Title : The Feast of Roses
Author : Indu Sundaresan
Publisher : Harper Collins
ISBN : 9789350292099
After reading 'The Twentieth Wife'(reviewed here), I did not want the wonderful reading experience to end there so had to read the sequel of that book immediately. The first book ended when Mehrunnisa became Jahangir's twentieth and last wife. This was one betrothal based entirely on love between two individuals and not for any political favours. Overwhelmed with happiness emperor Jahangir bestows the title of Nur Jahan upon his new wife Mehrunnisa.
An intelligent, clever, well-read and politically aware woman as Mehrunnisa was, she knew she would have to face her rival in the imperial Harem in the form of the then Padshah Begum Jagat Gosini but her calculated moves made her the new owner of the prestigious title Padshah Begum pretty soon. Nur Jahan knew how to turn Jahangir's unflinching adoration towards herself to gain many favours, including - positioning of trustworthy people around her, transfer of royal seal under her command, accompanying emperor to give audience to commoners and tactically banishing many others who could pose a threat to her commanding position. Her clever machinations very understandably antagonized many people in and outside the palace grounds.
She became the powerful woman who challenged the dynamics of how male dominated royalty functioned. Nothing could restrain her within the walls of the emperial harem. Though veiled, she made sure that her voice reached far and wide. She monitored, molded, maneuvered and manipulated Emperor Jahangir's royal farmans and decisions and Jahangir became the required cloak for her feminine voice.
Between the two books, my recommendation would be for 'The Twentieth Wife' as I always maintain that the 'first' books enjoy many privileges which sequels can never get. In spite of this fact, Indu Sundaresan has managed to maintain the same charm and fascination in her second book that she so beautifully created in her first. Her works are testimony to the amount of research she must have done while penning these books down but what stands out the most and must not remain unacknowledged is her treatment of the characters. Their sensitivities, vulnerabilities, dependencies are brought out beautifully by the author.
Through her portrayal, Mehrunnisa stands tall eclipsing the rest in her passion to put her signature on the annals of history for posterity to remember. Ironically because of the epitome of love - the Taj Mahal that Khurram (Shah Jahan) built in the memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, rose another Mughal Empress whose fame and popularity eventually surpassed that of Nur Jahan.
Indu's writing has the power to give wings of imagination to the readers and this makes the saga rise much higher than the one that is simply narrated rather it becomes the rare one which is felt and experienced. So a big thumbs up to the books written by Indu Sundaresan.