Time Pieces: A Whistle-Stop Tour of Ancient India by Nayanjot Lahiri- Review

Title: Time Pieces: A Whistle-Stop Tour of Ancient India

Author: Nayanjot Lahiri

Publication: Hachette India

Price: Rs. 399/-

Pages: 214

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” — Ralph Waldo Emerson.
We have always been curious about our past as much as been about our future. However, seldom we realise, that between the two lies the present, which has its link to the past, which in turn shall be a link to its futuristic present.

Nayanjot Lahiri, a renowned Historian, have spent years examining the marks left by the travellers who are responsible in creating today’s India. Time Pieces: A Whistle-Stop Tour Of Ancient India written by Lahiri, opens up to its readers a treasure trove of insightful knowledge right from earliest ancient journeys to recent archaeological findings and preservations.

How many of us knew that hominins were the first immigrant settlers in the subcontinent? According to author, nothing can match their trail across continents, beginning close on two million years ago, from Africa to India and other parts of Asia. Mention of such facts in this book help build a curiosity into the mind of a reader, depending on his or her hunger to know more.

Author’s evolutionary approach and skills for detailing come to the fore with a mere glance at the index which begins with ‘Journeys’ as book’s opening chapter and ends with ‘Afterlife’. Today, when ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ has become a nation-wide mantra, a chapter on ‘Hygiene’ highlights about periodical changes into ways and methods of answering natures call. There are a range of chapters, pertaining to Art, Food, Love, Laughter, Environment, Identity and Death.

Well supported with pictures of archaeological findings and excavations, the book undoubtedly becomes a great study guide for those who have an appetite for revisiting ancient trails. A mention of the word appetite propels me to share with you all an interesting fact file from the book’s chapter on ‘Food’.

Author mentions, “The tales in the Mahabharata should seem particularly tempting for carnivores because in one of them Yudhishthira, the embodiment of Hindu virtue and honesty, feeds ten thousand Brahmans with pork and venison alongside preparations of milk and rice mixed with ghee and honey, fruits and roots. Certainly, we need to pause here to modern advocates of vegetarianism who speciously invoke Hindu literature in defence of their vegetarian preferences.

Similarly, the author gives insight to a very interesting aspect with regard to environment. She informs through this book that the Toba volcanic super-eruption on the Indonesian island of Sumatra some 74,000 years ago, whose ash has been identified in different parts of India, would have killed communities. Near Pune, the ash bed varies from twenty centimetres to a meter and there are Paleolithic tools underlying and overlaying the ash bed.

It is no doubt that this book makes an interesting read, but at some point due to the usage of scientific as well as research-oriented terminology, it might fail to activate grey cells of a layman. A little simpler language would have certainly gone a long way into creating new trails of interest into several paths created in the past.

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