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256 pages, Hardcover
First published December 1, 2018
There is a reason why this book could have been written only now, and not earlier. It is because our understanding of deep history has changed dramatically in the last five years or so. Large stretches of our prehistory are being rewritten as we speak, based on analysis of DNA extracted from individuals who lived thousands or tens of thousands of years ago. Many 'facts' that we took for granted have been proved wrong, and many questions left dangling in the air as historians, archaeologists and anthropologists argued it out among themselves have been given convincing new answers — thanks to the recently acquired ability of genetic scientists to successfully extract DNA from ancient fossils and then sequence it to understand all that bound people together, or distinguished them from each other. If technology had not matured to the level it has, scientists would not have been able to make the discoveries they are making today. And if it were not for their latest findings, our prehistory would have remained as vague and contentious as earlier and this book would not have been written.So how exactly does DNA put paid to the debate? Well, without going into the technicalities (it is all detailed in the book), let me try to explain in plain terms how this whole thing works.
The best way we can define ourselves is as a multi-source civilization, not a single-source one, drawing its cultural impulses, its traditions and its practices from a variety of heredities and migration histories. The Out of Africa migrants, the fearless pioneering explorers who reached this land around sixty-five millennia ago and whose lineages still form the bedrock of our population; those who arrived from west Asia and contributed to the agricultural revolution and the building of the Harappan Civilization which then became the crucible for new practices, concepts and the Dravidian languages that enrich much of our culture today; those who came from east Asia, bringing with them new languages and plants and farming techniques; and those who migrated here from central Asia, carrying an early version of what would become a great language, Sanskrit, and all its associated beliefs and practices that have reshaped our society in fundamental ways; and those who came even later seeking refuge or for conquest or for trade, and then chose to stay — all have mingled and contributed to this civilization we call Indian. We are all Indians. And we are all migrants.This, I like.