HT Picks: New Reads

This week’s interesting reads includes a book on post-Independence archaeology in India, one on the guns of the Maharaja of Jodhpur, and a debut novel on Naga life in the troubled final decades of the twentieth century
On the reading list this week is a book on archaeology in India, a volume on the guns of a royal collector, and a searing debut novel on Naga life in the troubled 1980s and 1990s.(HT Team)
On the reading list this week is a book on archaeology in India, a volume on the guns of a royal collector, and a searing debut novel on Naga life in the troubled 1980s and 1990s.(HT Team)
Updated on Nov 06, 2020 08:24 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByHT Team

MORTIMER WHEELER’S CHILDREN

348pp, ₹1595; Oxford University Press
348pp, ₹1595; Oxford University Press

This book interleaves the history of post-Independence archaeology in India with the life and times of Madhukar Narhar Deshpande (1920-2008), a leading Indian archaeologist who went on to become the director-general of the Archaeological Survey of India. Spanning nearly a century, this is a tale told through a main character -Deshpande himself - some of whose writings have been included in the volume. We explore the circumstances which brought men like Deshpande to this career path; what it was like to grow up in a family devoted to India’s freedom; the watershed moment that created a large cohort that was trained by Mortimer Wheeler, the doyen of British archaeology; the unknown conservation stories around the Gol Gumbad in Bijapur and the Qutb Minar in Delhi; the forgotten story of how the fabric of a historic Hindu shrine, the Badrinath temple, was saved; the chemistry shared by the prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the archaeologist, Deshpande, at the Ajanta and Ellora cave shrines, and; the political and administrative challenges faced by director generals of archaeology. The book is a must read for anyone interested in India’s past in general and the history of Indian archaeology in particular.*

OF RAJPUT TRADITIONS OF HUNTING AND WAR

368pp, ₹4500; Niyogi Books
368pp, ₹4500; Niyogi Books

In 1972, Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jodhpur-Marwar transformed the Rathore’s magnificent Mehrangarh Fort into a highly successful Rajput museum and cultural centre. The Mehrangarh Museum Trust commissioned this book which is the first to be written specifically on historic Indian firearms by an international arms expert. The Maharaja of Jodhpur’s Guns offers scholars and collectors the opportunity to see the superb Jodhpur collection that includes the best Indian matchlocks, modern British and American sporting guns, shotguns, revolvers and automatic pistols by many of the great makers of the 20th century.
It features more than 350 unique images of guns and Rajput paintings from private collections showing their use, as well as explains Rajput traditions relating to hunting and war.
The author discusses the worldwide medieval diffusion of firearms technology and Arab, Ottoman, European and Chinese influences on the development of Indian firearms. Jodhpur was one of the most important military states in Rajasthan, playing a major role in the history of the subcontinent, never more so than during the reign of Maharaja Ajit Singhji (1678–1724) who purchased large numbers of guns when his daughter married the Mughal emperor. Jodhpur owns the best Indian matchlocks in the subcontinent, much admired at the Delhi Durbar in 1911. Successive maharajas have added to the collection, which includes modern British and American sporting guns, shotguns, revolvers and automatic pistols by many of the great makers of the twentieth century, collected by the Maharaja’s grandfather, a noted hunter, and his father, a gun designer.*

CAUGHT BETWEEN HOPE AND DESPAIR

224pp, ₹399; Speaking Tiger
224pp, ₹399; Speaking Tiger

Ten-year-old Rakovei watches the army convoy rushing daily past his house in Senapati town and dreams of the day when he too will be a soldier. It is only when tragedy strikes his family that he comes to see the truth behind the glamour of military uniforms. Set in Manipur during the 1980s and 90s, this novel follows the shared destinies of Rakovei and his family and community. Life is peaceful in the Naga villages around Senapati, until the spring of 1987,when cadres of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) attack the Assam Rifles outpost at Oinam Hill, and brutal retaliation follows — code named Operation Bluebird. Village after village is occupied,and young Rakovei, visiting his native village of Phyamaichi,witnesses the horror — ordinary men and women tortured and executed; homes and shops ransacked and burnt down. Deep disillusionment sets in as Rakovei begins to understand how his people suffer, caught in the war between the Indian Army and the Naga underground. The only chance of even basic security seems to lie far away, in the ‘mainland’, but it comes with the dark shadows of prejudice and racism. Waiting for the Dust to Settle provides a poignant, often searing, glimpse into the realities of life for ordinary Nagas in the turbulent final decades of the twentieth century, even as it chronicles with great sensitivity the resilience of these men and women caught between hope and despair.*

*All text from press releases.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2022