Early Indians

The audience seated at the Yayati stage arena on the first day of the Bangalore Literature Festival’19 were greeted by Tony Joseph, the author of the best-selling book, ‘Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From’ for a 30-minutes session alongside Chandrahas Choudhury, novelist and columnist based in New Delhi who moderated the session.


Tony spoke about the contents of his book, ‘Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From’ which is an account of the origin of modern Indians. There were varied discussions on what brings us together and on the ancestry of growth, not thought. Several questions on the disappearance of ancient civilisations of the Harappans, the Mesopotamians, etc. and whether they were our ancestors or not was also addressed. Tony’s book answers these questions and discusses these subjects in elaborate detail. He also touched upon how the Harappan civilization is known to grow naturally by agriculture and that further answers several other intertwined questions such as – ‘who were the first farmers and the first Indians?’.


He elaborately discussed three sets of migration that has great contribution in understanding the ancestry of the modern Indians and Chandrahas remarked how we were the first Indians to learn about those Indians from history Tony had written about in his book.


The session was concluded with general remarks on how geneticists in the modern times are capable of finding ancient DNA that has in turn changed our understanding of origin and brought in significant developments which in a nutshell can be explained in terms of ‘archaeology and encounter of technology’.




About the Author: Upasana Mahanta is an MA in English with Communication Studies student from CHRIST (Deemed To Be University) – Bengaluru, who firmly believes that there is nothing more exhilarating and liberating as poetry. She finds solace in writing poems and travel blogs and has amongst her laurels a 1st Prize in the English category of the All India Poetess Conference, Meghalaya Chapter’s Seventh Poetry Competition cum North East Poetry Festival. She currently writes for TheSeer.

Upcountry Tales: Once Upon a Time In The Heart of India

A conversation between Mark Tully, journalist and broadcaster who was the BBC’s Delhi correspondent for twenty years and Tony Joseph, author of the best-selling book, ‘Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From’.


Tony started the session by telling us that the nature of Mark’s writings is fictional and not reportage even though he has a deep sense of Indian culture. This set the tone for what was in store for us.
He went on to ask Mark about why he found India worthy of his stories and how he relates to all our current issues. Mark revealed to us that his Grandfather was actually born in Aurangabad and was an opium agent! This he says was his first introduction to India. It made him want to write about India, but not urban India. He chose as his subject the lives of those who live in rural India and the appalling nature of the governance and politics that affect their lives. He made no bones in expressing his opinion, being a foreigner speaking about Indian culture in an audience predominantly Indian.


Tony then quizzed him about some excerpts from his book where he spoke about life, balance, and compromise. Mark declared that he did in fact believe that life is all about balance. He remarked that we need balance between secularism and religion, if we wanted to grow as a nation. He asked what sort of a nation do we want. A Hindu one, then what kind of a Hindu one? A secular one he said, was not possible as secularism has not found a space for religion and India is a deeply religious country. He also argued that secularism is what has kept religious pluralism alive, a concept very much part of Indian culture. His opinions were balanced, presenting both cases with equal enthusiasm.


The discussion then moved towards Indian traditions as Tony asked him about his thoughts on how Indians were ignoring their own tradition to become more western. Mark answered it with a personal story of how when he once visited a communion at a Church in India, he was shocked to see a Sardarji also taking communion. He thought about how the reverse was something he had not seen in the western world, and this is what he said we needed to hold onto, what he terms as experiential religion. He said that he felt from his understanding that in India we experience God and religion and not just learn about it, and that’s what our true tradition is.


Tony then opened the floor for questions and the first one was- “Sir, your opinion on the Ayodhya Verdict?”. Mark was quick to answer, “No triumphalism please”. He said we needed to find a balance in this historic decision today and enjoy our points of commonality with everyone. That thought tied the whole session beautifully together.




About the Author: Pashmi Dutta is a reader, writer, political enthusiast. Trying to talk with ease about things that make us uneasy, she has her blog at PashmiBlog and currently writes for TheSeer.