About the Author
Debasish Das is a telecom professional; he is a history aficionado and loves to photograph and document ancient ruins. He lives in Gurgaon and spends his weekends in exploring little known monuments in Delhi and its neighbourhood.
Since the last few years, he has been writing heritage blogs (www.lighteddream.wordpress.com) on Delhi’s monuments; encouraged by their reception, he has now ventured into a full-length book about the most magnificent of all the Delhi monuments, the Red Fort.
Exclusive Author Interview
Q. Characterize yourself in one word?
Q. Please describe what the story/book is about in one sentence.
I hope my articulation of the book in two layers or two parallel lines, - one, with the specifics of the Red Fort, its design and architecture; and second, the lived history and the vivid description of the story of amirs, princes and courtiers and how arts and a syncretic culture flourished from there, - will captivate readers with the romance of history.
Q. Briefly, what led up to this book? What were you writing (and getting published, if applicable) before breaking out with this book?
In our schools, history was a dry subject, requiring us to remember long lists of dates and personalities, bereft of any soul-stirring insights and perspectives. And it was only around 2015 during many of heritage walks and casual discussions, that I took an interest in Delhi’s history.
Over the last many years, I have been investing my weekends and family time in pursuit of a hobby to know more about Delhi’s history and heritage, to learn more about its ruins and half-collapsed structures that lie deep behind its glitzy malls and glass-paneled offices.
I have been trying to understand it like learning a new language and slowly unlayer and decipher the lost glory of forgotten culture and customs through the physical reminders of these dilapidated structures – through reading books - old and new, online sources and site visits and discussions with fellow aficionados and experts alike.
My history blog www.lighteddream.wordpress.com is a modest attempt to offer something different by collating information from reading various books, which is not so common now-a days. So, my blog was a pre-cursor to my debut book.
Q. What has been your biggest achievement?
To learn something new and to create something that is accepted by others who are experts in the field, is a humbling experience. The greatest achievement in the process of writing the book has been to get the warm encouragement and support from eminent historians, authors and experts on the subject.
Being a non-academic, it was my dream come true when Prof Harbans Mukhia, former Professor of Medieval History and Rector, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, found it good enough to write a foreword. In fact, there are many experts who warmly supported my queries and requests for information and guidance.
Dr Daisaku Ikeda says, “when the spring of victory comes after a winter of harsh trials, everything is transformed into happiness and joy. Without having cried, you cannot genuinely laugh.” On the publication of my debut book, I find it apt to quote Stephen Fry from his Paperweight, written in 1922.
“The experience of being published is a remarkable one, however. The arrival on one’s kitchen table of an early copy, complete with cover, is quite as exciting as you might suppose. ‘Lordly,’ you think to yourself. ‘There it is. I mean, there it actually is. Complete with ISBN, copyright notice, Library of Congress Catalog number and everything.’
You prop it up against the mantelpiece and walk backwards to obtain the effect, as it were, in long shot. You place on its side and squat down to peer at it on its own level; you toss it casually on a sofa; you insert it between Ulysses and the Looking Glass War on your bookshelf; you squint at it through half-closed eyes; you smell it, lick it, prod it, stroke it and poke it; you address it shyly; you open it up and bestow a reverent rabbinical kiss upon its title page; you offer it a glass of sherry and a biscuit; you take it for a drive; you balance it on your head, tuck it under your arm and stuff it into your pocket; you do everything, in short, but dare to read a single word of it.”
Q. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break-in?
Exploring something out of one’s usual orbit is a labor of indescribable difficulties. But the ancient Roman philosopher Cicero says, “The greater the difficulty, however, the greater the splendor.”
Even with my academic and linguistic limitations, I think my inquisitiveness to know our past so that we ingrain learning in our present and future gave me the motivation to dwell upon the subject in-depth.
Q. Did you have a platform in place? On this topic, what are you doing to build a platform and gain readership?
My history blog, www.lighreddream.wordpress.com is a modest platform that attracts visitors from across the world in search of information from various sources. It is not a commercial website, and not a platform to promote anything, but I think the encouraging comments posted there from very senior historians as well as general readers on my essays, will attract the attention of history enthusiasts.
Q. Favorite book?
There are too many books to list. However, now-a-days, I am reading New Human Revolution by Dr Daisaku Ikeda that gives me hope and energy to carry on the struggles of daily life. There are 30 volumes, and I am currently in the 17th.
Q. Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
Staying on with the subject, when history gets politicized and people expect you to take sides, it makes me uncomfortable.
Q. Future of SALISMANIA.com through your eyes?
The important thing that I could appreciate is the propagation and encouragement of reading habits that the site promotes. When there are too many distractions, gathering information on books, reviewing them, and disseminating that information in order to encourage people to read and explore the universe of the written words, is a great passionate cause. I wish a bright future to Salismania.
About the Book
Red fort: Remembering the magnificent Mughals seeks to present the lived culture of Mughals in all its multiple facets. The book is divided in four parts. In part 1 The focus is on the imperial Court and the court etiquette, cultivation of Persian and its Enrichment with translations from Sanskrit, patronage of Hindu and Jain scholars.
Part 2 contains detailed accounts of the Red fort and the symbolism of its architecture, the philosophy of jharokha Darshan, ceremonies, games and pastimes, the material culture of costumes and jewellery, food, drink and perfumery. The remaining two parts deal with the decline and fall of the Mughal rule and the British colonial durbars at the Red Fort. The broadly historical narrative is enlivened by various anecdotes.