_ The Love Story _ 1017/AD 1607
WAS IT thunder that woke me? I sat up, startled,
listening. It was not yet the monsoon season, but
the air was tense with that same sense of expectancy,
and still, as if waiting to rage. I could hear nothing,
except the first caw of the crows, the bul-bul practising
its enchanting scales, and the squirrels scolding
shrilly. The sky was pale and dear with the smoke
of night still lingering at the edges of the horizon.
The mango and peepul and banyan trees outside the
window appeared transparent in the delicate light.
It might have been my dream that woke me, although
I could not recall it dearly. The thunder had struck
at my heart which still beat hard and fast. Was it
a warning? I felt no fear, no leaden weight of eternity
such as the condemned man might on the dawn of his
last day on earth. Instead, to my surprise, I seemed
to feel a lightness, a delight. The excitement was
not in the air, but in myself, in the sweet remnants
of my dream.
I had glimpsed a silvery plain beneath a clarion
sky, and in the shadow where earth and heavens met,
it flushed with delicate red. In the far distance
I saw an object, but could not distinguish what it
was. A boulder? A man? It shimmered in the glare.
What might my astrologer foretell from this dream?
Wealth? Happiness? Love? The common greeds of all
who exist? Yet even without his guidance I knew the
day ahead would be filled with meaning, somehow important.
I was eager for it, impatient with waiting.
The zenana was still in darkness, but the commerce
of the day had begun outside and I could hear the
call of a street merchant, the creaking wheels of
bullock carts, a child singing in a clear sweet voice.
From far away the beat of the dundhubi proclaimed
the appearance at the jharoka-i-darshan of the Great
Mughal Jahangir. Each day, one hour before sunrise,
he showed himself to the nobles and the people from
the top of the Lal Quila. The sight of his person
reassured his subjects that he still lived, that the
kingdom was secure. He had to prove his existence
anew each day. I could imagine him sitting on his
silver throne, gazing east to the very edge of the
earth where his empire ended. It was known that it
took a camel train sixty days to cross from the eastern
boundary to the western one, the land between Persia
and Bengal, and a further sixty days to travel from
the Himalayas in the north to the Deccan Plain in
the south. The heart of this immensity was the emperor
in Agra, but wherever he travelled in his empire, there was
dundhubi was also the signal for our household to
wake. The sounds were familiar; they had always been
the same. All my life I had followed the movements
from the noises: the slaves starting the kitchen fires,
the rhythmic 'rush-rush' of the brooms, and the stirrings
of the men in our household from the rooms below.
Within, I heard the whispers of my mother and grandmother
and aunt. Today I could hear a new note in their voices,
an undertone of excitement as though they too had
been woken by the thunder. I had thought myself to
be the only one, and this largesse of anticipation
scattered throughout the zenana disappointed me.
you awake, Arjumand?' my mother called. Usually the
haram woke languidly, and it often took half the day
for the women to complete their ablutions and dressing,
but today there was a fluster of activity. Servants
and slaves were running hither and thither, fetching
and carrying and dropping as my aunt Mehrunissa gave
one order, my mother another, my grandmother a third,
and other wives and female relatives still more. Caskets
of jewels, bolts of silk, boxes of ivory and silver
and jade were being gathered together, for this was
the night the Royal Meena Bazaar was to be held. Like
a comet, it made only one appearance each year, in
late spring, causing great excitement among the ladies
of the Imperial court.
getting ready?' Mehrunissa asked me. 'Am I going as
not? You're old enough now. Someone might notice you
and propose marriage.'
was twelve years old in this year 1017, and nearly
of marriageable age. I was my parents' only child
and had led a cloistered, unexciting life. My education
- reading, writing, painting, music, history, the
Quoran- was as much as was considered suitable for
the narrow existence of a nobleman's wife. My arranged
marriage would inevitably be a dry coupling of bodies
and wealth. There could be no avoiding this future.
