An afternoon’s break: Reflections on White Mughals by William Darlymple

I came upon William Darlymple one Wednesday afternoon at a library in my hometown. It was early May last summer and I had decided that the library was the best place to study; which only makes sense since a library is meant to be an environment that is conducive to studying. However, I was wrong because the library got hold of the best of me and while I did study a bit, I was mostly discovering new worlds, reading new books.

I would often reach the library at around ten in the morning right after brunch hoping to study for the impending semester exams at school but sooner than later, I would decide to take a break so that I could go through the countless books, each day getting to know authors I had never known before. What was ironic was that though I was spending most of my time with books outside my planned course of study, I always told myself I was just taking a break. I told myself I would get back to the “real” books just a little later.

During my so called breaks, I began to fall even more in love with poetry and fiction. But then, I also began to venture into new territory. I began to read books on criminal psychology, marine life, agriculture, tribal society and even Japanese calligraphy. Everything were equally fascinating.

I’d like to believe that I taught myself both the art of paper and the art of pen in one enthralling afternoon, but I suppose reading about calligraphy and origami, and knowing them in actuality are two entirely different things. But I guess there’s no harm in imagining. 😛

One afternoon, I decided to go through the History section of the library. I had always loved history so it was only natural for me and as I began going through the rows and rows of books, I noticed one called “White Mughals”. It instantly drew me to itself because of its strange yet beautiful title. It was the kind that beckoned a reader to it and I knew I had to pick it up.

As I began to read it, I began to fall even more in love with the past and most importantly, Mughal India. I felt as if I was transported to a different world of Nizams, Begums and white British Officers. It caught hold of me the way that a good novel would and I felt like I was a reading a story but the more I delved into it, I realized it was not just that. Rather, it was a legitimate book of history that actually chronicled a love affair and everything around it!

Within no time, the afternoon was almost over and the sun was beginning to set. So I told myself that I would study tomorrow. It was only an afternoon’s break. The next day, I went back to the library and I forgot all about my study routine and my afternoon break. I devoured White Mughals every minute I was there.

That was how I began to fall in love with Darlymple (not in the literal sense, of course). But, it was that in his book, I saw my dreams and hopes. I had decided that I would major in history at college long before I discovered Darlymple. History had always been a part of my heart and my being. What I did not realize was that the art of putting pen to paper was also very much part of this subject I love. I had always found my sanctuary in writing and be it poetry, prose or anything else. It is when I write that I discover myself while also hoping to discover the world bit by bit, piece by piece. In Darlymple, I saw the marriage of beautiful writing with rich history.

Some time ago, I got hold of three Darlymple books I haven’t read before. I haven’t finished any of them yet but I already feel like I will love them. Maybe I am bit biased. But how can I not be? After all, it was while reading Darlymple that I discovered a new part of my own soul, something I can hardly describe. I don’t know how to articulate how came to be or what it really means. Sometimes, words are not enough and I can only try.

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2 thoughts on “An afternoon’s break: Reflections on White Mughals by William Darlymple

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