The novel by French journalist Kenize Mourad relates the story of Hazrat Mahal, the queen of Awadh

Kenizé Mourad, a French journalist and writer, visited India for the first time when she was 21. Half-a-century and many more visits later, she has arrived again at 72, this time to reveal what has remained relatively unknown to many Indian citizens about their own history.

The English translation of her novel ‘In the City of Gold and Silver’ relates the story of Begum Hazrat Mahal, the queen of Awadh who fought valiantly in the 1857 revolt, but never got due recognition as her counterpart from Jhansi, Queen Lakshmi Bai. Released at the Hyderabad Literary Festival here on Friday, the book introduces the queen who kept the British out of Lucknow for one whole year and then waged a guerrilla war against them for another year. Having an Indian Nawab for father and a Turkish princess for mother has endowed Kenizé with significant knowledge about both cultures. She had special praise for the Ganga-Jumna culture of Lucknow, where the Ganges is representative of the Hindu tradition and the Jumna, of Islam.

Dwelling at length on the Begum, she wondered if the post-Independence rancour between the two religious communities was responsible for the story being left untold. Inaugurating the festival earlier in the day, Governor E.S.L.Narasimhan hoped that it would re-ignite reading habit among the younger lot who were experiencing a complete shift in reading and writing habits owing to technological revolution. Literature is a reflection of society and contemporary lifestyles and makes one familiar with the richness of language, Mr. Narasimhan said.

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