Find out the story of Feroza Begum, and how she lives on as a moral lesson in Rampur folktales!
Tarana Khan takes Tara and Michelle back in time to 1897 to the courts of Rampur’s Nawabs and the tragic yet courageous story of Feroza Begum as they talk about her book “The Begum and the Dastan”. Who was Feroza Begum? What was the life of women like within the zenana? What tactics did they employ to find freedom within this cloistered space? How does Dastangoi (the art of oral storytelling) and oral history find space in the book and becomes a way to explore the ignored histories of women?
Tune in to learn what goes behind bringing history alive through fiction!
Books and movies mentioned in this episode:
Produced by Aishwarya Javalgekar
Sound edit by Kshitij Jadhav
‘Books and Beyond with Bound’ is the podcast where Tara Khandelwal and Michelle D’costa uncover how their books reflect the realities of our lives and society today. Find out what drives India’s finest authors: from personal experiences to jugaad research methods, insecurities to publishing journeys. Created by Bound, a storytelling company that helps you grow through stories. Follow us @boundindia on all social media platforms.
we have not really moved, we have come out of the hands and from behind the paradigm we are sending our girls to school. But there is a restricted circle within which these girls move. And everything about them is restricted and hold vision is restricted. And if they want something more out of life, they realize that there are boundaries to the existence.
Welcome to Books and Beyond with bound. I'm Tara canderel. I am Michelle D'costa. And in this podcast, we uncover the stories behind some of the best written books of our time, and find out how these books reflect our lives and our society today. So tune in every Wednesday to enter a whole new world with a new author and a new idea. Yes, and after three years and 2 million listens, we are back with all factories and five with hard hitting questions and life changing books. So let's dive in.
Hi, everyone, welcome back to Books and Beyond. We can't wait to time travel back to the 19th century to the princely state of SharePort. In Rambo, a small town in up and our tour guide for today is Tirana Hussain Khan. She is known for bringing alive historical fiction for all of her modern readers like us, from the food of Rambo to the harem of the Bonanza palace. She's a stalwart of oral history, and she has a way to get into the minds of women and really show us what it was like for them to live in that period, and speculate whether things have really changed for us today. A book Begum under the sun really carried us back into the 19th century into the world of Dustan gooeys full of sorcery, gins, Navab, stir waves and so much more. So let's find out from Tirana, how her magic wand actually works. Welcome Tirana. Hi, I'm Tirana and Nabi to be with Tara and Michelle today. Yes, and I really loved both your books, you know Begum and the Dastan. And the two that Starclan, the soul rich ape and the heart of your book, Begum and Dustan, is feroza Begum story. And it's a story that has taken the form of a folk tale. And that's been passed down through generations in your family as well. So the story is sort of part fictionalized and part based in your family history, and part 14. And so feroza is a young girl who belongs to Bhutan family, and she's married and she's pregnant. And one day against her family's wishes, she decides to attend one of the savannas of the Navab and gets trapped in the DevOps palace. And lots of things are verging on give it away. But I'm so interested to know is this woman, obviously, a larger than life figure who has been forgotten in history? How did you come to hear about her, what enthralled you about her, you know, and then I also read that people actually, like, scoffed at you for wanting to tell her story. Why was that? And what about this woman is so so very interesting to you. Thank you so much for the appreciation, and I'm so happy that the story found its way to your heart. Like you said it was like sort of a folk tale ish thing, because we got to hear of it when we were young girls, and we were told about this fabulously beautiful Feroz Alikum, who got caught because she did not listen to her father, you know, it was a sort of a moral tale. And as young girls, we initially, of course, thought that, okay, we should always listen to our elders and do as they say, but then later, you know, as as you get to know the deeper parts as we grew up, and we got to know the other parts of her story and the cruelty that was meted out to work. I always question this idea that, was it really her fault? Or was it the fault of the people who were brutal towards her? And this was a question that remained with me over years, and I heard different versions of the story from different people of the family. And it always bought out more questions for me. And that kind of came together. When I sat down. I said, No, I must write about feroza Begum. And then I also tried to explore the place where the herons were and what were the pathways going into the harem and out of the harem, and what was the lamp or where no man made could get in and, you know, that was the domain of the Navab. And all these stories, the explorations, the oral history, some of the written history, just became a sort of an obsession with me. And I have I can tell the story of philosophy. So what have you
I heard about her because I read in the afterword that you said that a lot of it was sort of fictionalized. And you put your own sort of personality on to feroza Begum, who gets trapped in this Nawabs palace and then has to abort her child. And it's such a rich history. It's such a rich world. So what have you sort of heard? And what what did you fill in? The basic story of all that happens in that I've put together in the book are the real facts. But if you read the book, there are excerpts of a diary that I found later. And this is a handwritten diary by the broker. Now, the Romans were in charge of the harem. And this was a niece of the Rogen, who had heard from her aunt the stories. And she she wrote that story about Rosa Begum as well as the other begums. And she wrote the pro Navab part, of course, because they were loyal servants. And so there's always a contrast between what history made of Rosa Begum and what was the reality. They wanted to bring out that contrast. And it took me a long time to find out the bare facts of the tail, because I have to find out what are some written letters where there's some I found some telegrams about the time that she was ill, I found out about how about her flight, all of that you know, how she planned her revenge. So the real story just came to me after a lot of research, the story that we were told as young people and later as a married woman, I was told, and because this, this was a part of my husband's family. So the kind of story that I was told was very, you know, the basic story. But the people of my husband's family also loved the idea that she got her revenge. You know, this is how she planned her event. And they always told me that she was a very spirited person, she was a person who would never bow down to the Navab. And they appreciated that, even though she was abandoned by her family. And they never saw her again, except one person who went to meet her. But they knew that spirit of Rosa Begum that compelled her to extract her own revenge in her own way. And while I was writing it, of course, I had to fill in what what she liked, of