Gulbadan

August 1, 2016

An accomplished scholar and author of the Humayun-nama, Gulbadan Begam was also Babur’s daughter, Humayun’s sister, and Akbar’s aunt.

In this compact biography, Rumer Godden draws upon the Humayun-nama and other records, as well as her own soaring imagination, to create a portrait of the begam and the Mughal Empire as detailed and exquisite as any miniature.

While still a child, Gulbadan travelled from Kabul to Agra, where Babur had established his capital. She grew up in the cloistered world of the zenana, an idyllic existence that was shattered when Babur exchanged his life for Humayun’s. Humayun’s reign was marked by hardship after he lost the Empire and his vast army was reduced to a ragtag band. The Empire was regained but, soon after, Humayun died in a freak accident. He was succeeded by Akbar and it was under him that the Mughal Empire reached its zenith, in territory and in cultural and religious accomplishments.

This rich, broad sweep of history, written from Gulbadan’s point of view, is interspersed with colourful re-creations of goings-on within the zenana and the many diversions and internecine politics of the royal court.

Combining a historian’s rigour with a novelist’s gift for invention, Gulbadan is a timeless classic.

The Prisoner of Kathmandu

April 20, 2016

The Prisoner of Kathmandu is the story of Brian Hodgson, Britain’s ‘father of Himalayan studies’. Born in 1801, Hodgson joined the Bengal Civil Service as a privileged but sickly young man. Posted to Kathmandu as a junior political officer, he initially felt isolated and trapped as he struggled to keep peace between the fiercely independent mountain kingdom and the British East India Company. Ultimately, his efforts were rewarded with an enduring friendship between Nepal and the United Kingdom.
More than a biography of Hodgson and a study of political relations between countries, this book is also an in-depth look at the western Orientalist movement driven by the European Enlightenment. Hodgson, who studied Tibetan and Nepalese Buddhism, soon took interest in Nepal’s biodiversity and the region’s peoples and geography. He was also a key player in the struggle between those hoping to reshape India along British lines and those working to preserve local culture. Though overlooked in his own lifetime, Hodgson was later recognized as a major figure in Asian studies, a leader whose achievements have contributed to anthropology, ethnology and natural history.
The extraordinary story of an extraordinary man, The Prisoner of Kathmandu sets the record straight while illuminating the history of Asian studies in the West.

The Ballad of Bant Singh: A Qissa of Courage

December 29, 2015

On the evening of 5th January 2006, Bant Singh, a Dalit agrarian labourer and activist in Punjab’s Jhabar village, was ambushed and brutally beaten by upper-caste Jat men armed with iron rods and axes. He lost both his arms and a leg in the attack. It was punishment for having fought for justice for his minor daughter who had been gang-raped. But his spirit was not broken, and he continues to fight for equality and dignity for millions like him, inspiring them with his revolutionary songs and his courage.

Journalist and writer Nirupama Dutt tells Bant Singh’s story in this powerful book which is both the biography of an extraordinary human being and a comment on the deep fault lines in Punjabi and Indian society.

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