Connect with us


Meet Akbar’s ghost as Allan Sealy weaves together poetry and prose



File Photo

New Delhi, April 19: It’s a blazing hot afternoon just outside the gatehouse of Jodha Bai’s palace in Fatehpur Sikri. Tourists throng the forecourt. The air above the red flagstones is so hot that it begins to wrinkle and there in the haze — near enough to touch — stands the ghost of Akbar.

This ethereal yet sublime narrative forms the backdrop of Irwin Allan Sealy’s latest book “Zelaldinus”, in which past and present, nobles and commoners, history and fiction rub shoulders.

“He looks exactly like the line drawing in my school history book; so he’s easy enough to recognise. We get chatting and he shows me around his dead city. We talk about everything under the sun and naturally we don’t neglect the state of India today. A plot develops, a story within a story, of romance and adventure that carries the emperor to the India-Pakistan border for a crackling climax,” Sealy told IANS about his just-released book.

But Akbar has been a recurring personality in many recent books, both fiction and non-fiction. Most lately, Shazi Zaman’s book on the Mughal emperor gained critical acclaim. And that is not all — a number of books have even been written on Akbar’s court at Fatehpur Sikri as well. What should the readers expect from this book?

The 66-year-old writer responded saying that there’s a chequered stone terrace in the Diwan-i-khas at Sikri where, contemporary accounts say, Akbar used to play a kind of human chess that must have looked like a pageant. These books make one imagine costumes, perhaps music, in a kind of charade.

“My book is set up as a masque, that is to say a dramatic production of the kind once staged at royal courts, full of trumpets and kettledrums and incident and colour. At the same time it’s not frivolous entertainment; I think the Mughal history that underwrites it breathes through the text. I hope the themes it tackles — kingship, loyalty, fatherhood and sacrifice — will be apparent to serious readers.

“And I made a deliberate effort to flesh out Akbar the man, rather than the king. The fact that this is poetry, a novel in verse, means you can’t breeze through as you might with conventional historical fiction; much of the pleasure is literary, to be savoured line by line,” he maintained.

The offering at hand is a classic mix of prose and poetry. Sealy said that they are actually the same substance, “like India and Pakistan”, but each has become a little inflexible over time. It’s time the barbed wire came down.

Asked about his effortless weaving together of poetry and prose, he said: “Poetry is more pared back, it’s language under greater pressure, so naturally it’s less readily achieved and appreciated, but prose too can be compressed, and it can contain vatic elements, so it’s not always a simple expository medium. The weaving together you speak of came quite naturally, but I would like also to think there’s a mingling.”

The author, whose novel “The Everest Hotel: A Calendar” was shortlisted for the 1998 Booker prize, said that many years ago a friend had dropped him off at Fatehpur Sikri. It was one of the hottest days of the year but Sealy was unfazed by the extreme weather as he sat in a water garden on the hill and came under the spell of the place.

Recalling the day, the much-acclaimed writer went on to add that the place has a little pavilion with a fretted stone water race and a pool, where one can sit in the sunken garden in the heart of summer and be utterly content.

“I had been to Sikri before but never alone and this time the solitude wrung some poems. The next time I took a sketch book and spent a week on the hill, and after that I was a constant visitor,” he elaborated on how the idea of this book came about.

Underlying the depiction of a rich and varied court life at Sikri in the book are reflections on kingship, a meditation on fathers and sons, and a plot within a plot that tells a crackling story of love across the Pakistan border — while through it all strides the nimble ghost of Akbar himself. Jalaluddin (Zelaldinus) Akbar.

Sealy said he has tried — with every book — to discover forms that belong here, so that the shape and the style of the artefact take on a local character. He said that he did not believe in simply telling a local story but using local techniques. It should go beyond flavour, the way tea tastes different in a kulhar.

(Saket Suman can be contacted at [email protected])


Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Pranab stresses on education, skills and employability

Such a situation is “unacceptable” and the youth must a celook inward” if they are keen to end this.




Kolkata, Feb 24 : With India set to become home to the world’s largest working population by 2022 and a global supplier of workforce, education, skill development and enhancing employability are the most urgent needs, former President Pranab Mukherjee said on Saturday.

If India harbours the hope of reaping demographic dividends, it must make sure its people are educated and skilled enough, Mukherjee told a large assembly of young entrepreneurs at a special session organized by Young Indians, the youth wing of the Confederation of Indian Industry.

