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)

                          ——————————–x——————————–x———————————

  • 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 Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

About the Book:

Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel.

Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…

Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.

My Thoughts:

The Henna Artist is an interesting story that follows the life of Lakshmi as she navigates high society as a henna artist. Known for her unique designs, she is well-known in Jaipur and sought out quite often. The story pulls the reader into a world of gossip, scheming and wealth. We learn a lot about India in the time just after independence, the sights, the scenes. The author does a wonderful job describing this and pulls the reader in with her words.

As the story progresses, the author reveals tidbits of information about Lakshmi’s past, but everything starts to change when her husband, whom she after two years of marriage, turns up at her door-step with her sister. The shock of finding out about having a sister is enough to turn Lakshmi’s life up-side down. As time progresses, she tries to adapt and take care of her sister, giving her everything she can and did not have growing up. Forced into dealing with a young teenager and one who doesn’t know much of the world, Lakshmi’s work and reputation are under scrutiny and at risk.

The author brings out the feelings of the characters and everyone around them as the story unfolds. However, it felt as though some of the issues were dealt with from a surface level where more details could have been given. Radha’s thoughts and the reason behind some of her actions are never truly explained. But, inspite of this, the story flows very well and it both amazing and shocking all at once. I love how the author portrayed the interactions of the various characters and brought to us a vivid picture of the kind of life different people live, across castes and class.

A truly well-written novel, this book is definitely worth a read!

Book Review: Meet Me in Bombay by Jenny Ashcroft

About the Book:

Meet Me in Bombay

United by love. Separated by war. Will they find their way back to each other? Find out in Jenny Ashcroft’s historical romance Meet Me in Bombay

Meet Me in Bombay is a powerful, poignant and deeply emotional tale of love, mystery, loss and joy.” –Kate Furnivall, New York Times bestselling author

It’s New Year’s Eve in Bombay, 1913, and Madeline Bright, new to the sweltering heat of colonial India, is yearning for all she has left behind in England. Then, at the stroke of midnight, Maddy meets Luke Devereaux, and as the year changes so do both their lives.

Bold and charismatic, Luke opens her eyes to the wonders of Bombay, while Maddy’s beauty and vivacity captures his heart. Only her mother disapproves, preferring the devoted Guy Bowen as a match for her daughter.

But while Maddy and Luke are falling in love, the world is falling apart. World War I is on the horizon, and Luke will be given no choice but to fight. They will be continents apart, separated by danger and devastating loss, but bound by Luke’s promise that they will meet again in Bombay. His only wish is to return to her–but first he must remember who she is . . .

My Thoughts:

Meet Me in Bombay is a beautifully written story of love and loss in the time of WWI. Mostly set in Bombay, we are introduced to Maddy as she comes to visit her parents in Bombay after many years in England. We follow her as she discovers the sights and explores the city. The author has done a wonderful job in bringing the city to life and in describing it, making the reader yearn to visit.

This is a story poignant tale love so strong, it spans distance and time and still holds strong. The author describes the joys of falling in love, precious time spent and the heart break of the war and loss. The characters are well crafted and bring this story and the places to life. The war is described in detail and will bring tears to the eyes of the reader. Mixed with fiction and facts, this story is deeply emotional and will pull the reader in from the beginning. The friendships and relationships between the characters whether with friends, parents, partners is amazing and well portrayed. Even with secrets and scandal, nothing comes above love.

I thoroughly enjoyed this emotional rollercoaster and I highly recommend this book to everyone!

Book Blitz: Whose Country is it anyway? by A.P.S Kumar

About the Book:
India’s rich diversity, both in its physical and natural aspects, is widely known. India has had a great past with achievements in literature, the arts, medicine and mathematics.

Indians were sea-faring and they spread their influence through their philosophy, religion and military conquest too. But Like a cosmic phenomenon, decline is every civilization is inevitable. Indian civilization too declined.

When a civilization rises, people are driven by idealism; when people are possessed of greed, it declines and falls.

Indians today are possessed of excessive, abominable, putrefying greed.

The author tells it all in an honest, engaging manner. He holds a mirror unto ourselves.

