Prime Edition

Feminist vision of the Mughal era

15th Apr 2012

The Twentieth Wife

Indu Sundaresan

Harper Collins

Pages: 375 Rs. 399

Apart from biographies or historical narratives, books that deal with the Mughal era are hard to come by. Still rarer is a book that does a feminist take on this period otherwise known for its macho monarchies. In The Twentieth Wife, the first of a trilogy, Indu Sundaresan does an ace job of writing a fictional biography of Mehrunnisa, more famously known as empress Nur Jahan. This is a tale of childhood fantasies that become obsessions, of love that remains almost unrequited till the end. Mehrunnisa, the feisty, beautiful daughter of Ghias Beg, a Persian noble in Akbar's court and Salim, Akbar's first and most cherished son, fall in love the moment they lay eyes on each other, although at different moments in time. Through mutinies, marriage, children, political and personal upheavals, they seem to be only waiting till time brings them together. Strangely, the 2012 edition is littered with grammatical errors, which makes reading it unpleasant. But Sundaresan's excellent prose and strong command on historical facts makes it worth a read.

—Nidhi Gupta

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