by Rrashima Swaarup Verma
I still remember. It had seemed like a regular, ordinary day when my literary agent and dear friend, Suhail Mathur of The Book Bakers literary agency, happened to call me. Only later would I realize how that day would become a turning point in my writing career. Anyway, since Suhail isn’t the kind of person to beat around the bush, he came straight to the point. A short documentary film on “Greatest Love Stories from Indian History” led him to a fascinating story. An incredible true tale from 18th-century India. A tale about the love affair between a British officer, Lt Col. James Achilles Kirkpatrick, and a beautiful Hyderabadi princess, Khair-un-Nissa. A story of love, war, and politics, a play of thrones, a battle of power, prestige, love, and honour from Indian history. A story that needed to be told. Needed to be read. Admittedly, the moment he started relating it to me, I was intrigued. Enthralled. Hooked!
‘It will require an intense amount of research,’ Suhail said then. ‘Yes but after all, research is my forte,’ I assured him. ‘I’d love to do it. It’s totally my kind of story.’
Over the next few months, as I started delving into the past, I realized that it truly was my kind of story. It had beauty, pathos, and power. It was a heady mix of emotions and facts. The research, as we had predicted, was intense. I spoke to historians, scholars, and experts. I dug into government archives and records. I validated and corroborated every bit of information that I was lucky enough to find. Every time I would chance upon something significant, I would squeal in delight, almost as excited as a child. Mercifully, people were kind and generous with their knowledge and time, and readily shared both with me. Perhaps they also felt that this was a story that needed to be written. And as I started writing, I realized how beautifully and effortlessly words can flow when a writer truly emotes with a theme. The more I wrote, the more in love I was. In love with the plot, the settings, and the characters. The months that followed had a cathartic, almost therapeutic quality to them. It was almost as though all my senses had finally awakened, as though I’d been waiting for this story all my life. I had never been as sure of anything before.
While all the characters in the story were extremely fascinating, I was particularly intrigued by the character of the female protagonist. Khair-un-Nissa. Such a young woman living in a society where men were unquestioningly supreme, yet she displayed so much resilience and grit. A woman who had the courage to follow her dreams, the fortitude to follow the path that her heart had laid out for her. She was a woman with an astute understanding of politics and governance, a woman who did not allow anyone to dictate terms to her. Supported by a tremendously strong tribe of incredible women across generations, Khair-un-Nissa truly is one of the most extraordinary characters I have ever had the honour of writing about.
Represented by India’s leading literary agency, The Book Bakers, and published by one of the country’s biggest publishing houses, Srishti Publishers and Distributors, The Royal Scandal was released on the 15th of November, 2022 across bookstores and online platforms. It went on to become a bestseller within days of its release and has consistently topped the charts in the “Women in History”, “Indian History” and “Military History” categories in leading platforms. As for me, the author of the book, I can say with the utmost certainty that writing this book was a realization for me, an awakening, a remarkable experience like no other. I hope every reader feels the same, for this story is really one that needs to be told, needs to be read.
An enormous word of thanks to Mr. Siddharth Sehgal for featuring this article. I hope that the readers of Indian Periodical will enjoy reading this important piece from India’s rich history.
P.s. The Royal Scandal is available in leading bookstores as well as online platforms. Here is the Amazon link to the book.
About the Author:
Rrashima Swaarup Verma is a writer, columnist, and poet based in India. Rrashima’s writings are regularly published in leading national and international literary magazines, newspapers, and periodicals including Spark – The Magazine, Indian Review, Indian Periodical, West Trestle Review (California), The Writers and Readers Magazine (UK), Active Muse, Women’s Era, Women’s Web. Rrashima has participated in and moderated several prestigious book launches, book discussions, and poetry recitations. Rrashima’s first book “A Break In Love” is a contemporary, urban romance novel and has recently been published.
Rrashima is also an ardent traveler and writes a monthly travelogue for her website. You can visit her website www.rrashimaswaarupverma.com to read some of her work.