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Rrashima Swaarup Verma's new bestselling book The Royal Scandal is a celebration of the spirit of womanhood set in the 18th Century.
Rrashima Swaarup Verma’s new bestselling book The Royal Scandal is a celebration of the spirit of womanhood.
A true love story. A tale of politics, treachery and war. A piece from India’s rich history. A vivid description of 18th century life in the Deccan. Yes, The Royal Scandal is all that and more. But it is also an aide-mémoire of the tremendous fortitude, the unbeatable spirit that women are, and have always been, capable of.
18th century, Hyderabad, India. A time and place when societal laws and rules came down heavy on the female gender, when zenanas separated and shielded the women from the world outside, when it was understood and accepted that the men in their lives would govern and dictate every big and small decision.
In a time and place like that, a noblewoman from the ruling family tells her young, unmarried, pregnant daughter, ‘Just because we are women does not mean that we are destined to relinquish all the decisions of our lives to the men who supposedly rule us. I have never believed that, and I hope that you never will either.’
If you ask me, those words of resilience are the best legacy, beyond and above anything else, that the mother could ever have passed on to her daughter.
The protagonist in the book is a beautiful and intelligent noblewoman named Khair-un-Nissa. Governed by the austere laws that were commonplace in the society she was born into, she knows the rules and has learnt to live by them.
Acceptance, however, is another matter. Oblivious even to herself, her heart and mind are much too unshackled to be constrained. Still in her teenaged years when she meets the debonair English officer James Achilles Kirkpatrick for the first time, Khair falls desperately in love.
Shaking off every uncertainty, mustering up every ounce of courage, she chooses the path that her heart has laid out for her. As they fall more deeply in love with each other, there are instances when despite being a woman, Khair displays the kind of determination and nerve that even the much older male protagonist is not able to.
Undaunted and fearless, this high-spirited young girl is as endearing as she is admirable.
This book needed research, intense research. While it was a remarkable process in every way, I have to admit that it was Khair-un-Nissa’s character that fascinated and astounded me in more ways than one. Such a young girl, such difficult circumstances, yet so much strength. The more I discovered about her, the more intrigued I was by the story and its outcome.
I found myself wondering and even questioning how a girl in her circumstances could have made the choices, taken the decisions she did. Wasn’t she scared of the repercussions? Didn’t she care about the consequences?
Was love so much more significant to her than her own survival?
What was it that drove her? Was it the example that her mother set for her? Was it the unconditional support that she received from the surrounding women? Was it the passion that she felt for the only man she ever loved? Or was it her own inner self, her strength of mind, that told her in no uncertain terms that she had every right to keep the reins of her own life in her hands.
Khair is one example. There are many, many plucky, strong-minded women like her in the story. Khair’s mother Sharaf-un-Nissa, her grandmother, her friend, even the famed courtesan Mah Laqa Bai Chanda. Tremendously courageous, resolutely determined, these were women who even overshadowed the surrounding men.
They took their own decisions, advised the men on equal terms, and even stood up to them when it was required. The entire story, in fact, is peppered with instances and examples of how women played a significant role in an otherwise male-dominated society.
Astute and sharp, with a deep understanding of literature, politics, music, art, war, you name it, women were as much an integral part of social and official life as their male counterparts. Despite the time and circumstances they lived in.
“The world behind the veils and the curtains was a powerful one, one that could heavily influence, sway and manipulate the one outside.”
Yes, that quote from the book nicely sums it up. And it is another reason why The Royal Scandal has consistently been high up in the bestseller list in the “Women in History” category.
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Image source: Book Cover On Amazonand author’s website, edited on CanvaPro
Rrashima is a senior corporate analyst with over 20 years of experience in the corporate sector. She is also a prolific writer, novelist and poet and her articles, stories and poems are regularly published in read more...
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