Staying at Kolkata has lot of advantages as I am discovering recently. The city is quite serious about reading books and hence I do not have to venture out to Oxford Bookstore or Crossword to buy a book. Within the 6 months at office, our office has arranged 2 book fairs. However, I was a bit disappointed to see the categories of books being bought by junta. Maximum number of copies were reserved for Harry Potter, Paul Coelho, Sidney Sheldon and the recent favourites.
However there were copies of other books that I was more interested in and considered a serious buy. I have been eyeing William Darymple's books for quite a while and was impressed by the descriptive account of Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India. However, my love for ancient life and customs overtook my interest for Nine Lives. I could just see 2 books in front of my eyes - The Last Mughal: The Fall of A Dynasty in Delhi, 1857 and White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth Century India.
Darymple begins slowly by explaining the existing scenario in India in the 18th century. It is a unique time because the English have still not stabilized their position in India. The French are also trying to cause problems and influence the local courts. Along with it we have all the power play of the Marathas , Deccan Sultanate and other local rulers.However I came to know for the first time that there were some Englishmen who had imbibed the existing Indian culture completely. Some had taken up Hinduism while some were practising Mussalmans. Some of them even fell in love with Indian women and started extending their families in India. One of the best comments made in the story is about the way India as a country manages to seduce her attackers. She gets defeated but she still manages to attract them slowly and strongly; which probably explains why the Mughals entered India as ruddy warriors and left in pale petticoats.
Darymple's story is a beautiful tale which weaves in the little historical situations slowly to start describing the main story - the love story between the Englishman Kilpatrick and Khairunnisa , a high ranking noble princess. Love between two individuals always makes a great story .However this story is between two people who are totally different in terms of culture, upbringing and race and hence it makes an interesting read. The part which endears me most is that Darymple has taken much pain in researching and unfolding the story. An interesting book but you have to have the requisitie interest and patience as well.