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It was a long ago when we bought this book The Peshwa: The Lion and The Stallion by Ram Sivasankaran during a fantastic promotion. It somehow took a backseat in the queue and was ignored for a remarkable amount of time. No due to negligence, but based on the flow of the books we have. One fine day, Peshwa Bajiro’s tale warned me that enough is enough, now it is my turn. And, what can I do rather than accepting the humble and generous offer from a story exploring the life of one of the finest war strategist and warlord?!
I must say that we are ignorant to history and remain mostly dependent on foreign historians for our own history! Well, one of the reasons is folklore and praise poetries penned or sung by the court poets or king’s bard. More often than not they went to a large extent to add the ingredient of mythology in the same that often it starts looking quite unreal.
However, we must not complain about it since August 15, 1947, as from the day onwards it is our responsibility to explore (and made available to explore) the history as it was.
For Bajirao, the son of Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath Bhat and the father of Balaji Bajirao Bhat, the life was never easy nor his death! But, he fought it bravely almost throughout and became a legend. Peshwa’s place was considered very important in the Maratha Confederacy. He was referred to as “the sword of Chhatrapati” (as in this book), and was considered as the eyes, ears, hands, legs and the armor to the Chhatrapati.
The book The Peshwa: The Lion and The Stallion is a historical fiction and reading it reminded me of The Boy From Pataliputra by Rahul Mitra; though the books are different like chalk and cheese. What I found common is the vision to look into the history with one’s own perception.
Let me share with you my personal and unbiased Views and Reviews about The Peshwa: The Lion and The Stallion by Ram Sivasankaran.
|Book Title||:||The Peshwa: The Lion and The Stallion|
|Publishers||:||Westland Ltd.; Published: (5 January 2016)|
|# of Pages||:||
356 (Paperback Edition)
2166 KB, 358 (Kindle EBook)
|# of Chapters||:||27|
Let us take a look at the book cover.
The cover page of the books shows an effective illustration of a rider mounted on a horse. You can definitely assume that who he could be :)! Both, the horse and it’s rider are in full war uniform ready to attack. The illustrator tried using vibrant colors and it goes fine with the theme of the book.
No matter what we say about “not judging a book by it’s cover” (which, in fact, is true), we know that by nature, we are attracted towards beauty. So, an interesting and attractive cover definitely affects a reader’s read and purchase decisions, without a doubt. We can say that the cover page is able to attract the reader and make him/her curious to explore the book if he/she has a flair of reading historical fictions.
It all starts with the end of a brutal war between Sambhaji, the Chhatrapati of Maratha Confederacy, Sambhaji and the imperial army of Mughals. We witness the incidents through the eyes of Siddiqui, a mansabdar in the Mughal army. He was not as cruel to the losers as his fellows as his subordinates, superiors, and others. He witnessed the cruelty of the fate which made a ruler, a servant in a matter of hours! And yes, his colleagues didn’t spare a single chance to shower their brutalities on the captives regardless of their age, gender and status.
But, despite living in the corrupt environment, his heart is pure. And, seeing a kid used as a trophy by some of his subordinates he intervenes and made him safe and secure under his wings.
The politics and lust for power make the earth quite heavy. It makes people do some of the things which makes them equal to if not worst then the beasts!
Peshwa Balaji, as the representative of Chhatrapati Shahu, the son of Sambhaji, is marching towards Delhi with a small battalion. His mission was to represent the point of the Chhatrapati to the Mughal Emperor and bring back the queen mother (queen of Late Sambhaji) safe and secure to her son.
Accompanying him were his friends Ranoji Scindia, Malhar Holkar and his only living son Bajirao.
While the Syed brothers, who are at good terms with the Marathas, are very much influential on the Mughal Emperor; there are people like Nizam-Ul_Mulk in Delhi who are against the Peshwa and the Maratha Confederacy.
So, will their mission be successful? Will they be able to bring back the queen mother? How the events took turn from here? And how will it affect the life of Bajirao?
Well, you need to read the book to know the answers :).
Writing a historical fiction, despite having “fiction” in it, is not an easy task. You still need to research a lot to connect the dots and fill the void with imaginary events. Yet, you need to be careful that the imaginary things you’ve added don’t make the reader’s ride bumpy. It is like walking on a tightrope.
Though, with the release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movie, and more due to controversy associated with it, people now know a little about Bajirao. I remember reading about him in early issues of some knowledge magazines like Safari. You will wonder that why such remarkable characters from the history are ignored while finalizing textbooks! Anyway, let us move ahead in our quest.
So, the author seems done his research quite well. And, more importantly, he has a good command over the language. Rather than being too classic and exploring linguistic attributes, he decided to be simple and effective in his writing. And, it pays off. You will find the book a smooth reading experience. The dark times are explored but the author avoided adulteries, abuses, and other such stuff, which I see many authors, including some of the bestsellers, go for these days in the name of creative liberty (to lure more readers, of course).
I believe that a book must be written in a way that though there is a target audience, it must have been a smooth read for most of the readers, regardless of their age, gender or any other attributes. And on that note, I can say that this book is a good read for all.
