I met Zayn and his wife Nisha a few years back in East London, South Africa. They had come to visit, Nisha's sister Shobha and her husband Rajeev who is a great friend and colleague at the hospital. I never knew then that Zayn is the son of celebrated Indian writer, Aminuddin Khan of Hyderabad. I had borrowed Aminuddin Khan's book, 'A Right Royal Bastard' from Shobha. This is a book that gripped me till the end, a story told from an era of Mohammad Ghori till the present time. I wondered afterwards that Aminuddin Khan with his impeccable story telling flair of the Indian royalty should be at par with such writers as Manohar Malgaonkar and Ruskin Bond who have delved on the same subject.
The story is about Walidad Beg also known to all his friends as Wylard. He recounts a tale of his life and royal heritage from a princely state in South India to Amelie, a French girl. The narration takes us to Colonial India and the United Kingdom. The unfolding gives us such rare historical treats as the the advent of Mohammad Ghori and the battle at Tarain with Prithviraj Chauhan.
'One hundred thousand enemy soldiers lost their lives on the battlefield of Tarain. Govindaraja fell fighting to the last. Prithviraj got off his elephant, mounted a horse, and galloped away, but he was overtaken by our men and later executed.'
'Prithviraj's death was not in vain. His conduct at Tarain became the ideal for chivalry amongst his people. It is said that his wife's final word to her husband's corpse became a rallying cry for the future. 'Life is an old garment.' She is supposed to have said. 'What matters if we throw it off? To die well is the path to immortality.' Then she and her entourage burnt themselves to death on the dead King's funeral pyre in the strange tradition of this country.'
Waylard tells us about people who had influenced him the most.
'When I think of the people who endeared themselves to me in my boyhood, Qari Abdul Hakeem heads the list. He was a tall thin man, full of old world courtesies and I spent many interesting hours in his company, listening to tales from the past. The Qari was a superb storyteller, and his mellifluous voice could rise and fall in perfectly controlled sequences. Most of his stories held me spell bound. So, when my turn came to recount my family history to Amelie gros, I was fully aware that her transcriptions were not necessarily an indisputable record of the truth. The account was largely a product of my memory and the notes and archives I possessed.'
'The thought was wondrously exciting: I was probably descended from a teenaged horseman from the periphery of central Asia who had come to india with an invading army to find his destiny in a totally alien land. Could he have the gall to imagine that eight hundred years later one of his descendents would still be around to recall him, I often asked myself.'
As I go through each chapters and familiar names as Mohammad Ghori, Prithviraj Chauhan, Alauddin Khilji and Aurangazeb emerge, I am reminded of my mother who taught me Indian history during my school days. My children in South Africa learn about the Boer War in their schools, knowing nothing about the most exciting period of Indian history.
Talking about the partition of India in the Forties, he says '
'I recall a remark the Vazir made in August of that fateful year, 'So, it has come to pass.' He smiled. 'The Jewel in the Crown is smashed to pieces. Our imperial masters, having shed the arrogance of two hundred years, go back to the islands they come from in unseemly haste. But what a malodorous mess they have left behind!'
Having been close to many Gwalior royalties who studied with me in the school, I felt very close to Aminuddin Khan's writing and could relate to all the incidents in his story.
Rupa which has published, A Right Royal Bastard tells us about Aminuddin Khan
Aminuddin Khan was born in Hyderabad in 1932. Scion of an old noble family of the former princely State, he was educated at the Doon School, Dehra Dun, and Nizam College, Hyderabad. He then spent sixteen years in the South Indian hills, tea planting and studying the wildlife and biography of the region.
Aminuddin Khan writes about himself,
Having reached the venerable age of seventy-five I must, without further ado, record my gratitude for all I have received. Everyman I have met, every line I have read, every word I have listened to, every road I have travelled, every beautiful thing I have seen, and every idea I have accepted and acted upon has impacted me. I am the product of diverse influences, many streams. Perhaps the only ingredient in my makeup that I can call my very own is my perception. There has probably never been anything quite like it before and never will be again. That, for me, is the quintessential reality of human existence, the uniqueness of the individual's transitory consciousness and what is done with it.
Like Ruskin Bond, I believe that the splendor that Aminuddin Khan has portrayed in his books can be made into films.