Book Link:
About the Author:
I hail from a middle class family. Son of a soldier, I did my studies in Bengaluru obtaining a Bachelor’s degree (from St. Joseph’s College) in Science and then in Law from a different college.
Though not very serious about studies, I took to books with keen interest in social sciences history in particular, literature and natural sciences (in general) and current affairs. I am drawn wittingly towards that abstract thinking – that is, philosophy.
Worked in a Government-owned Insurance Company – United India Insurance Co Ltd – as a Salesman (designated as Development Officer) and retired voluntarily a decade ago.
I spend time reading and writing, travelling both within the country and outside. I ardently believe in community work; I concentrate on education of children, obviously from poor background.
Nationalism – i.e. love of fellow citizens – is my creed. I am passionate about friendships, am devoid of all other -isms.
Contact the author via eMail

Book Blitz: Vishwamitra by Dr. Vineet Aggarwal

Vishwamitra by Dr. Vineet Aggarwal
Indian Mythological Fiction
~ Book Blitz ~
11th August, 2017

 

When Satyavati, wife of Rishi Ruchik, exchanges with her mother the magic potion for bearing a child, they change not just their children’s destiny, but also the history of mankind. Born of this mix up is Vishwamitra, the son of a Kshatriya, who strives to become a
Brahmarishi—the ultimate and most powerful of all Gurus.
Vishwamitra is the powerful story of a brave but stubborn, haughty yet compassionate, visionary king of Aryavarta who not only acquires material wealth through military conquests but also becomes one of the most well-known sages of all times.
Top 5 Rishis of all
time:

5. BHRIGUthe father-in-law of none other than Lord Vishnu! He is famous to have tested the three gods of the Hindu Trinity to see who’s the most deserving out of them! He is the author of the famous Bhrigu Samhita also known as ‘Laal Kitab’ that supposedly contains
information about every human being’s past, present and future.
4. KASHYAP the father of all species of life that exist including Devas, Daityas, Danavs, Manavs, Apsaras, Gandharvs, Nagas, Plants, Animals, Birds, Aquatics and many more! He gives realmeaning to the thought – Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam – the World is my Family.
3. VISHWAMITRA an ordinary human who in spite of being born as a Kshatriya reached the highest levels of spirituality and became a Brahmarishi at par with Vasishth! He is the discoverer of the famous Gayatri Mantra, and the creator of an entire constellation!
2. ATRI – another son of Brahma and one of the oldest rishis to exist. Husband of a very powerful lady Anasuya and the father of Chandrama, the Hindu Moon-god; Dattatreya, the combined Avatar of Brahma, Vishnu & Shiva; and the angry rishi Durvasa.
1. VASISHTH – the son of Brahma the creator-god is number one on the list. He is the original Brahmarishi whom Indra gifted the Divine Cow Nandini. He was the Kulguru of Suryavanshis or the Solar Dynasty of kings in ancient India and mentored many famous kings like Divodas, Harishchandra and Shri Rama.
About the Author
Dr. Vineet Aggarwal is described by many as a doctor by qualification, manager by profession and artist by temperament. Born in a family of doctors, he successfully completed an initial stint with the family occupation before deciding to venture into pharmaceutical management and currently pursues writing and photography as a passion.
He is the author of popular online blogs ‘Decode Hindu Mythology’ and ‘Fraternity Against Terrorism and Extremism’ and the author of books ‘Vishwamitra – The Man who dared to challenge the Gods’ and ‘The Legend of Parshu-Raam’
 

Cover Reveal: Avishi by Saiswaroopa Iyer

~ Cover Reveal ~
Avishi by Saiswaroopa Iyer
12th July, 2017
Long before the times of Draupadi and Sita
Immortalised in the hymns of the Rig Veda
But largely forgotten to the memory of India
Is the Warrior Queen with an iron leg, Vishpala
Brought up in the pristine forest school of Naimisha, Avishi reaches the republic of Ashtagani in search of her destiny. When Khela, the oppressive King of the neighbouring Vrishabhavati begins to overwhelm and invade Ashtagani, Avishi rises to protect her settlement. But peril pursues her everywhere.
Separated from her love, her settlement broken, with a brutal injury needing amputation of her leg, can Avishi overcome Khela?
About the Author:
Saiswaroopa is an IITian and a former investment analyst turned author. Her keen interest in ancient Indian history, literature and culture made her take to writing. Her debut novel Abhaya, set in the times of Mahabharata was published in 2015. Avishi, her second novel set in Vedic India explores the legend of India’s first mentioned female warrior queen Vishpala.
She holds a certificate in Puranas from Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. She is also trained in Carnatic Classical music and has won a state level gold medal from Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams.
This Cover Reveal is brought to you by Book Review Tours

 

Book Review: The Lost Daughter of India by Sharon Maas

About the Book:

One woman. One impossible choice. Her daughter or her happiness …

When Caroline meets Kamal the attraction is instant. He’s enchanting, charismatic and she can’t wait to set up a new life with him in India. Both their families are against the union but Caroline is convinced they’ll come round, especially when she gives birth to a beautiful daughter, Asha.

