Archive for November, 2012

The book is an interesting take on Babur, his fights and battles. It starts from 12-year-old Babur listening about his ancestor Timur from his father who is a king but is not that rich (Timur plundered Delhi and his soldiers raped and killed many during the rule of Tughlaq dynasty  in 1398).

 The main characters which go along with you throughout the book are:

  • Esan Dwalat: Babur’s maternal grandmother
  • Khanzada: Babur’s older sister
  • Kutlugh Nigar: Babur’s mother
  • Shibani Khan: Babur’s arch rival, leader of Uzbeks and a nemesis of Babur’s people
  • Baburi: Babur’s close friends
  • Wazir Khan: Milk brother to Babur’s father , guide and mentor to Babur.
  • Kasim : Babur’s ambassador
  • Baisanghar : Babur’s father-in-law who helped Babur capture Samakhand
  • Maham: Babur’s favourite wife and mother of Humayun and daughter of Baisanghar.

Babur as such had 5 wives and many concubines, the name of his 5 wives mentioned are:

  • Ayisha: 1st wife older than Babur, daughter of chief of Mangligh clan. She never accepted him and had a lover prior in her own people with whom she eventually marries after leaving Babur.
  • Maham: Daughter of Baisanghar, the man who helped Babur win Samarkand.  Babur marries her to show respect to Baisanghar in addition to the fact that his 1st wife abandoned him for her lover.
  • Gulrukh: Mother of kamran and Askari. Grand-daughter of Bahlul Ayyub, Vazir of Kabul.
  • Bibi Mubarak: Daughter of the chief of Yusufzai clan (A Pashtun clan)
  • Dildar: Mother of Hindal

The author’s name Alex Rutherford is the pen name for Diana Preston and her husband Michael. Both studied at Oxford University reading History and English respectively. I believe that the act of humanizing Babur and the fact Babur is shown crying would definitely be a mind of a woman at work. Since that emotion riddled sequences are the ones which they so much like.  Therefore I guess that the husband and wife duo had their work cut out, very well.

Babur is a descendent of  Timur and Genghis Khan both. I however think that the book is romanticism of Babur. It shows him in humane form. Shibani Khan an Uzbek and arch rival of Timur princes is shown as barbarous man who was sexually assaulted and kept as a boy toy by an old Timur noble. This was when he was captured in a battle but Shibani Khan kills that noble and escapes, pledging to kill all Timur princes ( I think a fair deal if we look what Timur descendents did to Shibani khan and his people).

Babur is also saved many times by luck as his uncles, Rulers at Samarkand and Kabul gift him his kingdoms as they have no male heir. Shibani khan demands Babar’s sister’s hand in marriage as a price of leaving Samarkand unharmed, when he invades Samarkand (which is a tough issue for Babur). The author writes that Babur wept at being not a man/feeling impotent as he was unable to protect his sister’s honor,especially when he visualizes/imagines Shibani Khan touching the soft white skin of his sister (which is again human attempt though reality of the situation was not written or recorded in Babar’s auto-biography.Babur at that time was 19 Years old and his sister was 21 years old). His sister was returned to him by the Shah of Iran as the Persian Army killed Shibani Khan.

Babur again returns to Samarkand but as a puppet of Shah of Iran who asks him to convert to Shia Islam instead of Sunni Islam. His refusal leads to his loss of the city once and for all. During this period Baburi and Babur have differences. Therefore Baburi leaves Babur’s side and goes away. Babur is left all by himself without the men he could really trust. Baburi eventually returns after 7 years bringing Turkish canon along which he uses to conquer Hindustan (a land of infidels as he use to call it).

There he fights Sultan Ibrahim Lodi (A Pashtun Ruler). Whose armies he is able to defeat (as apparently it is full of infidels, very amusing). During this war he loses his close friend Baburi. After killing and defeating Ibrahim Lodi, Babur becomes the Emperor of India. Here too he fights of many fractions within, Namely Lodi’s mother Buwa who curses Babur.