course, the basic descriptions, I knew I knew she had this big temper, and she was she had this huge ego, and you know, she would get very angry and all of that. I knew this. At times, I felt that I'm just putting my modern woman anger into her, which was wrong. So I had to take a step back and think that no, she was not a modern woman, she had no idea that what what should be a women's right, she just knew the rightness and the wrongness of things. She knew that what had happened to her was wrong. She knew that her family abandoning her and not standing up for her was wrong. And that's where her faith was, a whole family was shaken, and how she survived all of that. So all that was in the writing. And it's actually developed over nearly four years of research and writing and rewriting that I could just get her right. And I could imagine her, I hope correctly, but she is not me at all. No, I do not think she was me. Or she, she was a modern woman. No. But she had this very strong sense of justice, which was very different from the other women who just gave them to their feet. Because women in the 19th century were told that, you know, you just have to live your feet, that is how it is. But she said no, there is more to this I have been wronged. So that that made her a very absorbing and an interesting character for me. And, you know, the story actually reminded me of Beauty and the Beast, because, you know, that was my frame of reference, right, growing up, and I thought, oh, okay, this sounds very much like that. But you know, what I actually found interesting is, you know, it wasn't just feroza Begum story that inspired the book, right? We also read, that you're not just a writer or an oral historian, you actually teach and, and that, you know, it was in during one of your interactions with these young girls, you know, in Ramco, you realize that they didn't even think they could go out of Rambo to study like, you know, for example, went to Delhi University. So I'm really curious to know, you know, what was the incident with which cause that epiphany in you, you know, which which happened to be the crux of this book that actually pushed you to write this book? Yes. So, you know, I was teaching till 2000 that is, before I started writing this book, I was also teaching and in Ramco for for about three, four years I was teaching here, and there was this incident of this girl's a very bright
students in class A level and her fees was not paid. And I kept calling the parents and saying that you know why you're not paying the fees, it seems that the family was facing hardship agreed. And we tried to help them. But the point was that the first casualty of such hardship was the girl child's education, even today, and this is a this is an English medium school, where, you know, kind of more actual families, send their children. This, the same thing I realized with the poorer section that the first thing that happens is that the girl child has told you better stay at home now we can't afford your fees. And that really, really moved. And I felt that there was another child who's who was so bright, and she got very high percentage, she wanted to join the university. But the parents said no way, she has to get educated and rampolla, whatever college that she can manage, or she just stays at home. And I was talking to the parents and trying to connect with them. But I realized that it is a mindset that is still there, over here. And in all the small towns across India, that the girl child is always, you know, the second person in the family, the first usually the importance is given to the male child, and that that we all know, but a girl child's education or her aspirations, always take a backseat, whenever there is some hardship. The core of the book is has anything really changed. And that's not Amira, the second strand of the story, who's the great granddaughter of Rosa Begum. Her mind is full of this question. She's also in class 11. And feast is not paid. And she cannot appear for the exams. But her parents couldn't care less, because they are more involved with the problems that are going on with her brother. And they always feel that it's not very important. A lot of people question the second strand, and they said that you could just have Rosa Begum. And why have Amira, but this was my first book, and I had that freedom. I just didn't care, I just needed to say what I needed to say I just wanted to put all my feelings into this book. And this is something that moves me very deeply, that Amira and every girl child is not given enough importance, we have not really moved, we have come out of the hands and from behind the Panda, and we are sending our girls to school, but there is a restricted circle within which these girls move. And everything about them is restricted, their whole vision is restricted. And if they want something more out of life, they realize that there are boundaries to their existence, I just wanted to put this forward that we need to move out of the hands of our minds for the girl child. And that was one thing that I hope to bring out by the second strand of the miracle. Yeah, and actually it was it was exactly that that drew me to the story, you know, that Amira has, you know, conversation that she has with her daddy, you know, she stuck at home and and the way the daddy brings alive this whole, you know, era of Rosa Begum, it just, it just sucked me into the story, you know. So I would say that, for me was like the placeholder, and I'm so glad you chose to begin with that, and then move on to the other threads. So it's very interesting that the book, you know, has three threads, right one you said is Amira and Darby. And that is the starting point for which you know, this whole interesting story of feroza Begum and she gets kidnapped, and she goes against her father's wishes, all of those things come out. And we also see Amira going through her own journey parallely along with the story of her great grandmother in the past. So those two characters are really interesting. And then there's a third element, which is sort of this magical realism, the Dustan GUI element in which you have the story of Lala and rook actually wanted to know, you know, for example, why sort of add in this third element? Can you explain to our readers what this third element is, and what you hope that it would add to these two already amazing characters that exist in the book? Yes. So the story of Kalam does time go, he's a storyteller, and he is a person who's tells the story of feroza Begum in the form of a Dustan because he is the writer. So you know, Colin, dance tango actually came into my mind like a fully formed character. And there was a calandar stanco, who used to tell his stories very close to where my family home is. But now we don't know where his actual house was. And he was a very famous das Van Gogh. The idea of calandar Stan book came to me because they have to be a connection between feroza Begum and the ordinary
