Saturday, July 05, 2014

Guardian of the Dawn

Guardian of the Dawn is a book by Ricardo Zimler which I chanced upon after this interview by the author which I later realized was a 2005 interview.

The book is a delightful read. The author skilfully depicts Goa set in the 1600s as he takes us through the travails of a Jewish family living under Portuguese rule. (Goa was under the Portuguese, remember?) As he tells us this story, one gets an idea of an India then. And then the Inquisition begins - which is a sordid tale in itself (but hey guess what, our history books forgot to teach us that - a post on this coming up soon) and this family gets caught in the Inquisition.

What is the inquisition? The wikipedia has a chapter on it. Goa Inquisition.

In this process, he meets other prisoners and they narrate their story (based on the authors research of Inquisition documentation). And it is indeed a sordid tale.

The rest of the story is then how the protagonist comes out of the inquisition and get back his life - and that part is quite a page turner with some surprises at the end.

All in all, I liked the book. One, for bringing alive a chapter of Indian history which has all been buried from Indians. Second, for interweaving a story within it that brings it alive in all its forms rather than a boring historical chapter. Third - the details. The book feels like an Amitav Ghosh novel where the history, fact and fiction interplay in a glorious tapestry.

This is a must read book for anybody who wants to know the story of the Portuguese story in Goa which often escapes attention because they were a smallish occupant of India as opposed to the English, but in many ways, more brutal. And then again, they are given a free pass because they are 'Western' but that is another topic for another day.

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