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The Twentieth Wife
The Twentieth Wife
Description
About The Book

Mehrunnisa - the Sun of Women - one of India's most legendary and controversial empresses... a woman who overcame insurmountable obstacles through sheer brilliance and determination ... whose love shaped the course of the Mughal Empire. She is the twentieth wife.

The daughter of refugees from Persia, growing up on the fringes of Emperor Akbars opulent palace grounds, Mehrunnisa first encounters Prince Salim on his wedding day. Eight years old at the time, she decides she too will one day become Salirn's wife - unaware of the great price she and her family will pay for this dream.

Skilfully blending the textures of history with the rich imaginings of a fairy tale, The Twentieth Wife sweeps readers up in the emotional pageant of Salim and Mehrunnisas embattled love. From an ill-fated first marriage through motherhood and into a dangerous maze of power struggles and political machinations, Mehrunnisa searches for the true redemptive love she has never known. Their quest takes Mehrunnisa and Salim, and the vast empire that hangs in the balance, to places they have never dreamed possible.

 

About The Author

Indu Sundaresan was born in New Delhi and brought up on Air Force bases around India. She began writing fiction after graduate degrees in. the US in economics and operations research. She is the author of five books so far: The Twentieth Wife, The Feast of Roses, In the Convent of Little Flowers, The Splendor of Silence and Shadow Princess. Indu's work has been translated into twenty-two languages.

 

Prologue

The wind howled and swept down, almost ripping the tent flap from its seams. Frigid air elbowed in, sending arctic fingers down warm napes, devouring the thin blue flames of the fire. The woman lying on the thin cotton mattress in one corner shivered. She clasped her arms around her protruding stomach and moaned, 'Ayah .. .'

The midwife rose slowly from her haunches, aged joints creaking and hobbled to the entrance. She fastened the flap, came back to the woman, lifted the blanket and peered between her legs. The woman winced as calloused dirt-encrusted fingers prodded her.

The ayah's thick face filled with satisfaction. 'It will not be long now.'

The brazier in the corner flared to life as the midwife fanned the camel-dung embers. The woman lay back, sweat cooling on her forehead, her face worn with pain. In a few minutes, another contraction swept her lower back. She clamped down on her lower lip to keep from crying out, not wanting them to worry outside the tent, unaware that the screeching gale swallowed even the loudest wail.

Outside, an early night closed in on the campsite. Men huddled around a fire that sputtered and crackled as the wind lashed about their ears, kicking sand in their eyes and under their clothes, stinging their faces.

A few tents, tattered and old, crowded in a tight circle at the edge of the desert on the outskirts of Qandahar. Camels, horses and sheep clustered around the camp, seeking warmth and cover from the storm.

Ghias Beg broke away from the group around the fire and, picking his way past the animals, trudged to the tent where his wife lay. Barely visible in the flying sand, three children crouched against the flapping black canvas, arms around one another, eyes shut against the gale. Ghias Beg touched the shoulder of the elder boy. 'Muhammad,' he yelled over the sound of the wind. 'Is your mother all right?'

The child raised his head and looked tearfully at his father. 'I don't know, Bapa.' His voice was small, barely audible; Ghias had to lean over to hear him. Muhammad clutched at the hand on his shoulder. 'Oh Bapa, what will happen to us?'

Ghias knelt, drew Muhammad into his arms and kissed the top of his forehead gently, his beard scratching the sand on Muhammad's hair. This was the first time he had shown any fear in all these days.

He looked over the boy's head at his daughter. 'Saliha, go check on your Maji.'
The little girl rose in silence and crawled inside the tent.

As she entered the woman looked up. She stretched out a hand to Saliha, who came immediately to her side. 'Bapa wants to know if you are all right, Maji.' Asmat Begum tried to smile. 'Yes, beta. Go tell Bapa it will not be very long. Tell him not to worry. And you don't worry. All right, beta?'
Saliha nodded and rose to leave. On impulse, she bent down again and hugged her mother tightly, burying her head in Asmat's shoulder.