I dreamed of romance of course; all girls do.
propose something else,' one of my relatives suggested
lewdly, causing great laughter.
nothing to sell,' I said, ignoring the remark.
can sell anything - fruits, spices, carvings. It's
not important. But of course,' Mehrunissa added slyly,
'if your stall has precious things on it, you will
attract the great nobles, possibly even the Emperor.'
will you sell, Aunt?'
jewellery and the silks I designed.' She plunged her
hands into one of her caskets, and lifted emerald
and diamond bangles and necklaces, ruby rings and
sapphires, then spilled them carelessly back. She
frowned at the treasures. 'Do you think they're good
could be better?'
shrugged, still doubtful, then glanced at me speculatively,
secretively. Mehrunissa was an overwhelming woman,
though very beautiful. She beguiled or bullied those
who did not bend to her wishes, and even her husband,
General Sher Afkun, whose bravery on the battlefield
was unquestioned, fell silent in her presence. She
wanted to dazzle and enchant. If she could have plucked
the moon and the stars from the sky, she would have
set them atop the great pile of precious metals and
gems and cascades of silk.
they will not only come to buy, but to stare at us.
They will stare and stare, but show no courage.'
other chance do they have to look on us? The ordinary
market women can show their faces to the world and
go where they like, but we have to spend all our lives
caged in purdah.'
is better not to be seen, but to see everything,'
Mehrunissa said sharply. 'It makes men wonder about
us and dream.'
that is all they can do,' I said in exasperation.
'Who else will be at the bazaar, besides the Emperor?'
of the great nobles.' She lowered her voice conspiratorially.
'Maybe even the prince Shah Jahan. Who knows what
wonderful things will happen tonight?'
sighed hopefully. All the women were transformed with
excitement, but Mehrunissa seemed especially enchanted.
This evening she could forget her marriage and her
young daughter, and pretend to be a girl once more,
dreaming of romance and composing poetry for an unknown
lover who would, with a breath of magic, snatch her
heart away. I wondered whether she already had one
things do you expect to happen?' I asked.
just talking,' she said gaily. 'Where is Ladilli?'
'Still asleep.' Ladilli her daughter was, like me,
an only child. She was my close companion, ashy, quiet
girl, incapable of any boldness.
I did not have as much for my stall as Mehrunissa. I was young
and unmarried, and apart from a heavy gold chain and
some bangles, most of my jewellery was silver. I heaped
the anklets, ear-rings, bangles, necklaces and rings
together, but they amounted to very little. They were
worth hardly anything - a thousand rupees, perhaps
gazed at them the feeling of thunder struck me again,
shook me. It was as if the dream were trying to return,
to remind me that this day was to be different. I
had seen the colour red, but could not tell whether
it was of blood or silk - in dreams they run one into
the other - and I heard a voice, a man's voice, soft
with wonder, but could not tell what he had spoken.
I had not seen his face in my dream; I only knew we
were waiting for each other.
are very distant, Agachi,' Isa interrupted my thoughts.
'You don't look as excited as the other begums.'
was a chokra whom my grandfather, Ghiyas Beg, had
found and freed three years earlier. Though older
than me by a few years, he was still small and scrawny.
Isa told us that he had been stolen from a village
south of Golconda by a magician while he was still
only a boy, and they had travelled together for years.
He had tried to escape his master, but had been caught
and was being soundly beaten when my grandfather came
upon him. He was allowed into the haram because he
claimed to be a eunuch and this was attested to by
Mehrunissa's own eunuch, Muneer. Sometimes I doubted
this story of Isa's, but he served me more loyally
than any woman would have done.
a dream, Isa, and I was trying to remember it.' 'When
you sleep, it will return,' he said.