The people, the only people how did they get to know they, of course heard rumors. So now there was this last tango with the spread that I added. That was the last three that I added. And I just got so involved in it. Because Dustan was an important part of the social fabric of the times that that was the entertainment that every week, that was the Thursday or Friday that people would sit in a courtyard and listen to the Last Tango. And they would think about that story that whole week and come back again for the next part of it. Now here is this column does Tango who is talking about La La Rue de la la rue has been kidnapped by a sorcerer Tariq John. And so he is creating a Dustan. And the intelligent people know what he's trying to tell. And then Nevada has kind of become aware that this is a rebellious thing. The frustration of that writer, I think he's closest to me, because he's a writer. And he's trying to tell the people this is what is happening around you look around you. This is a town that is created by a powerful sorcerer and you think you aren't happy and content, but you should be unhappy with the things that are going on around you. That was the story that he wanted to tell the people. And while he himself being a very sensitive person gets so frustrated that he sinks into an opium haze, and he's totally lost. So so this story, I was some something that just came at the end. And I felt that it kind of made the whole whole book very lively, if there was a magic realism element that came into that book. Initially, my idea was that, you know, there are people there are three leaders let us say in different parts, there is 30, John, there is the Nevada and there is the modern politician. So everyone is creating a world or they are creating the town in their own image. And they are destroying the image of others. So we have the whole idea of a statue that is being put off that is that that is lost, then our statue is lost. That's how the book begins. And where does Gu statues put up next, it is a politician stitching. So the first idea was how the town moves through history, and how it is created and recreated through history and how the women are negotiating their own lives within this circumference of this changing town. That was that was the basic idea that I wanted to convey through this third strand also. And I think I just totally got lost in that Dustin and I had to cut it down to half. Because the editor said it's just going on and on what are you have to
No, no, I actually, you know, I just I wanted to say that the Dustan going thread right out of all three was actually my favorite because I was just drawn into this world created by magic which you know, doesn't really exist. And you know, one of the most vivid images for me of Cullen Mirza, who is the Dustin GUI comes you know, halfway through the book so he's actually you know, sitting on his stomach which is which is kind of like a seat his throne. And then you know, he's stirring this a theme which is open and then he adds a dash of water to it from the lota which is actually inherited from his father. And then he slowly sips the fame you know and that to from a silver plated bowl, which has inscriptions from the Quran, and then you mentioned how you know his feet are wrapped up in warm hand knitted socks. And then he has a sleeveless coat which is called a Bundy or Bundy that actually protects him from the cold and that you know, he wears this bottle green round booty cap and you know from this position where he sits there he actually eyes the crowd to see you know, who is my audience? Who are the new people that have come you know, who's your to listen to my stories? I just love that scene. You know, it kind of showed the power that the Son GUI had and and you know, these people actually speculate, you know that the Dustan that he's narrating might not really be something which is made up but might be actually be a commentary on the Navab and what he's doing in real life. I just love that. Yeah, that was a very vivid scene. Thank you so much. It was it was one of my favorite scenes also because I wanted to show that persona we have a sketch of colors also. And you know, the scene is inspired from that sketch that the hair the short and then I wanted to show that he is the sadness inside in the frustration inside him and how he tries to bring that out in
A very jovial way and how he tries to please the crowd, but convey a message. And that is what we writers basically do. I think that's what we try to do. We try to tell people, This is what is happening around you, please look around.
We'll be right back after this break.
There is another very interesting romance novel that I read recently. It's called imperfect love by an America general. And it follows these two individuals who are wildly opposite. Ria, and Sahil, and it starts when they're in college together in the UK, to the US this ambitious, hardworking girl who's really close to her mother. She's very dependable. And Sahil is a spoiled rich brat. And they have different views on relationships and families. The question that the book is trying to answer is, can these two people actually make it work?
Yeah, we want to know about that. So this book has just released on Fifth February, so grab your coffee today, we've added the link in the description below. Once again, the book is called imperfect love by the harkens.
Back to the episode, since we are talking about the Dustan GUI. And since we also spoke about your other book, de to the Tasker one, you have actually, you know, spent so many years covering rambles rich culture, I mean, you know, it's not just this one story of Rosa Begum or not just one of the, you know, Dustan going, it's so much more, it's the cuisine, it's the food, it's all of that. So you and what I want to know is, you know, Tirana, when did this obsession, or this fascination begin, you know, and how did you actually record all these stories? Because, you know, most of them, as you've mentioned, is in order history, you have not been written down, there are no records. So I'm really curious to know, when did the start and how did you actually record them initially.
I, I was married into romper and my parents, my mother is from Ramco. But I've never lived over here. So I was more of an insider outsider. When I came back to settle in Ramco, I realized that there were so many things that were that I had heard about that I wanted to, you know, hear more about, Okay, what about the cuisine? Okay, what about this query? Okay. You know, what what, you know, there were so many stories that I was suddenly surrounded when I actually sat down and did recordings of them, when two people and I must say, my husband really helped me by going to take me to all these people or calling them over so that they could speak to me. I spent a lot of time at the Raza library of Aramco, which has a lot of records, reading up histories.
That is social history, and popular history and political history of Rampal. Recording the oral history was tough. But I realized that the history of women of Rampur only lives in the oral history, because the women always slip off the pages of written history. So it's oral history, where we find them where we find the different nuances of their life. Things have changed so much, because rampart has not really preserved its
architectural monuments also. So the pathways have, have disappeared. What was the pathway of food from the kitchens to the Nevada standing table? What was how did the women go to the Nevada? How did the Nevada come to the women in the harem? So many questions? So I was totally in the middle of finding all this out. And the best way was to go to people who had heard about it, and who had seen a lot of things like all these women, what happened to them after the husband died, how, where did they live? How did they live? You know, so I think it was more of the gender. Of course, the gender history was very, very important part of this whole research, which gave birth to this book. And the Dustan Gui was another facet, which I found was the part of the cultural fabric which I needed to put forward.
I think people are happy to share these stories, or their versions of the stories. And then sitting with them and kind of talking to them was just amazing. I met so many people, and there were so many people that I couldn't meet that I had met before I began my research and I very wish that they were around and they would have told me so many more things like my grandmother herself would have told me some things. So where are you from? I didn't know that you actually got married into rapport.
Yeah, so my mother's family is from grandpa. Okay. Oh, my husband's family is also from Brown poor. But after our marriage, we never really settled down and rancor. It's only now
Now that I came back to ram current I saw so there was a lot of connection between with Rambo and it was just a place that we would go to for maybe briefly for some wedding or something and, you know, like that. So it wasn't a place where we lived. So that made me a sort of an insider outsider and maybe more interested in the history and my uncle actually did his PhD in romper history, the Rohilla history. So he would also tell me stories what what he had learned from his research. So all of
I realized there was so much of cultural richness, which people did not know about. And so that totally enthralled me when I settled back here in Romford Yeah, it reminds me actually, like, my nanny is from Baroda. And we always keep going back to Baroda. And there's so much history in Baroda, right? From sort of, like the royalty and the palaces and art and architecture. So for our listeners who don't know, you know, what about sort of romper history, you know, is is so unique. And what about romper should our listeners understand.
Rambo was a princely state. And it was it was not a very huge princely state, a good sized fancy state, but it this situation was between our and Delhi. So this whole area was called rohilkhand. But Ramphele survived 1857 Because the Nawab decided that he had no hopes for the Rebels. And so he decided to
side the take the side of the British, and that's how Rampworx survived, he realized that they were too small, and they would also be totally annually elated. And so he wanted to protect his preseason selfish motive. But the unselfish thing that that the Navab did was that they started collecting all the manuscripts, the books that were being destroyed after 1857, they called all the writers and poets and cooks and as time goes to ramp called, and try to become a sort of a cultural node for the North Indian, or Muslim culture. And that made Rambo an important center of culture throughout the 20th century, and the 19th century also, and through this whole intermingling of culture, the batons who were basically warring tribes, of course, they were, you know, they had their own culture from Afghanistan, but they assimilated all this, mostly our the culture and local culture and tried to bring it all together in this, this little state of Ramco. This is the thing that, that people should know that yes, this is this was the center of culture, but it kind of went through a slow decline after the 1960s.
Now very interesting, yeah, I think like one of the things that your book is definitely doing, you know, because it's targeting audiences who live in bigger cities, and in big cities were used to sort of a more Western upbringing or obviously, they'll be like, keep traditions alive. But I think small towns like Rambo have such rich histories and traditions which still exist in a much more sort of bigger way than the traditions that we have, you know, in our city life. And one such traditional gathering is a sour me, which you bring alive in the book. And that is the reason that you know, our protagonist feroza gets kidnapped. She wants to attend the Nevada Saudi and so could you tell our listeners, you know, what, what is the Saudi what is the difference between them now and how they war during feroza time maybe, you know, an anecdote for our listeners who have never been to one
Okay, so Savi is like monsoon party. Because the Potomac loves the rains they had come from a colder place. So they love the celebrated the rains in many way. And grandpa has a lot of mango orchards. So the Nawabs also love mango orchards. And they used to have these surveys and all, you know, big families used to have a South knee party at least once during the sermon and even today, they have it and they gathered all their friends and they were mangoes, there was some singing, there were swings. And of course for the Navarre it was, it was a bigger affair, in the sense that they had a lot of dignitaries coming in from other fancy states and the British officials also and they had singing sessions and they had Dustan sessions. So sadly, was one event which was looked forward to by the Nobel
nobility and they were all called for the Sami. However, this Nawab, because he was like I've told, like I've spoken in the book also, because he was not supposed to be of he had a sort of a roving eye. So the nobility did not like the women to go go to the south knee because they were they were a bit scared of his nature. And feroza Begum says that I'm married. And so why can't I go, I want to see what's happening in this Emma, she's a curious person, she's a lively person. And then and she gets trapped into the harem, because she was so beautiful. That was an above meta, he just didn't want to let her leave the harem. So So that's, that's the idea of a sub knee today, also, we have 70s There are still archers, thankfully, in Rampal. And you have all these
Puri and some sea and
you have mango parties, and you have swings, and, of course, pull out and everything getting cooked under the, under the mango trees, and there's rain, hopefully. So it's a sort of cultural fix that is there. And I remember my mother used to sing these, per se, we call them per se, but we didn't know that they were they were actually char bed. Char bath is like a four line compositions, which were traditional to ramble. And they used to sit under the trees and sing these varieties or char. But that was also that also tells a lot about the people and the feelings of the hero and was always lost because the husband was away or something or the other like that. So this is a sort of a cultural fabric of Rampur that still indoors in its in its own special way.
