Category Archives: History

“A Place Called Freedom”, By Ken Follett

Once again going back to Ken Follett in short span of time. The book “A Place Called Freedom” is a work of fiction set in 18th century England. Similar to century trilogy this book starts with story of coal miners who had the hardest and very dangerous life working in the mines. Mack McAsh is a miner in a small town where miners are forced to work in the mines due to some strange customs and they could not become free. But Mack figures out that the custom was illegal and he had the chance to be free. He escapes to London and organizes laborers like him and gets into trouble once again. Eventually he is exiled to America where he is able to taste freedom.

It is a story of a hero among the common men and how he is able to fight the system and in the process helps other people as well. Even though it is work of fiction, the story is plausible for England at that time. Of course you like the character of Mack but for me the character of Lizzie Halim was equally fascinating. She is high class girl but has her own views on everything and she keeps on helping Mack at different stages of his life. She struggles with her high class status and her perception of what is wrong with the world around her. She takes Mack’s challenge to go down in the mines and see for herself the conditions that miners face.

There is always lot to learn about history while reading Ken Follett’s books and this was no different. You learn that slavery not only affected Africans and Asians but it affected white but poor people as well. They had to work as bonded labor in the worst and most dangerous conditions and mine owners truly believed that miners lives were insignificant compared to their own pleasures. There was death penalty and that too in public for very minor offences and the balance was always biased against poor people.

I guess I will continue with my reading of Ken Follett. He has still not disappointed me.

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Filed under Books, Fiction, Fictional-History, History

Books: From Tablet To Tablet

Yes, that is the journey books have taken over the course of thousands of years once human beings started writing down the knowledge instead of just talking and remembering. Earliest known books were in the form of stone tablets where writers had to carve on stone using chisel and hammer. From there the books progressed to palm leaves, cloth, paper and finally the digital form on tablets. I am using the word tablet to represent all kind of digital book readers including but not limited to Kindle, iPads, computers or smart phones here.

You could write a page worth of data on a stone tablet and it would still be difficult to carry it along. Today you can load thousands of books in regular digital tablet and carry it anywhere with ease. Difficulty in creating stone tablet also meant that only most important knowledge was carved. Today everything gets published in digital form and you find it so difficult to search for real knowledge in lot of junk that gets written. Of course, the knowledge from stone tablets was available to very few privileged people but this digital abundant junk including all the knowledge is available to a much larger set of people and in coming days will be available to everybody in this world.

My book reading started with paper books and there was a time when I felt that I will never transition to digital version. It was the process of relocation from one country to another that changed my thinking. I realised that there was no way I could carry my collection of hundreds of books with me and it was time to switch to Kindle. Digital book reading is convenient, easy to carry, buy and use though not same as paper books.

I wonder if they can make my Kindle smell like a fresh or old book depending upon the kind of book I am reading. Or maybe it can be made to look and smell like stone tablet or palm leaves (the experience that I missed in book reading).

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Filed under Book Reading, History

“Fingerprints Of The Gods”, By Graham Hancock

I return back to one of my favorite genres of fictional history though in this case it is more of history and more of non-fiction based on archeology, astronomy and study of various myths, monuments and cultures around the world. “Fingerprints of the Gods”, questions the established history of the world and tries to prove that some highly advanced civilization existed more than 10000 years ago that perished due to natural calamities but they have left part of their knowledge in various myths, monuments and cultures throughout the world.

The style of author Graham Hancock is really thought-provoking and very similar to Jared Diamond who had written “Guns, Germs and Steel”, but the subject matter is quite different. He has done extensive research on the archeological evidence found in Mexico, Peru and Egypt and asks several questions about unexplained mysteries if we were to believe in the currently established history. There are several references to Indian mythology as well and his thoughts are that these are not really myths and such civilization was in existence at that time and we may find the proof of such civilization if we dig deep in the ice sheets of Antarctica.

He has dealt with the Pyramids of Egypt in great detail and the main question is that none of these Pyramids were built to protect the dead bodies of Pharaohs, but their purpose was entirely different. The scientific precision and alignment to stars that is used in making of these Pyramids points to a different purpose and probably they were built to preserve the scientific knowledge of the past. I was also thinking that maybe these Pyramids were the Noah’s Ark and were meant to indicate when the next catastrophe will take place and then to protect the civilization at that time.

The problems with these theories is that you can never tell for sure whether they are just stories or have facts in them. But it is definitely worth considering them since they might affect our future.

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Filed under Fictional-History, History, Mythology, Non-Fiction, Science

“The Funniest Tales Of Mullah Nasruddin”

Sometime back I had finished reading tales of Tenali Raman and recently finished reading stories of Mullah Nasruddin. In many ways the tales are similar but in some unique ways Nasruddin in very different from Tenali Raman. Nasruddin is a trickster and a jester at the same time. He manages to outsmart everybody most of the time but there are times when he also ends up being a fool and that is the beauty of Nasruddin.

The oldest tales of Nasruddin have been found in book called “Saltukname” and according to this book Nasruddin was born in 13th century in Turkey. I am not sure whether all the tales that are attributed to him actually happened or were they present in the earliest book. It is quite possible that over time people have added their own version of new stories using Nasruddin as the central character.

In many of his stories his donkey is a constant companion. Sometimes making a fool of him, sometimes getting beaten up, sometimes getting sold and sometimes showing a camaraderie shown between two friends. Many of the stories end up giving you lessons of life and many of them or just interplay of words. When Nasruddin ends up making a fool of himself, you wonder whether he is the same person who outsmarts everybody all the time.

I guess whether it was Tenali Raman or Birbal or Mullah Nasruddin and probably there are many more in different cultures of the world, the stories were created to provide some fun and teaching at the same time. But we forget about the common sense that is portrayed in these stories.

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Filed under Comic-Book, Fictional-History, History, Humor, Short-Stories

“Fix Your Problems: The Tenali Raman Way”

We have all heard of people like Birbal, Mullah Nasruddin and Tenali Raman. All of these are historical figures and worked as court jesters at different points of time in history. Tenali Raman worked in the court of Vijayanagar Empire in 16th century. Sri Krishna Deva Raya ruled the kingdom at that time and his court had many intelligent advisors but Tenali Raman is the most famous one. This book is a collection of short stories about Tenali Raman and how he managed to outwit everybody through his intelligence, shrewdness and ingenuity.

Many of the stories involve Tenali Raman taking on the King resulting in King getting angry with him but in the end it was Tenali Raman who always prevailed and managed to make the King understand his point of view. Some of the stories are very simple but many of them are with very deep meaning. In one story, Tenali Raman serves Sharbat (A kind of cold-drink) to courtiers in different types of cups. All of them try to take the best looking ones and the simple cups were left behind. Now the idea here was to enjoy the Sharbat but we all end up getting worried about the cups. It is so true in our lives as well.

It is really amazing that all these stories have survived. I am not sure whether they were written down or whether they have just been passed on from one generation to another through word of mouth. All the stories have feel good ending and make so much sense after we finish reading them. It is a coincidence that immediately after Tenali Raman, I am reading stories of Mullah Nasruddin but I will write about that some other time.

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Filed under Fictional-History, History, Short-Stories