Vikramajit Ram

28 November 2022
176 pages


‘Vivid and elegant’ RANA SAFVI

‘Entrancing … soulful and evocative’ ANIRUDH KANISETTI

Saturday, the 27th of February, 1627. The master artist Mansur, who works under the patronage of Mughal emperor Jahangir, must finish his painting of a dodo and prepare for an imminent journey to Kashmir when he is interrupted by a younger colleague, Bichitr. An innocuous remark from this visitor – first to Mansur and a little later to the portraitist Abu’l Hasan – has dire consequences as more characters at the imperial atelier, the library and the Women’s Quarter are drawn into a web of secrets, half-truths and petty rivalries.

At the heart of the story is a jewel-like verse book whose pages Mansur has illuminated and filled with lifelike butterflies. On reaching Verinag, the royal summer retreat in Kashmir, the painter must present the book to its author, the empress Nur Jahan, who had commissioned it as a keepsake for her husband, the emperor Jahangir.

A delay in the book reaching Mansur from the bindery adds to his apprehensions that its very existence is no longer a secret, coupled with dread that so precious an artefact might fall into the wrong hands. What must the painter confront before his masterwork is conveyed safely to Verinag?