for one resource, and don’t have the inclination, unlike me {I have been researching this for 8 years now}, to read several volumes, this is the book for you. Having researched this subject, I am aware that the content is completely factual. The book leaves no doubt that there was nothing good that ever came out of the Colonial Experience. Best part is the last one or two chapters, which look at contemporary issues arising out of The Colonial Experience, squarely blaming the former colonial powers. 



For more details, you can read From The Ruins Of Empire from a Pan-Asian Perspective. As a matter of fact, much of the Business Rules are still reminiscent of Colonialism, as I analyse in my three articles on The Modern Post-Colonial World, which remains Colonial in nature…. 

Book Review – India Wins Freedom {Maulana Azad / Humayun Kabir}

Published March 6, 2017 by vishalvkale

 INDIA WINS FREEDOM 
Maulana Azad / Humayun Kabir
Image result for india wins freedom 
This is the full version, which  was released to the publishers only in Sept 88, as per the events given in this paragraph. The issues arising out of these pages were heard by The Calcutta High Court, The Delhi High Court and The Supreme Court, before Justice B. N. Kirpal of The Delhi High Court directed on 29th Sept 1988 that a copy of each of the text deposited in the National Archives and The National Library be handed over to Orient Longman. The Court further directed that the material should be published without alteration, after comparing the copies to ensure they were identical.
This is an autobiography, though it has been penned by Humayun Kabir. The Preface to The 1959 Edition clearly gives the full sequence of events that lead to this book, readers are requested to read it. People don’t normally read Prefaces – I call on all readers to ensure they read every word. The Author sat with Maulana Azad over a period of two years, as per the preface. Maulana Azad edited some passages, comprising 30 pages, and that the complete text be deposited in the aforementioned libraries {Pg xii}
India wins freedom is a first person account by a person who should be much better known, respected and followed by us Modern Indians than he currently is – Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, whose patriotism, Indianness, and devotion to the national cause are clearly second to none. Further, this was a man whose situational reading of the events of Partition, specifically with relation to the new state of Pakistan, were stunningly accurate as history has proven, as also his passionate opposition to a divided India. He stands tall and resolute as one of the finest Freedom Fighters and Leaders to emerge out of this holy land.
This is an important contribution to the literature around Independence, and our Independence Struggle. In fact, it is my opinion that this book is one of the most significant contributions to the entire body of literature around the freedom struggle from the mid-1930s onwards. I cannot think of any other book that comes even close to this one in terms of the import it has on our understanding of the events that lead to independence, save one. That one book is the excellent treatise by Narendra Singh Sarila, titled – The Shadow Of The Great Game : The Untold Story of India’s Partition.
I will depart from my normal practice of highlighting important points of the books I review, and summarizing the learnings to be had; this is too important a book, its import far too significant to risk summarizing in a few hundred words. Suffice it to state that this book takes you head-on into the events leading to 15th August 1947, and gives you a seat at the table where everything was planned, negotiated, fought over, discussed threadbare, analysed, courses of action decided upon and acted on. This is an eye-witness account, and represents irrefutable evidence, as it is a memoir by one of the key players in the Independence struggle. I am not aware of any other eye-witness account from any of the key players involved, which gives this book a special place in our literature.
You may not like a few words, paragraphs, events – I know I didn’t; yet you have no choice but to accept them, as they are written by one of the key players, and are irrefutable evidence. You can question the opinions {where stated as such}, as opinions aren’t facts; these are easy to spot in the text. But you cannot question the facts and the events as stated – this is an eye-witness account. What is more, this represents the culture and society as it then existed, free from the bias of hindsight. All accounts of history suffer from the bias of hindsight – this book cannot be questioned on this score.
I highly recommend reading this book for everyone interested – those who blame The Mahatma and Nehruji, as well as those who don’t. The content will force you to question your many assumptions {on both sides, to be honest. I know I was forced to question some of my views}. And yet, you will have little choice but to accept, for the reasons I pointed out above. Despite having read and reviewed well over 30 books on Independence, some of the content came as a brutal punch in the gut. Sections of this book were deemed too sensitive to be initially published and an edited version was in print for the first 30-40 years; I wholeheartedly concur. In fact, these sections, available in this full version, are frankly way too uncomfortable to confront, more so for some people. I do not advise reading this book if you cant keep your biases, preconceived notions,  passions & idealism at bay.
This is not an easy book to read, regardless of which side of the debate you are on. If you blame The Mahatma / Nehruji, here you will find irrefutable evidence that places them in a very positive and high light indeed; here you will find the sequence of events as they then happened, here you will find the decisions that were taken, the reasons thereof. Here you will find the definitive proof that disproves the views of the passionate among the blamers; here you will find an account of the events as they happened, leaving no scope whatsoever for inaccuracy. This book will take you face to face with your biases, and in a most confident and clear manner, without passion and factual.
On the other hand, if, like me, you are one who close on worships The Mahatma as next to only God, who looks on Nehruji as a hero bar none – you will find evidence of his / their mistakes, the real ones- not the ones erroneously credited to him in popular imagination. It is this factual and impartial statement of events as they happened that tend to give authority and authenticity to the sequence of events as stated in the book, giving it a sheen of sheer class and reliability. It is balanced and unequivocal in its balance. No attempt has been made to take sides.
But more than anything else, it gives a real window into the inner workings of The Indian National Congress in those days, which comes across as a highly responsible, democratic and vibrant organization – as opposed to popular incorrect belief of one-sided decision making by one or two people. The events and meetings described leave no room for doubt, The INC was an excellent and very highly organized democratic body. The decisions, and the way they were taken, belie the popular belief of single decisions by either Nehruji, or anyone else. You go away with a deep respect for the INC that was.
And, above all else, this book contains a series of stunning disclosures, facts, relationship realities that are either totally unknown, or come as a shocking surprise, and a punch in the gut to you. The relationship between The Mahatma, Nehruji and Sardar comes as a distinct surprise, as are the facts in relation to them, and the sequence of events. I will not say more, this is for each one of you to read for yourself. But remember, it will not be, an easy read, regardless of which side of the debate you are on. Suffice it to state that I can fully appreciate why some pages were edited out and not deemed to be fit for publication.
Above all, this is the only book I have read that is an account of what happened by one of the key players and decision makers in the events of the 1930s and 1940s. 