The author took a bold step in exploring the brutalities of the Mughal armies upon their victory. It is more often than not unexplored (or less explored) area. And, at the same time, the author shows humble and genuine persons in the Mughal army as well. So, he took the balanced approach without shying away from exploring what he believed that “could have happened” in that way, based on the research results he has.
Here is an example:
Maratha warriors were being chased down and slaughtered like lambs all around him. Even those who threw down their weapons and fell to their knees were killed, only their deaths seemed more prolonged amidst the jesting, mocking, toying and torture.
Maratha men watched helplessly s their wealth and wives were carried away by the victors, while they were themselves being lined up for execution like sheep. Children were put to death a little faster because, after all, the little ones were innocent and deserved more mercy.
How the outcome of a war affects one’s status is mentioned effectively through lines:
Siddiqui studied Sambhaji in awe; a great king only a few hours ago, now little more than a captive exposed to the whims and fancies of even the lowliest soldiers of the imperial army.
You see the use of “th” instead of “t” (Eg: Chhatrapathi) at many places, as it comes naturally to the author. The author used the native words (for Marathi people) where possible and came up with a glossary to make it easy to read for others. The author also came up with some nice scenes exploring the war, travel, and surroundings. What stands out is the political games and the family lives. Here is how the author represented a scene after the war.
The smell of death and cruelty pervaded the air.
And, the frustration of the Mughal army which actually explores the characteristic of Marathas, is represented as:
I do not understand the Marathas. We flay them, slay them and hunt them down and yet, they only grow stronger and more formidable.
The author conveys the family detail and persona of a character through a simple line:
Balaji Vishvanath and his son Bajrao belonged to the clan of the Chitpawan Brahmins from the Konkan Coast, characteristically known for their light skin and hazel eyes.
The way the bond between the father and a son have shown getting stronger in addition to knowledge and wisdom exchange between them through their Q/A like conversation is something you will enjoy reading.
“I do not know, Baba,” Rao finally confessed. “I just know that anything you do will have good reason. I will follow you to any end, Baba.”
“Which you must and you will. My son is the scion of our family. His sense of duty can only be higher than my own; I know it,” Balaji said, laughing. “However, neither will I live forever nor will my son be a follower forever. He will …”
See how obedient and logical the child is. And, he is curious to learn the lesson which is on his way. This is how a student (in a broad meaning) needs to be.
Some of the lines in the book explore wisdom, life-lessons, and sarcasm altogether. For example:
Ah, but Peshwa ji, it is this very kind of pride that leads to the downfall of men like us.
Men will always be delighted to see reason in your negotiations and proposals as long as you put a sword to their throats first.
My father has told me of the many disadvantages, even dangers, of openly treating a powerful adversary with hostility and scorn. The drawn sword has served its purpose. Politely cutting words laced with false smiles and promises are the weapons of choice now.
The upliftment of the morales of the army is very important during a battle. The author represents a psychological analysis in the same regards quite interestingly:
In the thick of battle, the only yardstick most soldiers used to measure whether or not the fight was worth their lives, was quality of their personal interaction with the man leading them.
A ruler or head of the state needs to be respected by the citizens, and fear plays a vital role in it. I found the following lines interesting in the book, in that regards:
There is a certain charm to being feared.
… a man may be loved and respected but he must also be feared. That is the recipe for strength. For power.
The author has weaved some life lessons in the book effectively, for example:
Powerful men keep powerful allies but intelligent men keep loyal friends.
A person, regardless of his/her status, always has a personal life. And, one can do marvelous work only if his/her family life healthy. If you think that the book has everything about war and peace only, then it is not the case. The book focuses on the social stuff as well. The author’s thoughts about marriage and how it affects one; are wise, interesting and realistic:
Marriage at the right age builds a man’s character and sense of responsibility. Moreover, marriage to the right woman brings about happiness and stability.
The wife does not know the power of the husband and the husband does not know that much of his power comes from the love and devotion his wife bars for him.
“He should have exchanged engagement vows with bread and potatoes…”
“Child remind Shrimanth that it will not be long before the wedding. Soon, you are to be his very own. Shrimanth is welcome to visit you and leave at any time of his choice, provided he comes and departs through our front door.”
My main purpose of sharing the quotes from the book is to let you explore the kind and quality of the book content. I’ve tried keeping as many spoilers as possible, but you may find some :).
There are so many characters in the book (in addition to the lead characters there are, Siddiqui, Rahim, Chimaji Apparao Bhat, Syed brothers, Nizam Ul Mulk, Scorpion(s), Ranoji Scindia, Malhar Holkar, Chief justice Anantrao, Hussain, Kashibai, Dabhade, and others) and it is quite possible to lose the track. The author, however, connects the dots in a logical manner. And, at the end of the book “Mastani” also makes her cameo.
G. Saundarya’s illustrations make the reading experience even more joyous.
Overall a genuinely written historical fiction with some good linguistic attributes take a look at a comparatively less explored segment of the history of India. If you like reading historical fictions, you should go for it. It has more positives than the letdowns.
At least 8 out of 10.
Over to You
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