Yeah, and you know, those various artists actually reminded me of something in in my culture. So I'm a Mangalorean. And we have the ceremony just before, you know, someone gets married, it's called this rose ceremony somewhat similar to the healthy ceremony that Hindus have, you know, where they actually put coconut milk and coconut water or, you know, the anoint the bride or the group's forehead with that. And while this happened, this thing, you know, sort of this worse are these couplets which are called bow view. So you know, when you were actually speaking, what the word Sati is, it took me back, you know, to those times, I used to actually attend Mangalorean weddings, and you know, them singing these traditional songs, you know, there's a big disconnect, I would say we do with people who are living like far away, you know, in the cities, it's only when you go back and revisit your hometown, that you actually get access to all of this. So I'm so glad that, you know, we actually got an insight into Grand foodie culture through this, and you don't There was actually an a very vivid scene in the book, that I know that that has really stayed with me, which has actually to do with feroza begums labor, right. So we know that, you know, she gets kidnapped, and she's basically she gets married to the Navab. And then, you know, she bears his child, and all of that, but she actually, you know, writes in pain for 12 hours, oh my God, and then and then you know, she gives birth to a baby girl. And and it's sad that you know, he he's actually consoled by his great grandmother in law that Navab he's consoled by saying that, don't worry, there will be boys later on. You know, and it's heartbreaking because the baby is then taken to the first wife of the Nova. We do not even give in to feroza Begum, though she's a mother, because the first wife actually, we know, doesn't have children. So I just found that really heartbreaking and brutal. You know, and even feroza Beckham is sad for another reason, because if it was a boy, if actually a boy was born, you know, there would have been a huge announcement there would have been a, you know, special party and all of that, but yeah, they were just, you know, small mesophyll small announcement just because it's a girl, and all of them deserted her. So, you know, that was another thing. I think that you really, I will say did justice to to the kind of injustice that follows a vacant ghost? Yeah. Just to add to that. Another theme that I really liked is that you know, when she is captured, this is before she has been a Bob's giant. She is pregnant with the husband, like with her husband. And you know, when she's captured and around, you mentioned her family just completely like, you know, doesn't sort of stand up for talk to her and her husband actually says that, you know, I have divorced you
and it's like that the lock the lock the lock, I have divorced you right. And she has no agency and then and then she has to get an abortion, you know, and I don't know, like just both those seeds, like, I don't know how to explain but it's sort of so like, sort of very visceral and it's sort of like she had no control right over over that like this.
This man decided to kidnap her. And then, you know, this other man decides to divorce her, and then she has to abort one baby and then have another baby.
And all the while she like, obviously, you know, has, you know, she retains that sense of like, fire within her throughout, which is very interesting.
Yes, I think I was, I was deeply moved when I was told much later because as a young girl, I wasn't told that she was made to abort. It was later and the women of the family told me after my marriage that, you know, this is what happened to her, she was made to abort the child. And that affected me so deeply. Because you know, the woman, sorry, actually, the woman has no agency at all over her body, she is just a vessel to give children and if it's a girl, child, it's nothing the girl child is nothing and women and children world. And that's that's the truth, this is history were handed out as favors, give it to another wife, give give this child to this slide give this child to that, right. You know, it was it was just so they there was they were not in control of anything. And to negotiate this kind of a world with so much courage and try to make a place for yourself, try to, you know, be dignified under all this. That is what won my appreciation for this this person, how she was able to deal with all these situations, see, her family could have come to her aid, because you know, the political system was such that at that time, all the baton chieftains used to support the Nawab. And theoretically, the Nawab owed his part of the pattern shift. And so she says that, I had hoped that my father would come and ask request an hour, or at least my husband would come, but they didn't come. And that's where she's shattered. And then second, secondly, she's made to abort the child, that that she's, you know, she, for from her first husband. All these things, the brutality of the situation of women, whether they were from a very affluent family, or or they were from extremely poor family. But the point was that they suffer. And yet, when I went back to the family, who still live in Rambo today, they said, We never spoke to her ever, because we were told by our grandfather not to have anything to do with her because she disobeyed me. She didn't listen to me. And they never spoke to her. They never visited, they could have they could have gone back. They did come back to ram for later. But they never went to visit her because it was showing their displeasure. You know, like that? Yeah, it's crazy. Like, yeah, it's crazy to think about, you know, that the family was right there. And they didn't visit. And it reminded me actually, when I was reading it, it reminded me of
a week go by.
Because, you know, in the movie, basically, she sold off into prostitution. And, you know, once she's, she's into that, then her family sort of like
sort of disowned her. So even though she becomes sort of very independent, we all know the story of almost all see the movie and she becomes very independent woman in the sort of commodity pariah area, and she can easily sort of leave and go back home. And she even calls her mom, and she calls up a barons, and, you know, they've completely disowned her, because now she is associated with, you know, prostitution and all of those other things. And I just found it. So like, sad that,
you know, because of all of these sort of, like, societal impositions that have been put on us, you know, women are separated, and she was separated by a family that she could have easily spent so much time with.
So I think that was a very sort of, like, heartbreaking part of your book.
But there's also so much sort of, like friendship in the book, as well as a lot of like, these themes of strong female friendship. And I think, Michelle, when we were reading the book, that was something that you were really interested in, right.
Yeah, exactly. I was just telling Tara, you know, like one of the most strong friendships that come across because of all this brutality, you know, I was just looking for that one kind gesture towards feroza Vega when that comes in the form of Divani Begum. So, you know, just for context for our listeners, Divani Begum is actually at a wife, who's first hired as a musician in the Nawabs code, and then you know, he falls in love with her so obviously, she's trapped now, you know, she's a part of the harem, just like the other girls and you know, what is heartbreaking is she feels madness just to escape the Nawabs rat, you know, so she will sometimes
laugh at herself, she would cause she would sing all the day. And that became such a big part of her identity that eventually she, you know, probably did become mad. But But I would say that the thing that stayed with me is the fact that she became such a close friend of heroes are very heroes that didn't have anybody to Euro coil as a friend, nobody to even you know, recognize because she was suddenly an outcast to her own family that really struck a chord with me. So, you know, Tirana, can you please share an instance of their friendship, you know, it could be a scene from the book or it could be something that you've even made up just by listening to the stories, you know, something that you're gonna wait for a response.
