The Begum And The Dastan
Tarana Husain Khan
Lined with grandeur, tragedy and fantasy, Tarana Husain Khan's odyssey maps the social, political and religious contours of 1897 Sherpur with the fascinating and strong-willed Feroza Begum at the centre of the storm.
On an evening not too many evenings ago, the blue-eyed Feroza, flouting her family's orders, attended Nawab Shams Ali Khan's sawani celebrations at the Benazir Palace. Tragedy coloured the night when she found herself kidnapped and withheld in the Nawab's harem – bustling, tantalizing and rife with sinister power play. As tyranny and repression tightened their hold inside the royal walls, at the Bazaar Chowk, dastangoi Kallan Mirza enchanted his listeners with the legend of sorcerer Tareek Jaan and his chimeric city, the Tilism-e-Azam, where women were confined in underground basements.
Misfortune and subjugation link eras when Ameera, Feroza's great-granddaughter, is restricted to her house and finds solace in her Dadi's retelling of Feroza's tragedy. When Ameera's circumstances begin mirroring the strife and indignities pervasive in 1897 Sherpur, she must reflect if society has shifted enough for women and their choices.
Written with careful flamboyance and striking evocativeness, The Begum and the Dastan is a world imbued with love, splendour and heartbreak, only saved by the women who refuse to play by the rule book.