City of Victory
Anita Saran’s short story, City of Victory, is one of the best crafted stories I’ve read in a long time. She has a knack of bringing the setting to the forefront without intrusion. To call this piece of work a short story is an understatement. I find it to be more of a novella.
The story is set in sixteenth century Vijayanagar, a city in South India known as Hampi today. Jehaan is a gypsy girl, who is forced to be one of the maids of honor to the queen. This gives her great privilege: jewels, fine clothes, and good food. But Jehann is not satisfied to be part of this glittering procession. She is an Egyptian and wants to return home to her father and estranged lover. She longs for the fresh air and earth, not a stone floor palace.
Meherbanu escapes a horrible life when she approaches the king and suggests that she care for his zenana (his group of concubines and the queen). He says that he will put her in charge because of her boldness. She becomes the mentor and mother to the women. But what happens to a group of women protected by one man, the king? The author handles this complexity with beauty.
City of Victory had its debut as a broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2004. So many of the images haunted me and remained in my mind long after I read the work. The photos that illustrate the book are as interesting as the characters. I’m delighted to say I found this ebook a wonderful experience.