Almost two years ago, when I reviewed The Ranee of Jhansi, D. V. Tahmankar, I had expressed a strong desire to lay my hands on Vishnu Bhatt Godse’s Ma...moreAlmost two years ago, when I reviewed The Ranee of Jhansi, D. V. Tahmankar, I had expressed a strong desire to lay my hands on Vishnu Bhatt Godse’s Majha Pravas (My Travels), published in 1907, by Chitrashala Press, Pune. While I was quite determined to get my hand on the book - I'll admit, I wondered if I'd be able to ever get to read that book - it was in Marathi.
I was happily surprised when I saw 1857: The Real Story Of The Great Uprising at Crosswords in Pune - the English translation of Vishnu Bhatt Godse’s Majha Pravas (My Travels). Since I do not take the effort of reading Marathi books, I had to make do with the translation. Some of you may know my thoughts on translations. Having read this book now, I feel the need to go back the beautiful book by DV Tamhankar.
1857: The Real Story Of The Great Uprising is a well-translated book. Given that I haven't read the original Marathi book, this statement is open to conjecture. Yet, I have heard about this book and its content from family and friends who have read the original - that's the first premise. The fact that the original was actually written in the Modi Script and translated into Marathi, with some liberties and that Mrinal Pande alludes to using the original, is the second premise. Finally, my own understanding from reading of the book and the uneven granularity of the book, makes me believe that the English translation has not taken (m)any liberties.
Vishnu Bhatt Godshe Versaikar (the original author of the book) doesn't come across as a very good writer (at least not in the English version, the original may some fantastic idioms and nuances that cannot be captured in English), however he has done a great service to history by this book. The book follows his travels for the most part - and therefore the accounts in the book may be treated as authentic. At times however, he seems to rely on hearsay, and it may be worth noting that these are the parts which actually provide the necessary links to the story of the mutiny - and causes the bumpy texture of the presentation.
Having said all the above, it is a great read - especially if you are interested in history beyond a story (though this one is written more like a story; a travelogue). The text creates stunning visual imagery, which, in my opinion is very necessary when writing historical accounts. Facts and dates may be gleaned from Wikipedia, but a visual presentation is key for non-fictional historical presentations.
That - this book achieves with great aplomb. (less)
Somewhere in the middle of September 2009, was when I started reading this book. As I went through the early pages, I slipped into a comfortable and c...moreSomewhere in the middle of September 2009, was when I started reading this book. As I went through the early pages, I slipped into a comfortable and complacent state - I would finish reading Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River in a few of days; I'll cruise through it, I told myself.
It wasn't to be so.
The history of the river and of the 'empires' and the folklore and the community that laces this river challenged my curiosity as I, now, slowly made through the pages. The excitement that the author causes as she takes you, deftly through the caves and waterways and tunnels of 19th century history, folk-tales, social issues and right up to history that occurred a few thousands year ago - is a wonderful ride.
Your affinity for history will be of some importance as you read this book. First, because though it is on my history bookshelf, I would not classify this as a 'history' book as such. The other option is travel - but it does not sit snugly in that bookshelf, either.
To my mind, it is a biography - of a geographic feature. There is research there - loads of it - as becomes evident when you read through - yet the book is not blemished with distracting footnotes.
The writing is straightforward, simple and inviting; to participate in her adventure. And never a dull moment in that adventure (I must say warn, you have to have that streak of historic curiosity to some extent). The content very easily incorporates facts, whole stories, references, extreme emotions, and a sense of belonging. It has been a while, since I have enjoyed reading non-fiction history.
So after having started it in September 2009, I reached 2/3rd of the book by January of 2011. I cannot read books on history without context - I need maps, some background to an event, and an overview of the chronology. The book is now full of post-its and notes. For various reasons, I did not read the book after that. When I picked up the book again, earlier this month, I obviously could not recall the adventure earlier. Back to page 1. Thankfully my notes allowed me to cruise through, the pages I had read.
Pithy observation and insightful comments mark the book in equal measure. I loved the book!(less)