April 03, 2020
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An Ongoing Affair

The attraction of the story of eternal love of an emperor for his begum does not fade.

An Ongoing Affair
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553
Taj: A Story Of Mughal India
By Timeri N. Murari
Penguin Pages: 271; Rs 275
It is not surprising that nearly two decades after the book first came out, Penguin India has chosen to bring out its edition of T.N. Murari’s Taj. Both are clearly backing a proven winner. The attraction of the story of eternal love of an emperor for his begum does not fade, symbolised as it is by a monument that is, in the words of Tagore, "a teardrop on the cheek of time for ever and ever".

Beginning slowly, like the troubled courtship of the prince Shah Jehan and Arjumand Banu (later Mumtaz-i-Mahal), the novel gathers sweep and pace as it tells the story of their grand passion against a backdrop of court intrigue, succession struggles and bloody fratricide that Shah Jehan and later Aurangzeb indulged in. The cunning control of Mehrunissa (Noor Jehan) over an indolent Jehangir, Shah Jehan’s battles to gain the throne and Aurangzeb’s implacable cruelty are rich grist for a novelist’s mill. Murari fashions it well, skilfully weaving fact and fiction, steering the narrative back and forth in time. Though the alternating voices that tell the tale are not sufficiently distinguishable from each other, the reader is swept along easily by the inevitability of the historical denouement that must come, and by the classic love story that never ends.

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