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Unassuming Roshen assumes iconic status
Dalal’s 6th book, “The Puffin History of the World”, now in bookstores

By RAJ KANWAR | Tue, 04 -Feb, 2014

In a span of less than decade and a half, author Roshen Dalal has assumed an iconic status for her books on history and world religions. Her sixth title in this genre, “The Puffin History of the World” (Vol I), has just been published and is now available in bookstores across the country. Right now, she is busy giving finishing touches to its Volume II that she hopes to complete by May this year. That will be her seventh title in this niche literary segment.

ROSHEN’S first book was the “The History of India for Children” that was later published in a new edition under the title “The Puffin History of India for Children”, Volume I. Exceeding all expectations, that title sold over 60,000 copies. Later, its Volume Two also did very well but could not match the high sales of Volume One. Another of her books in this genre, “Religions of India: a Concise Guide to Nine Major Faiths”, too, received rave reviews. That was followed by yet another book on religion, “Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide”. “The Illustrated Timeline History of the World” published by Worth Press, UK; was also much commended.
In fact, “Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide” received wide acclaim and glowing reviews. Arun Ganapathy had then devoted a full “The Speaking Tree” column to this book. He says, “Dalal’s easy storytelling manner animates what would otherwise be very boring facts, so you delve further into the book.” Reviews in some other papers and magazines are equally laudatory.
Her magnum opus
Roshen’s magnum opus, however, is “THE VEDAS” that has already taken nearly four years in research and writing. It is due to hit the book stalls in April this year. “The Vedas has been the most challenging of all of my books. There are so many differing viewpoints and interpretations on these scriptures that made writing it fascinating,” says Roshen.
How did she get into this genre? “Remember, I had done both my Master’s and Doctorate in ancient history from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. My dissertation too was on “The Historical Geography of the Ganga Yamuna Doab up to AD 300”.I also taught history and geography at the Rishi Valley School in Andhra Pradesh and even wrote its history that is now a part of the school’s archives,” Roshen recalls. “In fact, I was attracted to that school because of the philosophy of J Krishnamurti that I greatly admired. So, both, history and philosophy have been of much interest to me since my younger days,” says the author who prefers to keep a low profile.
But what made her take up writing books on history? “I first began by writing book reviews in the mid-1980s. Then I wrote my first book while I was still at the Rishi Valley since I felt there were no good books on history that the children there could read and understand by themselves”.
“How did her first book get published?” “Before starting it, I approached Penguin, and after asking me for an outline and sample chapters, they gave me a contract. A few years later, Penguin asked me to write the second volume, covering the period from 1947 to the present day. The other books followed,” Roshen says with a degree of pride.
Roshen has been a full time writer since 2005. “The income from writing is variable but just enough for me.”
She adds, “Usually my work schedule and routine is that I read or write most of the day, from around 9 a.m. up to 5 or 6 p.m. In between there are several interruptions, routine chores, some cooking, etc.”
Roshen is the youngest of the three children of well known author Nergis Dalal and Surveyor General Brig JAF Dalal. She has lived in Delhi for much of her professional career and moved to Dehradun only in May 2013 after her mother’s death. However, Dehradun is not new to her; she was born in Mussoorie, and began school in Cambrian Hall.
Petite and charming in her own way, Roshen is a quiet person, not fond of socialising much. No wonder she loves reading and writing which don’t need any company. The only pastime she likes is chess and she still loves playing it. In fact, she had represented Delhi in the Women’s Chess Nationals in 1974 and was Delhi Women’s champion in 1981. “I did not continue with tournament chess as it was not financially sustainable those days,” Roshen says with a sigh.

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