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It is the October of 1605, and Akbar having miraculously gained absolute dominion over a lion’s share of intractable India, lies dying of dysentery in his palace at imperial Agra [1]. Two of his sons, Murad and Daniyal are dying due to drink. The only other heir, the ambitious Prince Salim (or Emperor Jehangir – the World Grasper) can barely wait for his sick father to die. He is suspected of having poisoned his father and bursts into sulky rebellions (on the advice of counselors) to become emperor. Grief-stricken, Emperor Akbar implores him:

“There is no one left but you. Why do you vex me so? You are bound to inherit the kingdom.”

Salim’s revolt against his father would be repeated time and again in this gripping story of the Mogul rule in India. Here, power hungry queens control ambitious princes who murder numerous young brothers on their way to the throne while emperors addicted to opium and alcohol miraculously live for sixty long years.

The book ‘The Peacock Throne – The Drama of Mogul India’ was written by Waldemar Hansen in 1970, and the cover of this 700 pages long hardbound copy reads 120 Rs (perhaps quite expensive for the 70s?). It is a treat even for fiction readers, since the events of the Mogul era are sometimes so bizarre and far from our reality.

It is interesting to see, how the historian-writer makes distinctions between facts and fiction, besides suggesting his own interpretations of events. Of course his opinion is reverberant throughout the work. I have had some troubles finishing books in the past, but this one was truly a page turner, as they say.

[1] Notice the stark reality of an all powerful emperor dying of dysentery? The writer brilliantly captures such facts and moments throughout the book.

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on unfinished books

unnecessary image to encourage you to read the post. It hasn't got much to do with the post as you will soon find out

What do you do in a reference library filled with century old dust covered technical literature? You read books. I read loads of them during my intern in the R&D department of a company. Only problem was, I couldn’t finish any of them.

‘Maximum City’ by Suketu Mehta seemed like a repetition of what I knew already.  ‘A turn in the South’ by V S Naipaul is painfully slow. Although there are delightful (but scarce) moments where you begin to realize why he’s a Nobel laureate.

Joseph Heller’s ‘Catch 22’ was funny enough in the beginning. But it gradually turned monotonous. Some quotes:

The Texan turned out to be good-natured, generous and likable. In three days no one could stand him.

Doc Daneeka was Yossarin’s friend and would do just about nothing in his power to help him.

Next was ‘Made in Japan’ by Akio Morita. Autobiographical book by the Sony co-founder. The problem with this book is that it is too detailed! Well, for me at least. Nevertheless I completed one third of it.

Anita Desai’s  ‘In custody’  managed to lose my attention on the fourth page. Flowery language, elaborate description. The physical description of a yesteryear’s poet can not span a whole page. :P In any case, its too much to take for me.

I never came close to opening ‘Mother’ by Maxim Gorky. Something about the title, I don’t know. Its too basic.

‘Unaccustomed Earth’ by Jhumpa Lahiri also happened. Her previous book ‘Interpreter of Maladies’ is a must read. I did not finish this one though. I didn’t find it as extra-ordinary as the first one. Also, the theme of Indians settled in America gets repetitive after a while, especially when you can’t relate to it.

Now I have started ‘Candy is Dandy’ by Odgen Nash. I don’t think I will finish it. But its really good.

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