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Return of the historian

VISHNUPRIYA BHANDARAM
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Event William Dalrymple was in town to unveil his latest book, ‘Return of a King’

Of history and menWilliam DalrymplePhoto: Nagara Gopal
Of history and menWilliam DalrymplePhoto: Nagara Gopal

It’s rather warm for a winter evening. The buzz around the poolside at Taj Deccan is increasing. The who’s who of the city are exchanging pleasantries as iced tea, strawberry coolers and fruit punch are passed around. The buzz recedes into whispers; as wine in hand, William Dalrymple takes the stage and there is an absolute quiet. He presents a brief abstract of the first Afghan War. The book Return Of A King takes you to the 1800s, when the British invaded Afghanistan for the first time. William mentions at this point, how US and UK never learn from history; the audience chuckles. William speaks of the war again and mentions how 18000 British and East India Company troops poured through the mountain passes and settled into Afghanistan, only to be usurped by the Afghanis two years later. You can see that William Dalrymple is a master storyteller; he captures your mind’s eye with his rhetoric.

He sourced his work from nine diary manuscripts of untold stories of the war that he came across in Afghanistan. Wars, perhaps have never sounded more interesting. Speaking of the war, he paints a visual picture where you imagine the ravines, the cold snow, frostbites, the beautiful Afghan women and an extravagant tale where the British rule is overthrown by the call for jihad. From his words alone, you can expect the book to be an allegory that seeks to express the notions of colonial ambitions. For over 40 minutes, Dalrymple held his audience in rapture; the minute he was done, a large part of the audience hurried to the stalls to buy a copy and get it signed by the master storyteller.

VISHNUPRIYA BHANDARAM

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