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Hello and welcome to the History of India podcast. This is Series five, special episode Chalkias by the book.

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So we're about to have a series of special episodes on South India, saved perhaps the best of this season for these special episodes.

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We're going to be starting by revisiting the Sherlock empire.

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We left them, I think, last season halfway through the story. And we're going to be seeing the rise of their underlings, the Rush characters, to become a mighty empire of their own.

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But we're not quite starting that story today. To get back into the South India vibe of things, I thought we'd have a chat with someone who's been obsessed with it for years, not a historian, hopefully will manage to chat to a historian in a few episodes or so, but rather, I want to chat today to an author.

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She's written comic books and novels. She's got contribution to the famous Archie Tarcutta comic books. And now she's deep into writing a novel which is set in the early colloquia empire right about the time that we're going to pick the action off from.

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So the two of us sat down to have a chat about our shared love of the childcare empire and badami the capital, and also to wax rather too philosophical about storytelling.

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Redi. Let's go. So, Shalini, how many how many books have you written so far?

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Oh, well, I've written two military novels. I've written a lot of comics and picture books enough that I don't actually remember how many.

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Wow. I thought there was a definite no countless is the answer is a definite no.

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I just don't know.

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And the previous ones. Historical ones as well. Many of them. But there was one comic I wrote when I was working with much of that topic. So at this point, I think that I might be almost penniless since I don't like comic to cut it.

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By the way, for the guys who are living outside of the very famous comic books in India and they tell stories from History of India or mythology. It's a huge collection.

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Yes. So I did I did a comic on Humper actually with them, a very local level. That was actually my first sort of oh, that's why I sort of keep comparing things to be because it was the first time I'd done this thing like that. I read up from what that showed up on that stage that week and look at every single thing I could puric that, that I think that was the first time I'd done that.

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How long did it take you beginning to end the whole process that you took out a little comic?

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Oh, I can't remember. But how it how it usually works with comics is that there's all the research and writing the script process, which for me would typically take about six months. And then after that, it goes through several levels of writing to the editor. They will go back and forth. Then it goes to the artists and the comic books. There's usually two stages of art. So that's the pencilling in the thinking. And bullet points, you worry about spacing, about what you references to.

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Then there's the colourist, then it goes on, then it's given to the layout guy and then you do some more editing where the lower guy comes at the end.

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I thought the layout would be done at the beginning. So, you know, kind of which panel goes to next to which panel. But it doesn't work like that. It does.

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So the sort of the artist when doing the pencilling will will do sort of page layouts. But these are very rough. I may change, it may change, and the final layout in which the text is actually placed on the image is done right to the right after everything, inn and whatnot. So there's usually one round of fairly heavy edits then mostly to make sure that speech bubbles don't cover someone's face. If that's a really spectacular scene and we don't want to put text across it, can we get rid of the text with that kind of thing?

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Right. So, yeah. So I mean, in that sense, it's a it's a sort of ongoing process because everybody involved is always spends the entire time sort of saying, oh, we have to change this, we have to change that.

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So that sounds frustrating.

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I know it's quite it's quite fun because, I mean, in a way, if you're writing a novel, it's just you and the book are not getting much. It's you're not always getting to bounce the ideas of other people. One of the things I did like about writing comics is that he was constantly bouncing ideas off someone else, right. So it's I mean, it's quite entertaining.

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And for this one, this historical novel that you're doing now, what came first?

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Was it the history or the story? You have a story. And were you looking for a part of history to put it in or did you want to write something about jockeys?

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Well, actually, I wanted to. I wanted to write about it. This particular book was originally two books. One of them was dealing with trade, something in sort of medieval thinking, sort of. So I was I was thinking about those trade guilds persisting into the modern world. Oh, wow, so a sort of history comes sci fi. No, it's fantasy. The entire thing is pure fantasy because this also talking trees and other other things.

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OK, but I wanted that I wanted that changing world to the modern world. So that was one novel I was writing and the other one I was writing involved of someone for a boy from the past popping up in the modern world. And at some point I realized, hang on, this is getting the same novel. And the other thing I realized is that the trade deal I was dealing with was what is called the holy five hundred eighty seven Wikipedia calls them that they actually call the room, which is five hundred Wikipedia, Wikipedia, for some reason, close to five hundred lots of high holy book.

