Skip to main content

Penguin India Book Launch: Three Essential Elements to seduce all Book Lovers


When I received the invite to attend the book launch of “Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi, 1707-1857”, edited by William Dalyrmple and Yuthika Sharma, I was over the moon. I have been an ardent fan of  William Dalyrmple’s books.
Let me begin with a note of appreciation with regard to the book launch that was organized by Penguin Books India with Shangri La’s Eros Hotel at CafĂ© Uno lawns, 19 Ashoka Road, New Delhi.  It was almost a fairy tale book launch because there was flawless perfection in all the arrangements that were made. Congrats to the teams of both Penguin Books India and Shangri La’s Eros Hotel that made this book launch almost unforgettable.

Make it special
Having attended several book launches in New Delhi, I liked the attention to detail that was a real treat for the guests. There was a stamp of personalized service. Each guest was individually greeted by a small team of enthusiastic staff from Shangri La’s Eros Hotel and gifted an envelope that offers a ______ sshh! I am not about 'to reveal what’s in it here. It’s a secret surprise that’s an absolute delight for all the ladies out there. It’s  a master stroke at winning ladies’ hearts, that I can vouch for. You can see that my two colleagues are having a great time too.


And yep, that's me looking grey.


As you can see, we were having a great time. 
The bonus was that the food was out of this world. Every time I have eaten prawns dishes in any hotel, it has made me feel sick afterward. The absolutely mouth watering delicious prawns dish that was generously served by the folks at Shangri La’s Eros Hotel melted my defences, got me on a self indulgent prawn eating spreen and I honestly did expect to feel sick later. Nothing happened. I can’t believe this but I was floored by this. The food was truly out of this world. And nope, they didn’t pay me to write this. When I love something, I don’t need to be bribed. I just go and write about the experience. Period. 
Intelligent conversations around the Book
Coming back to the book “Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi, 1707-1857,” it explores the art forms during the reign of the Mughal Empire and points towards the changes that occurred in the art scenario with the rise of British rule in India. Many beautiful pictures portray the Mughal period through vivid imagery depicting emperors and their royal courts,  entourages and courtesans, and so on. The interiors of royal courts, the hierarchical positioning of various dignitaries are also detailed well in these intricate images.
The focus of book “Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi, 1707-1857” is on the period after the “Great Mughals” and it goes on to prove that it is not true that all cultural renaissance came to a standstill or decline after them.
For instance: What comes as a surprise for most is the revelation that Muhammad Shah II was a great art patron. In Indian history, this discovery would perhaps breathe in a new lease of life in pointing towards the fact that the reign of Muhammad Shah II invites a little more curiosity than before. Depictions of his reign are intricately recorded in images such as those that show him watching an elephant fight or in celebrating Holi, which is actually a Hindu festival.  Another painting that catches one’s interest is “Muhammad Shah in a Garden.” It offers a detailed landscape painting from around 1735, features the emperor on horseback on the imperial grounds.
But in 1739, Nadir Shah attacked Delhi. History lessons have told us how thousands of citizens were massacred and this Persian ruler took away the prized Peacock Throne of Shahjahan. When the British arrived in India, they came for expansion of their commercial and business interests and not as conquerors.
The book “Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi, 1707-1857” zooms in on David Ochterlony, the British ambassador at the Mughal court in Delhi.
A painting of the court of “Darbar of Akbar II” (dated 1820) is depitcted in the which Ochterlony. The haughty looking British resident is depicted standing among the Mughals in the royal court and he is formally dressed in his British red coat. You will be fascinated to see his aggressive body stance in the royal court where he was supposed to show respect towards the Mughal Emperor. Instead you will see him looking arrogant.
It makes you wonder: was that a sign of things to come? Was it an indication that the British commercial interests were changing into a more political nature or a need to capture positions of political power and sovereign authority? We will never really know. But these paintings offer us hidden stories to interpret. 
The book further shows us yet another interesting painting. No, don’t yawn. This painting will interest you. It shows a different side to David Ochterlony. In this watercolour painting, David Ochterlony is no longer appearing formal and ‘British’ but almost going ‘native’ by wearing Indian clothes and keeping the company of many women. He looks relaxed and is smoking a hookah and watching female dancers. The secret buzz is that Ochterlony had 13 Indian wives with whom he would parade near the imperial Red Fort. Each of his wives were on her own elephant. Now, didn’t that wake you up and make you curious about this book?
The book moves on to another British colonial patron, William Fraser who lived in Delhi for three decades. Fraser was Scottish but he had an Indian family. As a patron of art, he commissioned artists for the Fraser Album. This album is a comprehensive compendium of portraits of soldiers, villagers, dancing women, Indian nobles. The photographic detailing in this album is vivid and a remarkable one, most definitely every Book Collector’s delight.
A Dramatic Ending
The book signals the end of the golden period of ‘paintings’ with the work of Ghulam Ali Khan. He was said to be the last royal Mughal painter. 
Towards the end, we are shown a depressing photograph of  Bahadur Shah II, the last Mughal emperor of Delhi,  taken in May 1858. It shows the emperor reclining as though helpless on pillows, and gazing in the direction of the camera. What strikes you from this photograph is the hard hitting truth, that moment, when you experience his shame of being  a defeated man, the worst fate for an Emperor.  The picture is completed by a wall text that reads like this:
Delhi was once a paradise,
Where love held sway and reigned;
But its charm lies ravished now
And only ruins remain.”
This book is a Collector’s item and a must-have classic for all art and history buffs. I can’t tell you how richly layered it is. To find out, you have to go grab a copy for yourself. Penguin India, thank you and the amazing team of editors for bringing out a masterpiece like this. 

