“Anamika is a fast read with all the right ingredients and makes for an intriguing companion on lockdown evenings.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
This is a story of rival kings, romance, plots and counterplots. Meghnad Desai pens a rather unusual love storybetween a money lender’s wife and a would-be king. Anamika has a disabled husband and offers herself to the warrior Abdul along with ten lakhs to fund his war effort. In between the main story are interwoven others – the story of Niloufer, Abdul’s mother and that of his half-brother Hassan, legitimate son of the king who, it is hinted, Niloufer disposed of to the zenana’s satisfaction. However, Anamika is primarily a story of married love with Desai quoting the legend of the faithful wife Savitri who bargained with the God of Death to bring her husband back to life. Anamika’s name was Savitri before she married and her paralysed husband Abhi keeps referring to that as she bargains her body for her husband’s well-being. There is also the blonde Nadya from across the Sea of Marmora and the holy sage Muzaffarshah Jalalabadi who is reputed to be able to see into the future. The story is in fact populated by strong women who do not conform to expected period heroine archetypes.
Historians may conjecture that the place Desai refers to as Muzaffarpur may be what became Mushidabad, the once capital of Bengal and this is strengthened by Kali temples, an aide to Hassannamed Quli Murshid and the fact that Murshidabad was famed for its bankers, who brokered money lending deals across India. However, Desai does not clarify further and leaves the time frame to the chaos following the death of the Emperor Aurangzeb. Anamika is a fast read with all the right ingredients and makes for an intriguing companion on lockdown evenings.
Added 17th November 2020