Padmini of Malwa book review: The queen speaks

Express News Service

The retelling of an old tale is, at best, an onerous task. Especially if you are going to rewrite one of the best known love stories: the beloved queen of Baz Bahadur, the last independent sultan of Malwa, before the region was annexed by the Mughals. She was a well-known poetess, musician and singer of her time, who came to be known as the composer of raga Bhoop Kalyan. She was almost 21 years old when she decided to pull the curtains on her life. The author begins a frantic search for material. He stumbles on the 16th century book but it is written in Persian by Ahmad ul-Umari. An English translation from 1926, by LM Crump—with the rather long-winded title of The Lady of the Lotus, Rup Mati, Queen of Mandu: A Strange Tale of Faithfulness—serves as his guide.

Soon after this discovery, a miracle unfolds; a dream comes true as she appears to him in person—Rani Rupmati, the Queen of Malwa—the legendary definition of Beauty Itself, for whom men went to war. He can barely believe it is really happening to him. Is he dreaming? Is it a ghost or an apparition?

That illusion lasts only till she begins to speak. The author turns into a scribe (albeit, a gifted one) who will henceforth tell this story as told to him by the queen in her own words. You find in these pages, Rupmati reveals all—everything that the usual history books forget to tell you or leave out of their pages. It begins with the fading memories of her mother and the abandonment which goes on revealing the lost years of a magical childhood. You find her growing up among strangers in a desolate fortress, trying to sieve friend from foe. Baz, the future Sultan of Malwa, bursts on the scene as a welcome change in her humdrum life. They fall in love or perhaps it is their shared passion for music that pulls them together? But enemies lurk in every corner and are on the prowl. Their spellbinding dream has got to come to an end.

This is no run-of-the-mill autobiography of an enigma from the past. This is a well-told tale that chronicles the events, both big and small, that encompass Padmini’s brief life and times. It remains an enduring love story that turns into a riveting account of a conflict that was personal to start with and at the same time turned into a religious and political one. Of course, the last two happen to be in equal measure, as myth and history combine to weave a  music that resounds bringing her back to life  again. Small wonder that the poets and minstrels of Malwa keep her legacy alive today in their of songs. You can hear them as the sun bids goodbye to the day or as you sit down to read this book.

Padmini Of Malwa    
By: Priyadarshi Thakur Khyal
Publisher: Speaking Tiger
Pages: 97
Price: Rs 350



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