In her corner, the midwife clucked disapproval, rising as she spoke. 'No, no, don't touch your mother just before the baby is born. Now it will be a girl child, because you are one. Run along now. Take your evil eye with you.'

'Let her be, Ayah,' Asmat said weakly as the midwife hustled her daughter out. She said no more, unwilling to argue with the woman.

Chias raised an eyebrow at Saliha. 'Soon, Bapa.'
He nodded and turned away. Adjusting the cloth of the turban over his face, he wrapped his arms around his chest and walked away from the camp, head lowered against the shrieking wind. When he had reached the shelter of a large rock, he sat down heavily and buried his face in his hands. How could he have let matters come to this?

Ghias's father, Muhammad Sharif, had been a courtier to Shah Tahmasp Safavi of Persia and both Ghias and his older brother, Muhammad Tahir, had been well educated as children. Brought up in an increasingly prosperous household, the children were happy growing up, moving from one posting to another: first to Khurasan, then to Yazd and finally to Isfahan, where Muhammad Sharifhad died the past year, 1576, as wazir ofIsfahan. If things had remained at an even temper, Ghias would have continued his life as a nobleman with few cares, debts to tailors and wine merchants easily paid off every two or three months and his hand open to those less fortunate. But this was not to be.

Shah Tahmasp died; Shah Ismad II ascended the throne of Persia; the new regime was not kind to the sons of Mu ham mad Sharif. And neither were the creditors, Ghias thought, reddening under the cover of his hands. Like pariah dogs sniffing at a rubbish heap, the creditors descended upon his father's household, running practised eyes over the furniture and carpets. Bills came piling on to Ghias's desk, bewildering both him and Asmat. The vakils-his father's clerks-had always taken care of them. But the vakils were gone. And there was no money to pay the creditors because his father's property-Ghias's inheritance-had reverted to the state upon his death.

Sample Pages

















The Twentieth Wife

Item Code:
NAG397
Cover:
Paperback
Edition:
2012
Publisher:
Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN:
978935292105
Language:
English
Size:
8.0 inch X 5.5 inch
Pages:
384 (throughout B/W Illustrations)
Other Details:
Weight of the book: 280 gms
Price:
$28.00   Shipping Free
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About The Book

Mehrunnisa - the Sun of Women - one of India's most legendary and controversial empresses... a woman who overcame insurmountable obstacles through sheer brilliance and determination ... whose love shaped the course of the Mughal Empire. She is the twentieth wife.

The daughter of refugees from Persia, growing up on the fringes of Emperor Akbars opulent palace grounds, Mehrunnisa first encounters Prince Salim on his wedding day. Eight years old at the time, she decides she too will one day become Salirn's wife - unaware of the great price she and her family will pay for this dream.

Skilfully blending the textures of history with the rich imaginings of a fairy tale, The Twentieth Wife sweeps readers up in the emotional pageant of Salim and Mehrunnisas embattled love. From an ill-fated first marriage through motherhood and into a dangerous maze of power struggles and political machinations, Mehrunnisa searches for the true redemptive love she has never known. Their quest takes Mehrunnisa and Salim, and the vast empire that hangs in the balance, to places they have never dreamed possible.

 

About The Author

Indu Sundaresan was born in New Delhi and brought up on Air Force bases around India. She began writing fiction after graduate degrees in. the US in economics and operations research. She is the author of five books so far: The Twentieth Wife, The Feast of Roses, In the Convent of Little Flowers, The Splendor of Silence and Shadow Princess. Indu's work has been translated into twenty-two languages.

 

Prologue

The wind howled and swept down, almost ripping the tent flap from its seams. Frigid air elbowed in, sending arctic fingers down warm napes, devouring the thin blue flames of the fire. The woman lying on the thin cotton mattress in one corner shivered. She clasped her arms around her protruding stomach and moaned, 'Ayah .. .'

The midwife rose slowly from her haunches, aged joints creaking and hobbled to the entrance. She fastened the flap, came back to the woman, lifted the blanket and peered between her legs. The woman winced as calloused dirt-encrusted fingers prodded her.

