Nothing new happened in the second last week of 2016. Some expected outrage on the name of the newborn child of a celebrated Bollywood couple on Twitter and some expected counter by the intelligentsia. In the times of tools like Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit only a screen lock away from the fingers of a modern human, a show of emotions on the religious, racial, and personal level should be expected. Virtual mass movements are a reality in 2016 and we see humans rallying behind a single motive every day. (Oh, Gandhi would be so impressed!) This facility to humans of the 21st century has no serious downfalls but there are definitely many small-time cons like discussing the name of a one-day old child who hasn’t even opened his eyes. In fact, what else can we expect from the bourgeoisie who earns to buy better standards of living for themselves and their children? I would have had different expectations if the use of twitter was limited to those who only believe in acquiring knowledge for their personal growth and not monetary growth. But alas, our world is a human world, not a utopian world from the novels of H G Wells. The reality is I thoroughly enjoy these virtual mass movements on petty issues known as gossip for centuries (earlier with limited people and now almost every day with millions) because I know that the netizens will also come rallying behind a single motive of righteousness above their religious, racial, and political inclinations when they would be required to do so. (I am an optimist!)
But what was the name of the baby boy? Taimur Ali Khan Pataudi. I won’t lie and say I wasn’t shocked to hear the name for the first time on social media. It was mostly because I have been doing a research on the Delhi Sultanate for last 10 days under #thedelhiproject that I have undertaken for my blog, theindiansage.com. Indian historians have been pretty clear on Timur, the brutal Islamic conqueror of the world who left India (specifically regions near Lahore, Delhi, and Jammu) completely paralyzed after his barbarous 6-month pillaging streak in the winters of 1398-99 AD. The words of Satish Chandra and Abraham Eraly on Timur were still fresh in my mind when the sparks of controversy hit the one day old, may I say the youngest celebrity in the history of India.
I wondered why someone would name their offspring Timur on the second most brutal conqueror of the world, rightly after the Mongol King, Genghis Khan. After some obvious and initial outrage to the decision in my mind, tube lights and bulbs started to switch on and I finally realized it is neither your nor my decision to decide what to name the newborn son of Saif Ali Khan Pataudi and Kareena Kapoor. A name doesn’t define someone’s character, it is they themselves, their EQ and IQ levels, their hard work, their passion and achievements, and their conditioning that define their character. The name of the 16 December rapist was Ram Singh Yadav on the righteous Hindu God. Hundreds and thousands of Indians are still named after Ashoka, the murderer of millions who tried to walk on the path of peace at the end of his life. Many different Maratha kings who plundered cities of Gujarat and Bengal like they were on foreign soil can still be found in the Maratha households and beyond as young children playing with mud and clay. We still find Winston in many British households though Shashi Tharoor hasn’t shied away from calling the former British Prime Minister ‘an Ugly Briton’ and ‘an Unpleasant Scoundrel’ responsible for killings of millions of Indians during the Bengal Famine and other such disasters brought down on Indian population by Churchill. Well, what about Prithviraj Chauhan? He conquered major parts of Rajasthan and sacked many cities in his lifetime. Yes, he killed thousands of Indians and plundered loot like it has been a rule of war in the medieval times. Of course, Timur was brutal and worst of all. But does that make the others less of murderers?
In all 13 pages that Abraham Eraly dedicated to the most brutal invasion of India ever, he quoted Timur himself from his autobiography and brought to life the works of ‘Mughal’ historians like Sirhindi, Ferishta, and Nizam-Ud-din Ahmad who lived 150-200 years after the notorious Timur invasion of India. So, believe me when I say that whatever we know of Timur is biased. And this is how history should be seen. It doesn’t guarantee you of the authenticity of the knowledge it gives you, but it gives you versions whose worth is beyond the weight of gold to understand the humans of past, their actions, and the ways in which they shaped the present. Note me when I say that the purpose of history shouldn’t be to take retribution in the present.
