A polymath in the Jeffersonian style, Babur cared about architecture, urban planning, gardens, trees and fresh produce. He prized one variety of plum because it was “an excellent laxative medicine.” He seized a fort with ladders and, in the next sentence, rejoiced that it was melon season. A friend brought him fresh lotus seeds, which he called “first-rate little things just like pistachios.”

Babur was more Hal than Falstaff, and he didn’t like to be around drunken fools. But when he threw a party, it was a memorable party. (“People had brought a few beast-loads of wine from Nur-valley.”) There is a very funny passage in which he admits:

“Very drunk I must have been for, when they told me next day that we had galloped loose-rein into camp, carrying torches, I could not recall it in the very least. After reaching my quarters, I vomited a good deal.”

Babur preferred the gentler highs delivered…

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