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But anyway, so the trade deal that was mostly working, reading about that gate. So it seemed it seemed inevitable that my history when I watch these two novels, that my historical novel would. That my history would also come from my holy. Does the history constrain you? I do, because what you're saying is a fantasy novel, you've got talking trees and stuff. Do you worry about any historical accuracy or getting in any sort of anachronism in those?

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But I mean, one of the advantages of fantasy is that if I do do that, I'm going to need to explain it in good. I don't need to explain it in terms of history, but I need to explain it in front of the magical system of Techwood.

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But do you worry about inadvertent, inadvertently getting the history wrong, putting it into an invention that can look at times, which was only invented a few hundred years later, something I'm really worried about.

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So that's partly why I'm doing so much research for it, which is, I mean, inventions, but also Ford general attitudes, all of that. And this is the kind of thing you can't really type into J-Star and find ourselves feel so right.

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You need to know it all and then you can still it. It's weird, though, if you don't mind me saying it's kind of because you're feeling very free to bend the laws of nature, but you you're feeling pretty constrained. You want to get the accuracy on some of the the social history.

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But I think mostly because I want to I mean, I think the way I tend to approach writing, I like my characters to feel like they're situated somewhere. And even if that somewhere is entirely made up, it needs to have some sort of consistency.

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And so with the with the with the characters popping up from Italy, I don't I, I don't mind that everyone believes in magic, that's fine. But I want them to feel like the people who looked six hundred years ago a lot longer.

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Twelve hundred years ago on the way to do that is, by the way, to get that consistency isn't by making things clear in your head, is by getting that consistency from outside. I think the historical facts.

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But here's the thing. I don't necessarily use all the historical facts. I mean, I don't particularly want to either. But I want though. I mean, it's what it's what fantasy titles in the world building needs to be consistent. It doesn't have to be entirely accurate. But within the rules that you've set for that would. It needs to be consistent. So if you're saying this is a world which is say it looks at gender and within that your characters must be consistent to that setting.

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Does that make sense? Yeah, so this is sort of the history is sort of it's like I feel like I need to know what it's actually like before I then start changing the rules. Do you think it's it's just more generally it's useful for our society in India right now to have these historical novels?

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There's quite a lot around, right, that comes around. Not so many, I think, in the children's young adult space, but.

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Yeah. Oh, I don't know. I mean, it's someone who needs a lot of but escapist books. I like them. Right. So I like I like the kind of book that takes you elsewhere and time and space and, you know, entirely fantasy. So for some reason I find it, I read it. I find it more satisfying to have a well crafted world. But I'm reading history to write fiction. I think a lot of the kinds of information I want to make at that time period come alive are not what shows up in history books.

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So. So what sort of things are you reading that you're ignoring and what sort of things you wanting to read become find out in history?

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But what I want to read and can't find is what I in an ideal world, there would be about four hundred biographies of very, very ordinary people sort of sitting around during the challenges, you know, and how many are there not.

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But that's what I'd like. I want I want all the everyday sort of jobs. I want people who are farming. I want people who are trading. Because I tell you the inconvenient truth, the fascinating things, I will you I want the people who would possibly want the people who are just sort of loafing around, not really doing anything with their lives. I want to I want stories for those people. And I'm finding it quite hard, actually, to look at that.

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So your book is the main character in your book, Creations of your Own.

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Is that right? Everybody is entirely made up, but one of the characters is sort of transported from the bottom. I look up to the modern world. OK. All right, and we have a lot of flashbacks because he's I mean, he's he's I don't want to ruin the plot partly because it'll probably it'll change my life in the ghetto in the next year or so while I finish writing the book, supposedly pretty widely. But he does have to sort of keep popping back and forth between the time line.

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So. OK, so but when when he's popping back, do you have a definite idea of exactly when he is in this king's reign in this part of the empire?

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Yes, it's very. So which king is it? What date is it?

