‘Koh-I-Noor – The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond’ (Bloomsbury) Book Review

Koh-I-Noor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond by William Dalrymple

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Firstly it’s interesting and perhaps partly synchronistic that I have completed this book a few months shy of the first British coronation for seventy years and the imminent installation of the first British Asian PM of the United Kingdom (October 2022).
I have always found Dalrymple’s style captivating, somehow he draws you in, making you feel a part of the narrative. Whilst this book is co authored along with Anita Anand, I do not find it upto William’s usual brilliance – but even below par, it is still a great read.
I certainly had no idea that the Mughals preferred rubies to diamonds but I understand their sensibilities. And whilst the actual history of the Koh-i-Noor is not proven prior to 1739, one does suspect that it was probably one of those previously described jewels from the earlier Mughal empire.
I did find that Anand’s section was a little less interesting, yet still perfectly readable. There is a sense (conveyed to me at least) that the Mughal/Persian invasions of the subcontinent, although equally as brutal as the British and the Company’s conquests, are somehow more ‘acceptable’ because of their greater artistic and even poetic prowess. I suppose it’s broadly similar to many historians forgiving the Normans for their brutal subjection of England from 1066, with the Harrying of the North etc, purely because they built such incredible cathedrals and brought strong government. That said, I would concede that the British rule of India was far from being a simple case of a superior culture forcing itself on to an inferior one; in many ways Indian culture was more advanced than that of the so called West.
However, this aside, I do think this book adds another important element in the understanding of Anglo Indian relations and the history of the merging of these two and more cultures.

Copyright Francis 2022



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Tarot Reading: What’s going on with the British Government?

Overall the knight of swords suggests that events are moving at a rapid pace and we’ve not seen the end of the chaos and unbelievable headlines.

In the background we have the 6 of cups: as strange as it may seem, this implies that things are actually improving behind the scenes, probably in ways we cannot see right now. I think the people certainly want an end to all this chaos.

The resolution or outcome card is the Sun: yes, it is hard to envisage right now, but this suggests that the outcome will be much brighter than virtually anyone can predict at this juncture.

Well, that’s what the cards say to me but it is a rather different outlook to what we are seeing openly in the media right now – but there you go.


Copyright Francis 2022

Serving in India 1942 to 1946 – My father-in-law’s time with Squadron 159 (Part 1)

My father-in-law is on the left.

For four years during World War II, my father-in-law served in RAF Squadron 159 in India.

We knew very little about this period of his life until the death of my mother-in-law in 2004. Soon after this he began to talk more about his experiences, firstly travelling aboard ship and being in India for four long years in various locations.

He also produced some black and white photographs in regard to his service, some of which I have included here for illustration in these several pieces.

It became a fairly common trait among servicemen on all sides after that war, and also post the Great War of 1914-18, to be reticent about their time in service, especially about describing more traumatic events. It must be remembered that back then there was little in the way of counselling after experiencing such action.

The B-24 Consolidated Liberator.

It must be said, however, that my father-in-law didn’t see active service during that time, arriving on the subcontinent at the age of twenty one. He was part of the ground crew, a critically important role for missions. They had been sent onto India in the first half of the year, before the arrival of the aircraft; the plane of choice for the long distance raids eastwards was the B-24 Consolidated Liberator, a four engine bomber produced in the United States.

The reason for the deployment of this squadron (among others) was to defend the then British Empire from Japanese incursions into south east Asia, threatening Burma and even India itself. India was strategically well placed for such operations to halt and repel this advance.


Copyright Francis 2022

USA Pluto Return, February 20 2022: It’s Drastic Times

The date of February 20 2022 marks the exact point of Pluto’s return to the place it was when the Declaration of Independence was signed at Philadelphia on July 4 1776, in late Capricorn.

Back then, the United States, primarily because of punitive British tax laws, was trying to wrestle free from the straitjacket of imperial control.

Some might suggest that right now the USA is fighting a similar battle for independence from an even more insidious controlling power, where even money, the creation of it – in fact the very nature of it – is in dispute.

Certainly, few would argue that the country is not divided, culturally and economically in a way it hasn’t been since the Civil War in the 1860s. Can a lot of this really be seen symbolised by Pluto’s return?

Bad Star

First of all, I do not believe that Pluto is a bringer of anything good. Many try to sanitise it as ‘transformative’, a force for necessarily destruction and renewal. That these are some of the symptoms of Pluto’s influence is undeniable.

However, in reality Pluto is a bad star, it can bring disaster, which is a word literally meaning ‘bad star’ in Latin. Pluto, a bit like its mythology, undermines, distorts and usually in secrecy, behind the scenes – and in a mask.

Unfortunately for the US, Pluto’s presence in the second house of finance and security, has always been and will always be, problematic. The very security of the nation has undergone many economic disasters and is experiencing another right now, along with the rest of the world, where inflation and debt are spiralling.

Drastic

And in Capricorn, which is about similarly practical, material, business and political concerns, the drastic distortions and divisions of our time have reached absurd levels, where there is seemingly no common ground left between liberals and conservatives. This is true worldwide too because Pluto’s transit through the highly political Goat has been common to all.

What is more, because Pluto represents hidden enemies and fifth columnists, it is not easy to see who you are up against. The one benefit of Pluto’s return may just be that, however; in the current exreme distortions being faced, the enemy could be revealing himself in a way not seen previously, or at least not since Independence.

There are some conditions in the US’s favour. Firstly, in the 1776 chart, Sagittarius is rising. Freedom is a word very much traditionally associated with America, and the country is going to have to reappraise what that word actually means.

Freedom

Sagittarius is the sign of freedom, ruled by the Greater Benefic, Jupiter, which in the July 4 chart is in Cancer, conjunct Venus in the 8th house of inheritance and investments. Here is the love of home, family, of being in love with the homeland and investing a lot of effort in it. It is this traditional national trait which is now being reinvigorated and will need to be, to essentially save what America is – or was?

The Sun (identity) is also nearby to Jupiter in the 1776 chart, with the fixed star Sirius in between. Sirius has a guardian-like nature and Americans are going to have to resort to this approach, this love of home, with pride, honour and committment if they are to save the traditional essence of their country in the long run.

So Pluto’s return, is in fact a window in a long process of drastic, traumatic financial and economic change, which began way back in 2008 when Pluto entered Capricorn.

Green Shoots

Pluto enters Aquarius in 2023, when we should begin to see, with some perspective, just what has been happening in recent years, and especially from 2020 to 2022, when Pluto was so close to that point of return.

And right now, there is a conjunction between Venus and Mars in Capricorn in the second house of the US chart. If ever there was a time to begin again, financially, it is now.

But the north node of the Moon in late Taurus, close to Algol the demon star, also warns us of the dangers of this time. Always proceed with caution, but we will have to wait until the spring to see true signs of those green shoots.


Copyright Francis 2022