It must be a daunting project for a historian to attempt to write a history of India on one volume. The grand sweep of India’s history, stretching back five thousand years with a bewildering diversity of cultures, languages, religions, and ethnic groups provides so much material that it must be very difficult to decide what to write about and what to exclude. This diversity must also make finding a common theme throughout the history of the subject difficult. If a historian wishes to write a history of France, he has only one nationality to examine. Most French speak the same language, follow the same religion and culture, and have a shared identity. China is somewhat more diverse, but a historian still has the cycle of dynasties to use as a framework. India is more difficult. The subcontinent has only been completely unified as one state under the British and as soon as the British left, the former colony was split between India and Pakistan, and later Bangladesh.
Making matters more difficult the indigenous Indians, the Hindus were less interested in dating and precise dating than some other civilizations, such as the Chinese, and more inclined to mythologize their history. Thus, instead of annals of history with more or less precise dating, we have the great Sanskrit epics, which quite possible contain much true historical information. Many of the persons and events in the epics may be historical, but historians face considerable difficulty in determining just when these events occurred and how they are related chronologically, without the help of archeology. It was only when the Muslims invaded Indian that we begin to get reasonably precise dating.
Despite these difficulties, John Keay does an admirable job of telling the epic story of India in one volume, India, A History. As someone who did not know very much about this fascinating, and increasingly important country, I was glad to read a history book that lays out the whole story, from its beginnings to the present day, in a way that holds my interest. The maps and charts are adequate, though my Kindle Paperwhite still does not handle graphics very well. I did get somewhat lost in all the exotic and unfamiliar names of princes and dynasties, and occasionally the history of a certain region of India at a particular time, or some of the less prominent kings of a dynasty was somewhat rushed through, but I think that India, A History is an excellent resource for the casual reader to learn about the history of India. Those who wish to study the subject further can use the bibliography John Keay provides. Either way, I think they will find this book useful and interesting.
Here is a bit of good news, for a change. It has been almost three years since there has been a case of polio in India. Once India has been confirmed to be polio free for three years, the disease will be considered eradicated in India. I read this story in the Times of India.
India marked three years since its last reported polio case Monday, meaning it will soon be certified as having defeated the ancient scourge in a huge advance for global eradication efforts.
India’s polio programme is one of the country’s biggest public health success stories, achieving something once thought impossible thanks to a massive and sustained vaccination programme.
Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, along with global groups who have been working to eradicate the virus, hailed Monday’s anniversary as “a monumental milestone”.
“We have completed a full three years without a single polio case and I’m sure that in the future there won’t be any polio cases,” Azad told reporters in the capital.
Smiling and flashing a V for victory sign, he added: “I think this is great news not just for India but the entire globe.”
With the number of cases in decline in Nigeria and Afghanistan, two of only three countries where polio is still endemic, world efforts to consign the crippling virus to history are making steady progress.
“In 2012, there were the fewest numbers of cases in endemic countries as ever before. So far in 2013 (records are still being checked), there were even less,” Hamid Jafari, global polio expert at the World Health Organization, told AFP.
“If the current trends of progress continue we could very easily see the end of polio in Afghanistan and Nigeria in 2014.”
This is wonderful news. It is too bad that India’s neighbor Pakistan does not share India’s good fortune.
There are also reasons for caution in India, with the virus still considered endemic in neighbouring Pakistan, where vaccinators are being killed by the Taliban which views them as possible spies.
A fake vaccination programme was used by the CIA to provide cover for operatives tracking al-Qaida chief Osama Bin Laden, who was killed in Pakistan by US special forces in May 2011.
It is unfortunate that the CIA decided to use that particular cover for its operatives, although I understand that the Taliban believes vaccination to be un-Islamic and would probably be killing vaccinators anyway.
In The Peshawar Lancers S. M.Stirling writes an exciting adventure story set in an alternate history in which a comet strikes the Earth in the year 1878. The impact and the ensuing severe cooling of the climate caused by the dust and water vapor thrust into the atmosphere causes the death by starvation of most of the inhabitants of the Northern hemisphere and the collapse of civilization.
By the year of the story, 2025, the world has almost reached the level of technology it possessed before the Fall. The British Empire has survived, based around its former colonial possessions, especially India. The Empire has even recolonized the British Isles. The French established themselves in Algeria and the Japanese have conquered China. The Russians have also survived after turning to Devil worship and sacred cannibalism of their subject peoples. The rest of Europe and most of North America is still inhabited by savage cannibals. In this world, Athelstane King is a captain of the Peshawar Lancers. Along with his aide, the Sikh Narayan Singh, his sister Cassandra, a mysterious Russian seeress Yasmini, and the Royal Family, King finds himself trying to foil a Russian conspiracy against his family with the fate of the Empire, and the survival of humanity at stake.
The Peshawar Lancers is, as I have said, an exciting adventure story, a little like Kipling’s best. S. M. Sterling presents an immensely imaginative background for the adventure with the details that makes the society come to life. The characters are, perhaps, somewhat two-dimensional with the villain, the Russian Ignatieff, being really, villainous, but they are likeable and their actions and motives are realistic. The plot moves along nicely with the right amount of suspense and action. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the Peshawar Lancers and I hope the author might be persuaded to write more stories set in that world.
From the Daily Mail, I read that the last typewriter factory has closed. Godrej and Boyce still had one factory left in Mumbai (Bombay) India but even in India the typewriter has become obsolete. It’s the end of an era.
I think that is must have been at least fifteen years since I have used a typewriter. It was just after I graduated from Indiana University and I needed to make up a resume. I think it was a Brother electric typewriter. I used it in college. They had computers, even way back then, but this was before Windows, so I was yet proficient at using them. I could never write a first draft on a typewriter, though. The clicking of the keys distracted me and I made too many typos. I had to write out papers in long hand and then type them out, hoping I didn’t make too many mistakes, when I was ready to turn them in. This was not a very good system since my hand got cramped after writing a few paragraphs.
It was a relief when I finally did begin to use a computer to write. I learned to use one of the Apples on the campus, remember this was before Windows. It was so easy. The words just appeared as I thought them, and I could correct my typos.
Progress is good, but I do miss the old ways sometimes.