Here, you can carry this.' I gave him my silver, wrapped
in a silk cloth. 'Are the others ready?'
bazaar was to be held in the gardens of the emperor's
palace. This was hidden deep inside the Lal Quila
which stood like a small mountain of red sandstone
on the bank of the river Jumna. It had been built
by the Padishah's father, Akbar the Great. It was
Akbar who so generously gave employment to my grandfather
when he first arrived in Hindustan from Persia. They
had met .through the owner of a camel caravan who
presented my grandfather Ghiyas Beg to the Great Mughal;
if that had not happened we would have remained luckless
and poor, like the thousands who crowded the streets
advancement had been brilliant but disappointingly
brief. He had risen swiftly in the service of Akbar
but, misjudging the emperor, he had been too bold
in accepting bribes. It was the custom in Persia and
Hindustan to accept gifts in return for favours, but
Akbar believed his ministers should be above such
practices, and dismissed my grandfather. Since Akbar's
death two years ago, my grandfather had wanted to
serve his son, Jahangir. It was possible that Jahangir
had relented at last, for we were being shown great
favour by being invited to the Royal Meena Bazaar.
It is understandable that this event should have caused
such great excitement in our household.
family procession from the house to the fort, a distance
of four kos, was small: three palanquins. Muneer cleared
the way through the crowds with a lathi which he wielded
with cruel delight. I had protested to Mehrunissa,
but she seemed to take equal pleasure in the whack
of wood on flesh.
to walk, with Isa following a pace behind me, preferring
the dust, the heat and the wondrous sights of this
vast city to the suffocating enclosure of a palanquin.
There was no other city as large and as varied in
the whole world. Here I saw men and women from Bengal,
from Persia, Greece, Uzbeckistan, Cathay, Firingis
from beyond the western seas, Afghanis, and people
from every suba in Hindustan. Here the roadside bazaars
sold the riches of the world: porcelain, gold, silver,
ivory, silk, rubies, diamonds, spices, slaves, horses,
elephants. Behind us trailed our own little procession
of beggars. Isa gave each a dam or a jetal, depending
on their wretchedness. Left to his own discretion,
he would have driven them away with blows and curses.
The poor are always harsh to each other.
the La! Quila by the Amar Singh darwaza. The Delhi
darwaza and the Hathi Pol darwaza were reserved for
the use of the Mughal army who occupied half of the
fort. We passed the Imperial soldiers who wore scarlet
uniforms, burnished armour, and were armed with swords
and shields. We stepped from one world into another.
fort itself is shaped like a great bow with the 'string'
facing the river. Its walls are seventy feet high
and ten feet thick, and the top is carved with serrations
like the teeth of a saw. There are towers placed at
regular distances along the wall, which runs for two
kos, all manned by Imperial guards. We waited for
a while in the Amar Singh courtyard with countless
others before we were permitted to enter the narrow
tunnel that led to the palace. The commander of the
guards sat here on a raised platform and checked that
we were indeed invited. The street now sloped steeply
upwards, between two high walls. At the top of the
slope the ground levelled out. Ahead of us was the
pillared diwan-i-am with its wooden roof and beaten
silver ceiling. The palace itself stood beyond the
garden to our right on the eastern wall of the fort,
overlooking the river. It was exquisitely constructed
out of red sandstone, the walls and pillars covered
in intricate carvings. In spite of its size, it seemed
delicate and fragile.
the emperor himself seldom used it. He lived and slept
in the bargah pitched in the garden. This is a huge
and elaborate tent of many rooms, furnished with beautiful
carpets from Persia and Kashmir, the walls covered
with paintings and silk cloth decorated with precious
stones. Timur-i-leng, the first Mongol conqueror,
had decreed that none of his descendants should sleep
under the roof of a building, and every emperor had
obeyed this command. The remainder of the fort was
occupied by the bazaar, the administrative offices
and countless workshops.
had been little change during the three years of our
exile, yet I saw everything anew: the palace, the
fountains, the courtiers in their brilliant plumage,
the musicians, the jugglers, the elephants and horses,
even the very air seemed to sing. It was not so much
the occasion as the proximity to power. The empire
had one heartbeat - Jahangir's - and we were all near
it. The bustle and chaos and heat made one feel giddy:
countless palanquins bearing the harams of princes
and nobles pushed and jostled to unload their precious
burdens at the steps of the palace. The emperor's
haram occupied most of this building and it was not
an easy place to enter, for, apart from his women,
it also housed the incalculable treasure of the Great
we had to pass through a ring of Imperial guards,
all armed with jezails or lances. They did not search
the women, but the servant men in our company were
inspected rigorously. The next ring, guarding the
corridors within the palace itself, was composed of
Uzbeck slave women. They were no less ferocious warriors
than the Imperial guards, and equally well-armed.
