Friday, November 23, 2012

Empires of the Indus - Alice Albinia

Quite a fascinating book.

The author traces back the Indus from its delta, right up to its source. She literally travels upstream, on or beside the river, passing through 4 countries, and recounts fascinating snippets of history and geography of the river and its settlements. We go back and forth in time and space, as we she recounts how Karachi in 47 was brought to a standstill by the exodus of the 'depressed classes'. History gives way to geography and we move on to the politics of the dams, those temples whose utility is as hotly disputed as the real ones. We travel back further in time, back when the river was first mapped. And coming across the Sheedis,  trace back the origins of the people along the river. In the process, we  tread on genetics, language, the hugely diverse cultural and social contexts, across the two ends of the river, flowing all the way from polygamy to polyandry. How custom and cultures have changed over not just centuries, but over millennia.

Apart from factual bits of the book, which are thoroughly interesting and riveting  its the her lyrical use of language at regular interval, that I fell in love with. Consider the very first line of the preface, just this, and I was hooked:

In a land where it seldom rains, a river is as precious as gold. Water is potent, it trickles through human dreams, permeates lives, dictates agriculture, religion and warfare.

In a nutshell, its a must read!


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