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Review: The Past as Present: Forging Contemporary Identities Through History

The Past as Present: Forging Contemporary Identities Through History The Past as Present: Forging Contemporary Identities Through History by Romila Thapar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loved the details. Highly informative even if some of her ideas have been contested often times. Romila Thapar is without doubt one of the best Historians alive in India today. Her characteristic narrative style with adequate focus on analyzing an issue from all corners, makes one think strongly about the believes they have had since as long as they can remember. How can one say if the tradition that they have been following since decades and centuries isn't something that originally begun with those ideas mind and isn't were simple tactics to gain wealth and suppress the enemies; when the sources themselves that tell us the history of these practices can be found to not withhold under scutiny. The history of India, it seems, is as multi-faceted and ever changing as are the people and it's languages in the contemporary world, a fact that's often overlooked when the subject is taught in the schools.

The author talks on all these and much more in this phenomenal book. I specifically found the chapters on the emancipation of the Women in ancient and mediaeval India, highly illuminating. As Yuval Nova Harari said in his masterful essays, "Women have been the single most underprivileged and ill-treated section of the society throughtout the history all the major cultures of the world." In her book, Thapar emphasizes how some accounts usually cited as an example of possibly equal status of women, like that of the scholar Gargi in the upnishads, are but some lone elite cases that don't represent the majority classes. She goes on to say that instead stories about what went around with the suppressed Dasis are not at all present in the ancient literatures. Practises such as Sati, that were prevalent in much of India until very recently in historical terms, in fact show that the Women were often treated rather as a commodity and were moved out of the way when their targeted purpose is finished or when they appear to pose a threat to the Men's share of wealth.

"The Past as Present" is a thought provoking book, full of insightful essays. Highly recommended as an illuminating take on some of the most controvertial topics in current Indian Geopolitical History. To what extend you agree with the ideas dealt with herein is totally upto you, but I would rather be taken back if the book doesn't make to atleast think a little deeper about what you know as your culture and your past.

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