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This tale is offered to the memory of one William Hawkins (1575 - 1613), a brandy-drinking, Turkish-speaking seaman and adventurer who was the first Englishman to reach the court of Jahangir, the Great Moghul of India. There he delivered gifts from the new East India Company and a letter from King James proposing direct trade, then a zealously protected monopoly of Portugal. As he gradually adopted Indian ways, Hawkins became a court favorite of the Moghul, who made him a knightly Khan and eventually tried to keep him in India. After several Portuguese-instigated attempts to murder him, Hawkins attached himself for safety to a certain willful Indian Woman. The end of their story eventually became a minor legend throughout the early East India Company.
Hawksworth's mercurial relationship with the Moghul and his experiences at the Moghuls court were recreated in part from the letters and diaries of William Hawkins and those of his successor, Sir Thomas Roe. As did Brian Hawksworth, William Hawkins adopted the Indian style of life in dress and diet, much to astonishment of his European contemporaries. Brian Hawksworth love affair with Shirin was suggested by William Hawkins marriage to an Indian woman of noble descent, possibly a member of the Moghuls court, on the encouragement of Jahangir, who suspected the Jesuits of attempting to poison him and wanted his food monitored. Hawkins wife later journeyed to London, where she caused the East India Company considerable disruption over their responsibilities towards her, and eventually she returned to India. Although most of the early Englishmen in India resembled our George Elkinton far more than they did Brian Hawksworth, there was one early traveler, Thomas Combat, whose cultural and human sensibilities would not have clashed greatly with those of Brian Hawksworth at the end of his story. The sudden appearance of the bubonic plague in India was taken from the court history of the Moghul Jahangir.
Similarly, the capture of the Moghuls trading vessel by the Portuguese, intended to intimidate him and forestall an English trade agreement, and his relations closure of Jesuit missions happened essentially as described. The Jesuits were allowed to re-open their missions a few years later, but the damage was done. There seems evidence that the Portuguese did conspire to assist the forces opposing the succession of Shah Jahan, whom they justifiably feared. The Great Moghul Khan, his son Arangbar, and Arangbars primary consort, Queen Janahara had real-life counterparts.
As if India wasn't dangerous enough on its own with a drunken Moghul who allows his Persian wife and her brother, the Machiavellian Prime Minister, Nadir Sharif, to run the affairs of the nation. Hawksworth has a weakness for Indian luxuries, wine. But, in this nation of myriad plots and sub-plots, he learns that nobody is what they appear to be on the surface. Not even Brian Hawksworth. He sees both sides of the issues as he first becomes a Khan at The Moghul's court and then gets caught up in the rebellion of the charismatic Prince Japan. The book provides interesting background on Hindu, Sunni, Shiite, and Suffi religious traditions and lifestyles, not to mention a look at how Christian traditions appear to pre-colonial Indians.
In London he was given a task to go to India an to stop the monopoly of Portuguese, as well as to assure the trade agreement. It was a tiresome task for him. There his father was caught and sentenced to death by Portuguese inquisition. Though there were a few reasons which encouraged him to set up for the sail. He wanted to find those who killed his father and even if it was possible he would revenge them.
In the 21 st century it sounds to be a very cruel thing but then it was the thing which lived together with all the people in their hearts. And Brian Hawksworth was ready for it. The other reason which encouraged him was that he was captain but had no ship. All the captains had their ships but he hadnt. And suddenly he was offered to sail as a captain of two huge vessels. He might had never been given the other opportunity like that.
He loved a woman in London. Everything was rather nice until they hadnt departed. She was from a poor family but wanted very much to belong to the community of rich people. He, as a shippers captain, couldnt offer anything but promises. When she found herself a different they were not together anymore. She wasnt totally ungrateful to his earlier beloved.
It was a some kind of her merits that he was given a job but Brian Hawksworth wasnt entirely certain about it. Brian Hawksworth as a man was a very clever, beauty-loving, art-knowing person. Reading a book one would think that he has more features of a nowadays people than of his contemporaries. When he and the Moghul of India communicated, the Moghul admitted being very surprised to meet a European who is interested in art and politics but not only in having fun at inns. He knew how to play a lute. To Hindu people the European music sounded in a very strange way.
They said that its somehow no improvisation and very simple. As simple as the lute itself looked like. The Hindu musical instruments were meticulously decorated with gold and silver. Brian Hawksworth was very surprised to know that Hindu musicians never write down the notes of the music. Every time they play it in a different way keeping only to the main features of melody. Many things they choose by themselves during the performance of it referring to their mood.
He found there another woman, Shirin. She helped him in many different ways and if he hadnt her he might have died much earlier. When Brian Hawksworth was in bed terms with the Moghul of India he was deprived of all his property and told to leave India as soon as he could. He couldnt do it yet. He didnt want to leave India without Shirin so he lingered the departure. But suddenly he was attacked by soldiers and would have been probably killed if not Shirin's friends.
They helped them to escape. The story comes to the end in a very unexpected way. The main character of the book dies in a shipwreck bound to England. To me it was a very surprising thing.
I expected for a happy end. On the other hand life in that century was a fragile thing. It maybe shows how quickly the death comes to you.
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