The Unknown Indians – A Unique Look At History

History has always held a fascination for me. I find it amazing that the way things were in the past and the events that occurred in a very different time are the ones that decide how present day things turn out. Everything we see today around us has been shaped by these times past and the people who have been part of it.
Not surprisingly, volumes and volumes of text have been devoted to these people who changed the course of history. They have been aptly extolled and their legends have been passed on from generation to generation, so that today we know about them and thank them for their contribution in shaping our world.
But what about the people who are not so famous, and yet have played an equally important part in shaping the history of the world? Right here, in India itself, there have been so many regular, not-so-famous everyday people, who have influenced and changed the course of history; and yet we know nothing about them! There clearly is a gap between the history that we learn from the school texts and the history that is, although it is equally the truth, is lesser known.
And it is exactly this gap that The Unknown Indians written by Subhadra Sen Gupta fills beautifully! With her remarkable storytelling, the author makes a brilliant case for the traditional weavers, farmers, poets, cooks and charioteers; taking us through their lives, their motivations and describing how they changed the course of history without meaning to or even consciously being aware of it!
The book begins with an Introduction about the evolution of India, which gives a background to the way we perceive civilization; and explains in amazing and interesting detail how we, as a country, have always been tolerant and all-encompassing. It speaks about the influence that other cultures of the world as well as the dynasties that have ruled us from time to time have had on our culture; and lays a firm foundation for this marvelous work.
The book itself is a lovely read that is divided into chapters with headings that are self-explanatory and beautifully laid-out. At the end of every chapter, there is a small section that gives fascinating pieces of information complementing the chapter.  As a chapter ends, one is not yet ready to let go, but with the beginning of every new chapter, it is impossible not to be interested all over again and immersed in a world that is superbly mesmerizing!
The writing style of Subhadra Sen Gupta is lucid enough for young readers to understand and intriguing enough to keep their attention riveted. 
The language is simple, yet rich; the stories elaborate, yet concise and the illustrations apt. 
The pace of the book is set at a level where readers don’t once find themselves distracted. The combination of all these factors is clearly a winner for any book; but something that is definitely a plus in a book meant for young readers!
The reader is also kept interested by the interesting tidbits offered throughout the book; such as the trivia about the origin of our beloved samosa or the fact about how the capsicum, potato or even the humble tomato that forms a staple part of our diet today, are not, in fact, of Indian origin! (Shocking, right? I know!) The book also tells us how our unknown poets, saints, weavers, story-tellers and countless such Indians whose names we do not even know or remember, have made our country what it is today.
Perhaps the best feature of this book is that the author Subhadra Sen Gupta – who by the way, proves her prowess yet again as the acclaimed writer of over thirty children’s books – makes it extremely simple for young readers to understand something as complex as the evolution of civilization and the impact of the cultures of the world on the culture of India! Adding to the charm, are the beautiful illustrations by Tapas Guha, who clearly is a master of his art. His illustrations bring the already interesting words to life, making this book one spectacular read!
The biggest takeaway of this book though, is that it makes the history of our country really interesting for young readers with the help of stories that don’t necessarily find a place in any of the school texts or most other books meant for children’s reading. And in the process, it highlights the not- too-well-known aspects of our history and also gives an important lesson to children: not all changes are brought about by excesses, sometimes simple and peaceful ways are enough too!
As a parent raising a grade-schooler, it has been a pleasure to read and review this book. It’s amazing that I could share with my little one, the intriguing facts about how our Indian civilization was shaped from as early as the sixth century! 
In today’s world where the West influences almost everything we do in our lives – even the books our children read (mostly about Greek Gods or about dystopian scenarios) – The Unknown Indians is a refreshing read!

Fast paced and thought-provoking, I would definitely recommend this book for your grade-schooler.


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