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Book Review: Maharani by Ruskin Bond

“I wasn’t going to wear it, but I put it away carefully. It would be a reminder of the good times had by all of us – H.H., Ricardo, Mrs. Montalban, Pablo and Anna, Mr. Lobo, myself. And if, at the end, the times weren’t good so good, it was probably because the party had gone on for too long.”

Maharani by Ruskin Bond is a plot less novella. Well, it will take you to some different era: there you will get a chance to see the life lived by the royals of India and what possibly went wrong which put them in a state of abeyance. The narrator of the book is Ruskin Bond. Though the writer says that most of his characters are familiar to readers and this story is totally a product of imagination. Well, while reading you would feel that the story is part imagination and part real, set in the beautiful hills of Mussoorie and often goes outside to Delhi and Pondicherry.

This is the story of H.H. and the people that surround her. H.H. (Neena being her real name) is the widowed Maharani of Mastipur. Her husband died long ago. And her two sons are good for nothing; one is addicted to drugs and another weakling. They are waiting to usurp their share from the royal inheritance. But H.H. keeps them at bay, only monthly allowances, no privileges because they don’t deserve it. Hollow Oak is the mansion where H.H. lives with her permanent lover Hans, a Swiss native.

Ruskin and she are friends since school days. Therefore, Ruskin is often called by her to see her in the times of mood swings or depression. She has nothing great to do in her life except indulging in parties. She is a compulsive drinker – and she can’t control it – she wanted to have all the fun of the world that is left out there. Other than drinking and a permanent lover, she also houses a variety of dogs at her door and Ruskin doesn’t like anyone of them.

People and lovers come and go but no one manages to live for a longer time with her because she is both at times sulky and smitten. It seems that she has no quest in life – probably she knows about the void that is gnawing her soul. There is nothing great or special about the story except that it tells how the royals or kings of post-independence sank to their own decadence.

Talking about suspense elements, the death of Maharaja and her first Maharani remains a search for readers; also you would grow out of curiosity to know about the gender status of a long, man-like, broad-faced nun called Clarissa. Some say she was a murderer, while some she was a German fugitive. Every person has a different story to tell about these suspense elements.

Too much drinking resulted in the kidney failure of Maharani and on her death bed she is bitten by one of her Pekinese and she dies before reaching hospital. Aftermath, the mansion in the hills begin to disintegrate, robbers break in to loot the jewelry and all of sudden many people spurted to claim the inheritance of the Maharani. She talked about giving some part of inheritance to Ruskin but nothing reaches up to him except the overcoat of the Maharaja because she thought only a gentleman like Ruskin can respect that overcoat.

It’s a light but interesting read. You will get to know about the lifestyle of the Maharanis and Maharajas of 1960s and 70s and aspects ruined their heritage.


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