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Dalrymple’s Darbar

November 22, 2014

Annual Hay Festival, with the aura of festivity missing due to lack of publicity, has begun on Thursday at the premise of Bangla Academy, the cultural and linguistic Mecca of Bangladesh.

Noted British historian William Dalrymple, Patrick French and Zia Haider Rahman are this year’s main attraction. I’ll tell about them and others in my later posts.

Following the inaugural program, what seemed to be a trickle of wanderers in the noon turned out to be a pool of bibliophiles in the evening.

In the evening of day one, the main stage became Dalrymple’s Darbar and we were his beloved subjects.Darbar 2

Dalrymple and artist Vidya Shah took the audience of the main stage into a musical journey in the Great Indian revolt and the last days of Bahadur Shah Zafar.

Dalrymple narrated the revolt while Vidya with her Ghazals during the intermittent pauses helped those scenes alive. In the end, the whole experience was like a time machine ride. Just before our eyes we saw the rejection of the newly sanctioned cartridges by the Hindu and Muslim sepoys; breaking out of mutiny in Meerut and Barackpur; the last mughal’s rise to the leadership;humiliation and slaughtering of the Europeans at the hand of the mutineers;East India company’s retaliation; palace conspiracy; and the fall of Bahadur Shah Zafar.

Dalrymple narrates the scenes of the sepoy mutiny

Dalrymple narrates the scenes of the sepoy mutiny

The time machine ride lacked one thing—we could not turn the course of history like those two turkeys ,Reggie and Jack, did in the animation film ‘Free Birds’. The time traveling turkeys successfully took the ’turkey’ off the Thanksgiving dinner menu.

In the evening of day 2, Dalrymple returned his darbar to narrate us some of the scenes of the First Anglo-Afghan war. With deep voice, he narrated the scenes and mesmerized the whole audience foiling a deeply rooted conspiracy to spoil his slide show.

Dalrymple presents his ancestor Colin Mackenzie to the audience

Dalrymple presents his ancestor Colin Mackenzie to the audience

It was like traveling back and forth between the First Anglo- Afghan war and the present. And, of course, drawing some parallels between the present and the past.

Darbaar 4Narration of the ordeal and annihilation of the British troops including the camp followers made silent the whole auditorium. Dalrymple is indeed a brilliant storyteller.

This time I’ve witnessed Dalrymple the storyteller at firsthand. Dalrymple’s darbar finally came to an end with the disclosure of his next work—-a book on East India Company. All his titles are available at hay festival.

However, it is not very pleasant to see all the people are thronging into one single book stall for the books of Hay authors. Hay authors’ books should be available in all the book stalls. Moreover, book shops that have been selling foreign books for more than 20 or 30 years at New Market, Shahbagh and Baily road should have presence at Hay Fest.

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