Monday, February 10, 2014

The Twentieth Wife - Indu Sundaresan


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The times when the position of woman is low in the society and the birth of a daughter was considered inauspicious,her dream was to become an empress of a great empire..When she was just eight years old,she thought,'why shouldn't I marry a prince ?'..When she was born as the fourth sibling in a Persian refugees family,her father Ghias Beg abandons her because of his inability to feed the little child,however fate had brought her back to her parents..Perhaps nobody would ever thought that one day,she is going to rule a powerful empire..This is the story of the most controversial queen of Mughal dynasty,Mehrunnisa (popularly known as Nur jahan)..It is a fascinating novel about a fascinating time..The book was a historical fiction,set in the period of 16th century in the reign of Akbar..This is the first novel among the 'Taj Mahal Triology' written by Indu Sundaresan,published in 2002..Later 'The feast of Roses' and 'The Shadow Princess' were published.
Copyright A Homemaker's Utopia
Coming to the story,Persian refugee Ghias Beg's family moves to Agra where he was appointed as Diwan in Akbar's court..Mehrunnisa (Sun among women) is a beautiful child,physically as well as in spirit,holds a special place in his father's heart..When she heard about prince Salim for the first time,during his wedding with Man Bai,his royal grandeur attracted her..She instantly fell in love with him and secretly yearns to marry him..Salim too fell in love with her when he met her for the first time in Zenana gardens..Besides,Salim was unhappy with his father for not passing him the throne,even he is mature enough to take over the duties of state..Further,Salim's power play and his impatience to wear the crown causes rift in the father-son relationship..Their terms got even bitter,when Jahangir attempts to poison his father..

Few lines from the book,
Akbar could see only the heat-broiled plains beyond the Yamuna river,dotted here and there with stunted trees.But somewhere out there,in the dust of the plains,its sandstone buildings decaying,lay the city of Fatepur Sikri.The city he had built for Salim.

On the flip side,Akbar commands Ghias to give Mehrunnisa's hand to an army man Ali-Quli (titled as Sher Afghan),which is complete mismatch for her in every manner..Despite of the age gap and all,she unwillingly agrees to marry him considering her father's reputation in to account..Also Salim fails to convince Akbar to stop this marriage..Mehrunnisa was only 17 years old when she married Ali Quli..For many years,the couple were childless and also their marriage proved to be a painful compromise for Mehrunnisa..Though she was married to Ali Quli,she keep thinking about Salim and starves for his sight even after her thirteen years of  marriage..Now,could their paths ever crossed again ? Already wedded for 19 times,Salim still wants to marry a 34 year mother of a girl child ? Is Mehrunnisa's love pure or selfish ?' The plot thickens further with so many twists and turns..

He had wanted her longer than he had wanted the throne.It was not just that she was beautiful woman.Beautiful women he could command at the snap of his fingers,the merest inclination of his head..He admired her fierce independence,her deep sense of self,her conviction about her actions.She scorned the rules,trod on them.


Everyone sensed that this marriage would be unusual..For the first time in his forty-two years,Jahangir had made his own choice,motivated by a charming pair of azure eyes and a bewitching smile,not by political strategy. 

Rather than seeing as a tale of love,I sense this novel as a story of two ambitious individuals,who were very passionate in chasing their dreams..Jahangir dreamed for power.He longed for the throne for 15 years..In a way Mehrunnisa wished the same..Her passion is to become an empress by marrying him..After Akbar's death Salim ascended to the throne with the title of Nur-ud-din Muhammad Jahangir Badshah Ghazi and thus began his reign at the age of 38..Altogether,this is a wonderful tale of love,hate and deceit..The novel is a work of fiction although it is based on reality..The complexity of characters is well described by the author and was deeply captivating..Jahangir never married again after he was married to Mehrunnisa..This proves that his love towards her is pure to some extent..She was his 20th wife and last wife..But somehow,Mehrunnisa's notions show a little signs of selfishness in seeking this relationship..Nevertheless,taking in to account of her miserable life with a person like Ali Quli,we give a second thought while blaming her.I loved this book very much..Would love to pick few more works from this author..Happy reading friends :-)

Publisher : Harper Collins
Pages      :375
Price       :399/-

35 comments:

Preethi Venugopal said...

I am intrigued by the character of Mehrunnisa ...WOuld try to get my hand on this book... :)

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

Thank you so much for your precious comment Preeti :-)

Aditi said...

I liked the Shadow Princess, the rest two are definitely on my list. I like the way you review with interesting texts from the novel!

Ramakrishnan Ramanathan said...

Great review of this historical fiction - you have kindled huge interest in me. There is love, romance,ambition & intrigue ! Looks like a good read.