Comments

Most Popular Posts

Why chant Ramayana during the month of Karkidakam

For Keralites across the world who follow the Malayalam calendar, today marks the beginning of the month of Karkidakam. This month, which, decades ago, was known and slightly feared for its torrential rains and negative impact on the health, wealth and well being of Kerala's rural community. 
Why chant Ramayana during Karkidakam To ward off the negative energy unleashed by Nature and its possible repercussions on one's family's overall well being, the wise elders introduced the timeless tradition of every family reading the Ramayana as an oral, spiritual tradition. Thus, it goes without saying that for Keralites who embrace these traditions, the act of reading the Ramayana is as much a spiritual cleansing as it is a kind of tradition they can pass on to bond with their loved family members, particularly children.
In the Ramayana, there is no 'preaching of principles' but you are taken through the Avatar's journey as a human being. Lord Rama depicts how a man shoul…

Mahamrityunjaya Mantra: Meaning, Benefit of Chanting and Who can Chant the Mantra

Mahadmrityunjaya Mantra: Benefit of chanting this mantra nee

There are very few mantras that are as powerful as the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra. Do read my post: Does Mahamrityunajaya mantra really work?Of course, it does but you need to undertstand the meaning and significance of the mantra first.
This mantra is believed to have the power to remove all sufferings, diseases and bestow the one who chants it with good health and long life. It is also believed that constant contemplation of the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra can help spiritual aspirants to overcome the cycle of birth and death.
What got me fascinated about this mantra is something personal.  I learned this mantra from my father but it is my maternal grandmother who chanted it all the time and repeatedly told me of its tremendous power to protect. However, I did not chant this mantra regularly. [ Do READ: THE POWER OF LOVE]
But at the age of two, my son was taught some mantras by my mother who explained what it means to him and he becam…

The Ugly Truth about Caste in Kerala

Many years ago, when I wrote this post on Kerala's caste system, I had not considered that I would receive such online abuse for writing this or that I would be seen as some one who was trying to insult other castes. The intention of writing is always to share an experience or a perspective, not to insult others.  My experience of motherhood and marriage would be different from yours. When I write about my experience, it is illogical to abuse me because our journeys are entirely different narratives. My life and yours are not the same at any given point of time.

My question is - why do you ABUSE any caste or person here? You are free to disagree but why do you ABUSE? How does that reflect on YOU?

In my article, I shared what trials I went through, without any intention to insult any community.A new book 'Ants among Elephants' written by Sujatha Gidla, who writes about herself as being born 'an untouchable in India' teaches you everything you probably want to know abo…

Amazing Signs You are an Earth Angel

Doreen Virtue’s book, “Assertiveness for Earth Angels” brings to life the reality of Earth Angels in very easy way. It’s an exciting must-read! 

[DO READ: The POWER OF LOVE]

Earth Angels have amazing superpowers in: MusicArtsWriting HealingManifesting miracles for others such as controlling weather conditions and  becoming invisible at will.
[MUST READ: A Dad's Advice to the Daughter He loves]
DO READ: ASK MORE, FEAR LESS.

How to Identify Earth Angels by their Traits
To know whether you are an Earth Angel, take a look at their known traits that are explained in this book:


You have a graceful and compassionate aura that inspires people.Your presence “lifts” everyone to happier spirits – it is proof of who you really are.You don’t judge others but you overdo the “acceptance” bit. So, you tolerate even those who show no respect for boundaries.You cannot stand anyone suffering or being in pain. You are constantly “rescuing people” because it is in your nature to want to see everyone happy in …

How to travel with family and create the coziest memories ever!

