They say that sometimes the journey is more interesting than the destination. This couldn’t have been truer for Buddha. The world today knows him as
My book is an attempt to rediscover India : Ashutosh Mehndiratta
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Ashutosh Mehndiratta was born and raised in New Delhi. He holds an MBA from the University of Alabama and has had a long career in consulting and the technology industry. He has lived in the US, India, and New Zealand, and travelled extensively around the world. It was his experience straddling between the East and the West for almost three decades that sparked his interest in global history. He and his wife now live in Charlottetown, Canada.
My journey from the East to the West..
“A great way to learn about your country is to leave it.” — Henry Rollins, American singer
The recent publishing of my book India and Faraway Lands: 5,000 Years of Connected History marked the culmination of my long-standing quest for understanding India’s past in a wider global context. The seeds of my curiosity were sown over 27 years ago when I arrived in the United States as a student from India. Mingling with students from places as far afield as Iceland, Russia, Japan, Egypt, and Brazil sparked my interest in diverse cultures. I would often ponder over life in India versus life in America, East versus the West, the old world versus the new world. My curiosity gradually developed into a passion for global history. As I delved deeper, I stumbled upon obscure historical connections. And thus began my journey of putting together these pieces of the puzzle.
…and return to the East to rediscover and write this book
When I returned to India in 2006, after being away for eleven years, I was keen to rediscover the homeland and travelled from the Himalayan town of Leh up north to the historic city of Madurai down south. Ancient sites like Sanchi and Ajanta Caves were breathtaking and bound to make even an uninterested visitor pause and imagine life in India over 2,000 years ago. And yet, they were often missing on must-visit places of Indian travellers. Likewise, history museums all over India were consistently empty and listless, as if the past did not matter. The common folk’s understanding of foreign lands, peoples, and cultures seemed rather superficial while age-old stereotypes continued to flourish despite all the buzz around globalisation, and the fact that nearly 30 million people of Indian origin lived scattered around the world. My experiences motivated me to build upon what I had learnt thus far and write a story of our global past for the lay reader.
Let’s get to know more about the book
India and Faraway Lands aims to stoke the readers’ curiosity about our intertwined past and is unique in multiple ways. With a global narrative, it recounts the history of the West from an Eastern lens. But more importantly, it aims to fill a gap common in histories of India as they are mostly confined to India’s boundaries, thereby missing a vital component: the story of the ‘outside’. And deviating from the standard chronological order, this book starts with the relatable modern times and moves backwards.
A fair dose of interesting history for enthusiasts about India
Readers will be intrigued by the tales of several lesser-known adventurers, merchants, and soldiers who landed in India over the centuries:
- a young Dutchman who stole the maps and navigation secrets of the Portuguese in Goa in the 16th century, opening the doors for the Dutch and the British to Asia;
- an Ethiopian who rose to be a successful mercenary general, also referred to as the ‘military guru of the Marathas’, defied the Mughals for a quarter of a century;
- an American from Philadelphia whose spirit for adventure took him through an incredible journey over two decades — as a surgeon in Burma, as Maharaja Ranjeet Singh’s physician in Lahore, and getting proclaimed a prince in Afghanistan!
Why should you read ‘India and Faraway Lands’?
This book is broadly intended for anyone who may be interested in history of India or the world. However, the theme may resonate more with people of Indian origin living outside India – foreign students, diplomats, and expats based in India currently or in the past, or others with global experience.
A little motivation for aspiring writers
My book idea was shortlisted at the Bangalore Literature Festival in 2018, providing me an opportunity to pitch it to a panel comprising several leading publishers. It took another four years of research, writing, and multiple rounds of editing before the book saw the light of the day. I want to share with aspiring writers a quote by author David Shenk that kept me motivated all along –
“Make it great, no matter how long it takes. There’s no such thing as too many drafts. There’s no such thing as too much time spent. As you well know, a great book can last forever. A great book can change a person’s life. A mediocre book is just commerce.”
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