Thursday, October 30, 2014

Royalty in India: Maharani, and Almond Eyes Lotus Feet

There was a time when India was a mass of Princely kingdoms who spent their time warring with each other, patronising the arts, looking (or not-looking) after their subjects, and doing other things that Royals are supposed to do.




In Maharani, Ruskin Bond narrates the story of an aging former queen Neena or H.H as the narrator - who has known her since childhood - affectionately calls her. Spoilt, selfish, and beautiful, Neena lives in a grand palace with just her dogs as her companions. The others - lovers and sons - come and go.

There is an elegiac tone to the novel as it recounts the bygone era of the Raj with its power and parties, plays and performance to post - 1947 India with its democracy and politics, abolition of the privy purses and redundancy. Or as the narrator puts it so poetically in the end:

And if, at the end, the times weren't so good, it was probably because the party had gone on for too long.




I first heard about Almond Eyes Lotus Feet at the (now defunct) site: 4Indianwomen. Intrigued by the description of the book, I started searching for it and was lucky enough to find it in a book sale @ the world book fair in Delhi last year. Co-authored by Sharada Dwivedi and Shalini Devi Holkar , this is a fictional memoir of a princess who now stays in Mumbai and recounts the life in the zenana (along with the traditional home recipes for health & beauty) to her (modern urban) grand-daughter.

The sepia-toned reminiscences accompanied by breath-taking b&w photographs eloquently captures the grandeur of yore.



There are also pictures of vintage ads of products of the by-gone era, one of which (Afghan Rose) I remember being used by my grandmother.


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First Line: "I think I'm dying Ruskin." said H.H. as I took her hand and kissed it in the manner of the knight of old.

Title: Maharani
Author: Ruskin Bond
Publication Details: ND: Penguin Viking, 2012
First Published: 2012
Pages: vi + 180
Source: Borrowed from a cousin

Other books read of the same author: (Among Others) The Room on the Roof, Lavender Days.

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Opening Lines: "Granny, I love you dearly, but this book is a mess!" That's what my granddaughter said. I know what she meant: part first-aid, part folklore, and part cook book. I suppose in some places it is a bit naughty too - ...

Title: Almond Eyes Lotus Feet: Indian Traditions in Beauty and Health
Authors: Sharada Dwivedi and Shalini Devi Holkar
Publication Details: London: Collins, 2007
First Published: 2005
Pages: 248
Source: Bought @ World Book Fair, 2013

Other books read of the same authors: None




11 comments:

  1. I really like the sounds of the vintage ads Neeru - thanks for that!

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    1. Oh the ads are breath taking Sergio. Very quaint.

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  2. Neeru - These both sound like really fascinating looks at India's past. And those 'photos are gorgeous! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks Margot, the book is a collector's delight as regards the photographs. Do take a look if you find the book. A by-gone era in all its glory.

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  3. Somehow, it always seems to me that Ruskin Bond evokes memories that are my own.

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    1. Yes, Nitu di, he really has that way with his words. I feel like picking up his books again.

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  4. These sound interesting, especially the Ruskin Bond book. You always feature at least one or two books or authors I've never heard of, but make sound intriguing and I usually learn something new. Thanks, Neeru.(Is it correct to say 'Neer' or 'Neeru'?)

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    1. Thank you Yvette, for this wonderful remark. I think that is the fun of blogging - discovering new authors and books - and friends. :)

      Both neer and neeru are correct, one being my name the other the name I had assumed for the purpose of this blog.

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  5. I have read and posted on one Ruskin Bond story. I want to read more

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    1. I am so glad you've read Ruskin Bond and want to read more of him. He is a great favourite of mine too and some years back I was lucky enough to have a chance encounter with him. Very unassuming.

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