Jaipur Lit Fest: MAHARANI JINDAN KAUR: THE REBEL QUEEN Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and Priya Atwal and Navtej Sarna in conversation

Having read The Last Queen by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, I was intrigued and interested to know what went into writing her character and story.

As a part of the Jaipur Lit Fest (which is currently on-going virtually), we were treated to an interesting conversation among Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Priya Atwal and Navtej Sarna.

Each one of them have written books based on the Sikh Empire and thus have touched upon or focused on Maharani Jindan’s life as well.

Keeping this in mind, here are some interesting snippets from the conversation that stayed with me.

(The points have been reworded and are not told exactly as the authors said it)

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  • When asked about how Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and Navtej Sarna chose to structure their respective books, here’s what they had to say:

Navtej ji says that he chose to stick to the facts. Having done his research, he wrote about Maharaja Dalip Singh (the son of Rani Jindan) with aa keen eye for detail and a choice to keep it as close to the facts as possible. He did not want to deviate much from this.

Author Chitra on the other hand chose to be a little more creative. Having done extensive research, she chose to focus more on the growth of her characters, their feelings, Maharani Jindan’s romance with the Maharaja and so on. She chose to be more creative about some aspects, breathing life into these complex characters, showing us how they came to be in the situations they were and how they dealt with it. Chitra mam chose to also bring in the interactions of the other Queens with Maharani Jindan and to showcase the ups and downs within the confines of the Zenana.

  • A question from Chitra mam to Navtej ji: How were the narrators chosen in his book?

Navtej ji explained that he chose to use characters for his narratives based on the timeline of the story. For the initial years, the story was told from Mangala’s point of view. He felt that she would be best suited to tell the story of Maharaja Dalip Singh’s early years. This is followed by the story being told from Dalip Sing’s point of view. After this we move on to the period when he spent time with the British and some of the story is then told from Logan’s point of view. Navtej ji also chose to add some points of view from Maharaj Dalip Singh’s valet, the British spy who kept an eye on Dalip Singh’s activities in Europe and so on.

For me, this sounds like a very interesting way to frame the basis of the a book/story and speaks to the planning that went into the writing of his book.

  • In conclusion, a common question that went out to both Chita mam and Priya Atwal was about the lasting image or impression that Rani Jindan has left on them. How they see her from their perspectives.

Chitra mam: According to her, in spite of everything she may have done, her greatest achievement was in turning things around for Dalip Singh when he seemed to have gone off course. Without knowing better and having embraced the British was of life, Dalip Singh was leading a rather happy life when his mother tried to remind him of his roots and his birthright.

Maharani Jindan was a complex and flawed human being. In the end, she loved Punjab and her son and she definitely chose to fight until the very end.

Priya Atwal: As a historian, she chose to take a more diplomatic stand. She agreed with Chita mam’s assessment of Rani Jindan’s character and called her inspiring.

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In all this 30 minute conversation was enlightening and inspiring. A good chance for readers to know what goes on in an author’s mind when they write and how they formulate their plots. I truly enjoyed the session and hope to attend more.

Book Review: The Last Queen by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Hello Everyone! 

I would like to share some happy news before diving into my review of this wonderful book!

This is my 500th Post on the blog and a milestone for my blogging journey of 7.5 years!

I am very happy to have reached this milestone and to have all of you wonderful people (authors, publishers and bloggers alike) come along with me on this journey!

A huge thank you to everyone for the encouragement and support! 

Now, here goes…. My Thoughts on The Last Queen by one of my all time favourite authors Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.

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About the Book:

‘I am Rani Jindan, Mother of the Khalsa. That is my identity. That is my fate.’

Daughter of the royal kennel keeper, the beautiful Jindan Kaur went on to become Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s youngest and last queen; his favourite. She became regent when her son Dalip, barely six years old, unexpectedly inherited the throne. Sharp-eyed, stubborn, passionate, and dedicated to protecting her son’s heritage, Jindan distrusted the British and fought hard to keep them from annexing Punjab. Defying tradition, she stepped out of the zenana, cast aside the veil and conducted state business in public. Addressing her Khalsa troops herself, she inspired her men in two wars against the ‘firangs’. Her power and influence were so formidable that the British, fearing an uprising, robbed the rebel queen of everything she had, including her son. She was imprisoned and exiled. But that did not crush her indomitable will.

An exquisite love story of a king and a commoner, a cautionary tale about loyalty and betrayal, and a powerful parable of the indestructible bond between mother and child, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s unforgettable novel brings alive one of the most fearless women of the nineteenth century, an inspiration for our times.

My Thoughts:

The Last Queen follows the life of Rani Jindan, the youngest wife of Maharaja Ranjit Singh as she goes from being a common to a Queen. Her story is exquisitely written in this book by author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni with a keen attention to detail and historical fact. This is a poignant tale of love, loss, loyalty, bravery, betrayal, changing alliances and much more.

Jindan Kaur comes off a strong woman whose thirst for knowledge sets her apart. She seeks to learn and when she catches the Maharaja’s eye, she also partakes in many conversations about the kingdom and the many intricacies of ruling. Learning to navigate her way through the Zenana, Jindan becomes careful and shrewd, bowing down where necessary and standing up otherwise.

I truly enjoyed reading about her in this book which brings the Last Queen of the Sikh Empire to life. It is not a simple fantasy of a love story and a happy ending. There are so many layers to the characters and their lives that the reader is in for an emotional ride! The most important part of the story that resonates even after reading it, is the bond between mother and child. The way Jindan fights for the kingdom for her son and later fights just to see him is the strongest, most pure form of love!