India’s potential is huge, but the failure to tap the potential in the right manner will frustrate its aspiration to become a global power, he said.

“The oldest civilisation will be younger and younger. The responsibility lies on you to remove disparity, inequality and provide leadership. Otherwise, I am afraid, demographic advantage will turn into a demographic disaster,” Mukherjee said.

He exhorted the country’s youth to work towards ending the growing wealth gap. There is an emerging divergence of haves and have-nots, he said, adding disparity exists not just on health and education parameters, but also on income distribution.

Such a situation is “unacceptable” and the youth must a celook inward” if they are keen to end this, Mukherjee said.

According to the former head of state, developmental paradigm must be shifted to equality and harmony.

“A recent report on the Indian economic situation between 2013 and 2017 states that 71 per cent of the total wealth generated in India is accumulated by 21 per cent people; while remaining 79 per cent of the population are left with 29 per cent of the wealth. This cannot go on for long. Change has to be brought about by the young people, not by me, not by anybody else,” he said.

The former President cited yet another study that brings to fore some other social disparities. As per the report, 40 of the least developed countries have only 13 per cent of the girl child getting enrolled in schools; and just 11 per cent of the men and women have access to some sort of healthcare.

Continue Reading


PNB says Virat Kohli continues to be its brand ambassador



Virat Kohli PNB

New Delhi, Feb 24: The $1.8 billion fraud hit Punjab National Bank (PNB) has said that Indian skipper Virat Kohli continues to be its brand ambassador.

“There are reports in the media that Virat Kohli, Bank’s brand ambassador is going to discontinue his endorsement with Punjab National Bank. The same is again totally false and incorrect. Virat Kohli is our brand ambassador,” the bank clarified through a public notice.

The notice further clarified: “There are media reports that the bank has engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to conduct an investigation into the alleged fraud and PwC has been asked to gather evidence that can be used against Nirav Modi and his associates in the court. The news is totally incorrect.”

It also said that media reports saying Reserve Bank of India and government asking PNB to make payment of the fraudulent amount to other banks is also incorrect.

The bank reiterated that the bank has the capacity and capability to handle the situation and protect the interest of the institution, customers and stakeholders.


Continue Reading


Loan default case: Rotomac firm owner Vikram Kothari, son sent to 11 days CBI remand



Vikram Kothari

New Delhi, Feb 24: A special CBI court on Saturday sent Rotomac Pens owner Vikram Kothari and son Rahul Kothari to the 11-days CBI remand in connection with Rs 3,695 crore Loan default case. 

Yesterday, Patiala House Court had sent Kothari and his son to the one-day transit remand.

On Thursday, the CBI arrested Kothari and his son on charges of cheating a consortium of banks of Rs 3,695 crore (including interest) by siphoning off loans sanctioned to his company for procurement of wheat and other goods for export.

The Income Tax Department also issued a show-cause notice to Kothari asking why prosecution be not initiated against the group.

The agency arrested the two after day-long questioning at the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) headquarters in south Delhi’s Lodi Road area.

It was the Kotharis’ questioning for the fourth consecutive day since the probe agency lodged the case against him and his family, and conducted raids at their residential and office premises in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur.

The CBI filed the FIR on Sunday night following a complaint against Kothari, his wife Sadhana and son Rahul, from the Bank of Baroda.

Vikram Kothari is the Chairman and Managing Director of Rotomac while his wife and son are Directors.

Kothari had obtained Rs 2,919 crore from Bank of India (Rs 754.77 crore), Bank of Baroda (Rs 456.63 crore), Indian Overseas Bank (Rs 771.07 crore), Union Bank of India (Rs 458.95 crore), Allahabad Bank (Rs 330.68 crore), Bank of Maharashtra (Rs 49.82 crore) and Oriental Bank of Commerce (Rs 97.47 crore), the FIR said.

Kothari, his wife, son, firm Rotomac, some unidentified bank officials and private persons were booked over the charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery under the Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Corruption Act.

In its complaint, the  Bank of Baroda said that the banks had extended credit to the Kanpur-based firm and its related companies from 2008 onwards.

Earlier, the probe agency had earlier seized several belongings of Kothari and his kin, including laptops and mobile phones.


Continue Reading

Most Popular