The magnificent seven
Impressive, perplexing, inspiring, humorous, only too human... Here are seven characters from books who live in my mind forever.books Updated: Feb 26, 2011 15:15 IST
1: Akbar from The Mughal Throne
Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar was one of the greatest emperors that ever lived. His journey from a sheltered childhood to a violent and possibly debauched youth to the illustrious man we all know him as, is fascinating. He forged the contours of the contract between the magnificence of Hinduism and the majesty of Islam, on which the great nation of India would later be built. Pakistan forgot this remarkable ruler, remembering instead his reactionary great-grandson, Aurangzeb, and suffers for its mistake to this day. Akbar literally means ‘great’ and he sure did live up to his name.
2: Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind
Do I really need to explain why? If you haven’t heard of Scarlett, curse your fate, go to a bookstore and pick up Margaret Mitchell’s classic, Gone with the Wind. Please don’t judge her by watching the movie. It’s a good movie, but it doesn’t do justice to the character. Read the book and you will understand why she’s so attractive to any man who wants to live life. Also, whatever Rhett Butler may have said to Scarlett on his immortal exit, I think that frankly, my dear, he did give a damn!
3: Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
When you start reading Stieg Larsson’s cracker of a novel, you wonder why the book has been titled after Lisbeth. She comes in late and does not have much of an impact till the second half. Slowly, but surely however, she grows on you till you begin to understand that no other title was possible. Lisbeth is a bundle of contradictions. Strikingly ruthless and yet vulnerable. Supremely intelligent and yet socially daft. Lovable, yet scary. At times with a clear sense of morals and conscience. At other times, shocking, unscrupulous. A truly unforgettable character.
4: Don Quixote from Don Quixote
Created by the brilliant Miguel de Cervantes, Quixote was one of the funniest, yet sadly tragic characters every written. Don Quixote had given up the burden of reality and thought of himself as a Knight of the old code. Accompanied by his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, the adventures of Don Quixote through 16th century Spain are so well remembered that we even have an English word named after this character – quixotic! Also, if you use the expression ‘tilting at windmills’, you would do well to remember that it is based on a memorable section of this grand book.
5: Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes
Calvin, the devilish kid, was just so completely riveting! He drove his parents up the wall, made Susie regret every occasion she decided to be nice to him, ensured that his teachers lamented the day they decided to enter the field of education. He was hilarious. Having said that, I believe there is also another angle to this splendid comic series. Calvin had the kind of imaginative mind that would make most writers proud. This kind of hatke brain suffers in our rigid, rote-driven education system. Perhaps a more flexible pedagogy would have made Calvin fit in a lot more. Sadly, it would also have made him boring!
6: Karna from the Mahabharat
The Mahabharat, the ancient Indian epic, is a treasure house of heroes. Heroes who may have been Gods or demons. Heroes who may have done good or bad. Heroes who either won or lost. But they were all heroes nonetheless. For what is a hero if he is not memorable. None amongst the heroes of the Mahabharat was more memorable than Karna. A tragic character, whose noble nature would become his downfall. Abandoned by his mother at birth, abandoned by his Guru when he needed him most, abandoned by the general who led him, abandoned by the great God of the time, you would think he didn’t stand a chance. Yet, driven by his remarkable ability and strength of character, Karna rose to leave his mark on history. He was a man one can look up to.
7: Sir Percy Blakeney from The Scarlet Pimpernel
A man navigating the turbulent world of 18th century revolutionary France and status quo-ist England. In the form of Sir Blakeney, he was the quintessential, good-for-nothing, living-on-his-inheritance, cowardly, English lord. In the form of the Scarlet Pimpernel, he was a swashbuckling adventurer, the defender of beleaguered, post-revolution French nobility under attack from Robespierre’s goons. He had all the facets that one likes in the English – a sense of fair play, aristocratic demeanour, biting humour, dare-devilry. However, he also had the almost nauseating superiority complex that the English landed gentry of that age bore. A marvellous character!
An IIM-C educated financial services professional, Amish is the author of the national bestseller, The Immortals of Meluha.
- From HT Brunch, February 27
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch