The Twentieth Wife Loose Leaf – 29 January 2002
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- Publisher : Atria (29 January 2002)
- Language: : English
- Loose Leaf : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0743436970
- ISBN-13 : 978-0743436977
- Item Weight : 505 g
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The novel tells the journey of a common girl, from her commonness to her royal hood, from a mere woman MehrUnNisa to the Mughal empress NurJahan. Indu has chosen such a topic for her novel that is not very common in the history of fiction. To know the historical characters we do have to rely upon the history books or documents preserved in the libraries. That too sometimes seems boring. But Indu has taken the boring and tough job and made her way to that bygone era. The novel is a work of fiction but very much ground to historical realities. Sometimes Indu has taken literal liberties but that are too to suit her purpose of writing.
The novel opens with the birth of MehrUnNisa and proceeds with various happenings around it. The forsake of her by her parents after the birth, then coming back to them by a generous man who also took her father Ghias Beg to the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar, then managing a official post for himself, and resettle his family inside the domain of the Mughal India after the disaster of his fortune. MehrUnNisa was being brought up under the care of her mother with her other siblings. Some teachers were appointed to teach the children Persian, Arabic, Turkish, or even Sanskrit. Then she got the chance to enter into the royal zenana of the Mughal Emperor to witness the marriage of prince Salim (later emperor Jahangir & her second husband) and became the favourite of Ruqaiyya Sultan Begum, the imperial consort of Akbar. From then on Nisa cherished the dream of becoming an empress. She gradually fallen in love with Salim and started dreaming to marry him. But some at that very moment that didn’t happen and she was betrothed to a brave soldier named Quli Khan by the wish of Emperor Akbar. After her betrothal she met Salim inside the royal palace and the latter was enormously becharmed by her heavenly beauty. They even shared a passionate kiss. Salim did try in various ways to get Nisa but it didn’t take place and she was married to Quli Khan at the age of 17 and sent away with her husband from the royal court to the Bengal. Then passed the long gap of 14 years. In the mean time after several miscarriages Nisa finally got her one and only girl child from her husband and named her Ladli. She adjusted with her marriage and sometimes she gave her husband political opinions too. The royal court witnessed many treacheries, betrayals for the imperial throne by the royal princes themselves. After a bad health Akbar died naming Salim as the next heir to the throne. In 1605 Salim ascended to the throne as the Emperor and renamed himself as Jahangir. Jahangir did not forget Nisa. In order to gain her he planned for a political murder of Quli Khan. But in this course of action he lost his childhood cohort and court minister Mirza Koka who got killed by Quli Khan. However after the death of her husband in 1607 MehrUnNisa was brought back to Mughal zenana with her daughter Ladli to serve as a lady-in-waiting to the dowager empress Ruqaiyya. Thus another 4 years passed and Jahangir almost tended to forget Nisa upon the persuasion and instigation from the court and even from the royal Zenana and Nisa was also hopeless of her becoming a royal empress. But history was to be made in a different way. In a meena bazzar Ruqaiyya begum made a trick to arrange a meeting for Jahangir and MehrUnNisa as she really wanted Nisa to be married with Jahangir. Her trick was successful and the emperor again got back his lost affection for Nisa. After various turmoils finally in 1611 Jahangir married MehrUnNisa as his twentieth and last wife. He renamed her as NurJahan (light of the world). The novel ends here granting her wish to be an empress. From a common Persian girl MehrUnNisa to a wife of a brave soldier to the Mughal empress NurJahan.
Indu Sundaresan has pursued her studies in economics. But surely everyone would think her as a student of history. She has surpassed her talent beyond any brilliance. Her descriptions of each and every happening are rich with details. The then Mughal Court, its etiquettes, manners, emperor and his ministers, the royal zenana, the veiled empresses, concubines, eunuchs, ladies in waiting, the meena bazaar, the dresses, the jewelleries, the food & beverages, the recreations, the royal journeys, the gardens, the palaces, the court politics, the harem intrigues, the treacheries, the open betrayals, exercising powers according ranks, the marriages, the justices, the punishments, the rewards, the many startling means to get an end, the swift swiping of allegiances, the loyalties to the emperor and the empire, the suppressed desires to ascend to the throne, the royal treasuries, the security systems, the imperial army, the diplomatic steps, the trading, the Agra, Lahore, Kabul, Fatehpur Sikri, Mewar, most importantly MehrUnNisa’s beauty all are so much detailed that one could actually see them right in front of his eyes. Indu has drawn the pictures of the characters using vivid details and descriptions with her words. Everything is so much grand that it suits the purpose and subject of the novel which is grand in itself. The incidents are so much rich with detailing that they come alive in front of our eyes or to be more specific take us back to that bygone era of history when these were being happened. Beside Indu has depicted the royal zenana with the same importact she has given to the court. It was the world of ladies. The veiled Mughal empresses, the padshah begum, the attendants all were engaged in harem politics to hold their positions in their world within the walls. Sometime we feel for Nisa and sometime we get irritated at her. Ruqaiyya Begum had various shades in her character which are also awe striking.
The novel undoubtedly is a masterpiece having a few technical and historical faults in it. Though it is a work of fiction but it has a strong base to the historical realities. Indu has deliberately and consciously avoided the birth-mother of Jahangir MariamUzZamani denying her even a small place in the novel. May be as it was Ruqaiyya who had more influence on MehrUnNisa. Next Hamida Banu Begum was Akbar’s mother and not his hindu wife who was none but Mariam Zamani. Then Indu has made the children of Persia to address their parents as ‘Maa’ and ‘Bapa’. The descriptions are detailed but sometime this detailing brings monotony in reading. Even if some pages are turned over without reading then it does not affect much in understanding. Indu has used very less almost nothing of the Urdu language in her writing which was a prominent language in the Mughal India. But that she has done a marvellous and vivid research to write her book we come to know from her ‘AfterWord’ and ‘Acknowledgements’ where she clears much of the doubts the readers would come across while going through the book. To know Mughal history in a regular way there are many ways for it. But if one wants to explore it in a fascinating and fictional way, Indu Sundaresan has already provided us the contrivance in the shape of ‘The Twentieth Wife’. After getting married empress NurJahan had thought that if people would remember her for the next 100 years. If she only were alive to see that posterity has remembered her through the centuries and it continues……..
Though the book is undamaged and clean this something scribble (in pencil) made me skip my heart beat. I really want a clarification for what was this and who is responsible for this? I expected a brand new book as it’s Amazon. But now I really doubt whether this is a brand new copy or a read and left copy of previous purchaser.
Now the plot, I honestly didn't expect the plot to be this engaging. I just couldn't keep the book down! So intriguing, so engaging!
Nur Jahan and Jahangir's love story is something we all have read or heard in some point of our lives but I never expected someone to weave this royal romance into a plot with the perfect blend of fact and fiction. We all have heard about Anarkali and Salim's love story but we don't have a proof wether it was real or just rumors that have taken the form of a tale. But yes, Salim and Mehrunnisa a.k.a Jehangir and Nur Jahan's love story is something that may stir some of your emotions.
If you are lover of histroy or a lover of love stories this book is definately for you. With a little about the extravagant life at the Mughal Palaces and a lot about realtionships, the relationship of a father and a daughter, father and son, wife and husband and two lovelorn lovers.
This book is a complete roller coaster of emotions!
Go buy this book now! Like now!!!
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Riya Agnihotri. Writer.