Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Tanushree Podder - Nur Jahan's Daughter

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Even if we studied just elementary History in school, we learned about the Mughal Empire and how Nur Jahan held sway over Jahangir.  

I was reminded of my History teacher who loved 'fictionalizing' our history lessons with stories of grand passion between Mughal emperors and their wives.   The best part was, we were allowed to pad our answers with all such stories.  We were required to write very long answers to each question and the padding helped.

Dubey Sir, our history teacher would have approved wholeheartedly of this historical romance about Nur Jahan's daughter.

The book begins in Burdwan where an unhappy Nur Jahan is miserable about her husband, Sher Khan.  He can be moody and aloof.  On top of that, Nur Jahan displeases him by giving birth to a daughter.  But Nur Jahan is made of stern stuff and she manages to draw her husband's attention.

Just when she is enjoying her life in Burdwan with Laadli and Sher Khan, her husband is ruthlessly murdered.  She is asked to be in Agra and serve the dowager queen.

Laadli is miserable in the court in Agra, she has no friends and is very lonely. She befriends Khurram but soon finds him gone.  She loves her grandmother's house but is forced to be with her mother.

Soon, she finds her mother being wooed by the Emperor.  It is very unpleasant for her as she blames him for her father's murder.  She has to watch her crush for Khurram die as she sees him falling for her cousin Arjumand.  She has to watch her mother turn into a ruthless schemer.

Nur Jahan interferes with her daughter's love life and gets her married to Prince Shahryar in the hopes of propping him up as an Emperor after Jahangir's death.

In all this, poor Laadli loses her hold on life.  She is lost in the shadows of her powerful mother.

The story is well told.  As in real life, in this story also, the shadow of Nur Jahan falls over Laadli.  We learn more about her than Laadli.  As it is fiction, the author could have imagined a more detailed life for Laadli, it would have made the tale more satisfying.

The ending was especially chilling.  With Nur Jahan's death, the story of Laadli ends.  What if Laadli really came into her own after her mother's death?  It would have been really interesting to imagine it that way.

However, this flaw apart, the story is very well told.  Tanushree Podder is one of our best writers in English.  I have enjoyed her book 'Boots Belts Berets' immensely.  It is a fine book about a cadet's life in a military academy, and one of my favorites.


harvey said...

Historical fiction is so much fun to read.
Did the author also describe the building of Itimad-Ud-Daulah's tomb?

Madhulika Liddle said...

This sounds very interesting! Must put it on my list. And yes, I echo Harvey's question. Does Tanushree describe the building of Itmad-ud-Daula's tomb?

Ava Suri said...

Yes. Not the entire detail of course. It's fiction, so you cannot vouch for the accuracy of details.

Itmad-ud-Daulah comes out as a stellar character, Asif Beg, being Arjumand's father is seen as a traitor to Noor's cause. Understandable!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Ava, for your lovely review.
It encourages me to pen yet another book with Mughal background.

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