Book Review – Ashok : The Lion of Maurya

Published February 12, 2017 by vishalvkale

ASHOK – THE LION OF MAURYA
by Ashok K Banker

Only a select few persona from history have as wide and as huge an impact on Modern India, and Indians in general, than Devanampiya Piyadassi, from the Maurya dynasty. This is one name that actually does reverberate across the length and breadth of the land; this name invites immediate recognition, and sense of pride, a sense of awe, and a sense of deep respect. He does this by the virtue of his deeds which encompass the achievements of a fearsome warrior king, a development focused good monarch, and a deeply spiritual peace-loving ruler of the land.
People may not know his by his full name, but will immediately recognize his better known name : Ashok! Not much is known about the real Ashok; that said, there are extensive surviving literary records, most of them in the manuscripts Ashokaavadaan, Mahaavamsa and Paalivamsa, which as per my readings {Given here – Book Review: Ashok The Great} , are the principal literary sources of his life. {There are others, like the Divyavadan for example} I make this point to underscore that there are massive gaps in the life of Ashok; there are many small contradictions, & a lack of continuity. And the creation a fiction book series based on the life of Devanampiya Piyadassi Ashok  is a laudable effort.
THE BOOK
The current book, the first in the series, is titled Ashok – The Lion of Maurya {For the life of me I cannot fathom why Indians insist on the trailing “A” when penning proper names in English! To be precise, the actual book is Ashoka – The Lion of Maurya; the trailing A is fine in Maurya due to the following vowel sound!}. Lets be crystal clear here : this is a work of fiction. It comes under historical fiction, and cannot be treated as anything else, as I point out in detail in the review section. This book is based on the early years of his life as a young prince, and traces the internal challenges he faced when young.
THE REVIEW
First, history. Now it is thought that Ashok, in some manuscripts from ancient India, was known as ChandAshok {cruel Ashok} in his early days, before rising to what he became eventually. This is however debated by some historians. Second, his Biological Mother Dharma {Shubhadraangi} has also been debated, though is generally accepted as his mother. Third, his accession to the throne is under discussion, as the accepted version of fratricide and killing may not be right. That discussion is beyond the scope of this review; please read the compilation in the link in the second para above.
Not much is known of his early phase. The sources are the Ashokaavadaan which is a 2nd Century text; the other two are Buddhist texts. There is a clear contradiction in many points – Kaling War, The Coronation etc where the numerous historical, literary and archeological records do not suffice. While his greatness is not in question – the contents of all the sources put together pretty much put that beyond reasonable doubt; the fact remains that there isn’t enough detail present to put together a life story. When reading this series, it is my opinion that readers should keep this uppermost in their minds. We are reading a fictional telling of the story of Ashok the Great.
Thus, I will make no attempt to compare history with this book; there is much we need to learn. The book itself – it is an excellent one, well written, with a very fast pace, action oriented. It tells the story of a prince, who loves his family, and is a devoted and loyal prince to the Emperor {this much seems true as per my readings}, as well as a brother with deep caring for his elder brother Sushim; which is borne out by the inscriptions on the edicts.
It is the story of royal intrigue, internal politics, murder and plotting; this part has been very skillfully put together in a flawless narrative that makes for absorbing reading. It tells the story of a family fighting internal squabbles, as well as external enemies; you get entrapped into the story, the pages pull you in as the plot twists and turns every few pages with a rapidity that is awesome. The story has been crafted really well, and the whole package works quite well. It gives the reader an enthralling fascinating read!
I have placed emphasis on the history and its  gaps  for a reason – we are talking of a legend, one of the finest Indians from Ancient India, a leader & a king whose symbols are the chosen symbols of the Modern Indian State. Given that background, it needs to be stated that the historical record has some gaps,  which the author himself underscores; as also the fact that this is historical fiction. The book is true to the major aspects of history; that is true. Especially, the bonding between the Sushim and Ashok as well as the pressures have been developed really well, which is appreciable.
The series should be interesting to see how this particular and vital relationship is developed, and which road the story now takes from hereon; I am waiting eagerly to see the author’s interpretation. But the start is very promising; Ashok comes across as the one I have read about – not the one in the legends; as does Sushim. You can already see snippets of the more famous Ashok begin to shine through. This  is an approach that is logical, consistent with one side of the argument as I have read it; my references are in the linked Book Review of the book Ashok The Great, which is a compilation of a couple of dozen books by historians on the famous King Ashok the Great. All in all, an excellent effort which has a very promising start to it. Worth a read, definitely so. 