As the last wife of the Maharaja, Jindan’s son doesn’t have any claim to the throne. However, circumstances change making him the king at a young age and Jindan the regent. As she navigates her way through the durbar and meetings, we see a side of her that is intriguing. Stepping above the norms of the community which dictates that women do not show their face or even take part in matters of the state, Jindan takes her role as regent seriously and thus makes quite a few enemies. With the British knocking at the door, there’s no clear way to determine whom to trust and whom not to.

This book is well-researched and very well-written. The author brings to us a story that is long forgotten, but one that should be known. It shows us what a woman can do and how much she is capable of dealing with, both physically and emotionally. The historical aspects of the story are handled well and thus we learn quite a lot from it, right from how the kings handled things, to the War of Independence and even get a glimpse into Sikhism and it’s many aspects. I choose not to talk much about the story as it is clear from the synopsis. I am more taken by the delivery and the final effect of this book!

Having been a fan of the author for some time now, this book was indeed a must read and it is totally worth it! This book will inspire you to read more, know more, learn more!

WWW WEDNESDAY – 27/01/2021

This is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

All you need to do is answer the following three questions:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Also, do follow the host and other bloggers who participate!

It is wonderful to know what everyone is reading and recommendations are always welcome!

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What are you currently reading?

The Last Queen

 

About the Book:

‘I am Rani Jindan, Mother of the Khalsa. That is my identity. That is my fate.’

Daughter of the royal kennel keeper, the beautiful Jindan Kaur went on to become Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s youngest and last queen; his favourite. She became regent when her son Dalip, barely six years old, unexpectedly inherited the throne. Sharp-eyed, stubborn, passionate, and dedicated to protecting her son’s heritage, Jindan distrusted the British and fought hard to keep them from annexing Punjab. Defying tradition, she stepped out of the zenana, cast aside the veil and conducted state business in public. Addressing her Khalsa troops herself, she inspired her men in two wars against the ‘firangs’. Her power and influence were so formidable that the British, fearing an uprising, robbed the rebel queen of everything she had, including her son. She was imprisoned and exiled. But that did not crush her indomitable will.

An exquisite love story of a king and a commoner, a cautionary tale about loyalty and betrayal, and a powerful parable of the indestructible bond between mother and child, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s unforgettable novel brings alive one of the most fearless women of the nineteenth century, an inspiration for our times.

What did you recently finish reading?

Blood Casino by Nina Walker

Meet Me in Bombay by Jenny Ashcroft

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

This is easy! I am going to dive into A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer. This is the final book in the Cursebreakers series and definitely one of the most awaited books which has just been released!

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Do stop by to share your thoughts or posts!

Top 5 – 2021 Releases I’m Excited to Read!

This is a weekly meme hosted by Devouring Books that I came across recently!

The theme for this week is 2021 Releases.

Here is a list of books to be released in 2021 that I am excited about. A lot of them are ARCs and a few are upcoming that I am waiting to buy.

The below list doesn’t completely reflect my top 5, but the ones I am super excited about right now! I have tried to pick books from different genres and share them.

The Last Queen by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

A Vow So Bold and Deadly (Cursebreakers #3) by Brigid Kemmerer

A Vow So Bold and Deadly (The Cursebreaker Series)

Seven Perfect Things by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Seven Perfect Things

The Watchmaker of Dachau by Carly Schabowski

The Watchmaker of Dachau

His Hidden Wife by Wendy Clarke

His Hidden Wife

 

Feel free to share your thoughts and recommendations! If interested please do participate!

Book Review: The Forest of Enchantments by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Having read The Palace of Illusions by Chita Divakaruni, it was a no-brainer to pick up this book! Read on to know my thoughts on this must read book!

About the Book:

The Forest of Enchantments

The Ramayana, one of the world’s greatest epics, is also a tragic love story. In this brilliant retelling, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni places Sita at the centre of the novel: this is Sita’s version.

The Forest of Enchantments is also a very human story of some of the other women in the epic, often misunderstood and relegated to the margins: Kaikeyi, Surpanakha, Mandodari. A powerful comment on duty, betrayal, infidelity and honour, it is also about women’s struggle to retain autonomy in a world that privileges men, as Chitra transforms an ancient story into a gripping, contemporary battle of wills.

While the Ramayana resonates even today, she makes it more relevant than ever, in the underlying questions in the novel: How should women be treated by their loved ones? What are their rights in a relationship? When does a woman need to stand up and say, ‘Enough!’

My Thoughts:

A scintillating read, The Forest of Enchantments will take the reader on a journey with Sita as the protagonist. The story follows her from childhood to adulthood and highlights the Ramayana from her point of view.

We are introduced to Ram, Lakshman and even Raavan as they are seen by Sita. The entire story focuses on her journey and what she felt through it. It is a wonderful take on the Ramayana and strongly brings out the feelings and opinions of the women in the story.

The author brings out the contrast in characters and ensures that the reader is interested in reading the book. There is not even one moment when the reader will wonder why they are reading the book. Even though we might have already read the Ramayana, Sita’s perspective is something none of us stop to think about. It is a re-telling like no other, exploring the views of the women in the story and introducing the reader to them.

The strength of the women, the resolve and their actions shape the course of the story and give us a different view of the same events we are familiar with. Chitra succeeds in humanizing all the characters and making them more relatable. We are forced to think about their points of view, their circumstances and give them the benefit of doubt. The author brings enough doubt to the idea of good and bad, focussing on the grey areas and the fact that there could be more to how we perceive things.

This is perhaps one of the best written books and I can promise that the readers will be left spell bound!