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He's popping back to what date it is he's popping back to. Is, though, is the sort of bloody period between when I don't know how, how, how.

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I mean, you want me to explain about the.

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Yeah, go ahead. Yeah. OK, so.

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So the bottom is all chaos, particularly the only ones. There's not too much of a historical record. But what there is this is, is that there is the better story, which caught my attention and I think has got a lot of people's attention over the years because essentially. Right. So right. For King, aged 15 or 16 is has his throne usurped by his evil. That we all know the standard like standard figures and all good works of literature, and then this sort of some kind of thing that happens and they're all very sort of coy about it.

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But there's some kind of civil war that happens that eventually rightful heir to the throne. The second becomes the king and the evil empire disappears. From the historical record, so there's this interesting little tidbit. We know that there's probably an enormous amount of politicking going on and we know that various people, factions are gathering, that means getting things together, et cetera, but we don't actually have the record profit. So, yes, so my main character sort of showing up from the.

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And he's getting involved in political events, so that's just a backdrop. So this is one of the things I haven't decided actually, in part of me wants my main character to be when it eventually ends up being for the second part of me wants him to be a random guard at the palace who's just. They don't find themselves in the middle of war and sort of ill prepared. So, yeah, it's it's weird, isn't it? Because you get with the Kings, you get that sort of bare bones of a story and you think, oh, that would be nice to flesh out.

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But on the other hand, there's something a little bit funny about that. And it's also quite nice. I'm with you. I really love the history of everyday folk. Yes.

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And in fact, like my favorite bit of look at his Spidey does not in fact, some bother me. I don't know if you've read this. You've read about this guy, but one of the Kalyani, Sherlock Holmes, Schwitters or something like two or four of them write a book, a way that's sort of book about his life, which is the really lovely thing about it, is how much he talks about food. And in a weird way, I think that that's what really and even though he's actually quite removed from the chaos by at least a couple of hundred years, I think he hits his, you know.

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Oh, yes. And I like my daddy. Like I like I like somebody is in a weird way, much more relatable than if you're just being cool. Oh, yes. Evil uncle. Oh, yes. I will add that stuff.

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Yeah. So that's that's a person you almost meeting. Right, exactly.

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You've actually been to Benami, right? Yes, I was recently I went over the winter break, so.

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And that was your first time you managed to go? Yes.

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So I I think you're sort of getting up and going, oh, I should go, but I never got around to it. But this winter, I finally went and I went, in fact, accompanied by an enormous amount of books because I wanted to take everything there and look at it was a proper academic just just traveling around with a suitcase of 90 percent books and about three changes of clothes.

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But no, I because I've been reading so much about all these all these places, so I really wanted to see them in that context.

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So, yeah. And what was it? What was it like?

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Oh well, I mean, I don't know if you noticed this, but for me the thing that really stood out was I took the train and the you know, suddenly the train sort of this is the landscape changes because till then, not Connecticuts kind of thing. And then suddenly there's this violent red sandstone cliffs. And the. And I think the thing that I was really surprised by the first time I went in was how small the Malapropos Valley actually is, right.

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That did it.

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Did you feel that it's the center of this empire, but it's like a a tiny village area.

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Yes. And like, when you're standing in Badami, you can see either end of the valley. Yeah, that's easily cliff on the side. That's it. Yeah. So I was I was I mean, I think one of the things that did change drastically for my book was when I actually went there and realized how close everything was to everything else. So you're walking around and are you sort of imagining your characters going around or you kind of getting a sense of the smell of the place?

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What are you what are you getting from your visit that you didn't have when you came?

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Oh, see, I'm getting a sort of feeling for the landscape, which is something like for me, I like I find it hard to imagine some other story if I don't have a feel for what the space is like. And as soon as this was done, I was suddenly imagining everything, because now you have the cliff sort of looming around the edge of your vision all the time, and the world is also much tinier than I imagined. Yeah.

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And the other thing I Hullett says that it's the kind of building activity going around that is not actually very different from such. So this is such a pool, Bangalor, which is the fastest growing part of my goal, right.

