18 May, 2021

Ashoka Laughed At The Same Joke

Ancient India is dragged into focus through such eternal lenses as love, art, harassment and moral policing. The past springs to life; it is our present too.

Ashoka Laughed At The Same Joke

It is rarely—once in a very long time—that a slender book comes along and startles you out of your reverie with a tale told so simply that you are filled with wonderment. 10 Time Pieces: A Whistlestop tour of Ancient India, by Nayanjot Lah­iri, is a formidable offering that can only occur when an expert story-­teller is at the top of her craft with a vastness of scope and breadth of int­ertextuality that spans genres.

Packaged vignettes of history can be easily found; what makes this book stand out is the use of a set of 10 time filters that are almost foundational in their engagement with any civilisation, the acuity with which these subjects are tackled and a departure from ponderous musings. The sheer joy of telling the stories is evident as the author negotiates art, food, love, laughter, identity and afterlife, among other illuminating concerns. These interests have held true to our present day across the very same geographies.   

The book begins two million years ago with the arrival of the first hominins to India and...

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