Note: This blogpost is a featured post on Indiblogger.in and has appeared on their homepage.
The year is 1842 and an ageing king has brought home a wife – a young bride, all of fourteen years – whom the townsfolk are eager to catch a glimpse of. Word is that she is a strange girl, one who wields a sword and is a trained horse-rider. More bizarre is the fact that she has grown up playing with boys and is smart, witty, maybe even a little cheeky.
While people begin to gather in the Diwan-E-Aam, ten-year-old Meera is arguing with her mother, Saanvali, in the zenana, about why she needs to dress up to meet the queen. At the same time, she is curious to learn how this peculiar girl, only a few years older than her, has managed to accomplish things unheard of for women, and how her arrival will change their ordinary lives.
When Saanvali brings her daughter up to the dais to meet Queen Lakshmibai, Meera, finally getting her chance to satiate her curiosity, looks straight into the queen’s eyes and asks, ‘Is it true that you ride horses?’ Even as the durbar hall lapses into silence, stunned by Meera’s insolence, the queen simply asks her name. Meera seems to remind her of a peacock – slender and graceful, with a hint of arrogance. But it is her large dark eyes that sparkle with innocence. The queen rechristens her Chandraki and announces that henceforth, Chandraki will be her companion.
Drawn from her travel experiences and subsequent research around the rich folklore and history of Jhansee, Moupia Basu spins a fascinating historical thriller inspired from the life of the Rani of Jhansee, leading up to the events of the 1857 Mutiny. While Basu loops in all major historical events and characters of the time, starting from when Manikarnika married Maharaj Gangadhar Rao Newalkar and made Jhansi her home, the axis of this narrative is the relationship between the Queen and Chandraki. As I see it, more than Rani Lakshmibai it is Chandraki who is the lead protagonist, for it is through her eyes that we watch the events of Maharani Lakshmibai’s life unfold amidst the pages.
Read more about this heroic queen and her equally courageous lady-in-waiting, in my detailed review of the book published on Women’s Web as a Featured Post, here.
Title: The Queen’s Last Salute: The Story of the Rani of Jhansee and the 1857 Mutiny
Author: Moupia Basu
Publisher: Juggernaut Books
Edition/Year: First Edition 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Women’s Web
Rating: 4 Stars
Available on Amazon.
About the Author: Moupia Basu has a master’s degree in English literature from St Stephen’s College, Delhi University. She grew up in the Delhi of the seventies and eighties. She has worked as a journalist with Times of India, Economic Times, Indian Express and Business Today and has written on a variety of topics including business, education and travel. Her debut book, Khoka, was published in 2015. She lives in Pune.
Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com