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So like I mean, if you look at the way that millions of tiny, tiny, also very, very ambitious and giant temple complexes are just cropping out all over the place like weeds and, you know, a little bit of people sort of look at it and my God, this is like the good stuff.

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But it's a bit such a it was kind of such a pose, not a I love it, but it's not a beautiful place. Right.

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I mean, let's set up a little bit of much more, let's say, with more religion. And I think of much more of its poetic idea of what it wanted to be.

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Did you go you went up to that Djenne temple on top of the hill. That was actually that was that was actually the one thing I really wanted to see.

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If that's the that's the inscription from which we know we get most of our information about the McShay sort of beaded landscapes, gorgeous, huge rocks, tiny shrubs, not too much else, a lot of undergrowth, but I know too many, you know, sort of large trees. The steps up the hill, so the first place to step stop, and you probably remember this is an old Buddhist temple. Mmm, very beautiful, but I mean. Particularly compared to the sort of profusion of temples at the base of this, I mean, this is much older and also much.

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Stocco, if that's the correct word I want. OK, so we're in the Buddhists, the Buddhist temple, and then and then we're halfway up the hill, right, to take us take us all the way, take us home.

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Then you just walk up and it's not like everything else. When when I first went about the mega temple on top of a hill and I was imagining a large hill, I was imagining something of massive, but again, not so much. So I think it was maybe another five or ten minutes from there to the top of the hill, possibly less most crowded borak. And on top, it sort of flattened out. This is the wolf of the the old fort, but I get I think not at all.

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I think it's a subsequent, though, so that's sort of foot walls all over the place. And at the center of it, it's still Jane. So, though, as you probably know, the temple is sort of interesting because it's set up not by the Kings, but by but by the point. Right. So his name is Keep and he seems to have been the one who commissioned this particular temple. And of course, when I went to a lot of the temple was it was very bad in that I think a lot of the carvings and sculptures that but inside had been the museum.

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So give you two, but I think you went a little earlier than I did. Yeah, it is oddly there you see quite a lot, Jen Devils in the south, are they right? Because quite a few of them have been had stuff taken out of them. There was there was the odd statue in the within the Wall Edwarda area.

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Yes, but not much, because I am if I think I did see a couple of statues in the museum which had been removed from this particular temple. Yeah, I have to confess, I found it hard to imagine coming there to worship is it's quite spectacular. You come on top of that hill and you can see all the way down the valley and you can see the clouds rolling in. It's a spectacular landscape. I couldn't for some reason, maybe because the temple was so so you could have emptied.

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It was hard to imagine people coming there for worship.

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I mean, I also found the temple sort of oddly, but I think there was one little stone and sort of left left over and there was a couple of and maybe an alley, but a lot of a lot of I think what was originally there had been either destroyed or removed. Yeah. The one thing that had been so though, the inscription that everyone comes up there to see had been, I think probably by the I've given a little sort of a little a little cement covering to protect it from the elements.

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But that was it. Yeah, did you find it underwhelming then you'd been building up to this for quite a while, right? I know. Mostly because. Mostly because. After that, I was sort of wandering around along the walls and looking out, and it's it's very lovely. I like you can all the all the local suits and swallows sort of swooping in and out. It's you you can see the river flow along through the valley. You can see everything sort of laid out in front of you.

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So, no, I was not disappointed at all. I found it very lucky. I was it was a bit of an anticlimax, climbing, always shouting. No, not at all, it was, but we were extremely lucky when when when we were climbing up, this huge storm was rolling in.

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It was, I think, the biggest storm in 10 years. Then you could see the lightning strikes coming in.

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The wind was up. It couldn't have been more dramatic. And then you get this walled compound at the top of this area that you've been reading about. And you can see the whole, you know, the sun kind of retreat in the darkness come in. And the crews were were were crying. And it was it was about as cinematic a moment as I have lived in.

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I'd say no. The view from that is absolutely wonderful that you can see the entire valley sort of out in front of it.

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And we saw the storm, the storm clouds, kind of the dark there's to of rolling into the valley from the north, kind of darkening that end of the valley all the way heading towards Badami.