Yes, so, because feroza Begum was a very generous person, she was a generous, loving person, she found Divani Begum was you know, everybody laughed at the money bacon. And she realized that she is not really the one and this is this is a real person I've read about her in that in that diary. So she was a real person and also have heard about her in oral history. She knew all the she knew the one half she knew because she was at survived. The wives were very educated women, they knew Farsi, the new or to the new all poetry, everything. And she would, you know, she could, she was just laughed at, but she found freedom, she was able to just sing or recite poetry or whatever. And it was when, you know, she eventually loses feroza. At the end, Divani Begum starts writing everything on the walls, because she is afraid that she will forget all the lines of poetry that she knew by heart, and she had been taught as assets survive. So she just keeps writing them on the walls. That's the That's her way of remembering those lines. And that's what gives her courage to, to carry on. And then everything is lost. It is feroza Begum, who's going to her and trying to help her out in different ways, and comforting her etc. So there was a lot of
injustice and a lot of cruelty towards women at that time. All the women just wanted that they should give birth to a son. And there was one achieving him who gave birth to a son. But that son, suddenly everybody was jealous of that son, and when the Nawab had three sons that the first son suddenly fell out of favor, and I can't reveal the whole story. But you know, the rise and fall of the women's fortune in the harem, was based on their being able to give an heir or being, and this jealousies between them continuous jealousies, and, you know, manipulation of the Navab against each other was what kept them alive also. But once the Nawab dies, they are on the same plane, and they they just come together. And that's the story. So yes, they were mistaken was one character that really, really touched me deeply and achieving them. You know, these were these were characters that Feroz tried to reach out because she she sympathize. And she empathize with them. She could understand this madness, and she could understand grief, of loss of a child. And that's how she reached out.
I think that, that that female bonding was one another aspect that I wanted to bring out in the story.
Yeah, I have not seen that. But yeah, that that is interesting. That trope is interesting. And I love that all of these women are sort of like real women, and that their stories have been passed down, you know, through these oral storytelling formats. And I'd love to know sort of like more about that as well.
Especially for like the sort of like characters that might not be sort of as prominent as preserving them.
That's one thing. And the other thing is which what I really liked is that,
you know, the characterizations, by example, it reminded me of, in other book, The half evidence, which I just read by trip DePandi. And that story is also about this sort of like daughter of the wave and you know, how she sort of married it's not married, but has to become sort of like a courtesan to the to the king of Jaipur, and all our mother wants is for her to escape this life. And there's really no sort of
escaping from this life once you're in that. So that is also sort of, you know, very interesting thing that how all the fortunes as you said there are now they're also much based on you know, like what happens with your relationship to this one man who's right now in power, and what happens in his man is not in power anymore.
That's true. And when I, you see I chanced upon this diary, that was, like I said, that was written by the niece of the Rogen, and she has written about these 22 women, and the different circumstances in which the Nawab married them, they were, they were, there was a temporary Nikka that he had with some of them, some of them, some of them, he had a proper Nikka. Because if you have a son, you get a proper Nikka, if you don't have a son, so you have a temporary Nikka, that means at any point of time, you can be asked to leave, but actually, the Nabob would never ask you to leave, he would get you killed if he didn't want you around. So that was the power that was there always, you know, that was the that was the ugliness of their lives, and they had these clothes and everything that was provided to them, and food was provided to them. And they had the sound nice, and they had these parties and these musical, you know, performances that that they went to. But behind all this was the ugliness. And I would often wonder about these women because they just disappeared, this, some of them actually opted to go back to their families when the next number came, but most of them, they could not exist out of that system. It just continued to live their wedding, their wives being provided their basic things, and that that whole equation is now changed. They are on that same footing, or they're standing, and they are nothing again, from nothing. And the back the back to being nothing again, they're not relevant. So women were whenever relevant for a very long period of time. That that was the sad story. This is just one and there were so many other nabobs and their women and their stories. And of course, some women became powerful also,
like, in the story itself, there was the boy John, who is another wife who actually asked him about I will be her highness. That's the only reason that I'll come and enter your harem. And then Omar was so crazy about her that he agreed to it. And he made sure that the British government acknowledged her as, as Her Highness and dethrone the main Her Highness. So all these these things that were there, there were strong women, definitely there were strong women who could bend things to their will. But still, most of these women had very little agency, they had to operate within that system. And that is the story that I wanted to highlight. I think a lot of like, a lot of historical fiction, which I really enjoy, you know, has, you know, like women characters who are, you know, confined within this circumstance, like you said, but, you know, authors like you and another author that I really like is Chitra Banerjee, they sort of show how, you know, women sort of had their own agency, even within those constraints. But I want to bring us to your nonfiction book, which has been getting so much good press, people are raving about it.
You know, and congratulations on that. And it's kisses and recipes from rubber. And we already discussed, you know, your fascination with this place. And actually, now, you know that we've done a deep dive into it. I also sort of like maybe Michelle even I can visit one day. And yeah, I would love that. You're most welcome. Yeah, I would love to know more about you know, this, this wonderful place. And so one of the one of the
case size in the book about the about the kisses and recipes from romper is the kitchen each chapter. So my favorite food is Khichdi. So I really liked the chapter. And it was called the sense of RAM, pretty catchy. And I was so happy to know that there are Khichdi dots in winter there and it's such a big deal. And but you call yourself a closet Khichdi hater. So for all our listeners out there who like Italy like I do. Could you tell us a little bit more about what is the fascination with Kitri, the Khichdi the hobbits and the special recipe of the aura dal Khichdi which is popular in dumper.
