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William Dalrymple

Delhi’s chronicler returns to his first love, writing a book on the last Mughal, Bahadur Shah Zafar.

William Dalrymple
William Dalrymple
Why Bahadur Shah Zafar?
I think his is the most extraordinary and tragic story that has been neglected by historians in both India and Pakistan.

Is this a departure from the White Mughals?
It's a sequel, actually. White Mughals was about the British love affair with India, this is about the divorce.

Are you associated with the film The Rising?
No, I just went to see the shooting and my son and daughter were roped in as extras.

Would you call yourself a popular historian?
I wriggle at that phrase. As if I am writing potboilers instead of putting in years of research.

You've become a fixture of the P3P society.
I'd say I'm a fixture at the National Archives library—one is allowed a little breather.

You've become a pucca Dilliwallah?
I'm celebrating my 20th anniversary in Delhi. The city never bores me.

How does it feel to return to Delhi as a subject after chronicling Hyderabad's past?
It's like returning to the arms of my true beloved.

Isn't language a handicap?
No, the documentation is largely in English. But I am also collaborating with a Persian expert.

Are you hamstrung by being a non-Indian?
Now it's impossible for a gora to write an Indian novel, but luckily for me, the same is not true of literary non-fiction.

What about the film on White Mughals?
HBO-BBC films have bid for the rights and Christopher Hampton (of Dangerous Liaisons) is writing the script. It will be staged in London soon, inshallah.

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