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Yeah. I mean, I only thought, like, I if I if my belief system went the way of building temples, that's exactly the kind of spot I fixed.

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And so I wanted to share a bit about the temple is in Badami as well. And maybe just briefly about the flat.

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So you got the place where most of the tourists, most tourists go. Is those those four temples on one side of the cliffs of Adamec?

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Yes, the cave kibbutz. Yes, I was wondering, did you say one of them, if I remember one of them is Vishnu, right? Two of them as and one of them is Jen. Yes. Did you get a sense the difference between the caves where they did have a different mood because of the different religious backgrounds?

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I'm actually not so much, which is I thought in some ways style wise, they were both similar. Yeah, I mean, the sort of feeling I got from them was not actually very different. I thought the way they looked, the way they'd look, the storm wasn't very different. I will say that when we went to the Hindu temple, so much more crowded than the Ginko because that that one right to the gate, you have to climb a little more.

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It's the fault of the cities. So that's right. So that one was much more so in that sense. It was very peaceful because we sort of had it to ourselves when we went in. Because I was I was hoping to find a sense of the different communities who are living it, Badami, there's a little bit of evidence, I think that they were slightly separated out.

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I know that would would not go that far, but some of the monuments in the area seem to be a little bit separated out by religion. But I when I went to those caves and like you, I didn't feel any huge sense of difference there. Not now, anyway.

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Look now of the the the Hindu ones of Busia. Yeah.

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You say I mean, also, I think it's an existing Hindu, one of the first ones you see when you climb up.

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And they I mean when we, when people sort of see the crowd petered out through the caves. So the first camp was crowded, has had the second and third caves were less so. And I think what cave was automatically sort of MPL. Yeah, also, the lower caves have got the more famous carvings, right, to give that that big nasima. You mean just as you are coming up? Yeah. What did you think about the other cliff on the other side of that was that was actually, I think, possibly my favorite walk in Badami, which is we kept it for the last day because we wanted to have lots of time to do it.

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So you sort of go behind the museum and then you climb upwards into these two temples. I think all the lower and upper echelons. And those were absolutely gorgeous and in terrible shape. So then they sort of smashed to bits and lots of places. But I mean, there's something very attractive about the idea of someone going all the way, climbing all the way up and building these sort of precariously perched temples on the on the ends of cliffs. So I love them.

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Yeah, it's slightly the way that the path is higgledy-piggledy use of terms, and I can't see where it's going and and and the table is so high above you initially and then you come up to them. I love the granaries.

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Strangely, yes. The two huge stories.

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And they were also very strange looking for such a different shape from everything else that. Mm. Yeah, and. There's also, I think one of the temples also has a sort of little I'm guessing maybe an old quarry or something, but it has a little rock pool in front of it. And I think it was one of the complaints, it was on top of the Hill. Yes. Oh, yeah, it's good that it's quite a small pool, but it's it's it's nice.

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It's I mean, the whole sort of climbing up to get to the temple, like, I sort of see the. Yeah, it felt more lived-in to me, yes, that side of the cliff. You can imagine people going around there. Yes. And there was a couple of other smaller things also, if I remember correctly, so they were the two big one, a big Charlier campus, but I think there was one more. Yeah, this there's a couple of small ones and there's what I think supposed to be some sort of palace colonnade, but they're not quite sure.

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Right. And then there's a Sufi small Sufi shrine with some sign on top.

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You have to walk across from there. So, yeah. So it feels sort of it feels sort of like this. Like you'd imagine that this was probably a very busy area back in the day. Yeah, it's more lifted and I guess more continuously lived in this more recent fortifications to the. So there's some economic thing, isn't it? Is it that reason?

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It was definitely pretty recent.

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Yeah, no, maybe not. But something that I feel like there was a there was a bit which actually looked like someone had of the doubt cemented it out. Yeah.

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Right on that overlooking bit backing away from that the UK when you go to that end of the hill they've sort of cemented it up the walls and so on.

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So yeah. Yeah, do you like that, do you like it when it's kind of lived in continuously? I think I love it. It's my favorite thing about it. I mean, it it's it's it was one of my favorite things about that whole area, which is everything is sort of layers and layers of people living there forever. Coming from I mean, that's something that you get Iulia a lot to the people who were living there and are right next to the temple.

