Hi friends, the following is an interview of author Aneesh Gokhale, on his second novel ‘Brahmaputra – The story of Lachit Barphukan’ . The novel is generating great reviews and is an excellent follow up to his first novel ‘Sahyadris to Hindukush’.
About the Author :
Aneesh Gokhale, born March 1988, completed his schooling in Pune and is currently working in merchant navy as a navigating officer. He is an avid trekker, hiker and is passionate about Indian history. He loves reading and writing.
Sahyadris to Hindukush was his first book ( 2012)
Brahmaputra is his second book (2015)
He has also given public talks on numerous occasions , on Maratha and Assamese history in both English and Marathi. His essays and interviews have been published in various newspapers and magazines. In 2015 he was also invited as Chief Guest for Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (Pune) Independence Day celebration.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for public talk invitations.
His official website is www.aneeshbooks.wordpress.com
- Who is Lachit Barphukan and what made you write a book on him?
Lachit Barphukan was the Assamese commander or senapati who stood up to the Mughals and defeated them in Assam. When I first read about him in an Amar Chitra Katha – I was inspired by his sense of patriotism , the way he rallied his troops, his sense of duty etc. He was battling the Mughals at the same time as Chhatrapati Shivaji . At the same time, he is totally unknown outside of the North East. Hence I decided to read more and write a book myself.
This link provides a more detailed answer — https://aneeshbooks.wordpress.com/aneesh-gokhales-books/purchase-book/why-did-i-write-this-book/
2. How difficult was it to look for study material and reliable historic sources to understand the times of Lachit Barphukan? How did you go about preparing yourself to compose the novel?
As compared to my earlier book , which was on Maratha history, sources of information were difficult to find. I got a few from online stores. Two very useful books by SK Bhuyan I had to specially order from Guwahati , and trouble an acquaintance with finding and sending them etc ! It was only when I went to Guwahati and scoured a dozen bookshops in the old city area that I was able to get my hands on some very good books about medieval Assam. A visit to the Centre for Antiquarian Studies , Guwahati was also extremely useful – since that is where I found the excellent resource called Tarikh e Ashaam.
Apart from this , my trip to Assam, where I concentrated on visiting those places associated with Lachit Barphukan and the Mughal – Assam struggle, also helped me make by descriptions more accurate and help write a better novel.
This is a list of references used — https://aneeshbooks.wordpress.com/aneesh-gokhales-books/purchase-book/references-used-in-writing-brahmaputra/
3. Marathas and Ahoms fought a similar enemy. What according to you was the element that inspired them? And, how much did the aspect of understanding their respective ancestors cultural and civilizational values played a role in the same?
Assam itself has a long tradition of keeping out invaders. Right from the days of Bakhtiyar Khilji . That is because they valued their land and people above everything else. Like the Marathas, the Ahom dynasty was also driven by a zeal to preserve swarajya in the North East corner.
Well as far as understanding cultural and civilizational aspect is concerned —
I would say both the Marathas and the Assamese played their own important part in keeping Indian culture alive in respective parts of the country. The Ahoms followed an Indic religion called Fralung , but adopted more and more classical Hindu customs as time passed. They definitely guarded and ensured that Indic culture survived and prospered in the North East. The military conquests of Lachit Barphukan and Chakradhwaj Singha laid the foundations for the social and cultural achievements of Rudra Singha , Siva Singha etc.
4. What other aspect of Ahoms did you find interesting ? Have the same been covered in your book?
I found their military system very unique and interesting. This military system is one of the reasons for their stupendous success against invaders. Its backbone was the paik system, under which every family in the kingdom sent soldiers to the army. More men were sent if required. There was a well established rank hierarchy among the officers. Last but not the least, they had perfected the art of fighting on the great river – Brahmaputra. The Ahom kingdom was unique in the sense that it had an entirely riverine navy made of small , swift moving craft. I have tried to cover these aspects in the book by weaving them into various historical episodes.
