Is the historical meaning of the partition exhausted by the bewildering and horrifying nature of the event itself or of the moment of loss, violence and multiple re-orderings of lives by governments and communities? The concern with the proliferating tracks of the event has been the dominant one in partition studies since its founding moment in the texts of Kamla Bhasin, Ritu Menon, Gyanendra Pandey and Urvashi Bhutalia; its lineage extends to Vazira Zamindar’s recent book* that has addressed the Pakistan side of the story as well.
The book is based on detailed and extensive readings of travel accounts in Persian related to India, Iran, and Central Asia that revelled in Indo-Persian culture. Focusing on a specific historical period that extends from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries, this work comes across to us as the first comprehensive understanding of Safar nama, a genre of literature, not much studied by scholars.
Structured into ten chapters, the book starts off with features of the main physiographic zones of the subcontinent, periodization, and changing interpretations of early Indian history. The first chapter constitutes a detailed discussion of literary and archaeological sources.
In his preface to this book, Ashok Vajpeyi characterizes Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh as a Hindi poet who earned ‘posthumous pre-eminence’. Therein hangs a tale in this cryptic phrase, indeed a modern literary saga, which is known to all in Hindi but may need explaining in English.
China is on everyone’s itinerary and hence there is sustained writing on the ‘Rise of China’. The good news is that the focus has broadened from a sole preoccupation with Chinese economic and military growth to include Chinese initiatives in science and technology and education. Innovation is also on everyone’s list.