Jaipiur Diary – The Battle of 1857
The surprise package.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The surprise winner of the Jaipur marathon was a plump woman. At 10 am, Mughal tent in Diggi Palace hotel was slotted for authors William Dalrymple and Mahmood Farooqui. The duo was supposed to discuss their books, both of which dealt with the native accounts of the 1857 uprising. But Mr Farooqui was stuck in the traffic jam caused by the marathon – being held the same morning – and the orgnaisers quickly called author Mrinal Pandey to speak instead.
It turned out that Ms Pandey’s latest book – just off from the press – was titled 1857. Originally a Marathi-language travelogue of two Brahmans who crossed to the north of Vindhayas on the eve – literally – of the uprising, 1857 was translated into English by Ms Pandey after she left her job as editor in Hindustan, a Hindi daily. Ms Pandey’s soft-spoken style and the originality of her talk was refreshing. The crowd was expecting a familiar chat – done to death – about how Delhi suffered in the Uprising. Instead, Ms Pandey, “the accidental translator”, gave one amusing anecdote after another about the journey of these two Brahmins who lied and cheated their way through the strife-torn land, which they called Hindustan.
There was a collective gasp when Ms Pandey said that Rani Lakshmibai, the queen of Jhansi, was married to an ageing transvestite. Giggles followed as she described how the two Brahmins went to Lucknow for a few days to have ‘fun’ with the Muslim dancing girls. The audience erupted into laughter when Ms Pandey, reading from her book, said, “Don’t trust women. They always stab in the back.”
Finally, Mr Farooqui arrived, and spoke, but the battle had already been won by Ms Pandey.
Bewitched by Ms Pandey
Mr Farooqui’s turn
Her winsome smile