They were manly in their build, with strong broad
shoulders, powerful arms and humourless manners. They
searched each of us women, too familiarly at times,
though some appeared to enjoy those energetic hands
on their bodies. I did not. Within the haram itself
stood the eunuchs. Their sole concern was to ensure
that no man capable of lying with any of the women
could enter the haram. But they have been known to
be so influenced that they become careless in their
task. I had never seen so many excited women gathered
together in one place as on this day. I couldn't count
them all, but Isa, who seemed to know most things,
told me there were more than eight thousand. It was
possible: Akbar had had four hundred wives and five
thousand concubines, and many of them still lived
in the palace. Most of his marriages were merely political
alliances, as were Jahangir's. These mata marriages
ended after an agreed period of time and the women
would return to their homes, heaped with gifts of
gold from the Great Mughal. Those married by nikah
stayed all their lives and were paid handsome salaries,
granted great jagirs, and grew richer still through
their efforts in trade and commerce. Women of many
nations and tongues were gathered within: Rajput,
Kashmiri, Persian, Bengali, Tartar, Mongol, Tibetan,
palace was a vast honeycomb of rooms. They varied
in size and in the luxury of their furnishings to
accord with the importance of their occupants. The
air was suffocating and sweet with perfumes that seemed
to ooze from the walls, and I felt as if I were wading
through soft and sulphurous flesh. Our progress was
slow, partly due to the intense throng and partly
because Mehrunissa knew many of the ladies, and stopped
to greet each and every one effusively and lovingly;
although later she would make some disparaging remark
in a low whisper. Many of the ladies looked at us
with surprise. But if Mehrunissa was guilty of insincerity,
it was only equal to that which we met. At court affection
is measured out carefully according to one's proximity
to the emperor. I was far removed from him, therefore
insignificant. But I could interpret each look: why
had we been invited? Had my grandfather been forgiven?
Soon I found myself unable to breathe, not so much
for the lack of air - it came off the Jumna in cooling
breezes - but because of the false friendliness.
escaped to the balcony and looked down on to the palace
garden. It was a peculiarity of the Mughals that they
were filled with the desire for these oases of verdant
beauty. The gardens gave them not merely a sense of
permanence, but a reminder of the nomadic life of
their distant ancestors; water, trees and flowers
were then rare pleasures. Amidst a luscious green
filled with every imaginable flower - roses, jasmine,
frangipani, cannas, violets - and ringed with great
shady trees, flowed a fountain. The water ran musically
as thirty-six teams of bullocks drew water from the
wells night and day. This sight alone was cooling
and calming in the intense spring heat. The workmen
had already begun to erect the stalls for the bazaar
where I would sit, offering my small pile of silver.
The earth lanes between would soon be hidden by carpets.
you are. I've been looking everywhere for you.' Mehrunissa
dragged behind her a small, shy woman, as soft and
frail as the silken clothes she wore.
majesty, this is my niece, Arjumand.'
bowed to Jodi Bai, Jahangir's empress. She stood waiting
uneasily, even unhappily, as if expecting me to speak.
I could not think what to say to this quiet, sad woman,
and watched her as Mehrunissa chatted exuberantly
about the bazaar. Jodi Bai was a Rajput and a Hindu,
the mother of prince Shah Jahan. I had not expected
my aunt to be so friendly with the empress, and this
gaudy display of affection made me suspect her motives.
Mehrunissa calculated such things with the precision
of a mathematician.
she's such a silly woman,' Mehrunissa whispered when
Jodi Bai fled from us like a small bewildered animal
taking cover in the long grass.
why are you so friendly?'
