Dastan’s Enchanted World
Nishat Zaidi
THE BEGUM AND THE DASTAN by Tarana Husain Khan Tranquebar, 2020, 271 pp., 499.00
August 2021, volume 45, No 8

Urdu Dastan refers to an extant mode of storytelling where popular fantasies, literary tropes and a hint of history is melded to produce utterly entertaining and absorbing stories. Often about legendary characters, the charm of the dastan rests on its flamboyance, verbal excesses and a fine entanglement of the ordinary and the extraordinary, of the mundane and the marvellous.

Tarana Husain Khan, in this thoroughly readable and vastly riveting novel, tells us a nineteenth century Dastan through the aperture of a twenty-first century family lore, where a quintessential tale-telling, full-of-stories ‘Dadi’ narrates the story of her aristocratic grandmother to her granddaughter, Ameera. Ameera’s life forms a gossamer-thin frame-story woven with textures of the ordinary and the banal, through which we are propelled into an extraordinary, suspense-thrill-filled life of Feroza Begum, one of the many wives of Nawab Shams Khan of Sherpur circa 1897.

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