Return of a King, is the story of British misadventure in Afghanistan circa 1839 when the British East India Company waddled in to the country with some 20,000 men with the aim of installing Shah Shuja (grandson of Ahmed Shah Abdali) on the throne. It was the time when the term, “The Great Game” was devised between two leading powers of the world, The British Empire and Russia. What followed after that was a series of events more or less like a chain reaction which resulted in the uprising of Afghan people against the British, resulting in their disgraceful ouster. Not many of the 20,000 strong survived as they were targeted in the narrow valleys and passes on their flight form Kabul. Many were killed, some taken prisoners for ransom and others sold in the slave trade market. The book is well researched as always by Dalrymple, and covers the events based on authentic sources, both Afghan and British. It also looks at the reasons for the uprising against the British. Also discussed is the role of Ranjit Singh, Shah Shuja, Dost Muhammad, Akbar Khan, the rivalry between Sadozia and Barakzais, Monstuart Elphinstone, Alecander Burnes, Willaim Macnaghten, George Pollock, Nicholson, Lord Auckland as some of the important figures in this theater.
My foray in to Mughal history started with Baburnama, a firsthand account of Padshah Babur. A little later it was followed by “The great Mughals and their India” (Dirk Collier), the nasha was spreading and I found myself buying Humayun-nama, Tuzk I Janhangiri ,Ain I Akbari (some still to be read). Then came “The Last Mughal” and “The Anarchy” by William Dalrymple.
The Anarchy is a well-researched book in to the Rise of East India Complany (EIC), and how a private trading company expanded its business through corruption, power politics and intrigues not to mention use of military force to overthrow perhaps the greatest and richest monarchy of the world , hence bringing the Mughal dynasty to an end. Neatly organized in to chapters this book begins with Capt Hawkins landing at the court of Padshah Jahangir and then covers the EICs history, its formation and the Royal Charter it received. It was much later that the Mughals finally allowed them to begin trading in Hindustan. Auranzeb’s death resulted in discontent and chaos for the Mughals and that is where the real story of EIC begins with Lord Clive making it big. The book is more or less chronological in describing events happening at various places in Hindustan as well as England. The roles of Portugese and French are discussed in quite detail. Also the Mughal court after Aurangzeb, the Marathas, Tipu Sultan, Nawab of Hyderabad and off course the famous episode of Bengal its famine, the Siraj ud Daula, Mir Jaffar’s treachery and the various battles fought during this era Plassy, Buxr and Pollilor etc starting 1703 till 1806. It is interesting to note how the English worked and improved their warfare by using muskets and Artillery and thus defeating large armies of over 15000 troops with just 2000 plus soldiers and off course by use of superior tactics and discipline. The limited role of Napoleon is discussed in the Tipu Sultan chapter. Throughout this period the English were at war with the French and so French soldiers and military experts worked as mercenaries in Hindustan. One can find, throughout the book, alliances being made and broken, and the never ending wars between various small states which ultimately helped the English in overcoming them one by one. In the words of the author, “This book has attempted to study the relationship between commercial and imperial power”.
The Last Mughal is actually the story of Delhi and its inhabitants including the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. It is a well-researched and unbiased account of the events leading to the War of Independence (The 1857 mutiny), the war itself and the events leading to the dissolution of the East India Company. It is a heart wrenching tale of greed, intrigues, lust for power and money, of treachery, religious ideals and morals. The story starts with Bahadur Shah Zafar’s time, describing Delhi, its inhabitants, the British, Royals and important people including the likes of Zauq and Ghalib. The book cover in great detail the events leading to the siege of Delhi and the last battle fought between the British (East India Company) and the rebelling soldiers and men and finally in the massacre of Delhi residents (which today can be rightly construed as war crimes). There was not a single dull moment in this treatise, not for me at least. Dalrymple describes the events as they happened in a chronological fashion; it is almost as it is happening live. One moment the East India Company seems to be winning and the next it is the revolting soldiers. Split second decisions, not taken, or actions abandoned that might have altered the course of history, make this nail biting record and must read for history buffs. I must confess for a certain period of time after reading it I felt sad. Sad, for the 333 years of glory coming to an end in a very bloody and gruesome manner. While at the same time perhaps it was a much needed change, for out of the ashes of the great Mughal Empire, was born the animosity between Hindus and Muslims of that time (which sadly continues to this day), that resulted in reformation of political ideas and hence a change leading to the independence and the ouster of the British exactly 90 years after the events of 1857 war of Independence.
Sanam Maher’s book, “The Sensational Life and Death of Qandeel Baloch” is a very well researched and informative book. I bought this book in impulse, from Lahore. Though I had little interest in Qandeel Baloch as an individual, but still I wanted to know the facts surrounding her life and death. Baloch, who shot to fame with her sultry videos was a poor village girl, who had a difficult life, moved out after a divorce and wanted to make a life for herself, doing what she knew best, singing, acting etc. In that, she wen’t a little overboard and challenged the otherwise conservative values of our society. In doing this she got instant fame and hate. As is wont to happen in such cases, she made a lot of enemies, some within her own family, which ultimately resulted in her own death at her younger brother’s hands, who actually drugged the whole family and strangulated his sister while she slept. While all this is common knowledge thanks to our pathetic media which somehow is more concerned about people’s personal lives than the actual issues affecting our society, IMHO the book covers a lot of other issues which somehow have largely remained unquestioned and unanswered.
Baburnama: Journal of Emperor Babur
Translated by Annette Susannah Beveridge, (from Chaghtai Turkish)
Abrdiged/Edited by Dilip Hero
Review: You actually cannot review a treatise written by a King of the likes of Zaheer ud din Baber 🙂 You can just scribble a little about it. The original document translated by Annette Susannah is over 1000 pages with various foot notes in almost microscopic form. So Dilip Hero has done a fine job of condensing it into 350 plus pages.