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Aditi,
Ohh,Shadow Princess is also in my reading list.Thanks a lot for your valuable feedback Aditi :-)

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Ramakrishnan Ramanathan,
Yeah,I'm sure,you fall in love with this work.Thank you so much Ramakrishnan Sir :)

Mahathi Ramya said...

I too loved this book.. especially because of the details given about harem, women in those times, their role in politics etc and also love story of Salim and Noorjahan.. nice review :) Now, the other books in trilogy are also on my wishlist.

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Mahati Ramya,
Thanks a lot for your precious feedback Ramya :-)

magiceye said...

Does seem fascinating enough for a read! Thank you.

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Magiceye,
Yes.Thank you so much Deepak :-)

Indrani said...

How true is the story? Is it history rewritten or facts twisted to give essence to the story?
In the present Jodha Akbar serial, Fatepur Sikri is dedicated to Jodha and in this book the city is given to Salim.
Why do they distort history?
Thanks for the review.

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Indrani,
Jodha Akbar serial is a total crap and dramatized for the viewers..Though this novel is a historical fiction,We can see the author's honest approach towards the story with so much groundwork with proofs from various works from the history.She has taken care of the truths.
Even if we assume Fatehpur sikri was built for Salim,This is also convincing because he is Jodha's son only.
Thank you so much for our precious comment Indrani :)

Amrit Sinha said...

I would love to read this book :-)

Prasanna Rao said...

Sounds intriguing, although I rarely read historical fiction, this book definitely sounds appealing. I'll surely put in in my to-read list.

Tomichan Matheikal said...

The Mughal palaces were snakepits of venomous politics. Salim (later Jahangir) was an opium addict who committed quite a lot of atrocities in order to become the emperor... Hope to read this book.

Ragini Puri said...

Love reading historical fiction and now this review has got my curiosity piqued. Will sure pick this one up!

Thanks for sharing. :)

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Amrit Sinha,
Yeah go on.It's quite an engaging read..Thank you :-)

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Prasanna Rao,
Thank you so much for stopping by :-)

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Tomichan Matheikal,
Thank you so much for your inputs :-)

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Ragini puri,
Thank you so much for stopping by :-)

Saru Singhal said...

I want to read it. Even Manreet Someshwar is writing a series with Mehrunnisa as the main character. I so want to read both the takes. :)

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Saru Singhal,
Yeah,Taj Conspiracy was also in my reading list.Thank you Saru..:-)

Bhavana Lalwani said...

when it comes to historical characters and events, most of the time fiction is served in the name of Real People and Real Events. Your review is impressive, I hope the author has done justice with HISTORY.

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Bhavana Lalwani,
True.Thank you so much for your precious feedback Bhavana..:-)

Barbara Fisher said...

I’m sure I would enjoy this. Thanks so much for your excellent review.

Ankur Anand said...

Historical fiction are always intriguing.. going by the review i think it will be worth reading !

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Barbara Fisher,
Thank you so much for your precious feedback Barbara..:-)

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Ankur Ananad,
True Ankur..I'm sure you like it.Thank you :-)

Kokila Gupta said...

Nice review. LOve, Kokila :)

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Kokila Gupta,
Thank you so much dear :-)

WordsPoeticallyWorth said...

An interesting post that I enjoyed reading.

Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Andrew,
Thank you so much for stopping by..:-)

తృష్ణ said...

interesting review!చారిత్రాత్మకమైనదిగా కాక ఒక మామూలు కథలా చదివితే ఎక్కువ బాగుంటుందేమోనండీ ఇది... ఎందుకంటే చరిత్ర గురించిన అసలైన సత్యాలు, ఇంకా చాలా అంశాలు సరిగ్గా వెలుగులోకి రాలేదనే నా నమ్మకం!

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

తృష్ణ గారూ,
ఈ బుక్ విషయం లో చాలా నచ్చిన అంశం ఏంటంటే,ఇందులో రచయిత్రి ప్రస్తావించిన ముఖ్యమైన చారిత్రక ఘట్టాలకు సంబంధించిన విషయాల గురించి,ఆవిడ సేకరించిన ఆధారాలను చాప్టర్ మొదట్లో ఒక evidence లా కోట్ చెయ్యడం..ఒక యదార్థ గాధకు చిలవలు పలవలు అల్లేసినట్లుగా ఎక్కడా అనిపించలేదండీ..ఆవిడ ఈ నవల రాసేముందు ఇందులో సత్యాసత్యాలను లోతుగా అధ్యయనం చేశారనిపించింది..అధిక శాతం హిస్టారికల్ ఫిక్షన్స్ లో మిస్ అయ్యే విషయం ఇది..
థాంక్ యు తృష్ణ గారు :)

aarthi said...

all these reviews kindled me to read this book,i love to read the historical events and i'm sure this would serve as a feast to my desire.....