Friday, April 29, 2016

A Children's History of India!

"Amma.. was Babur originally from Mongolia or the present day Uzubekisthan ?" was one of Abhay's recent questions that had me stumped! Though I prided myself as a humanities student, I realised that I had no clue to some of his questions even though they seemed fundamental enough for any history student to have known an answer. Blame it on bad memory, or a lack of touch with the subject, or the fall-out of learning by rote that characterised most of our studies in school; But history from textbooks was more about remembering the dates/years of battles and reigns of kings than an interesting account of how things were! As much as Abhay seems fascinated by history, it's rather disappointing that history isn't a part of his school curriculum yet. So we are left to our own devices (read google) to unravel some of history's mysteries! 

When it comes to history, what are the choices for children/young readers? Well, it’s either the exam oriented textbooks or the rhetorical over-simplified versions of history that hardly sound credible or the big-fat reference books that the children/young readers tend to steer clear from!! What if there were to be a book that presents historical facts, sources and analysis in a non-text-bookish manner without running into the danger of information overload?   A Children’s history of India” by Subhandra Sen Gupta and illustrated by Priyankar Gupta  does exactly that!! Brought out by Red Turtle, the children’s wing of Rupa  publications, this book is a composite work on Indian history starting from the Harappan civilization in 2600 BCE to contemporary India. 

A children’s history of India is a thorough work of non-fiction and is divided into four sections that trace the rich history of our country from ancient times to what we now know as modern India. The author then goes to detail the rise and fall of various dynasties chronologically during each period, elaborating on the political milestones, prevalent lifestyles, social and cultural trends of the times that were. Presented in an easy-to-follow narrative, each chapter is also laced with interesting trivia, summary boxes, relevant online and offline sources for more information and a brief note on parallel developments in other parts of the world around the same time.  For instance, who knew that not all poems in the Vedas were solemn prayers but also included even funny rhymes and limericks or about a traveler named Thomas Coryat during Mughal times who supposedly walked all the way from England to India!! Accompanied by minimal illustrations of the highlights of different eras, the author also helps the reader understand the empirical analysis of historical data that separates facts from legends. Not very often do you come across a work of non-fiction that appeals to both children and adults alike…..”A children’s history of India” is definitely one of them and a must have for anyone interested in history! 

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