The book itself is neatly organized in three parts covering his life in Farghana (Babur’s birthplace), Kabul (his conquered territory, and Hindustan (the final dominion). Written in first person (we, in order convey the meaning “hum” in Urdu) it makes an interesting read from the beginning till end. It was surprising to note that the king mantained his journal from an early age 10 years!!! till his final years. Records of a few years are destroyed and that is where the editor has made use of historical narratives and other documents to reconstruct history.
It is interesting to note that Babur makes mention of all territories of Hindustan that he attacked and conquered at various times (total five time, fifth being his final foray into Hindustan), starting from Kabul, the infamous Khyber Pass, Ali Masjid, Bajaur, Bannu, Kohat (my native town 🙂 ) , Peshawar, Hasht nagri, Jhelum, Sialkot, Depalpur, Lahore etc etc. The description of countryside is detailed and he makes mention of the flora and fauna at various places. It was surprising to note that there exsited Rhinos and tigers near Peshawar (Hasht nagri to be exact) in those times.
The King spent most of his life on horseback, a few times coming close to death, almost captured but always surviving, it could make a block buster movie anyday.
His royal higness married 7 times (once to a Yousafzai woman!!) , and had two Circasian girls gifted to him. The Padshah started drinking much later in life, but was fond of Majun. His lineage is traced to Changis Khan on his mother’s side and subsequently to Timur Beg.
A most interesting account being the mention of time and its division in Hindustan.
The various cmapaigns are covered in vivid details , the most interseting ones being his final showdown with Ibrahim Lodhi, and with Marathas. Don’t be shocked to read the making of “tower of heads” by his forces.
The book makes a fine read any day, specially for history buffs. I got it through Liberty Books , in fact I had ot preoder it, and it was delivered in about 6 weeks time.
Highly addictive stuff!
Book Review: Flight of the Falcon.
When a friend suggested this book to me, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it. That’s because I have stopped reading Military history and stuff, but then one day I ordered it from Vanguard and after reading a few pages I found it was one of those “hard to put down books.”
This is the story of an ace fighter pilot of Pakistan Air Force, Sajjad Haider, and in that he has covered the history of PAF, the training years , the 1965/71 wars, the role of PAF, that of the Army and its operations. It is in fact much more than that. The book dispels myths about our leaders (both military and civilians), it takes a rather good look at our history, where we went wrong, the machinations of the powers that be from 1950’s till the 1980’s and beyond.
I found it to be well researched with relevant references all along. This is one of those books that clears a lot of mist, surronding our history, mostly related ot the wars and the roles of PAF and Army. Since the officer remained at important positions in the PAF and was well respected being a decorated war hero so it carries weight. It is a fisrt hand account of a pilot. The man who lead PAF attack on Pathankot and destroyed 11 enemy aircraft (19th Squadron) and again attacked enemy columns at Lahore, stalling their advance to Lahore in 1965. The narration of various air missions is presented in a detailed and graphic manner, the reader feels being a part of the operation.
It makes a good read for history buffs and anyone interested in knowing more about the Pakistan India wars, operation Gibraltar and Grans Slam. (I would call it the alternative view” that forces you to view a different dimension of our history.)
Book Review: Memories of a lacerated Heart 1971. Author: Maj (Retd) Iftikhar ud Din Ahmad. Translation by: Moeen A Bhatti, M.D. (USA). Editor” Rida K Bhutta (B.A. Hons)
Hello, hope you all are good. This book has inspired me to take the pen and write my heart out on a subject which has bugged me for a long time. The result was my research in to it, (over the years) it forced me to read books on the subject by our Pakistani authors, mostly (high ranking) Military officers. And before I start it let me please say that the purpose is not critique or to start a tirade of words, neither is it to hurt anyone’s feelings. I came across this book on Facebook and got it shipped from UK, thanks to a dear friend (AJ thanks again 🙂 ). Some of the books that I have read on the subject are (in no particular order) Witness to Surrender, The betrayal of East Pakistan, Dead reckoning, Escape from Oblivion, The story of my struggle, A stranger in my own country , and a few more (over many years time). All the above mentioned books are from Pakistani authors save one from Sharmila Bose.
I saw a small review of the book titled, “Undeclared Water War on Pakistan: Tactical and Strategic Defense Mesaures” in a local paper, just a week ago. Something told me this book carries a message, and so the next natural thing was to google it. That done, an order was deftly placed at Fabingo.com, who delivered it in 48 hours. And naturally it was finished in two sittings, filling me up with loads of info about the water situation threatening to plague planet Earth and off course Pakistan. Authored by Professor Dr Iqbal Ali, who happens to be an expert on the subject, the book adopts a no nonsense approach on the subject using lucid language, yet driving the point across to the reader.
The long list of books to be read by me is always growing long, not to mention the ones on my bookshelf which I haven’t read as I keep adding more to the already sizeable collection. So, when I got this email from Liberty Books promoting Sadruddin Hashwani’s book titled, “Truth Always Prevails” there was nothing else to do than order it. And that’s exactly what I did, deftly the book was shipped to me the very next day and I sat down reading it. And hence the review…
Warning: Sitting is the new smoking!
Don’t lose out, work out! is all about staying fit. It is a very informative book on fitness, which tells a lot about the human body, heart and dispels quite a few myths associated with exercise and fitness. Rujuta Diwekar has written a book that has educated an ignorant jogger like me on how to stay fit the smart way. Off course staying fit is all about sweating, but Rujuta tells us the smart way of doing it.