Shahrukh Husain’s latest novel, A Restless Wind offers a fictional account of modern Indian maharajas – the royals who lost their power when the nation gained Independence in 1947.
This is an intriguing story of London-based barrister, Zara Hamilton who travels home to Trivikrampur after a decade, at the request of her Aunt. Deeply troubled, Aunt Hana needs Zara to fulfil her last dying wish, but dies before she can share what this is. As her desire to help Aunt Hana unravels, Zara find herself increasingly torn between two worlds; her present home in England with her English husband Peter, and her family home, Qila and the secret love-affair with her childhood friend, Jay. (Perfect) Peter represents modernity- a new world that Indians are ultimately striving for – a passage to success, a shared dreamland for both the upper classes and those seeking asylum, such as Parveen. Jay meanwhile, represents the old world, bound by ancient culture and tradition, a dying breed that is never happy, nor at peace, clinging on to the past and mired by wishful thinking.
It is a testament to Husain’s writing style, that she grabs your interest from the opening page and compels you to read on. Tradition vs modernity, sit alongside big themes of love and belonging, conflict and violence. The communal violence between Hindus and Muslims is carefully woven in to the main plot to mirror the Maharajas’ dark past – both threaten to bring the Ramzis to ruin. It is welcoming to see, that Husain doesn’t pick sides in these conflicts, choosing instead to take a wiser stance that ‘both sides of a conflict suffered, and inflicted suffering.’
Husain deftly handles a feast of characters and twisting plots.. This is a cleverly written, challenging novel which asks the question what does it mean to be happy and fulfilled? – one that protagonist, Zara can only answer when she is held captive! Zara’s paradigm shift to value her life and her own happiness is lovingly unpicked. Husain tackles big sweeping narrative shifts with care and like a natural. At times, it seems that only Husain can only fully appreciate this world, and its characters, much like Zara who is the only one who can ever know what is behind every door in the palace. Although there are instances when the plot moves too quickly, leaving readers in the dark, by the end, the novel reaches a satisfying conclusion.
A rare glimpse of what life may or may not be like for modern Indian royalty. A fascinating read.
A Restless Wind by Shahrukh Hussain is published by Infinity Plus and is out now.