Indian History As Illuminator
Ravi Menon
THE COURTESAN, THE MAHATMA AND THE ITALIAN BRAHMIN: TALES FROM INDIAN HISTORY by Manu S Pillai Westland Publications, 2019, 384 pp., Rs.599.00
April 2020, volume 44, No 4

Today history is being reinterpreted if not rewritten—mainly by those who would prefer India to melt into a single religious identity. But historical events and historical figures cannot be understood, let alone judged, in isolation. This can happen only when they are viewed in the framework of their times and after undertaking some study of the forces that shaped their actions. This is the aim of Manu Pillai’s third book, The Courtesan, the Mahatma and the Italian Brahmin.

The book comprises 60 pieces Pillai published in newspapers and covers people, episodes and institutions from Indian history. Every essay is  interesting and  unusual and reflects the great strength of our country—the ability to tolerate and embrace differences and diversity. The theme of the book is that in understanding our history we can improve our understanding of  ourselves and others. The reader is introduced to relatively unknown historical figures and unknown aspects of well-known figures.

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