5. How has been the response so far?
Response I believe has been very good. I expect to bring out second edition by early next year. Infact, when I started writing , I had kept my expectation low . I believed the book would sell to people in Assam and Assamese settled elsewhere in India. Apart from this, the Chhatrapati Shivaji mention would help sell the book in Maharashtra.
But I am pleasantly surprised that I was proved totally wrong. People from every part of the country have got interested in the book , purchased it and liked it. The aim was to introduce Lachit Barphukan as a nationally important person, and I am glad people from everywhere found the book interesting.
6. What is the biggest takeaway for anyone who wants to read Brahmaputra – The Story of Lachit Barphukan ?
It will help readers know more about this entirely unknown hero from Assam. Our knowledge about this region of the country is very low, almost none. Lachit Barphukan’s story is very inspirational and should be known to more people. In turn this will increase awareness about the North East of the country.
7. How long did it take for you to complete the novel? Any interesting incident that you would like to share?
I reckon it took me around three years to finish this book. From the time I started thinking of the book to when it was published. Here I would like to thank my fiancée – Pranati Deshpande , without whose help the book would not have come out by Sept 2015 and I would have been waiting a further six months (till I returned from my sailing contract)
Well, the entire trip to Guwahati was memorable, but one event will stay with me.
There is a place called Lachit garh near the city. It is the remnants of an embankment built during Lachit Barphukan’s time. Currently National Highway 37 cuts through it. Well, there is no board or anything to suggest what the place is about – except the name of a one storey school built on top of this embankment – called Lachitgarh high school. I managed to meet the principal – who was very happy to hear that a guy from Maharashtra was writing a book on Lachit Barphukan ! He also confirmed that the embankment was very old. We had a nice 15 – 20 minute chat about Lachit Barphukan. Little incidences like these and help rendered by people I had never met before in my life played a big part in making Brahmaputra a success.
8. What is your take on the sorry state of affairs pertaining to history that is being taught in our country, that has no mention of such great empires (Maratha / Ahom) & their heroes?
Well it is sad. It is in fact worrisome that we do not know anything at all about the history of not just the North East but also Orissa , Tamil Nadu or even the Maratha Empire. A positive view of history, which inspires people should be nurtured, because otherwise the thread that joins us to the distant past as also joins us to each other culturally will one day break.
9. Where is the book available – online and retail?
This book – ‘ Brahmaputra’ is available online on Flipkart.
Also offline at Majestic Book shop, Dadar, Mumbai and Warsaa Shop , Shaniwarwada , Pune
Readers can also directly purchase from me.
10. As a person of multiple skills , how do you manage your time to excel in all?
Thanks for the compliment first of all . Well, I avoid doing any writing when onboard a ship. I believe that allows me to fully focus on job at hand. I limit myself to light reading relevant to book (if and when I get the time). And when back home, I concentrate on the writing part.
11. Have you ever encountered writers block? If yes, how have you dealt with it?
Well , I have not really got into writer’s block as such – meaning not knowing what to write next. Perhaps that is because I have a very haphazard way of writing. I am not a person who decides to devote 2 hours everyday to writing and keeps up with the schedule. I tend to write for 8 – 10 hours at a stretch , then take a break from writing for next few days. Then another 10 hour writing stretch. My book is not written in order from 1st to last page either. Whatever I believe can be best developed at any point of time, that I write. Then later I put the jigsaw puzzle together. So, haven’t faced much of any Writer’s Block anytime.
12. Which is the next project you are working on?
Next book will be about the Maratha War of Independence. It was a 27 yr long war which destroyed the Mughal empire and laid the foundations of the Maratha Empire. Book will mainly concentrate on events during the reign of Chhatrapati Rajaram and Maharani Tarabai . The Marathas faced an army five times their size and prevailed. This part of history is almost entirely unknown outside of Maharashtra. It will be my first entirely non fiction book, without the artistic liberties or dramatization of first two books.
Once again I would like to express my sincere thanks for this interview.