Then there are fights with Rana sangha of Mewar, an old ruler famous for many bruises on his body along with many of his wives and concubines. This he wins by calling Jihad.  There is an attempt on Babur’s life by Poisoning but Babur is able to overcome it, it was  by Buwa, Ibrahim Lodi’s mother. He eventually dies praying for his son Humayun’s recovery.

I think it is a good book for fun-history purposes but the author himself/herself writes that he/she has fictionalized it. Though 70% is facts based on Babar’s auto biography.

I might read rest of the parts too but not soon, probably in a year or two.

Hyderabad III —Irani Chai

There are couple of things that you ought to try when you come to Hyderabad (the cybercity earlier also known as city of pearls), the cuisine of Hyderabad is one of them. Hyderabad is famous for its Biryani pan-India but Irani chai doesnot fall much behind. There is an interesting story behind Irani chai’s origination in this region.  It is said that Persian immigrants came to Mumbai’s port in last century and prior to that for better life and trade purposes. From Mumbai they migrated to pune and then to Hyderabad. Along with them came the concept of Iranian Chai.

The culture of Hyderabad has got so consumed by Irani chai that I doubt any other form of tea (chai) is made here. They say that the difference in Irani chai and rest of the tea style made in India varies in the making/ preparing process. The tea leaves are boiled in a separate container along with water and milk is also boiled in separate container. Then while serving to the customers they pour in first the milk then the liquid solution made out of tea leaves. This process is seen in many places which still retain that Iranian touch. However with the advent of fast life, things have changed in way of serving that the tea is already poured in a container, ready to serve. Then it is just poured out, no first milk and then tea leaves solution long process.

If you talk to the café owners about difference in tea style they say that Irani chai is very different from the tea you get in Udipi restaurants and darshinis. Udipis add 3-4 litres of water to every litre of milk. They pour milk, water, tea powder and sugar in the same vessel and as soon as the colour changes they take it off the stove. They don`t let the tea brew like they do in Irani chai making process.

The tea cost in the range of Rs 5-20 depending on the place of drinking. It is said that SD Road (Sarojani Devi Road) in secunderabad is a good spot to find all these cafes. Honestly, SD Road is no special; it might have been the place where the initial Iranian settler settled but now you can find Irani chai in many restaurants and the Irani cafes have given way of Baristas, Café coffee days and now starBucks is coming to town.

Though while travelling on SD Road, I did find certain bakery shops and the original Garden Restaurant established in 1952 (near the clock tower) which is very famous for Irani chai (atleast during the inception period). In the same very lane you can find café coffee day and subway providing competition.

Any trip to Hyderabad certainly goes unfinished if you haven’t had a sip of Irani chai, plus the whole Iranian angle does add a sense of exotica to it. Reaching the place isn’t tough if one wishes to go by public transport. There are buses which go directly to secunderabad and will land you on the door step. The location that any one needs to mention to reach SD road is the clock tower. Secunderabad as city is 200 years old and is also know as the twin city of Hyderabad (or more like a satellite town). It was founded in 1806 AD. Secunderabad was developed under the British rule and basic purpose for it was Cantonment for military purposes. Indian army and Air-force has a base there and it still continues to serve the purpose as a Cantonment.

Moving further I along with my friend went onto Paradise Restaurant which is famous for its Biryani, it is hardly 1 km walk from clock tower at SD Road. There too Irani chai is served as usual (like I said that Irani chai has taken over all the teas of Hyderabad and has kind of monopolized the region, though certain pockets of resistance do remain).

Secunderabad had a famous James street developed by the British for shopping purposes much like connaught place was developed in Delhi. Though James Street was wisely changed into MG Road (namely Mahatma Gandhi Road). It is still the hotbed of shopping in Secunderabad. On this very road lies the famous Paradise Hotel formed in 1953.

The traveling from SD Road near clock tower to Paradise restaurant is straight forward, there is a bazaar which comes in between whose name I was not able to gasp. They say about Paradise restaurant that it was established in 1950s, there use to be a cinema hall there. Over the years the cinema hall vanished and the restaurant business started to boom. Thereby creating a brand of Paradise Biryani.