I know I haven't been blogging as often as I wanted to at the start of this year but so many things are happening in my life, like travel. For a working mom like me, the last time I traveled with my family.....is like ages ago. I do travel but mostly on my own and given the kind of school and work schedules that we have to balance out, it usually doesn't happen that we take a break for summer holidays as a family. Let me confess that it's pretty rare, which is why 2018 has been amazing for me. I got to travel with my family....yay!
Okay, so back to earth with a big bang, shall we?  
First, we headed to Gangtok, in Sikkim, via Siliguri in West Bengal. We had a fabulous time. My love for travel got a real boost, just as it used to in my childhood days, when my parents used to take us to different places during our summer vacations.
For me, the joys of travel have nothing to do with seeing new places, as it does with the fun-filled conversations we have with ourselves and the pe…

Book Review: Nan Umrigar's Sounds of Silence, A Bridge Across Two Worlds

The year 1978 was a glorious one for Karl Umrigar – a young man who won many prestigious horse races, including the Indian 2000 Guineas and the Indian Oakes. Finally, Karl Umrigar fulfilled his dream – every jockey’s dream– to win the Indian Derby. His name remains in the Indian Derby scroll of honour. 
But just at exactly the moment Karl won, he fell from the horse.  A fall that finally saw the country mourn for him when the headlines of the Indian Express read, “The King is Dead.” Karl Umrigar, the young champion and loved by many, was laid to rest on May 3, 1979.
Karl Umrigar’s Death: Bridge between Two Worlds You can imagine what Karl’s death did to his family, particularly his mother – Nan Umrigar. She says, “Nothing could have prepared us for the darkness that descended upon us – nothing!
While her family tried to pull on with daily routine, Nan Umrigar found herself in such a state of agony and trauma that she couldn’t resume a normal life. She couldn’t let go of her son.
She heard…

Top 10 Skincare tips for Summer

Come summer, and we women worry a lot about how the sun lashes out on our skin. True, skincare tips for the summer are plenty but what about the hushed secrets - yes, those tried and tested family secrets that are passed on from mother to daughters? [ALSO READ: How to NEVER EVER GIVE UP on the spiritual path]

FOLLOW MY BOARDS ON PINTEREST

Here are some that are totally easy to do. Best of all, these are effective and bring on a feel-good factor in the peak of summer.

1. Replace water with rosewater. It keeps your skin luminous and fragrant throughout the day. It's a good toner too.

2. Cleanse your skin by combining these ingredients - honey, milk, rosewater/rosepetals and turmeric. Add a dash of olive oil and yes, it feels wonderful.

3. Almond oil body baths are a must-have! You will smell delicious all day. This summer, skip all those body lotions & moisturizers! You will love the way almond oil pampers your skin all day!

4. Use a mixture of almond oil and olive oil for your fe…

Five ways to take charge of your anger

“It is wise to direct your anger towards problems -- not people; to focus your energies on answers -- not excuses.” ― William Arthur Ward
Every day, the newspaper headlines are full of scary stories of people killing each other over trivial things - mostly these incidents happen when individuals lose their temper and turn violent. In traffic jams across Noida in the evenings, people don't hesitate to walk out and hit each other.  At workplaces, colleagues lose their temper and say things that they regret later. During holidays with loved ones, small things set us off and we say things that damage relationships forever. No one stops anyone. Everyone likes a big, bad fight. It's great to vent. After all, what's the big deal about getting angry? After all, if you cannot express what pisses you off, how can you call yourself human? 


Does anger solve your problems? You know the answer!

If anger solved all the problems in the world, this world would have been a perfect place centur…

Does Maha Mrityunjaya mantra work?

Many people ask me this question, ''Does Maha Mrityunjaya mantra work?''. Mantras always work but the problem is that we are often not open to believing this.  The query about whether the Maha Mrityunjaya mantra works comes in different forms, sometimes by email, in the comments section or in person. Most people are curious, some are interested but few are committed to sincerely want the answer.



I am just an ordinary seeker on the spiritual path but my experiences have taught me valuable lessons and I am sharing this with you so that it helps your spiritual progress.
From what I have learned from my grandmother, who was a devout Shiva Bhakt throughout her life, the Maha Mrityunjaya mantra is a powerful mantra that has ancient sounds which provides an aura of protection to those who chant it with faith regularly and it triggers powerful energies to remove sufferings and diseases. This is why Hindus believe that the one who chants the Maha Mrityunjaya mantra will be blesse…

Jodhpur travel: Ring in the New Year with Flying Fox adventure, Polo Grounds, a room without a roof & more

A part of me has always been a dreamer, a seeker, and a wanderer.Perhaps the way I grew up has something to do with this. Bright, blue sky, skin colored sand that you could melt into and blue waters that sparkled when you splashed it on your skin....ah, the magic of growing up in a place like Blantyre! It felt joyful when we chose to welcome the New Year by traveling to a new place together for the first time! I can't describe the delicious feeling of excitement that I felt when we reached Jodhpur. I love not to plan and travel to places just like that - it has its dangers but still......!



The real fun began when we went sightseeing! The spicy food (not to my son's liking - he doesn't like to eat anything with onions - which puts us in quite a difficult situation with most Indian dishes), the warmth and hospitality, the grand palaces, forts and there is so much I want to share with you about the moments I enjoyed, the people I made friends with and the experiences I had. 

Mo…