Indeed, history is a complex read, and more so if a 21st-century historian tries to judge conquerors, emperors, and sultans of the medieval, historic and prehistoric period from the morals of the 21st century. We can’t judge Shri Ram by the number of humans he had to kill in order to win over Lanka, nor Shri Krishna by the number of people died in the Mahabharata, and neither Timur of the Turkic identity whose ancestors must have been converted to Islam hundreds of years before his birth. He was a Mongolian subject who thought of himself to be the blood of Genghis Khan and carried the flag of Islam by killing Islamists and Hindus alike. (Though he claimed to only killing Hindus, i.e. the infidels of his medieval Islamist mind)
Ask any historian and they will tell you the dystopian culture of conflicts that arose in the west and central Asia, and Northern, Western, Central and Eastern parts of India for around 400 years between 1000 and 1400s. The ‘Ghazis’ were a thing to reckon with and their passion for continuously fighting for their king, for Islam, and for Gold, made them widely successful in their raids on foreign soils. What started with the raids of Mahmud Ghazni in early 11th century never seem to have found their end. So, it isn’t like Timur suddenly had a change of heart and began to start looting cities, taking in slaves because he was a lunatic. Everyone around him was doing the same, it was the trend, a brutal and barbaric trend which must be condemned in the modern world without having two thoughts about it.
Timur’s barbaric acts are more known to us than Ghazni’s or Muizzuddin Sam’s (are considered the worst) because he was also a writer who decided to exaggerate his feats and write his own biography. People who say that Timur laid down heaps of skulls of Hindus after his conquest of Delhi in the last month of 1398 AD, say it because Timur wrote it like that in his own biography. He portrayed himself as the crusader of Islam, the blood of Genghis Khan and the killer of infidels (Hindus). I am writing it also because Nizam-Ud-din Ahmad disagrees with Timur at many times. He says Timur showed mercy to the citizens of Delhi and pardoned them. Now, it is also possible that Nizam-Ud-din Ahmad is only trying to save the image of the ancestor of Akbar in his book, Tabaat-i-Akbari.
Well, to be frank, I always hated Bakhtiyar Khalji more than the brutal Islamic conqueror, Timur. Timur did what Muizzuddin Muhammad Sam had already done, Genghis Khan had already done on a much larger scale in other parts of the world, and baby Timur must have been conditioned with their tales of their conquests. But Bakhtiyar did a new. He burnt Hindu and Buddhist libraries, the universities of Nalanda and Vikramshila. Our religious and scientific scriptures, historical records, and more literature and data burnt for days (some say for months). Well, that was an extra to killings to humans, converting them, and keeping them as slaves (though Bakhtiyar himself was a slave of Qutubuddin Aibak, who was himself a slave of Muizzuddin Sam! Gosh!). Unfortunately, it is exactly because of this action of Bakhtiyar, India was found the way it was found by British Orientalists in 18th and 19th centuries, the black slate with no knowledge of its past, heroes and villains alike.
What? Were you thinking of cursing the Parsi Indian TV Celebrity Bakhtiyar for the actions of a Bakhtiyar of the early 1200s?
In the end, the more you read history, the more you will know about people who were ahead of time in their approach and those who were blood hungry. History’s purpose is to create knowledge in a human mind out of information. It is to understand our actions in the past and to become better than who we were. The name of Saif and Kareena’s son doesn’t change a thing in the present. It was not my decision, neither was it yours, so let’s respect those who were entitled to make this decision. Let’s understand the difference between the Tamerlane of 14th century and Taimur Ali Khan Pataudi of 21st century. Let’s be the citizens of the modern and united India, where all religions of the present are respected and are allowed to practice in peace, irrespective of the unimaginable number of wars we may have fought with each other for thousands of years in the past. Oh, I was talking about the war between Puru clan and Kuru clan in the Mahabharata (Hindus vs Hindus), and the war between Tomars and Chauhans, Mauryas and Kalinga, and thousands of other wars fought on the subcontinent between different tribes for thousands of years. What matters is today we are one and we are known as India!