(William Dalrymple and Anita Anand)
By COL PREM BAHADUR THAPA (RETD)
” ..William Dalrymple is to non- fiction, what JK Rowling is to fiction…This joint project with Anita Anand is bound to fly off the shelves as quickly as readers can devour it.” Bestseller “.. Vivid…a dynamic, original and supremely readable history of empires.” Guardian It was a chance encounter and I am grateful for it. I had gone to visit an acquaintance in the Army’s Divisional HQs at Clement Town and since the officer was preoccupied with an engagement, I slipped into the Div library. The newly arrived books caught my lazy attention but a glance brought me wide awake as I leafed through the first few pages of ‘Kohinoor’ and realised that it was different to whatever I had read about the famous diamond. I am sure many readers have already been through it but, if they haven’t, it is strongly recommended that they pay a visit or get their copy from Natraj. In fact, I would go a step further and advise all schools and institutions to acquire it for their libraries. It is history, recorded authentically but may read like fantasy. What one may have read or heard in bits and pieces about this world famous jewel, has been now chronologically laid out by the two authors in a most intelligent and readable book on the subject. It takes the readers through India’s earlier history and how it was ravaged by successive raiders, conquerors and rulers. The amount of wealth they took away is legendary but its vivid description is staggering. The country was so rich but so helpless to defend it that it is no wonder we were looted at will … and along with it we lost the most famous jewel, the like of which the world is yet to see. How it varies in ‘Kohinoor’ are the inside stories and descriptions of how it changed hands and how Lord Dalhousie finally acquired it for his British monarch on whose crown it now rests. The chapters on Ranjit Singh’s Sikh Empire and its subsequent downfall have been beautifully written by the authors (especially the narrative about ‘Sati’ committed by the queens on his death, to remind us of the very cruel and helpless practice that was forced upon the widows in those days). And, of course, the description of the beauty of ‘Kohinoor ‘in every stage of its transition’ is the main focus; and how it created havoc for those who possessed it, is to be believed more as fact rather than fiction.