Utpal Borpujari

May 31, 2010

‘India remains a nation because of Tatya Tope and other leaders of 1857’

An engineer-MBA based in the US, an MD in Anesthesia based in Delhi, a psychologist, a software engineer, a Navy-official-turned-teacher and many others from the scattered Tope family joined hands to find out the truth about one of their forefathers, and one of the foremost heroes of the First War for Freedom in 1857, Tatya Tope. The result is Operation Red Lotus (Rupa & Co), a voluminous account of Tope’s valour, based on meticulous research, including that of previously-not-accessed historical documents. Parag Tope, the US-based engineer-MBA, has written the engrossing book that deflates the accepted history that Tope was hanged by the British in Shivpuri in Madhya Pradesh in 1859, and says that in reality he was killed in action a few months prior to that. Tope discusses Tatya, history writing in India and the book with Deccan Herald’s Utpal Borpujari:

Why did you decide to take up the research?

The stories of Tatya Tope and 1857 that we heard growing up had little coherence with what was “officially” taught to us or written as history.  This gap remained in the back of my mind.  I use to often discuss history with my siblings whenever we met.  History was a hobby, a passion.  In 2006, my sister, Rupa (the psychologist), read in the newspapers about the books that were planned to be released in 2007, the Sesquicentennial of 1857.  She wondered if the same old tired story was going to be retold, and asked me to write this book.

Several members of the current Tope family carried out the research. How difficult was the process?

The process was tedious – in terms of locating information, but not manageable. Rajesh (the doctor), my brother, for example came across the existence of these never before translated Urdu letters written to Tatya Tope. This needed traveling to Shivpuri, Bhopal, etc. We also traveled to various other towns and cities.  While it was tedious, we saw it as an opportunity to reunite the scattered Tope family.  There was a gathering of all the Topes from far flung places in April 2007 in Shivpuri.  The difficulty was not in research – it was in coming to terms with a jaundiced history written by Indian historians claiming to be objective.

What are the most significant and unknown aspect of Tatiya Tope that you unearthed during the research?

The biggest find about Tatya Tope the person was an eye-witness account of Tatya Tope’s death in the battlefields of Chhipa Barod at 6:30 AM on January 1, 1859, by Major Paget, and English artillery officer, months before he was supposed to have been hanged as per history books.

Does the contrast between what your research threw up and what is contained in the known history reaffirm your argument that Indian history, especially that of the 1857 war, needs significant reassessment?

Absolutely.  I recognise that history is always written with an agenda.  The primary problem with the historiography of 1857 is not the rigour or aptitude of those wrote it – but their attitude and predetermination, which betrays an agenda.  While we did unearth new content, our reassessment was in the context.  A reassessment of 1857 needed to be done without the “feudal” agenda or the “mutiny” prism or without the “sub-altern” or “armed peasant” obsessions.  Clearly we had an agenda as well which was to close the gap between what we had “heard” of as history and what was being “told” to us as history. 

Do you feel Indian historians have faulted by largely following the English history and not carrying out their own original research into the 1857 war?

There has been plenty of research on 1857, including what would be considered “new” research.  The problem lies not in the research and the aptitude of the work, but the tone and the attitude of the scholars.  Semantics also changed.  The “Oriental Despot” became the “Feudal.”  Words such as “dotard”, “wicked”, “worthless”, “vexatious”, “petty”, “ill tempered” were used freely to describe Indian leaders.  Hardly scholarly.  The “mutiny” paradigm changed to a “civil rebellion” or an “armed peasant” to force fit 1857 into Karl Marx’s ideas.  The “sub-altern” view of 1857 forced a narrow and emotional view on 1857 to transform the “mutiny” into a “religious” war.  Historiography of 1857 remained a collection of incoherent and incomplete and illogical presentation of the events. 

The current generation is hardly interested in knowing about past heroes like Tatya Tope, except in what they require to know as part of their educational curricula. Comment.