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I mean, we didn't you could touch their house and the temple at the same time quite often.

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Well, actually, living within the some of the more broken down temple structures, I think, than right on their own on the outskirts, away from the main group.

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Yes.

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Is something which I did like. You could see that there will be people who just sort of cordoned off a bit of something or structured and said, OK, this is.

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Yeah. You get the same Humvee, I guess, although I wasn't supposed to happen.

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So for a Westerner, I think it was always in the West.

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It's a little bit there's some part of me that goes, oh, hang on, this is supposed to be protected and this is history.

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What are you doing here? It's sort of antihuman approach, but you're not like that for you.

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It's just pure. That's the way it should be. We're living in amongst it. That's pretty awesome.

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I mean, part of me was most likely I mean, you know, but I was slightly upset that you I mean, you could see that there were also modern structures which were built with the stone from old temples. Yeah. There's lots of like looking temples and stuff, again, particularly away from the main temple groups, which are clearly built with stone that's being taken from the from and from like all the probably ancient structure. So. I mean, not that kind of gave you pause to yeah, it's not so great if it did give me pause, but also you can see why it happened.

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Yes. I mean, however, however fancy, though, of the irony of it was essentially, I think now it's it's it's a bit of a backwater. Yeah, for sure, it's definitely got that feel to it. There's nothing like Humpy, which is you've got a completely different feel. It just feels like a center thumping.

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I mean, we feels fairly open, in fact, which which is odd given that it's in the middle of nowhere. But it does.

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Yeah. The derby has this sort of faded once, was the center that long ago feel to it? Yeah, it is charming, though.

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That's got a definite charm to it as a visitor. No, it's very charming.

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It's it's lovely. But I mean, this that slight feeling of that this is like slippage in time that happens when you go in. Isn't it the slip? Yeah, so what's the difference between going to somewhere where you've done all of this historical research and going just just flat without any and just reading the notes on the monuments, but nothing more?

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What more do you get out of it?

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Oh, but I mean, for me, this is it's enormously satisfying to show up with four hundred pages of things I want to look at, mostly because in a way it it makes the space visual to you.

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Right. Because you have you have all the context figured out. You have the it's I suppose it's the difference between reading a novel and reading. Someone's not for a novel. So it's a reading that we didn't know is when you've done the historical research. Yes, because you know who the characters are, you know sort of what's going to happen, you know, which are the bits of something that you find particularly interesting might have taken place. So it's about imagination for you.

[00:35:19]

Yes, that's that's what that's what the historical research gives you. Exactly that. It gives me this. Feeling of, OK, so the space is connected to the story, which which I think I like, I need to do the research before visiting. I see eye, I eye, I also find that it makes a huge difference doing the research. I always do it now, but but I wouldn't say it's about the nation. It's more it gives you right about the context thing.

[00:35:48]

Knowing the context gives a lot more. But what it gives to me is the sort of emotional attachment or I get more of what you might call this the smell of the culture, if you know what I mean.

[00:35:58]

No, I mean, I actually I think that that's also I think which is if I've already read that this temple was that was sadly slashed in India during this battle, then I'm sort of going in, going, oh, there you are. What about the fact that, you know, that that attitude accompanying thing?

[00:36:19]

Right.

[00:36:20]

It actually changes what you see and not in a kind of fuzzy, clever humanities professor kind of way. You actually see different things and you see it as different things. You see it as a as a destroyed temple, as a loss to people who were living there instead of seeing it as a aruan. It's a bit of a different thing, but I think you see that also.

[00:36:40]

But I think I think the difference that seeing it in person me is that then you're not just seeing it as the lost temple. You're seeing it as a part of this whole network of temples. People cave, people scratched from the cave. Or one of my absolute favorite things in Badami was I don't know if you noticed a lot of the cave temples had sort of scratches on top. I didn't see that they do.

[00:37:09]

You mean inside the cave? On the roof.

[00:37:11]

Just outside the cave of over the.