Movie Review : Baghtos Kay… Mujra Kar!

Published February 4, 2017 by vishalvkale

Image result for baghtos kay mujra kar

I normally review very few select movies which to me are best-in-class and elite; only those that I either find superlative {as one of my friends was noting on fb today}, or those with some kind of social message. The movie being reviewed today, Baghtos Kaay… Muzraa Kar, is one of the latter category;  a  Marathi movie. What makes this movie so different is this is a movie with a message, and is also simultaneously fun to watch; with two other factors also thrown in, which I shall get to by and by.

Image result for baghtos kay mujra kar
THE PLOT
The plot is simple – a sarpanch of a village of Malvans, the villagers whom The Chhatrapati recruited and turned into his army, laments the state of the forts of the great Maratha Kiing, Chhatrapati Shivaji; even as the great legend continues to hold sway over entire Maharashtra, and I daresay large parts of India as well. Most Indians will readily concede his greatness. Despite this, his forts lie in ruin or at least not as well cared for as they should be. The movie revolves around his dream of turning the local fort into a well cared for spot that attracts visitors, and how his attempts take him into politics, and focuses around his attempts to win support for his endeavour.  
THE REVIEW
The movie is a great watch, and is a very enjoyable movie with a nice script, reasonably well crafted. It is a simple movie, in the sense there is no extravagance or over the top stuff. It has lovely genuinely comic moments which make for a very enjoyable watch,  and help overcome the drag. The start, most of the middle and the climax will win your heart and tug at your emotions; the middle part will make you laugh a lot, genuinely funny stuff, situational comedy. The problem is that the script meanders just a little for 10-15 minutes in the middle part; that could have been avoided. Normally, this would have been enough for me not to review it, had it not had major saving factors acting in its favour.
Image result for baghtos kay mujra kar 
{Jitendra Joshi}

And these are, firstly, the performance of Jitendra Joshi. Man, what a performance! He blew me away with his superb performance. I have seen him earlier in Duniaadaari and the classic film Sumbaraan, but this time he has matured as an actor, and has almost single-handedly carried the movie on his shoulders. The way he simply blends into the character, the way his face and eyes show the expressions, was incredible. It was a display of top notch conviction, and it made my day.
Image result for baghtos kay mujra kar

The music is nothing to write home about, except the song Tu Aan Punhaa Re Ti Talwaar, a very hummable and fast paced theme song, which kind of grows on you. One wishes the other songs were as good. As I said earlier, the script could have been tighter, making for a much more compact product. Nonetheless, what is there is way more than enough; given that an Economics + History + Social blogger like me is reviewing the movie. This movie joins a list which I consider elite – Raees, Pink, Coffee Aani Barach Kaahi, Shivaay, Katyaar Kaalzat Ghusli, Lokmanya Ek Yugpurush, PK
Image result for baghtos kay mujra kar 

What makes this movie stand out is the other factors involved; first was the performance of Jitendra Joshi. Second aspect is the social message – it is fine that we make statues of those we value; but what about actually caring for them and their true heritage? I made this point in two or three previous posts; we call people our heroes, but ignore their heritage. In the case of Chhatrapati Shivaji, I can safely say that by and large, his heritage is also intact; people do value him. But if we value him so much, how hard can it be to ensure upkeep as well as visits to his locations?
The third aspect that makes this movie special is simply this : for the first time I have seen a movie that openly declares of the English, when the lead actors visit London as part of their plan : whatever they have is built from stolen money, stolen from us… or words to that effect! This is bound to be heard and seen by the audience who sees this; and will impress at least some of the viewers. This is a message that sorely needs to be told, and I personally loved it. As it is, I am in the middle of a by now 8-year hunt for the true and full detailed story behind our Colonial History, and this made connect with my heart big-time! Well said, Team Bhaghtos Kaay!
The fourth take-away is the extent of the contemporary feeling for, and relevance of Chhattrapati Shivaji in Modern India, or at least Maharashtra. This was a pleasure to experience; the response from the audience, the clapping, the whistling, the applause had to be experienced. And, for the first time, I too joined in, with applause in two or three places. It happened spontaneously, and I just went along with the atmosphere, discovering for myself how deep the connect of Chhatrapati Shivaji is with me… I had read and reviewed a book on The Chhatrapati, but this was something else, something deeper, a lovely, deep connect and feeling of pride and warmth! Great movie, people!