In the 19th and 20th centuries, Iranian and Afghan intellectuals set out to excavate the Persian literary tradition in search of texts and tools to construct new identities. It was in this process that Iran imagined Ferdowsi as its national poet.
Ali Mirdrekvandi was a poorly-educated native of Lorestan who taught himself enough English to write his mystical fable, No Heaven For Gunga Din, while working at an officers’ mess in Tehran during World War II. The book tells the story of 83 American and British officers and their servant, Gunga Din, as they journey across the Milky Way in search of heaven in the year 2084.
The importance of Persian education to families living in late-nineteenth century North India is often overlooked, perhaps because colonial rhetoric in the period treated Persian as irrelevant and emphasized the English-vernacular debate in education. Nonetheless, for many Indian elites, Persian remained a vital part of a well-rounded education. Persian literacy offered access to an extra-colonial identity marker and extra-colonial forms of employment and patronage.