I had to pick it up, for it was from the same author who gave us a book we cherished as a family – The Long Walk Home.My father migrated from Bangladesh and my husband’s grand parents migrated from Pakistan. We are a blend of Bengali and Sindhi. We both grew up listening tales of partition, witnessing the losses our fore fathers incurred. Strange expressions our parents carried whenever partition was been talked about. It was a topic we never discussed much, but share as a commonality. The Long walk home gave us a reason to again speak about that. It was raw, honest and hence we all were connected to that.
With Taj Conspiracy, naturally I had my expectations. It was though traversing a different genre. It has all ingredients chosen smartly.
Taj, Mystery, Conspiracy, Mughal History, Communal Politics .. the combination of all that can rarely go wrong.
“The Taj Conspiracy” is a tale of young Mughal scholar Mehrunisa Khosa who discovers the murder of Taj supervisor and eventually stumbles on the conspiracy to destroy the Taj Mahal. What follows is a thrilling adventure questioning the history of Taj, traversing through Chattisgarh to Kashmir while involving key groups like Mujahiddin from Kashmir and right wing Hindu party in Agra.
We needed this book. As a nation. For someone to tell a tale with backdrop of the monument which we are proud of, but have every channelized knowledge about it. We know Taj what our text books taught us. We know the architecture what the tourist guide told us in our last summer vacation to Agra.
Manreet, did a splendid job while describing the architecture which we mostly were unaware of.
Though a work of fiction, “The Taj Conspiracy” highlighted many unknown aspects, un-traversed pages from history.. As Manreet herself says : “History, after all, was written by victors.. a re-write was long overdue.”
The conspiracy been laid thoughtfully. Sub-plot were captivating in individuality and intriguing in totality. There are many sub plots. It helps to create interest, but half way through the book a impatient reader may feel lost. Thats a flip. Though by next half they started converging and you again get the flow to swim across the novel.
Characters have been placed like well thought out moves of chess. They appear when they are needed. Speak only as much they are required. Behave the way they make sense together with other characters for the novel to culminate the way it should.
Mehrunisa is every writer’s dream character. A mughal scholar, linguist, born to a Persian mother and Sikh father. She had all essential qualities for her to enter and explore the conspiracy that surrounds her. She is strong yet vulnerable. She has capability to move and sensibility to stop.
Professor Kaul is yet another charming character. Godfather to Mehrunisa. Their relationship has been dealt sensibly.
Manreet has used her characters to bring the subtle humor in mid of conspiracy, murder and mysteries. That sudden taste of mellow down humor tastes like a pickle in full course Indian meal. Remember when Professor Kaul jokes Mehrunisa that “Don’t eye me like that – someone might mistake it for love.”
Some essentials characters are placed well in the premise. Like Hindutva revivalist party head Shri Kripalani, cop who has fought battles in Chattisgarh forest, SSP Raghav, ASI director Raj Bhushan, Pamposh. They help to add thrill and maintain pace.
This book is having universal feel to it, not reserving its language and extra detailing to cater NRI segment. The nuances of Urdu, Muslim heritage, Qur’an calligraphy, political turbulence, terrorist threat all portraying a vivid and crude picture of today’s India.
The Taj Conspiracy is a well thought out , methodically plotted and well documented novel. Its polished. Structured. You can sense the research and effort went into the creation. Its a labor of love.
The book left me with a strong urge to visit Taj all over again with a copy of “The Hunt For Kohinoor(Second in the trilogy)” as my travel mate. Amen!