Wednesday 17 August 2022

Tears of the Begums - Book Review

Tears of the Begums - Stories of Survivors of the Uprising of 1857 


On the 11th of May, when the mob from Meerut entered daily, nobody would have thought it to be the end of the Mughal Empire. The fire of passion spread across North India, and with it, the stature of the Mughal Crown burned to ashes. Many writers have written about the events of Ghadar, but few writers have presented first-hand accounts of the whole event. Khwaja Hasan Nizami has written 12 books on the Ghadar of 1857. In these books, he has given a detailed account of how the events unfolded during and after the Ghadar. In his book, Begumaat ke Ansoo, translated as Tears of the Begums by Rana Safvi, he interviews various Mughal Princes and Princess who narrate the tales of their suffering.

Even though the title suggests that the book might focus solely on the royal womenfolk, there are a handful of first-hand narratives of many princes as well. Nonetheless, no matter who narrates their sufferings, the reader cannot help but feel sorry for them. One theme that is heavily present is that of 'helplessness'. In a matter of hours, everything was taken away from them. The ones who ruled the entire nation at one point were now beaten, abused, left to beg. The subjects of the Mughal court, in a matter of hours, changed their loyalties and turned their backs onto the royal blood. The book is a magnificent, heart-wrenching and moving collection which depicts the repercussions of the Ghadar and the cruel  vengeance that was meted out towards the people who had nothing to do with it. 

Rana Safvi's translation, Tears of the Begums (published by Hachette India), beautifully captures the essence of their plights and mishaps. She has retained a few original words that helps the reader to connect better. Her book is an attempt for the non-Urdu readers to reconnect with the past and understand how history has largely forgotten the members of the Mughal family.

-Sudipta Agarwal

Phd Scholar, Department of English
New Delhi

You can order the book here -

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