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The invincible Bajirao

The Peshwa: The Lion and the Stallion  

Ram Sivasankaran’s debut book The Peshwa: The Lion and the Stallion gives an insight into the life and times of Marathi warrior Peshwa Bajirao and his rise to power. Fascinated with the idea of battles, wars, campaigns, military strategy and their aftermath, Ram unexpectedly came across the warrior Bajirao in books. “I was reading about the battle tactics of Napoleon Bonaparte (who I also admire deeply) when I came across an article that compared him with the great Maratha hero Bajirao,” points out Ram. Intrigued, he read up more and more on him. “I realized that it was not Bajirao who deserved to be compared with Napoleon but it was the other way round, for Bajirao was truly invincible. He brought the mighty Mughal Empire to its knees; humbled the Portuguese and established an era in which the unassailable power of Peshwa even overshadowed that of the Chhatrapati Shivaji,” he adds.

Ram calls himself ‘a boring day-jobber by the day and an obsessed writer by night.’ Though writing comes naturally to him, it was fellow Stanford University alumnus and good friend Vaibhav Kumar who put the idea of writing a book into his head. And, when history is a favourite subject, choosing the topic for one’s debut book is also easy.

“The inspiration stems from my inherent passion for history and belief that some of our historical heroes and heroines don’t exactly have tomes dedicated to their contributions, as do some dynasties like the Mughals. I wanted to put some icons I’ve grown to love and admire under the spotlight. I loved conjuring up historical scenes, costumes, settings, courtrooms, moods, battles and romances as I read on. Since I am not an academic historian, I wanted to tell the story from the point of view of a novelist,” he elaborates.

Ram has put in a lot of research into the subject. “The audience also has to be mature enough to understand that I am not writing a historical account for a history textbook but a novel based on events in history. It will not be reasonable to read my book for learning history and faulting it based on deviations from history. Deviations from the way things actually happened should be expected and are part and parcel of historical fiction,” he observes.

It is also quite a coincidence that Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani came around the same time (may be a few months difference) as the book. “As a matter of fact, I finished writing my book at the end of 2013. Finding an agent, the road to publication and editing took us almost two years and eventually coincided with the movie’s release. One has to remember that the events depicted in my book precede the timeline of the events shown in the movie,’ he states and quips, “I have watched the film and I must say Sanjay Leela Bhansali has told the story, fictional though it is, in the form of a very artistic and well-made movie.”

Ram promises more action in the sequel for the book.

“The first book marks Bajirao's rise to power and his method of fighting and overcoming tremendous odds for someone his age. The second book will show you a more seasoned and bloodied general in Bajirao while exploring his passions and mature emotions. He will battle not only external enemies but also fight to protect his family while keeping relationships intact. Heroes will rise and fall. There will be treachery and tragedy,” he explains.

Ram hopes to write more books in the realm of historical fiction. “I hope to write on less-celebrated heroes like Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagara, Rana Kumbha of Mewar, Rana Sanga of Mewar, Rajendra Chola of the Chola Empire and even Chhatrapati Shivaji himself (although he is more popular). These are just to name a few but I have a far more expansive list. My goal is to arouse an interest in heroes of great fame and repute who are just not talked about enough in our history textbooks.”

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Printable version | May 14, 2021 8:14:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/The-invincible-Bajirao/article14014045.ece

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