Russell Means

I first saw Russell Means in the movie named The Last of the Mohicans, he played Chingachgook. Chingachgook was the last Mohican chief. His son was killed by a Huron. Therefore he outlived his son and was known as last Mohican. I must say that the aura of the movie itself was remarkable and so were those people who played those characters. His appearance kind of made me think more about Native Americans. The movie itself was my second introductory movie into Native American culture after “The Legends of the falls”.  Internet or more importantly Google came as a big help in finding more about him. It was reported that his life was dedicated to the Native American people’s plight.  He was a member of American Indian Movement (AIM) and played an active role in civil rights campaign.


As per the website which seems to be anti- Russell Means

In 1972, Means and his AIM cohorts occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington. They ransacked its headquarters causing $3 million in damages but were given $66,000 by federal officials when they were forced out. The federal Office of Economic Opportunity awarded AIM $400,000, and funds were given to the group by the World Council of Churches and other “religious” groups. In 1973, Means and his AIM cronies led hundreds of other recruits in a takeover of the village of Wounded Knee, South Dakota. They occupied the area for more than two months and were eventually forced out after a small war was waged in which several Indians were killed and a federal official was severely wounded.

To be noted:  nearly 80 years earlier, Wounded Knee was the site of an 1890 massacre of scores of Lakota men, women and children by U.S. cavalry troops in what was the final major clash of the American Indian wars.Russell Means was there to protest against that massacre.

I also read different side of him in many articles which call him a spiritual leader for his people and someone who gave Native Americans their PRIDE back. He was born into Oglala Sioux (or Lakota as he was known internationally) community on November 10, 1939 Wanblee, South Dakota, U.S. Undoubtedly anyone who fights a system which criminalizes their community and more importantly takes away their land, will also be branded criminal as they are “trouble” creators.

On September 25, 1973, Means spelled out his and AIM’s revolutionary plan during an AIM rally at the University of Minnesota. Appearing with professed communist Angela Davis at his side, he announced that his goal included separating from the United States and building a new nation within our country’s borders. He stated:

If I become president of the Oglala Sioux tribe of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, we will take the first steps to eradicate the United States of America’s influence from our land. The methods, of course, depend on the cooperation of various countries that we are already in the process of talking to; various countries who will recognize our sovereignty and deal with us as international partners.

If their cooperation is assured, then when I become president [of the new country], I will abolish that office. I will abolish the Tribal Council, the Tribal Constitution, and the Indian Reorganization Act, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Public Health Service, the white ranchers and farmers of the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Then we will sit down in diplomatic negotiation with the United States of America to settle up for the western half of South Dakota.

The website goes onto say that Mr. Russell Means never “apologized” for his actions against the country. Wow.

Going by what he did back then was quite revolutionary, I as an Indian (South Asian) was certainly not aware of the plights of Native Americans or as Mr. Russell Means liked to call his fellow people “American-Indians”. The world usually sees what the American media tells us to see and more importantly things which Hollywood wants us to see.   Mr. Russell Means might be radical (violent too for that matter) to some but his actions were to raise awareness about his people that was HIS greater massage.

His fellow Native American friends remember him more generously:

He’s a leader of all tribes—a spiritual leader—and a warrior. He was not originally a warrior, but all the injustice that happened to the American Indians and Canadian Indians—the system made him into a warrior just like Crazy Horse, Sundance Chief Leonard Crow Dog, AIM’s spiritual leader, told Indian Country Today.

Those of  us who grew in 1990s and watched Disney’s Pocahontas (1995) and its sequel Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World (1998). These were the major introductory anime films in native american culture for kids of the decade and those to come. Here too he played a major part, giving voice for the part of  Pocahonta’s father, Chief Powhatan.

He died on October 22, 2012, aged 72 at Porcupine, South Dakota, United States. His death was due to esophageal cancer. Many Americans will remember him as a man who was able to polarize their world on Native American issue and I would remember him as the man who was instrumental in introducing the real Native American culture to me, through his movies, speeches and writings.

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