Weaving tales around the Taj

Author Manreet Sodhi Someshwar on her latest book, The Taj Conspiracy”

Meera and Muzaffar Ali at the book discussion. Photo: The Hindu

Meera and Muzaffar Ali at the book discussion. Photo: The Hindu

“Just as the colour white contains all colours within it, this monument of white embodies our innate, ancient pluralism. Save the Taj Mahal…that monument stands for India.” — The Taj Conspiracy.

A novel by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar, “The Taj Conspiracy”, true to this line in its acknowledgement, hovers around the history and the mystery of the beautiful white monument. “I still remember the winter of 2008 when I visited the Taj Mahal. Taj was then covered by a hazy mist. It looked forlorn as if saying to me that it wants someone to narrate its tale. And here I am with the tale,” said the author at the book discussion session held at The Kila, Mehrauli, New Delhi, recently to coincide its launch.

Filmmaker and artiste Muzaffar Ali was the guest of honour for the evening’s session. The author was in discussion with theatre personality Bubbles Sabharwal and entrepreneur Vipan Pashricha on “The motive, secret and history behind The Taj Conspiracy.”

Bubbles and Vipan also gave dramatized reading to excerpts from thefiction, joining the ends to give audience a peep into the Taj and theconspiracy.

An award-winning author, Manreet is a product of the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. She started writing at 12. After working for 10 years in marketing, advertising, and consulting fields, she left her corporate career to become a full-time writer. She published her first novel, “Earning the Laundry Stripes”, in 2006. Her second novel, “The Long Walk Home” got published in 2009. She is also a popular blogger.

“I am a history buff. This book is based on years of research. To the best of my knowledge, all descriptions of architecture, artwork, calligraphy, documents, and urban legends around the Taj, are accurate,” said Manreet.

Someone from the audience inquired during the session if she thought the book was secular in nature. Her answer was curt, “As a writer one never has any apprehensions. You write about what inspires you. As a nation we are secular and tolerant.”

But what amazed everyone present was the presence of a female protagonist, Mehrunisa Khosa, in a thriller. “I was very clear that I will have a female protagonist,” the author says, adding, “In India, thriller as a genre is nascent in itself. I wanted someone vulnerable and not a macho guy who represents a chauvinist society. But this female character sure has ‘male’ companions like R.P. Singh and the policeman who help her during the course.”

The protagonist of the novel is half Muslim and half Sikh. The author herself has a Sikh origin. “It is a deliberate attempt. My protagonist is a human metaphor for the Taj.

The monument itself has mixed flavours. My own viewpoint is, a character that has a bit of every culture can bring concerns for minority in front,” stated Manreet.

The author said she “has plans to bring out a trilogy with the same protagonist, Mehrunisa Khosa. The second book is titled The Hunt for Kohinoor .”

(This article was first published in The Hindu-MetroPlus)

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