Well thank you so much for
or for talking highly about that book. And that came from a lot of my writings on the ramp and cuisine. Kitchen is such a simple
dish and in Rampworx it's even simpler because it's just boiled or ragdoll. Only it's usually we have made multistream and this is Audra doll and shovel which is his boy with pili marriage adrak and nama. That's it. It's a boil dish. So So then, for me, it was like to just boil kitchen nothing else. But there's so many thing there's tea there's Malia char there's gonna be gosh, there is you know this there is a doubt around it. And you won't believe yesterday I had a country that was at my place
Oh my god.
Again, you know, it was the thing about kitschy was that election then rise? So when I wrote about the selection then rice
this this whole chapter was read by my by
Professor of History at the University of Sheffield and she said, What is this the lecture then? And we actually got together a project which I write about in the book. It's called forgotten foods. And we grew with electron then which is a nearly extinct rice. So yesterday, I had a kitchen lover, but it was a kitchen towel but with a twist. That is the participants are the people have rambled a lot of friends and other people were called over and they had to guess, which is the lecture and then you know, which is the lecture then which is just hybrid rice kitchen. And you won't believe everybody forgets it. I had the same thing in Sheffield, I had the same key 20 prepared in Sheffield, and we did a presentation. And the, of course, they couldn't understand what is the difference between these two races, they seem to be similar. They seem to taste similar. So it was an equal kind of a survey. The same thing happened in Delhi people couldn't understand. So I think it's more of a cultural thing and Ramco like every country has its own cultural thing and I think in Rampur because it is it is a it's a very Kryptonian dish. It's the people have it everyday throughout winters. They would have it with ghee, they would have it with Telltale they would have it with chatni but it is a dish that unites people the Novozymes used to love to have kitschy, the ordinary labor would want to have kitschy before going off of work. So So I think that is my fascination with this dish, per se and it's but I'm not really a country level. Do I realize now when I had that election then I realized that okay, this is what was missing. And I can have electric monkey tree because it has an aroma and it has a taste but otherwise it's just boiled rice and lentils. The other country seems just like nothing. Yeah, I think also like, you know, like, like, he always is always different in everyone, everyone's house today, even though it's sort of like made for such basic reveals every different person's house you go to the kitchen, it tastes different.
I also like in so in Baroda, you know, I really like these ideas of like food parties. So in Baroda we have like only our parties, which was really fun. And I find it's, like, awesome thing of Indian culture that you know, we have sort of like parties with our favorite foods. Michelle, do you sort of like have Do you like edgy reversely?
Sadly, no, I'm like Tirana a closet.
I tell you why. You know, because I actually didn't grow up having HD and the only memory I have currently is I think when I was in the fourth grade, okay, so I had a tonsillitis operation you know, and then once you're done with that for at least four to five days, you're not supposed to you know eat anything solid and I remember my mom had prepared this according to her very delicious kimchi with ghee and with all of that she tried to make it so you know, yummy, but oh my God, when I had that like since then I associate Khichdi with being like, you know, food when you have when you're sick, but what to do, but now actually Tirana after I read the book, you know, my mouth started watering and I'm like, okay, maybe I it's time to change my PhD diet because that was for the first time I realized that you can have many kinds. You know, like, I just thought okay, there was one way of preparing Khichdi
but yeah, I think yeah.
Oh, I just said the book is like the, the kisses and recipes. I think, you know, what you've done for Rampur and bringing it alive to sort of a more sort of modern audience. I think that's so special. And it just sort of just makes me think, you know, there's so much richness in India and there's so many stories
that just waiting to be sort of uncovered.
That just sort of like blows my mind. But you also said something about, you know, in a previous interview that you said that, you know, we don't often get to read varied stories involving Muslim protagonists. So we wanted to know, you know, what stories would you like to see that are coming out from the Muslim community now?
So, my, my idea was that every culture, it's not just the Muslim culture, because I'm a Muslim. So it's not just the Muslim culture, but there are so many subcultures. And that is the richness of India like, rancor is a subculture. I'm just highlighting one subculture like but like Michels has talked about Mangalorean the beautiful customs of manga Mangalorean subculture, and that's something that I haven't seen, and I would really love to witness this ceremony. There's so many things that even we are we who are living in India don't know about it. So when we are talking about Muslim protagonists, look at Muslim protagonists in a positive light, maybe, you know, that's what I feel that let's not paint anyone black or white, let's not have only Tories wearing, punching Muslims all the time, let's let's have Muslims who are from who were different, who are like everybody else. So my idea is that we are like everyone else. And why not portray us as we are. And we have the same new answers as every other community and it's just not just, let's now go to our fun section that Anna and you know, for all our listeners, this is serranos. But they were so excited to record on your birthday. It's always special. When we do that, I think we had done that with another author. Under Obama holiday. It was also his birthday, when we recorded Okay, yes. Happy birthday.
Thank you. Thank you. Yes. Okay. So, um, I'll be reading out some options and Anna, you will have to pick one, okay. Okay, one site at the Benassi palace that you would love to have in your own home. One Bamboo curtains, two glittering chandeliers? Three Brocket. Tucked.
There's light. Yes, light. Okay, one place, you would never want to be a part of the Barsuk, which is known as the place between heaven and hell. Or the zenana, which is a royal section for women. Or the Taylorism. A button, which is the fortress in a world created from magic.
