Book Review: Return of a King

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.

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Baburnama, Journal of Emperor Babur

Baburnama: Journal of Emperor Babur

Translated by Annette Susannah Beveridge, (from Chaghtai Turkish)

Abrdiged/Edited by Dilip Hero

Penguin Books

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: Memories of a Lacerated Heart 1971

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.

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Book Review: Truth Always Prevails by Sadruddin Hashwani

Hashwani

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…

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Book Review: 2 States by Chetan Anand

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I bought 2 States by Chetan Bhagat on instinct. It looked good sitting in the shelves of Liberty Books and I just picked it up. It is a fiction which describes the story of love marriage. Love marriages are not very common in India and Pakistan as we still believe in arranged marriages. Its actually a very complicated affair; boy meets girl, they fall in love, boy has to love her parents, girl has to love boy’s parents, girl’s parents and boy’s parents have to love each other, if the girl and the boy want to get married. If anyone out of the above is not in love with the other, the whole equation becomes imbalanced to the point of falling apart and love takes a back seat. So Chetan Bhagat tells this story in a very amusing and fun filled way.

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Book Review: Khushwant Singh: The Legend Lives On…

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“The Patiala Peg of Publishing is No More” ~ Shobhaa De

That might be so, but his writing are here to stay! This is perhaps the only book (as of now) containing one of the best and choicest of obits on Khushwant Singh. Khushwant Singh: The Legend Lives On has been edited by his son Rahul Singh. I so badly wanted to read it in one go, but the vagaries of time prevented that. So it was two or three obits, in between tea, telephone calls, lunch breaks, wife’s lectures, kids remonstrations, the boss’s calling and what not. But what a treat it was reading this book. The WOW factor is a straight 10/10.

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Book Review: Confessions of a New York Taxi Driver

Confessionsof a New York Taxi driver

May your best days be yet unseen,

And may all your lights be green.

Eugene Salomon is New Taxi driver commonly called as a cabbie, with over thirty years of driving experience on the streets of NY, or Big Apple as they call it. What sets him apart form most cabbies is that he is a native, contrary to present practice where most cabbies are immigrants from all over the world (with people from India and Pakistan making it to the list). I found this book at an  outlet of Liberty Books, Karachi and  bought it on instinct (after having read the title, didn’t even leaf through the pages). Well most books I buy are on instinct! And I haven’t for a page regretted buying it. This cabbie has a lot of stories to tell, and some are interesting ones, indeed.

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Book Review: I’ll Find My Way

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Every year for the past three years Oxford University Press, Pakistan has been holding a competition for fresh budding writers. The event is publicized in papers and their website inviting young aspiring writers to submit their stories on a various topics. Last year it was about the city of Karachi. This year they invited stories from all over Pakistan on four themes, “The bravest place on Earth”, “Paved and unpaved ways”, “The meaning of me” and “Because this is what matters”. All the selected stories have been published in a book titled, “I’ll find my way”, edited by Maniza Naqvi, who happens to be an established writer. The book was launched during the 5th Karachi Literature Festival.

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The Little Book of “Native American Wisdom”

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I bought this Lilliputian, book on “Native American Wisdom” from the National Museum of the American Indian, Washington. Somehow, it appealed to me, sitting amongst the other mementos in those imposing racks. Time was short and the supply of money wasn’t very promising. Still the little book was hard to ignore.

As I child I was always inspired by the Red Indians that we used to see in the Western and cowboy movies, some starred by John Wayne. The Native Indians were always portrayed as savages in those movies, which was kind of difficult to understand. But after having read this small book I am convinced they had a civilization of their own, strong beliefs, customs, traditions, society and a way of life. I am going to share some of the sayings of those old Chiefs (who are since long dead), for you to read and decide for yourself. But a little something about the book first.

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Book Review: A Man Called Khushwant Singh

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After having read so many books authored by Khushwant Singh, I badly wanted to read some book written on him, but none was to be found. I guess they were all waiting for him to die. It makes more sense to write about the dead, instead of a living person. So this unplanned visit to the Frere Hall had me scouring for something interesting. Lo and Behold, I found this book, “A Man Called Khushwant Singh”, edited by Rohini Singh, sitting in at the bottom of a huge heap of books as if placed in forced state of “solitary confinement.” One look at it was enough, telling me this was a keeper. The shopkeeper wanted 250 rupees for it, I protested, a little haggling followed, finally he won, saying, “original hai”. Meaning, its not a fake. By the way, I don’t like fake copies of books that they make here, its unethical, the paper they use sucks big time and I find the books repulsive, very that is.

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