Asha is an adorable child but Caroline, homesick and beginning to hate the remote Indian village they live in, struggles with motherhood. Kamal is hardly ever there and she feels more and more isolated. In the grips of severe depression Caroline flees back to America, leaving Asha behind.

Ten years later …

Caroline recovered from her illness, is consumed by thoughts of the daughter she abandoned. Desperate to find Asha, she reunites with Kamal, intent on tracking her down. Will they ever be able to find their lost daughter? If they have any chance, they must confront the painful truths of the past and a terrible secret that has been kept for many years, until now.

A heart-breaking and beautifully written story of loss, secrets and the strength of a mother’s love against all odds. If you enjoyed Diane Chamberlain and Lucinda Riley then this book will find its way into your heart and stay there. 

My Thoughts:

The main premise of the book, child trafficking and prostitution, is rather relevant and important for everyone to be aware of. The story focuses on that when Asha is kidnapped and sold away. Well, going back a little, the story starts of by introducing us to Kamal and Caroline, going back and forth in time to give us insights into them and Asha, their in the present time. The story also consists of some other very important characters, one of them being Janiki, Asha’s foster sister and a kind of mother figure.

The author has brought out the plot decently, but there is a lot of repetition and this forced me to lose interest in the book a little. Once a point is emphasised, there is no need to keep talking about it again and again. This was a major deterrent. Other than this, the characters were well developed with a good amount of depth. All the players had a role to play and the author has done some amount of justice in her description of India. On one side she has shown us the glamorous parts, or what people assume it to be, and on the other she has brought out the underlying truth behind most of the glamour surrounding the country. It is not as exotic as most foreigners seem to think and this is emphasised through Caroline’s character who has a love-hate relationship with the country, starting off with a romanticised notion since her childhood.

The story progresses to focus on Asha’s life after her parents leave her to grow up with her foster parents (though foster isn’t exactly the right word. They are a family who take her in and love her as much as her parents, sometimes even more). Set in Madras and Bombay, the author brings out some harsh realities, forcing the reader to pause and think. Some of the scenes have been described very well and the attention to detail in them makes up for the negative points. It is also clear that a good amount of research has gone into this book and that makes the information more authentic and believable.

The story is filled with heart-break but brings out the importance of family and the lengths to which people will go to rescue the ones they love. It also shows us the ways a persons ideas can affect and influence their decisions. I recommend this book mainly for the plot line and idea that the author is trying to portray and make us aware of.

Get the book on Amazon at:

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Review: Delilah Dusticle and the Cursed Tempest by A. J. York

Author A. J. York is back with another book in the Delilah Dusticle series. I was offered a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

About the Book:

In this exciting instalment, Delilah Dusticle and the Dustbusters travel to the vibrant and mystical land of India. On arrival, they are tasked with a quest to overcome a powerful curse and save a life. It soon becomes clear that it is Delilah, who must find the strength and the power to defeat the curse. This is the third in a series of stories following Delilah and the Dustbusters on adventures around the world. Get ready to join the fun and experience the magic!

Find the book at:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Delilah-Dusticle-Cursed-Tempest-Adventures-ebook/dp/B01F6KY2XE/

On Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29988366-delilah-dusticle-and-the-cursed-tempest

My Thoughts:

This is a rather short novella about Delilah’s adventure in India. The story is fast paced and there is not a single moment in which you are likely to feel as though the author is beating around the bush. It is a simple, fun filled adventure where Delilah and the other Dust busters go off to save he world, or more like a girl from the clutches of a powerful and cursed storm. We once again meet all the wonderful characters from the previous books and it feels as though it is a reunion of old friends. The author leaves us with a taste of what is to come in what might be the final book of the series. The author has managed to capture the essence and beauty of India as well as the heat! The descriptions of the transport systems, the train station etc were spot on.

