I just finished reading a couple of books. One is the third in Alex Rutherford's Empire of the Moghul series called Ruler of the World and the other is the first in Amish's Shiva Trilogy, The Immortals of Meluha. While Mughal Emperor Akbar dominated much of my imagination during the first half of last week, Amish's human-like Neelkanth has managed to find a place in my heart over the past few days.
I took to Rutherford's series because, though heavily fictionalised, it has done much more to fill in the shades of the characters of Babur, Humayun and Akbar than many history books have been able to do. And I was drawn to The Immortals of Meluha simply because of its cover - a trishul and Shiva, with his massive dreadlocks and with his back turned towards the reader that proudly displays two battle-scars on his shoulders.
The heroes in both the books are very different. One is mortal, the other's immortal. One is the first Mughal emperor to have been born in Hindustan. The other, a tribal chief from Tibet, is the one people of Hindustan had been waiting for for hundreds of years. One is impatient to take charge and conquer. The other makes for a reluctant leader. One keeps friends at bay, the other makes 'brothers' of friends. One marries to build alliances and expand his territories, the other changes the laws of the state to marry the woman he loves.
I love stories that make heroes, historical or mythological, look real. Both Akbar and Shiva bleed, cry, laugh, get angry and are entirely fallible. Both stand up to society instead of trying to conform to its laws. They worry about their people and the legacy they will leave behind. And while they are both great warriors, they believe in resolving disputes through offers of peace, instead of war. No wonder they make for great stories!