[00:37:14]

Oh, yeah. Yeah. All right. OK, yeah. Tell us about the scratches.

[00:37:17]

And they were the attendance record for the workmen who built the temple. Huh? That's right. And and that's the kind of thing that I think I didn't I didn't see that in a book.

[00:37:33]

I mean, that's what you turn up. And just to say you've turned up, you make a strike through that bad bit of rock up there.

[00:37:39]

Hey, I'm here today. It's a it's your attendance.

[00:37:42]

It's OK. I've shown up. I worked. I work today. Please give me my cash marks.

[00:37:50]

And I think this is the kind of thing that no amount of pleading or expectation really prepares you for that, because, sure, it's a lost tempo of civilization, but also some very, very cute things. I mean, our students are still doing more or less the same thing to. Take those Ashoke bankbooks a bunker did a retelling of the Ramayana, and it might be relevant for your case too, because they were presented as fantasy. And at least in the West, I think it was Penguin, the publisher.

[00:38:32]

I mean, the books even presented very clearly a sympathy, not so much as. That's right. He didn't like it, right? He was a banker, was not too happy with that presentation of it. Yeah, he thought, no, this is part of our culture has a different role than just a sort of fantastical story. So there's all this kind of politics going on in the background.

[00:38:55]

And I'm just reading it and enjoying it and not wanting to have to think about that.

[00:39:00]

Maybe it's a literature person, the professor. You think more about that stuff. I mean, do you is that is that what you think about when you're not writing, when you're when you're teaching or you're researching your your academic work? I mean, I think yes.

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Because I mean, the way I see literature, it's always embedded in its its historical position. So you can't you can't really analyze it, interpret and deal with it without taking that that into consideration. And I think I mean, and this is something that I realized five years, 10 years after I've written books, which is that they were really products of something I was thinking about at the time, even if I if they weren't deliberately written in that fashion.

[00:39:50]

So you weren't conscious of it then? Are you conscious of it now when you write some? But I am willing to believe that when I finish the book, I was kind of shoved in all kinds of things that possibly I wasn't trying to shove in and possibly, possibly exactly the opposite of what I want to show in. So I don't know. And uncomfortable questions, how about you writing about the challenges of what you're doing, a sort of. You're you're you're sticking to facts, aren't you?

[00:40:22]

So it's yeah, it's not I don't know, I mean, it's is very difficult, isn't it, because, yeah, when I when I tell a story, it's historical, but it's a narrative still.

[00:40:31]

And you're filling some of the gaps and you're making guesses and you're trying to find out the character by these descriptions or the archaeological remains. And you have to extrapolate a bit.

[00:40:44]

Do you think, by the way, that's what historians do sometimes and definitely archaeologists. Some science is storytelling in a way. That's how science works. There are deeper questions there. Is it just that reimposing stories on reality that aren't really there? Well, you can think of your own life, even your own life.

[00:41:05]

You tell stories about you tell stories about what you did last week. How true is it? Well, it's not altogether clear that lives are the sort of things that could even be stories so could even tell stories about you say I wanted to go and have a walk. So I went out and I had a walk and then I got into trouble for walking in the wrong place. But he'd actually go back and maybe your motivations were not really clear enough.

[00:41:29]

You didn't have a clear motivation. Even something simple like that doesn't really bear the weight of the story that you tell about it only a few days later.

[00:41:36]

So there's always some artifice about this, even though it seems to be the only way that we can get at the historical facts.

[00:41:41]

Yeah, so, yeah. So there's a bit of storytelling going on. I think it's the only way to understand the world somewhere. Deep down, I want to believe that it's not only the only way that we can do it, it's also correct. There's also also something fundamentally right about that way.

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But I think we're getting maybe way too philosophical for history because we're a hair's breadth away from Immanuel Kant. So it's always a good place to stop yourself.

[00:42:13]

But what I think about this, which is that I mean, that's someone who deals with literature and all that and what they did in jobs, I, I find that storytelling is probably the easiest way to make sense of anything, so. I think that's not option, I think. Yeah, I think is actually true even in physical science, which is my day job, I try and work out how scientists think.