I can't be discourteous to the wife of Jahangir.'
She looked back to the crowded rooms. 'Besides, I
wanted to know what kind of person she was. What an
empress! No wonder Jahangir drinks himself to death.'
say he drank before he married her. Both his brothers
died from drinking.'
he won't last very long if he continues with her.’
are you going to do about it?'
is none of your business.'
was gone suddenly, plunging into the throng of flesh
and laughter and talk, like a bird swooping with the
wind. I knew that beneath the beauty of my aunt flowed
an ice-cold current of ambition. I could not foretell
her ambitions; they were obscured by her secretive
mind which was closed to everyone.
the appointed time, three hours before midnight, we
heard the distant women proclaiming: 'Zindabad Padishah,
Zindabad Padishah.' The noise welled gradually and
as he came near, all the women rose to greet him.
strolled on the specially laid velvet cloth, deep
in conversation with my grandfather Ghiyas Beg. The
Padishah wore a turban of scarlet silk from which
sprang a long plume of nodding heron feathers. On
either side of the feathers, set in claws of wrought
gold, were a ruby and a diamond, each the size of
a walnut. In the middle, holding the feathers in place,
was a brooch set with a great, glittering emerald.
Around his waist he wore a belt of gold, studded with
diamonds and rubies. The sword of Humayun was buckled
to his left side, and tucked into his sash on the
right side was a curved dagger with a ruby inlaid
hilt. A three-strand pearl necklace hung about his
neck, and on each arm were gold bracelets studded
with diamonds, a thick one above the elbow, and three
around each wrist. His fingers too were weighted with
rings holding precious stones, and on his feet were
slippers stitched with gold thread and seed pearls.
Behind him walked two men, one carrying a quiver of
arrows and a great bow, the other a book. Behind the
book bearer came an Abyssinian boy carrying pen and
ink, for Jahangir had a passionate curiosity about
the world, and would painstakingly record his every
thought and impression.
small stall was set at some distance from the entrance,
in the shadow of a neem tree. Mehrunissa was near
the brightest light by the fountain. I arranged and
rearranged my jewellery, but no effort could turn
it into a lavish display. The trinkets lay forlornly
on the small blue carpet.
will buy these, Isa?'
most fortunate man, Agachi. I feel it.'
would be a fool. He would have a better chance anywhere
else in the Bazaar.'
nobles now no longer followed the emperor, but scattered
to prowl the lanes between the stalls. I was not totally
at ease without my veil in the presence of complete
strangers, although secretly it was what I had wished.
It was not enough to do it merely for one night; the
spirit soared like a bird sadly aware of the string
attached to its leg.
reverie was broken by my grandfather.
are well hidden, Arjumand.'
was the stall given to me. I am only a girl.'
He laughed. 'But what a beautiful one!'
I smiled. He always said that. I loved him.
He was a kind, calm man, tall and slim, with eyes
the colour of the evening sky, like mine.
'Will you buy something, please? Otherwise,
no one will. '
'No, that is to be the luck of other men. It
is early yet.' Then he whispered: 'But if they are
all fools, I will return and buy everything. A good
price for me, remember.'
'I saw you with the Emperor.'
'Yes. He was kind enough to note my humble
'What were you talking about? Will he take
you into service?'
'I'll tell you later.' He pinched my cheek
Then he was gone, and other men strolled by,
boldly staring at me, whispering and laughing among
themselves, but lacking the courage to approach. The
other ladies, like the women in the bazaars, flirted
and called to them, but I could not act so boldly.
Instead, I watched the tamasha: I saw Jahangir pause
by Mehrunissa's stall, purchase something, whisper
to her, and stroll on. She looked happy and delighted,
but soon turned her attention back to the other nobles.
