Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Incredible History of India's Geography

The Incredible History of India's Geography
Written by Sanjeev Sanyal with Sowmya Rajendran
Published in Puffin by Penguin books India
Ages 9-14

When Sanjeev Sanyal, an economist and environmentalist, came up with the book, The Land of the Seven Rivers - a history of India's geography (reviewed here on Saffron Tree - do click on the link), it was the India version of Jared Diamond's celebrated book Guns, Germs, and Steel. Sanyal's book explained lucidly what it was about India's geography that shaped its history. For although geography can be argued to be a science, it gets clubbed with social sciences because of its unquestionable effect on the narrative of a people. 

This book, however, catered to a YA and adult audience  - it was too detailed for it to really interest middle grade readers - I know my daughter struggled a bit with this, though she was fascinated by the bits I shared with her. She wished that there was an easier version. She was  right. The book needed to reach younger readers, those who study about the history of the subcontinent in middle and high school. Enter this edition - The Incredible History of India's Geography - that speaks to the 9-14 year olds, without talking down to them.

The possibility that the Harappan and Vedic civilizations co-existed. 
The flourishing of civilization on the banks of life-giving rivers, and the changes as natural calamities changed the terrain. 
The idea of a nation that probably first came with the Bharata tribe that gave its name to the subcontinent, despite there being discrete kingdoms for most of its history. 
The deal with lions, pillars, and rulers.
The linking of the east-west and north-south axis of the country right from the period of the Ramayana, with the heart of the nation around the ancient holy city of Prayag - renamed Allahabad by the Mughal emperor Akbar - how even our British colonizers had to recognize this. 
The many cities of Delhi. 
The rich maritime tradition of ancient India with flourishing trade, culture, and knowledge and the loss of it more a millennium ago when the people of the subcontinent closed themselves off from outside influence, making it a sin to cross the seas, which could be called the beginning of the downfall. 
Modern history - British and independent India.

And so much more.

This is a slightly watered down version of the original, with bite-size fun facts, sketches that make many things very visual, and the same touch of humour, slightly cranked up, if I may say - a wonderful adaptation by Sowmya Rajendran, the author of the Mayil books. Sowmya has taken the text of the original, made changes where needed,  keeping intact those passages which were simple enough for a middle grade reader, condensed the information a bit, added the bite-sized facts in boxes, and given her trademark quirky chapter headings. All of this so seamlessly that it does complete justice to the original book, and one cannot detect any patchwork.

If there is one book that I would recommend to learn about our country, this would be it.

Image courtesy Penguin books India.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review. The opinions are all mine.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails