I procrastinate, therefore I am.

I procrastinate, therefore I am.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Glimpses of World History: Part 1

I have been reading "Glimpses of World History". Running over thousand pages, the book is a collection of about two hundred letters written by Jawaharlal Nehru to his daughter Indira Gandhi. Nehru was incarcerated at that time by the British Government and Indira was in her early teens. The letters provide us with a panoramic view of world history, starting from the civilization of Harappa-Mahenjo daro and concluding with the rise of Nazism in Germany. It will take more than a month to finish this monumental volume. The more you read, the more it becomes impossible, regardless of your political inclinations, not to get mesmerized by the sheer erudition of the man whom we were lucky to have as our first prime minister. He was not a historian by profession, and surely had no access to a library inside a prison. Yet "Glimpses of World History" is rated as arguably one of the best popular history books of all time.

Let me share a couple of amazing facts that I came to know while perusing the book.

India was exposed to Christianity way before Western Europe accepted it. At around late 1st century AC, several Christian missionaries arrived at south India via the sea route. They were welcomed by the natives and lot of people got converted. This was at a time when Christianity was a proscribed religion even within the Roman empire. Descendants of these early Christians have survived to this day in India.

Marco Polo, the great traveler from Venice, along with his father and uncle spent more than fifteen years at the court of Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan in China in 13th century AC. Marco, who was a favorite of the Emperor, wanted to go home but it was difficult to get Khan's permission. At last there came an opportunity. The Mongol ruler of Persia (modern day Iran), who was also Kublai's cousin, lost his wife and wished to remarry some girl from his own clan. So he requested Kublai to send him a prospective bride. Kublai chose a beautiful Mongol princes and agreed to let the three Polos escort her safely to Persia. The Polos were supposed to return to Venice after discharging this final duty. They took the sea route and came to south India. The Polos were avid travelers, and they, along with the princes, seemed to have no major concern regarding the impending wedding. Having spent quite some time touring south India, the trio and the princes finally arrived at Persia two years after they had started.

If you are a true romantic at heart, dare to imagine: A beautiful princes, a young Marco Polo, embarking on a voyage, touring an exotic land, for as long as two years! Try to think about the romantic potential of the saga! Can it ever be possible that the princes will eventually marry some old King whom she has never seen?

Of course not!

Great! So Marco gets the girl??

Errrr no. Actually the prospective bridegroom (King of Persia) dies before the party can reach his kingdom. So the King's son, younger and more attractive than his father, marries the princes. Marco heads off towards Venice with his father and uncle.

To set the record straight, there is no historical evidence of a romance between Marco Polo and the Princess.

Hopeless Marco!!

PS: As the title suggests, I plan to write at least one more post based on this book.