Book Review: ‘The Twentieth Wife’ by Indu Sunderasanby Ashesha Mehrotra on Dec 4, 2012 • 11:15 PM 3 Comments
‘The Twentieth Wife‘ by Indu Sunderasan takes you through the tempestuous journey of an extraordinary commoner. Her physical beauty defied all norms of the society; all she knew was she loved Prince Salim at first sight. All of eight, Mehrunissa bore the weight of an extravagant dream in her eyes; to be Empress of India one fine day, as the wife of Nuruddin Muhammad Jahangir Padshah Ghazi. Quite simply and swiftly put, it is a twisted tale of undying love between the legendary King of Romance and the Queen of His Majesty’s Heart.
‘The Twentieth Wife‘ begins with a clocklike description of life at the resplendent Mughal Court during the reign of Emperor Akbar. The book demands undivided attention of the reader to set the mood right to envisage the grandeur of the Mughal Empire, the majestic forts and gardens, the larger than life titles and rewards, the surreal victories and annexations, the ebullience of the Zenana (Women’s Quarters) and the bountiful Mughal Treasury and much more. As a matter of fact, the magnificence of the Mughal Empire’s rich past, its present and the future that lied ahead is ‘indigestible’ at one go. However, each coin has two sides. Sunderasan has gravely elaborated upon the insecurities, jealousy and the struggle for power inside the four walls of the Mughal Empire. What may surprise the readers is that it wasn’t just the men who played Dirty Politics.
In between the tangled affairs of the Mughal Empire, one witnesses the growing importance of Ghias Beg (an emigrant from Persia) and his family in the royal corridors, for he was a devoted, hard-working and faithful courtier. His daughter Mehrunissa had won over Padshah Begum Ruqqya’s heart with her matchless beauty, garrulousness, perfect manners and charm. She kept her company as and when the Queen demanded without fail. One day, as she catches a glimpse of errant Prince Salim, she falls for him. She decides to marry him and only him. As years pass by, she turns about to be as beautiful and feminine as a swan, and even, Prince Salim falls in love with her. Little did they know, destiny had different plans. Mehrunissa was married off to a Persian soldier named Ali Quli who was not only a mismatch for her but also a
misbehaved man. Mehrunissa never complained and made peace with her life.
However, there was much more in store for Mehrunissa than she could possibly imagine. Perhaps, the universe conspired to fulfill her one and only desire. As happy as she was, this rekindling of romance between Emperor Jahangir and Mehrunissa came at a heavy price. It took 13 years of a failed marriage, death of her husband and Jahangir’s foster brother – Mirza Aziz Koka to unite them. Worse still, a series of complications built-up as Emperor Jahangir declares his love, publically. Moreover, several questions were raised on the Beg family and their selfless loyalty towards the Mughal Regime. Still, the Emperor remains captivated by Mehrunissa’s ageless beauty, her enigmatic quietude and sharp mind. He had found a companion in her. She became his support system and her love for him was, beyond measure. One thing led to another and Nur Jahan (Light of the World) was born, Empress of Hindustan.
‘The Twentieth Wife‘ takes a halt here. And quite successfully, lingers on the minds of the readers. It makes one wonder – What Next? The sequel to this book is The Feast of Roses followed by the last book of the trilogy, that is, Shadow Princess. A highly recommended book to bring in some heavy doses of sublime romance with a royal feel into our lives.
Overall Rating: 9/10
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