A delightful short story for fans of the series, this is a perfect book for young readers. It is easy to understand and is comparable on some level with the Faraway series and many others by Enid Blyton. I strongly recommend this book and the others in the series for youngsters starting out to read or still too young to pick up a book. It can be read out to them. The perfect bedtime novel.

Book Review: Running Home by Lizzie Steel

About the Book:

Running Home by Lizzie Steel

After a last minute decision to accompany her parents as they emigrate, Lady Clara Reynolds arrives in India. So intent on running from her past, she is barely aware of where she is running to. Beautiful and compassionate Lady Clara quickly attracts the attention of Sachin Borah, a local plantation owner, and after he kills a deadly snake to save her life, he has her attention too.

Set in the beautiful hills of Kerala, their mutual fascination quickly blossoms into much more. Surely it’s impossible for two people from such different worlds to have a relationship, but how can they stay apart when feel so strongly connected?

My Thoughts:

A riveting story, it explores emotions to a great depth and how strong the bond of love can be between two people. Love is the major emotion that is described or addressed. The story follows Lady Clara, who accompanies her parents back to India, where her father was from. Her mother spends her time being rather unhappy with the situation and the country at large but Clara and her father share the same love for the place. For Clara, it is love at first sight and the tea plantations and beauty of the place only add to her feelings. Bring in the handsome Sachin Borah into the picture and the author has a wonderful recipe for gossip, love, disaster and family, all thrown into one.

The author has brought out the various emotions of each character and has given such depth to each of them that it is difficult not to fall in love with them. The vivid descriptions of the place and the emotions portrayed will draw the reader right into the story. The author goes on to show that love has no boundaries, portraying the same in a very non cliched manner. The language is crisp and beautiful, as beautiful as the words used to describe the place and emotions. The author also brings into picture, the concept of society and how it thinks. This is portrayed really well and is quite easy to relate to.

I know that I probably sound like a broken tape recorder on repeat, continuously talking about the emotions, but the story will draw you in and once inside, there is no going back. It becomes very difficult to put the book down and one can only stop at the end when there is no more to read. It is difficult to talk about this story without revealing it all and thus I will end my review with these last few lines to summarize. The story will bring tears of happiness and sadness to your eyes but the journey is worth it all. For all the lovers of romance or a good love story, this is the book to pick up.

Book Review: The Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh

About the Book:

index

“In the summer of 1947, when the creation of the state of Pakistan was formally announced, ten million people—Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs—were in flight. By the time the monsoon broke, almost a million of them were dead, and all of northern India was in arms, in terror, or in hiding. The only remaining oases of peace were a scatter of little villages lost in the remote reaches of the frontier. One of these villages was Mano Majra.”

It is a place, Khushwant Singh goes on to tell us at the beginning of this classic novel, where Sikhs and Muslims have lived together in peace for hundreds of years. Then one day, at the end of the summer, the “ghost train” arrives, a silent, incredible funeral train loaded with the bodies of thousands of refugees, bringing the village its first taste of the horrors of the civil war. Train to Pakistan is the story of this isolated village that is plunged into the abyss of religious hate. It is also the story of a Sikh boy and a Muslim girl whose love endured and transcends the ravages of war.

My Thoughts:

The story has been narrated quite well and manages to capture the horror of the situation at the time of independence at the borders. The story is based in a small isolated village called Mano Majra where the most exciting thing to happen would be the stopping of a train. This would be watched by all the villagers. The village is also one where people from different religions live together and treat each other as equal.

Amidst all the peace, an unknown person steps into the village and slowly things start happening. First is the arrival of a ghost train in the middle of the night, following the arrival of a number of soldiers. This triggers various incidents leading to slow divisions between the people of the village due to religion.

The one aspect of the story which I felt was a bit out of place or rather did not seem to fit was the love story between a Sikh boy and a Muslim girl. There was no concrete development on this front and though I waited until the end to understand the point of this plot line, I could not find any. Also, there are a few times the story seems to move away from the main plot line and these side stories do not seem to fit with the entire idea. They just seem to be there without a reason.

In spite of the above, the story is well written and does get across to the reader the situation at the time as well as the hardships faced by people. It also shows us clearly, how the people were so easily divided when asked to choose and ultimately how religion started becoming a barrier between those whose families had lived together for generations.

I recommend this book to all as it outlines a part of the history of our country in an interesting way.

Buy link to Amazon.in (courtesy of the amazon associate program):