Title : The Begum And The Dastan
Author : Tarana Husain Khan
Publisher : Westland Books
Pages : 280
Genre : Historical fiction
In 1897 in the princely state of Sherpur, Feroza Begum, beautiful and wilful, defies her family to attend the sawani celebrations at Nawab Shams Ali Khan’s Benazir Palace. Feroza is kidnapped and detained in the Nawab’s glittering harem, her husband is forced to divorce her, and her family disowns her. Reluctantly, Feroza marries the Nawab, and is compelled to negotiate the glamour and sordidness of the harem.
In the bazaar chowk, Kallan Mirza, a skilled dastango, spins a hauntingly familiar tale of a despotic sorcerer, Tareek Jaan, and his grand illusory city, the Tilism-e-Azam, where women are confined in underground basements. As Kallan descends deeper into an opium addiction, the boundaries of fantasy and reality begin to blur.
And in the present day, Ameera listens to Dadi narrating the tale of Feroza Begum, Ameera’s great-grandmother. Confined to her house because her parents haven’t paid her school fees, Ameera takes comfort from Dadi’s story. As her world disintegrates, she is compelled to ask herself if anything has changed for Sherpur’s women.
Inspired by real-life characters and events, The Begum and the Dastan is a haunting tale of a grand city and its women.
Tarana Khan wields magic with her words. She has this power of engrossing her readers with rich literature, sprinkled with the essence of a raw narrative.
The Begum and The Dastan is an ode to the women of the 19th century, the ones whose existences have often been shrouded and forgotten under the dust of history. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a begum as long as you live in a patriarchal monarchy. At the end of the day, you’re also just a woman. Your grandeur is limited only behind the boundaries of the purdah.
Young Ameera listens to her grandmother narrating the tale of her great grandmother Feroza Begum. One whose life had been confined behind the glitter and glamour of the palace of the Nawab, one whose story still resonates deeply with the women of modern Sherpur.
The 19th Century Nawabi culture has been meticulously researched and presented by the author. The prose is beautiful and almost surreal, and the characters shimmer with such excellence that it’s hard not to admire them.
The parallel lives of Feroza Begum and Ameera have been portrayed with an ease that blends well with the narrative. We’re also indulged in the harrowing tale of Tareek Jaan, an autocratic enchanter whose penchant for keeping women suffered ironically mirrors Feroza’s position.
The Begum and The Dastan is a poignant odyssey of love, loss, betrayal and redundant suffering with occasional interludes of fantasy that merges with history and its repercussions.
Highly recommend this one.