Historical novels sometimes have characters that are real and at times they are fictitious. They leave you with an inquisitive and enriched mind which is never bored. My love for history and books keeps me on the prowl for new books. My latest search ended me up with a marvelous piece by a distinguished historian and author, Romila Thapar. Her book, The Past as Present: Forging Contemporary Identities through History, is a compendium that questions, argues, investigates, analyzes and interprets why and how various historical events occurred, and of what significance and importance were they.
It is only through the accurate depiction and interpretation of the past that the legitimacy of the present can be drawn. Over the years, the facts get manipulated and skewed and are misinterpreted by various politicians and religious fundamentalists. The resultant being, what we know today, is partially true and does not convey the true essence of the events. I like their narratives as they accurately portray events and have no biased angles.
A good historical novel always portrays facts in their exact form. Romila's book stands true to this. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that in 2008, she was awarded the prestigious Kluge Prize of the US Library of Congress, which honors Lifetime Achievement in Studies such as history, which are not covered by the Nobel Prize.
Her book, The Past as Present: Forging Contemporary Identities through History inquires about important events like, what was the aftermath of the raid on the Somanatha Temple? Are we Aryan or Dravidian? Why is it important for Indian society to be secular? When did communalism as an ideology gain a foothold in the country? How and when did our patriarchal mindset begin to support a culture of violence against women? It answers all these and similar questions from a perspective that is unprejudiced and unique.
It indeed is one of the best contemporary historical books that I have recently come across. If you have a liking for the old and forgotten, or if you enjoy reading in general; dig in a little deeper and you might come across something as interesting as I did!