Don't want to be part of a Xanana? I don't think so. I could say.
But as luck is destined for I think all of us
time. Yeah, I think we call it purgatory. In Greece, yes. Yeah. That in between? Yes. Okay. That in between place. Yeah. All right. So one female name you have always loved since childhood. feroza or taboo, or Linaro.
Oh, Allah, Allah row, the face like a flower.
Okay. All right. Okay, what is the flower? Yes, yes. So my next question is talking about flowers. One flower that you wish you got on your birthday? Is it the Bubak or the goon a Nargis or the ghoul underneath?
Galena guess? That is the Nargis flower. It's the I love the aroma. I love the scent. Awesome. Okay, so we are done with a fire.
know so much. It was fun. Yeah, not that all our hours are fun. So we are moving on to another fun route, which is our rapid fire rapid fire quiz. So if you can just answer one word or one sentence,
I can begin. Okay, so
one food from romper that one dish from Rambo that everyone should try?
Well, it's not for vegetarians, but it can be cooked with money. So that is tar ghost. It's a curry. It's around pork curry. I think I've written a lot about that. That is one dish that that would define the full cuisine. Yes, I mean,
I think yeah, let
our listeners should pick up your book can read more about it first out in that. Yeah. Okay, um, one artifact from history that you keep alive at your current house.
Oh my house, you should see my house. It's got so much of old furniture it has caught. But one my favorite is, I have these beautiful beds. And they are those four poster beds with lots of carvings. And, you know, I just cannot let go of it. That is my favorite thing. And there is another there's, there's a three piece it's called kabob Mahadevi. And it's very interesting seat which has three seats joined together, so that three people are sitting and they are all facing each other. And that's a part of my, my drawing room. So it's called kabob. Mayor de I love that that piece of furniture. I love that. Yeah. Okay, so what is one place and culture apart from romper that you would love to write about?
I would love to also write about Bhopal. Because I think they have this tradition of women rulers, which I've been to people and I have studied the history and I love that idea that these women
rulers how much they did for for the the state, how much they cared for them and how much they did for the education of women. So I would love to write about her while definitely.
Yeah, you're sure that I think we would just wait to read about that. Okay, if you had to be reborn as a dustpan gooey, what's the first story you would tell?
that's so interesting. I think the tale i would tell would be off of these women. Again, again, it has to be the women and it has to be the creation of of a place which which is not rare. But the ruler makes you believe that you live in happiness that you live in the best place in the world and and you are living in nothing you are living in ashes. That's that's the main that was that will be the first day I tell about like something like somebody's like, sorry, John, is just making you believe that you are happy. You are content and actually your bellies are empty, and you have nothing in your hands. That would be the tea. Wow.
That's amazing. I think I've only heard that Stan GUI once, in sort of like real life and deli. And I never I never knew what that sandwich was. And that was my first sort of interaction with it. And I just fell in love with it. It was so unique.
Okay, so your favorite are the word.
My favorite word the word is. There's so many favorite words.
There is one word that is called is the rub is the rub is disquiet. You know, just say that it's inside you. It's a certain disquiet. So I think I right now I like that word a lot. It's a nice quiet night. The sound of it is Oh, nice. Okay, um, what's next for you? What are you writing next?
Okay, next, there is there is an anthology that I have got to get I have edited to with Schumann, Professor Shavon and Professor Claire, from the University of Sheffield and York, and is going to come out with Pan Macmillan. I'm also I've also written another fiction, which is right now, in you know, it's like the first draft is just being sent out. And I'm in the process of writing a cookbook of forgotten foods of romper. That is the Forgotten recipes of Rambo. And it's going to be something that shows Rambo as a place and shows it's forgotten dishes at the same time or something like that too soon cookbook. I think that's that's the next on my agenda.
Oh, wow. What is what is the anthology about the one that you're editing?
It is food writing by a number of writers. And we did this forgotten foods.
On scroll. There were there was a column that we used to do where we invited a lot of writers to write on forgotten foods like runners of the recession MC number of writers from the subcontinent who wrote about forgotten foods and forgotten the history of forgotten foods. So we have compiled quite a few of them only we have try and if you remember a book called Desi delicacies so this
This is kind of a second part of the sea delicacies, where we are going on to explore more cuisines of the subcontinent.
sounds super, super fascinating. Yeah, we actually, we are releasing a food podcast, which is like food histories, as well. So we'd love to have you on that front as well. And I can get in touch with you
for that, but I think this is a subject that is like, really, really close to our hearts and like, why wouldn't it not be right food is sort of essential to all of our lives. Okay, so that brings us to the end of the interview. Thank you so much for your insights into 19th century Rambo, current Trump or food, women's lives, the sun GUI, the wave so much richness. And we could have continued this conversation for much, much longer.
But really appreciate the insights and a very happy birthday. I hope you have an amazing evening ahead.
Thank you so much for having me. It's been such a fabulous talk. And I must tell you that when I walked to my university, I'm listening to your cheerful voices every day. Oh, thank you so much that
makes such a big difference to us. Yes, it makes a difference to me.
So here we are, where the end of yet another journey into the many worlds of Books and Beyond with bound. I'm Tara Knievel. I'm Michelle D'costa. And this podcast is created by bound a company that helps you grow through stories find us as bound India or all social media platforms. So tune in every Wednesday if you live, eat and breathe books and join us as we discover more revolutionary books and take into the lives and minds of some truly brilliant authors from India and South Asia. And don't forget to keep your love for stories alive for books and beyond.