[00:42:39]

Yeah, maybe that's a that's a very rough way of putting it.

[00:42:43]

Anyway, a couple more quick questions. So what do you think of these retellings of the the Rianna or the Mahabharat from different angles taking on different characters?

[00:42:57]

So here's the thing about about 10 years ago, I had a phase where I read every single one I could get my hands on and I continue to find them interesting. But, oh, I don't know, for some reason, I I can't see myself fighting one of those. I'm not sure why. But. Because because I do enjoy them, sometimes I get a specific one Bushmen's that I do like very much and I don't do a lot. But and, you know, every few years, I probably my my favorite version of them.

[00:43:40]

How about it or something? But I don't know. I like I'm I'm always a bit unsure whether they should be classified as fantasy or as my call or what. That's the problem. Yeah, yeah, OK, last questions on a softball, so I don't know if it is, we find out. So what what would you do next if you had to if you had to pick a time and a place to set your next story now, what would you choose?

[00:44:15]

Oh, that's that's really hard, but I hear one of the things I do want to eat is, though, the Chilean navy. Oh, yeah, because they're going all over the place and they just I'm picking all over the Indian Ocean. And then they did the fascinating story of a sailor going out to Java or something like that. Exactly that.

[00:44:41]

I want to I want to sort of swashbuckler and I would like someone else to write this. I would read it and enjoy it, but I want to sort of swashbucklers set in the challenge.

[00:44:51]

So I got this sense that we don't normally think of people leaving India and heading heading east and being involved in that side of things that we more think about connections to Rome if we think about people leaving India, is that right?

[00:45:08]

I mean, that's the best thing you probably read all over social media every now and then, but I think the only country that doesn't invade all countries that can that speech. I'm not I honestly not, I'm OK with social media. Right, yes, except no, actually, because the caller's a jolly well invading. All of Southeast Asia for kicks, and they're doing this in the 10th century, so so I am not just Southeast Asia. I think they're absolutely rampaging all over the place.

[00:45:47]

And and actually, they're quite fascinating because one of them still trying to conquer the Ganga, right, is conquering north India. So he's got the others are building navies and going all over the place.

[00:46:02]

And it's a and it's a and this is one of the reasons why the even the Holy Trinity, that's what really interests me.

[00:46:10]

It's still it's how we think of globalization as all of this 21st century phenomenon or whatever.

[00:46:16]

But if you read between the lines of the history, it seems to be pretty much a permanent condition. Yes, yeah, so it is always been plugged into the world. Yeah, and everyone's always been plugged into everyone else, pretty much that. So. So even our friend, she is getting visitors from China online, from Pusha and from all over the place and the train at the South End. And I don't know very much about the industry because I've been getting that much, but I think it was just all over the place.

[00:46:52]

They say they do what they have in the network and they also have an overseas network and they just. And we don't think about injured Indians like that, so I don't think about them as one of the glorious things about doing the historical research or having the novels or just going and visiting these things is you realize that basically just people, people that you meet everywhere else that did exactly as terrible as the rest of us.

[00:47:20]

And yet the past is a foreign country, but it's only a foreign country.

[00:47:24]

And you can visit foreign countries and find that people are more or less the same range of people that you meet everywhere else, you know, behind the difference in culture and language and worldview.

[00:47:35]

Exactly that. It's nice to close that gap sometimes. Yeah. Yeah, OK, great, thank thanks very much. You know, it's wonderful. Take a bite. Thanks very much to Sharone for that. I learned a lot I haven't spoken to all that many authors of historical fiction. New insights. That's it for this week. Next week, we dive into the challenges and the end and the rise of a new empire, too. I hope you've been enjoying the podcast if you have.

[00:48:16]

Well, I usually ask you to consider donating to my wife's charity, this niceto to Patrick Memorial Fund.

[00:48:22]

But much as I love saying it, there are more urgent needs nowadays, what with this and that. In fact, there's going to be a special special episode before next week, an extra one. We're going to chat some friends about what's going on in India in the much more recent past.

[00:48:42]

Wherever you are, I hope that you're safe and you well. Take care.