The Begum and The Dastan-Review

Experience Timelessness

An old song from Movie, “Apney hi giraate hai, nasheman pe bijliya”, fits in so beautifully with the pain laced real story of vivacious Feroza Begum during Nawab era or little Ameera of today in this crafty book authored by Tarana Husain Khan.

This is a timeless piece of work soaked in dying legacy of the Nawab of Rampur Estate, pre-independence era entwined in the world when story-telling, tilism , patriarchy – all ensured women as the currency of honor and war.

Being a pathan woman from Rampur, who grew up in 1990s, which in a way can be said during the fading shadows of mind-boggling tales, which sounded unreal to me in childhood. Those tales use to fascinate me with their richness but also scare me with the scandalous gory details. Pathan men there still explore sexuality liberally but exercise caution (read control) in keeping women in check, which also implies keeping them less educated, yet protected at the cost of upholding patriarchy.

However, ferociousness and sensuousness wrapped in the womb of their women was also a common trait there. And Feroza Begum in the story was everything, I had grown up watching privileged, beautiful, unapologetic with words and full of life women in Rampur.

Reader’s Journey

I had been hearing in family that one of my distant cousin’s wife is writing a book about women during Nawab era for some time. So, laying hands on this book written was an obvious choice.

Perhaps as a reader, I was aware of my hometown’s markers, so somehow I was hoping not to be super surprised.

Painful, Yet A Beautiful Read

However, this book blew me away with its entwining yet vivid storytelling with so much heartbreak, sadness, anger and frustration as the stories are far more racy than any fiction could ever be. The characters looked like talking and living with me as my own. All those words of caution my ears had heard in childhood to warn girls especially in reference to ‘domniyan’, the love for arts, an eye for details in clothes & jewelry, unrelenting taste buds even in the dying heritage of this magnificent city, which once it was – came with such force that I felt as if I am still breathing in that era.

Rampur still has mohallas with the names starting with ‘gher’ and people have a way with words and stories can enthrall you – which I miss so dearly while living in culture-less city, Gurugram. With the baggage of so much richness, debauchery and legacy of past, ‘Aaj sirf batei aur shauk baaki hai’ (only conversations and habits from past are alive) in Rampur.

I strongly feel that this well-researched work and author’s sensitivity to braid a story from three different stories has an immense potential to be translated into multiple regional languages. And if any film maker picks this story – this is a huge canvas content.

This book has so much to delight your senses as a reader and is sure to take you on a painful journey of Feroza Begum and Kallan Mirza in the Nawab ruled era of Rampur Estate, India.


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