Everything does pass, and we can endure and we can survive!! – Rahul Dravid
I have come across very few people who can tell bare facts in a pleasant way. Madhan is one of them. He can quickly and easily tell you the truth and you would want to hear it again and again. His narration is such that you would want to read more and delve deeper into many of the topics.
When I was a kid, my grandfather used to take me on his cycle or for a walk and talk to me about a lot of things. Just talk. He would answer all my questions, regardless of how stupid they were. Those years and those conversations formed the basis of my intellectual thirst for years to come. He walked me through history – he spoke to me about Rama, Krishna, Bhima, Arjuna, Napoleon, Alexander, and the World Wars, about Hitler, Gandhi, Patel and loads of others. Even a month ago, he was talking to me how Poland as a country suffered under Hitler. It is just his interesting way of telling me things without doing away with facts that got me interested in history. Madhan has a similar approach.
I read 2 of his books recently – ‘Ki Mu Ki Pi’ and ‘Vandhargal Vendraagal‘. When DD said on NVOK that she had spotted Ki Mu Ki Pi at a book store and was unable to put it down after reading the first couple of pages, I decided to try it out. And how right she was! I was simply unable to put the book down after I started it.
Ki Mu Ki Pi was one glorious ride; one can aptly title it World History Roller Coaster. Starting from the Big Bang, he takes us through Darwin’s Origin of Species, walks along with Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons and introduces civilizations. We witness man inventing the wheel and learning to create fire. We stay for a while in Mesopotamia, Greece, Egypt, India and Rome – the earliest of civilizations and see what the people did. How they dressed, what kind of houses they built, what they ate, how they lived, what they did for leisure, what they worshipped, how they wrote, how they counted, how they traded, how they advanced themselves, how they ruined each other and loads of other details. Creation of law, philosophy, its implementation, multiple wars and the numerous scars that they left behind, how Egyptians created mummies and how the civilization in India alone has survived these many years (!) are all neatly discussed. It is a spell binding narration of real things that happened in the past. It is presented in such a way that we feel it is happening right in front of us.
Vandhaargal Vendraargal is a wonderful book, unputdownable. I feel it is a must have in everyone’s home. Madhan takes us through the lives of Muslim kings and queens who once ruled India. We are taken to their courts, palaces, their minds, battlefields, attitude towards others, bed chambers (!), gardens, their habits (sometimes eccentricities) and many other facets over all the Muslim rulers who ruled India from Timur to Bahadur Shah Zafar II.
It is not a blind love or hatred for the kings but a very neutral analysis, giving neat insights into how rulers should and shouldn’t be. We see how ruthlessly Timur, Malik Kafur and some of the others slaughtered the Hindus. We see how Babar struggled to become the first Mughal ruler of India, we see how people were forcibly converted to Islam, how eunuchs started ruling the place, how mercilessly some of the kings were killed by their own clan. Madhan talks to us about the bravery of our Rajputs, that great man Shivaji, how the Sikhs came into being and of their extraordinary bravery. We see how the Mughals starting from Akbar embraced Indian culture and gave it their flavour. Art, architecture, literature, music, dance all blossomed under the rule of a sensible king. Akbar invoked upon tolerance and he employed the age old strategy of creating matrimonial bonds with enemies to create peace. We go through the falling legacy of the Mughals starting from the death of Aurangazeb. What was a grand empire was reduced to the four walls of the Red Fort in Delhi by the time of Bahadur Shah Zafar II, who was taken prisoner by the British to Burma. We read of the peacock throne, of the Kohinoor diamond and of the many looted treasures from India.
Some interesting facts from the book:
The greatest accolade for this book comes from the fact that, despite it being released in episodes in one of the popular magazines (Ananda Vikatan) during the 1993 riots after the Babri Masjid issue, it didn’t create a single stir in Tamilnadu. It shows how neutrally and how truthfully Madhan has talked about the Muslim rulers of India.
Madhan doesn’t try to preach or learn lessons from history. That is probably why it is interesting! And that is probably why we learn lessons form it!! He just tries to analyse it from a neutral point of view, wonders and marvels at certain happenings and feats, becomes melancholic when a sad instance occurs and gives credit where it is due. He dissects fact from fiction and calls a spade a spade. He gives contemporary analogies, making it easy to understand. He doesn’t dwell on one thing for very long, he talks about Timur and his atrocities just long enough for us to understand the plight of the people and then he moves on to the next incident. He has laced the book with a lot of humour and has conveyed the thoughts by means of stories. He stresses on what needs to be stressed and leaves out the stuff that isn’t required. For example, when he writes about Thuglak, he stresses on the king’s intelligence and bravery as well as his impractical methods of rule. Similarly, when he talks about Humayun, he stresses on the king’s brave feats in battle as well as his unnecessary compassion. What a wonderful writer he is!
After reading these books, I wonder why we wantedly lost so much skill – swordsmanship, archery, horse riding, charioteering…. Yes, we have moved on to new things and no one fights with swords anymore; but we need not have lost all the knowledge!
These books must be translated into English and many more people must read it. Great books by Madhan! Would he himself attempt a translation?