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David Davidar remembers a master chronicler of India's history

By David Davidar
April 17, 2015 14:56 IST
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'His genius lay in taking his books of history to another level altogether.'

Author-Publisher David Davidar's moving tribute to historian Abraham Eraly, who passed away in Puducherry last week.

Abraham EralyA couple of years ago, while browsing at an airport bookstore, I picked up a paperback of Abraham Eraly's Emperors of the Peacock Throne: The Saga of the Great Mughals.

The book was a revised version of his very first book which I had published, back in 1997, as The Last Spring: The Lives and Time of the Great Mughals.

At the time, Abraham Eraly was a history professor at the Madras Christian College in Tambaram (a Chennai suburb) and had no books to his credit.

When he died last week, he was remembered as one of our greatest chroniclers of Indian history, especially the medieval period.

His books were meant for the interested lay reader as opposed to the scholar or the researcher, which meant that they had to be accessible and readable besides being thoroughly and reliably grounded in the facts and information relating to the period he was writing about.

Eraly's genius lay in taking his books of history (especially about the Mughals) to another level altogether. Not only were they eminently readable and informative but he had a a novelist's skill when it came to dealing with his subject matter -- readers of his books found themselves transported to a time and place not their own.

That morning, at the airport bookstore, I was delighted to note that the book I was flipping through had been reprinted 23 times -- proof, if proof were needed, that we are going to be reading and remembering this master chronicler of our history for many decades to come.

Photograph: Courtesy Penguin India

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