It was then that I sensed someone's eyes on
me. They were insistent, wanting me to turn in their
direction. I almost felt their caress. I was filled
with weakness and when I turned I saw in the lane
beyond, through the intervening stall, the prince,
the narrow opening of the stall between us, where
the flickering candlelight created a barrier of dark
shadow, I was held by his eyes. Jet black, longing,
lonely, alight with a fire of their own, they held
not the fierce flame of a prince, a ruler, a Mughal, but the glow of a boy
afraid. I knew I was the cause of his fear and could
not turn away from him. He was the thunder that had
roused me in the darkness. He was the red dream, not
of blood, but the crimson turban of the crown prince.
In my dream I had stretched out my hand to touch him,
and he had clung to it knowing I was his only companion
in the lonely and splendid existence of a prince.
He moved out of my sight; it was my turn to fear,
to lose suddenly a hope that I had not even known
a moment before. I turned this way and that, searching
the narrow lanes crowded with busy, laughing women
and nobles. I wished them to disappear off the earth;
I cursed them too. And then I saw him rudely pushing
his way through them. He looked as if he ran, and
then the hope, the placid calm, settled deep into
me, and I was sinking into a soft, warm dream.
_ Shah Jahan _
I, Prince Shah Jahan, no longer the boy named Khurrum,
but Sovereign of the World and heir to the Emperor
Jahangir, Padishah of Hindustan, though still only
fifteen, strutting in the mantle as my father's favourite
son, had been invited to attend the Royal Meena Bazaar.
I had trembled with the excitement of the event, for
my presence was a sign of the favour not only of my
father but also of the court. They all adjudged me
to be the heir to this vast empire, over my three
brothers. To rule, to hold the sceptre of power, can
be the only ambition of a young prince. On this night,
I felt the bazaar would be a fortuitous event.
The Royal Meena Bazaar had been established
by my great-grandfather, Emperor Humayun. It was a
delightful idea for, by imperial decree, the women
could appear unveiled in front of a chosen audience
of men. The silken masks worn all year round were,
for a single evening, discarded. The narrow world
of the haram was to be turned inside out; for a few
brief hours we would gaze on the naked faces of the
In spite of the heat and the stillness of the
air, it seemed a current flowed through the palace
as the evening approached. Stalls had been erected
by the workmen in the garden and, doubtless, the women
had chosen the wares they would offer for sale. I
had heard they bargained and haggled like the women
in the street chowk, and that the buyer purchased,
if he were lucky, not only the wares, but the favours
of the lady herself. I had heard nobles, a favoured
few, boast about their conquests, sigh longingly of
the pleasurable nights spent with a lady. I too was
not inexperienced in these matters. I had lain with
my slave girls and sometimes, for amusement, had gone
with companions to the dancers in the bazaars and….(Buy
And then, after silence, my husband's implacable
'No.' I whispered. My beloved stared at me,
but did not move. His voice was hard, like the hills,
and his words had the same immovable quality.
'Go. This my business.’ The soldier uncurled
from sleep, and drew his weapons. He looked first
at Khusrav, then at me. He hesitated, uncertain of
'Strike. Strike quickly " Khusrav whispered.’He
is unarmed. Kill him, you fool.' Khusrav crouched
on all fours. The soldier continued to hesitate. His
head swung towards the door, and he peered as if trying
to see through the walls. He was a young man, his
face still creased with sleep, his beard black and
straggly. 'I will make you governor of Bengal when
I am Padishah. Strike!'
My beloved crouched waiting. He could have
called out, but remained silent. The soldier was aware
now of men outside. Slowly, he lowered his sword.
Khusrav hissed in despair, in rage.
is not your destiny, your highness,' the soldier said.
'I am your army, but I am only one man. There are
too many battles to fight before you will become Padishah.
You have already lost so many. God meant it not for
Carefully, he placed his sword and dagger down on
the carpet and approached Khusrav. He knelt, took
his hand, pressed it against his forehead. It was
a gesture of love, a sad farewell. Khusrav bent forward
and embraced the soldier.
God, my dreams,' Khusrav whispered. He released his
friend, and took a heap of jewellery from the small
table: rings, gold chains, arm bands. 'Here. Keep
these in my memory.'
'I've no need of such riches, your highness.’
