Thoughts on The Last Moghul

Just recently completed reading 'The Last Moghul' by 'William Dalrymple'.

Its a moving account of the Mutiny of 1857 and the twilight days of the Moghul empire - with Bahadur Shah Zafar as the last of the line. This blog post is not a book review - read the book - its worth it. Its more of the thoughts that crossed my mind when reading the book.

  • Delhi used to be hot, but the heat usually started around May. Nowdays , April is itself considered summers.
  • The British came as merchants, but were able to rule and conquer India, as the various tribes of India kept fighting among each other. The rebellion of 1857 was with sepoys from UP and surrounding areas. The British used Punjabis and Gurkhas against them.
  • Equally horrendous atrocities were committed by Indians and British. The main difference was that while Indians went about it just like that, the British went about it efficiently.
  • While the Indians did not know whom to attack ( was he a conspirator of the british or not) , the British treated all brown skins the same.
  • The British were able to spy in the city of Delhi , while the Delhi governance were cluless about what the British were upto.
  • While the sepoys were Indians, the officers were British. So when it came to strategic thinking, the British had the upper hand and were able to win the battle, even though their forces were outnumbered 10 to 1. Again and again, it is shown that Quality matters over Quantity, but still people continue to value quantity more.
  • I keep wondering what the Red Fort would have looked like before the mutiny. After the mutiny, many parts of it were torn down by the British and the remaining were made as company barracks and officer mess & quarters.
  • Many of the traditions of 150 years ago still remain in the indian culture.
  • Bahadur Shah Zafar was an incompetent ruler. However, he found himself as the unwilling leader of the rebels ( or Pandeys the colloquial term given to the rebel sepoys after Mangal Pandey). He was not able to make up his mind whether to side with the sepoys or call of the mutiny. Being an old man 70+ years in age, it can be conceded to him that he was not able to take decisions - but ultimately it lead to his demise and the demise of the line of Moghuls.
  • Was also wondering if Zafar could not take clear decisions, what would happen to India now with the top politicians also in that age bracket and not able to take clear decisions.
  • Zafar was ultimately brought down by his wife, who wanted her son to take on the throne. Behind every unsuccessful man there is a woman also.
  • The accounts of Chandni Chowk etc are too good to be true. The Chandni Chowk now is a dump.
  • I also was struck by the fact that Indian leaders are so weak as they have no idea of actually leading and governing. For ages before India got independence, all the decision making was in the hands of British, which they never gave to the Indians. As such after the partition, India was lead by people (and still is) who have no idea how to govern. And so the sad state of the country.
  • The British found it easy to rule Indians by playing off one side against another. The same is still being done by Indian Politicians ( MNS, etc. ).
  • There was a lot of greenery around Delhi.
  • Nizammudin was a different village - away from Delhi.
Such books should be part of the school curriculum. They make you think.

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