The ayah's thick face filled with satisfaction. 'It will not be long now.'

The brazier in the corner flared to life as the midwife fanned the camel-dung embers. The woman lay back, sweat cooling on her forehead, her face worn with pain. In a few minutes, another contraction swept her lower back. She clamped down on her lower lip to keep from crying out, not wanting them to worry outside the tent, unaware that the screeching gale swallowed even the loudest wail.

Outside, an early night closed in on the campsite. Men huddled around a fire that sputtered and crackled as the wind lashed about their ears, kicking sand in their eyes and under their clothes, stinging their faces.

A few tents, tattered and old, crowded in a tight circle at the edge of the desert on the outskirts of Qandahar. Camels, horses and sheep clustered around the camp, seeking warmth and cover from the storm.

Ghias Beg broke away from the group around the fire and, picking his way past the animals, trudged to the tent where his wife lay. Barely visible in the flying sand, three children crouched against the flapping black canvas, arms around one another, eyes shut against the gale. Ghias Beg touched the shoulder of the elder boy. 'Muhammad,' he yelled over the sound of the wind. 'Is your mother all right?'

The child raised his head and looked tearfully at his father. 'I don't know, Bapa.' His voice was small, barely audible; Ghias had to lean over to hear him. Muhammad clutched at the hand on his shoulder. 'Oh Bapa, what will happen to us?'

Ghias knelt, drew Muhammad into his arms and kissed the top of his forehead gently, his beard scratching the sand on Muhammad's hair. This was the first time he had shown any fear in all these days.

He looked over the boy's head at his daughter. 'Saliha, go check on your Maji.'
The little girl rose in silence and crawled inside the tent.

As she entered the woman looked up. She stretched out a hand to Saliha, who came immediately to her side. 'Bapa wants to know if you are all right, Maji.' Asmat Begum tried to smile. 'Yes, beta. Go tell Bapa it will not be very long. Tell him not to worry. And you don't worry. All right, beta?'
Saliha nodded and rose to leave. On impulse, she bent down again and hugged her mother tightly, burying her head in Asmat's shoulder.

In her corner, the midwife clucked disapproval, rising as she spoke. 'No, no, don't touch your mother just before the baby is born. Now it will be a girl child, because you are one. Run along now. Take your evil eye with you.'

'Let her be, Ayah,' Asmat said weakly as the midwife hustled her daughter out. She said no more, unwilling to argue with the woman.

Chias raised an eyebrow at Saliha. 'Soon, Bapa.'
He nodded and turned away. Adjusting the cloth of the turban over his face, he wrapped his arms around his chest and walked away from the camp, head lowered against the shrieking wind. When he had reached the shelter of a large rock, he sat down heavily and buried his face in his hands. How could he have let matters come to this?

Ghias's father, Muhammad Sharif, had been a courtier to Shah Tahmasp Safavi of Persia and both Ghias and his older brother, Muhammad Tahir, had been well educated as children. Brought up in an increasingly prosperous household, the children were happy growing up, moving from one posting to another: first to Khurasan, then to Yazd and finally to Isfahan, where Muhammad Sharifhad died the past year, 1576, as wazir ofIsfahan. If things had remained at an even temper, Ghias would have continued his life as a nobleman with few cares, debts to tailors and wine merchants easily paid off every two or three months and his hand open to those less fortunate. But this was not to be.

Shah Tahmasp died; Shah Ismad II ascended the throne of Persia; the new regime was not kind to the sons of Mu ham mad Sharif. And neither were the creditors, Ghias thought, reddening under the cover of his hands. Like pariah dogs sniffing at a rubbish heap, the creditors descended upon his father's household, running practised eyes over the furniture and carpets. Bills came piling on to Ghias's desk, bewildering both him and Asmat. The vakils-his father's clerks-had always taken care of them. But the vakils were gone. And there was no money to pay the creditors because his father's property-Ghias's inheritance-had reverted to the state upon his death.

Sample Pages

















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