'Take them. Let someone benefit from the fool
He thrust them at the soldier; a ring fell
and rolled, neither looked at it. The soldier rose
awkwardly, his hands filled with gold and diamonds.
They might have been stones from the riverbed. He
stared at Khusrav for a while, trying to remember his face; the room was light now.
Then he looked towards Shah Jahan.
cannot kill a prince,' but before my beloved could
acknowledge the confession, the soldier added coldly,
'1 leave such killings to princes.'
In surprise, we watched him leave. He walked
with the dignity of a victorious man. Khusrav chuckled.
' A wise man. He leaves the killing to princes. Without
us, without our ambitions, soldiers revert to men.
Doubtless he will return to his village and tell his
children stories about the madness of his prince.'
A thought occurred to Khusrav and he touched Shah
Jahan's shoulder gently: 'Don't harm him. Let him
go. At least one of us spoke with honesty tonight.
Tonight? Today. I speak as if time matters and I should
us,' Shah Jahan repeated to me.
said Khusrav. 'Don't you want the beautiful Arjumand
to be a witness to my death?' He turned towards me,
squinting. .'She is of the same blood as that whore
Mehrunissa. She sent you.'
came without her command. I am not my father.' Shah
Jahan took my arm to lead me to the door. I pulled
away from him.
must not kill him. Please, I beg you, my beloved,
my husband. You must not kill him.'
not? It has to be done. He still has some followers;
his shadow falls on the throne. Let it fall in a coffin.'
him into exile. Keep him chained. Lock him in prison.
Do not kill him.'
Shah Jahan looked at me with dark anger. I knew he
would not be moved. I had never seen such determination
in his face before; it frightened me.
affection do you have for my brother?'
I only speak because of my love for you. His death
will be our curse, a curse on our sons, and on the
sons of our sons. Look at him. His blindness already
haunts us. His death will drag us down. If you kill
him you will be the first to break the Timurid law.
Your ancestor Timur-i-leng first proclaimed it three
hundred years ago: "Do naught unto your brothers,
even though they may deserve." It has been obeyed
by every prince since then. Babur told Humayun, Humayun
Akbar, Akbar Jahangir .They have obeyed that law,
whatever the provocation. It is the law that protected
Khusrav from your father's anger. Khusrav's blood
is your own, you must not spill it. It will stain
our lives for generations.'
Shah Jahan began to laugh. He roared and then embraced
and kissed me.
know I'd married a superstitious woman as well as
a beautiful one. All that will happen is that the
throne will be secured for me.'
want it at such a price.' I pushed him away. I couldn't
control the dread that rose in me. Like smoke, it
choked me. 'I dreamt, on the day we met, of red. It
was the colour that stayed in my mind when I woke.
I did not know then what it meant. When I met you,
I thought it was the crimson of the crown prince.
I was wrong. It was blood. It will wash us away, my
beloved. Spare him.'
to her,' Khusrav croaked. 'I'm not afraid of dying.
Each day I have woken expecting the assassin. But
even my father obeyed Timur-i-leng's law. He couldn't
kill me. You must not either. I swear I will renounce
the throne, not for my own sake, but for yours.'
offers me his life not for His sake, but for mine.
What generosity.' Shah Jahan turned to me and with
great gentleness took me by the arm and led me away
from Khusrav. '1 have listened to you, as is our tradition,
but I cannot allow him to live.'
what,' Khusrav called after him, 'will happen to Parwez
and Shahriya? Are they to die too? But they're not
here, alone and helpless; they are in Lahore, surrounded
by the army.'
Please, my beloved. You can't.'
all day for my husband, my children, myself. I had
never known such fear as that which now enveloped
me. It shook me and squeezed tears of despair from
my eyes. The red of my dream was blood; it always
had been. I had interpreted it, to my own inclination,
as the turban of my beloved. I had not lowered my
gaze and seen the bloody hands. My tears could not
wash them clean, but dropped and dropped and, as they
touched his flesh, they too turned into blood. Even
the tresses of my hair with which I wiped them turned