DNF: The Mulberry Courtesan

by Sikeena Karmali

Read time: about 2 minutes

I did not want to DNF it all it! In fact I was excited to read A historical fiction from the court of Bahadur Shah Zafar. I tried really hard to like the book but I could not make it beyond 79 pages.

The book begins with 19 years old Laale stuck in Hindu Kush with her rapist whom she just had killed. The first chapter establishes her present condition and second goes back to how she was abducted from her home and later raped by a soldier of British Indian Army.

Cover: DNF: The Mulberry Courtesan

Laale kills her rapist, gets sold as a slave and lands in Lal Quila in Dili. All this happens without evoking much feeling. The narration is dry. She hardly has dialogues until a significant number of pages later. And when she speaks, there is nothing magical about it. It makes you wonder why she was silent all this while. She is abducted, raped and herded across cities but not one word! No screaming!

A few pages into the book we get to meet Mirza Ghalib which got me really excited but it faded away too. Ghalib also, is not given any reinforcement. The book until now just feels like great names scattered around in pages and the story goes on and on without any impact. The female rivalry is the focus of the book until now but again the author just touches the subject and goes past it without much context. There is nothing anchoring the Book until now.

I am personally DNFing the book because I have read through one third of the book and do not find anything interesting in the book. Furthermore, I do not want to ruin the last Mughal emperor’s court for myself. I am very much interested in the Mughal era and will pick up something on Bahadur Shah Zafar somewhere in future and it will be a great insight into the life and times. This particular book is nothing like the Book I want to read on the Emperor, his court and most importantly Mirza Ghalib.

All this being said, this is a very personal opinion. For anyone who may want to dispute it, they are more than welcome to read the book, they may like it even. Literature is subjective.

Veena Choudhary

An avid reader and history fanatic.

Mumbai, MH merakipost.com