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BOOK OF THE WEEK: The Oudh Nights

History is inarguably one of the best topics to study, academically or for leisure. Provided the retelling does not paint a picturesque frame as the title of the book might suggest. It recalls the making of a culture, evolution of the civilisation there, and many small stories revolve around the central one that provides enjoyment in reading.

india Updated: Jan 07, 2006 16:25 IST

The Oudh Nights
AP Bhatnagar
Price — Rs 2500
Publication — Shubhi Publications

History is inarguably one of the best topics to study, academically or for leisure. Provided the retelling does not paint a picturesque frame as the title of the book might suggest. It recalls the making of a culture, evolution of the civilisation there, and many small stories revolve around the central one that provides enjoyment in reading.

Prof AP Bhatnagar’s second title is meticulously drafted with patience. For a lot of us, Lucknow is where the celebrated Nawab Wajid Ali Shah once sat on the throne. The city had not found any relevant historic mention until the time of the Shia Mughal governors of Oudh. And this is where the book starts.

A brief mention in the beginning speaks of the state of Awadh with its various names under the Kushanas, Mauryas and several empires. Once that is done in the apt way, as in short and crisp, the first mughal incursion gets written about beginning from Saiyad Saalar Masud.

Bhatnagar’s excellence is not just about the historical accuracy or the year-by-year retelling of the state. But, the raconteur mantle he dons while taking his reader on a joyride throughout. His academic rectitude and quest for meticulous details excites one’s admiration and interest.

There are a couple of assertions made by him, specifically about Wajid Ali Shah that one may find difficult to digest in the first reading but once they are understood well, it can be said that the assertions are gentle and thought provoking and of course well illustrated.

The ending has been done brilliantly giving Appendices on the elements that make up the Lucknow of the Nawabs, existing art, craft, culinary art and architecture that once shone like a jewel in the crown.

First Published: Jan 07, 2006 16:25 IST