Indian history particularly that of 1857, that is taught in schools is built on a foundation of a false paradigm that punishes the mind and demotivates those who are exposed to it.  Tatya Tope is mentioned as a hero, but none of his stories are consistent with the label.  Operation Red Lotus demonstrates that India, today, remains a nation because of the leaders of 1857 and Tatya Tope, especially his resurgent campaign during late 1858 that revived the spirit of freedom.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 30-05-2010)


Epic story of ‘Life’

Filed under: Deccan Herald,Environment,Media,TV,Wildlife — Utpal Borpujari @ 2:26 pm
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By Utpal Borpujari

A male humpback whale’s mating battle, called the “heat run”, from beginning to end; Komodo dragons bringing down an animal ten times their size in a real-life drama lasting over two weeks; a pebble toad rolling down a mountain, bouncing like a rubber ball, to escape a tarantula; the bizarre mating ritual of the elusive Vogelkop bowerbird found in the deep forests of New Guinea; an astonishing night scene showing massive numbers of Humboldt squids shunting cooperatively for sardines; and the entire growing season in a woodland filmed in one shot, utilizing time lapse. These are some of the never-before-seen images from the natural world, that will come alive on your TV screens, courtesy Discovery Channel.

The images are part of 130 incredible stories of nature, shot across seven continents in a period spanning over 3,000 days, for an epic series called “LIFE”, which will air at 8 p.m. from May 24 for two weeks, followed by a repeat airing from June 12. Introduced by the inimitable David Attenborough, the series captures what the channel describes as the most spectacular and fascinating behaviours that living creatures have devised in order to thrive. “Many of these have been captured for the first time using the latest in state-of-the-art high-definition filming techniques,” says Discovery Networks Asia Pacific’s India general manager Rahul Johri.

The filmmakers involved in the project, reflecting its epic proportions, even developed ingenious methods for capturing breathtaking images, such as the ‘Yogi Cam’ which allowed a camera to track smoothly alongside migrating reindeer and elephants. Intricate cable rigging was employed to enable the crew to ‘fly’ a camera through thousands of monarch butterflies in Mexico, providing a unique “butterfly-eye” perspective. “ ‘LIFE’ brings some of the most incredible stories ever caught on camera and highlights the efforts of men and women who spent days, weeks and months patiently waiting for a perfect shot,” says Johri.

“LIFE” will launch with a premiere episode, titled “Challenges of Life”, which will provide an overview of the series. The main episodes are “Reptiles and Amphibians”, “Mammals”, “Fish”, “Birds”, “Insects”, “Hunters and Hunted”, “Creatures of the Deep”, “Plants” and “Primates” – practically every living being.  

The series will have some breathtaking visuals, in trademark Discovery Channel style. For example, we will see three cheetah “brothers” hunting as a team, stalking and bringing down an ostrich twice their size, as also the spectacle in Brazil of brown-tufted capuchin monkeys demonstrating an extraordinary level of skill and perseverance to crack open the palm nuts they love to eat. The monkeys pick the nuts, strip them of their husks and leave them to dry. After a few weeks they transport them to a huge anvil-like rock and smash them with a harder hammer stone. Then there are dolphins filmed from the air as they go “mudringing”, or creating circles of mud to entrap fish, and killer whales working as a team to hunt seals in Antarctica, filmed from the air and sea.

In one of the heartwarming sequences in the series, viewers will witness how an elephant grandmother shoves her inexperienced daughter aside to pull her newborn granddaughter out of the mud and save her life. The episode on mammals, which has this sequence, also shows the migration of ten million fruit bats to one giant mega-roost in Zambia, a massive colony only recently discovered by scientists, and possibly the largest congregation of polar bears which are seen feeding on a huge whale carcass even while confronting one another.

The high-end technology used in filming of the series has enabled its makers to even film, in super high-speed, flying fish laying eggs on a bit of flotsam on the open sea and the flying out of the water. The episode on fish has other tantalising visuals like those of tiny gobies in Hawaii climbing 400-feet-high waterfalls to lay their eggs in safe pools, and sailfish, the fastest fish in the sea, attempting to pluck a single fish out of a baitball, again filmed at super high-speed as also were visuals of the spatule-tail hummingbird courtship display.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 30-05-2010)


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