Umrao Jan Ada: Courtesan of Lucknow

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Orient Paperbacks, Jan 15, 1970 - Fiction - 232 pages
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Translated from the Urdu by Khushwant Singh. Umrao Jan Ada is perhaps one of the most enigmatic and forgotten female figures in South Asian Literature. The question of her existence, her beauty, her scholarly abilities and her poetic gift remain a mystery. The book is an account of Umrao's life as a Lucknawi courtesan, a nautch girl, delivered in first person by Umrao herself, and documented by a close friend. Written more than a hundred years ago, the novel recreates the gracious ambience of old Lucknow and takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the palaces of wealthy nawabs, the hideouts of the colorful vagabonds and the luxurious abodes of the city's courtesans.

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Page 27 - ... case of other girls with my background, it could only be the physical compulsions of inherent wantonness. They would think that the delay in fixing the date of my wedding had made me impatient: that I cast my eye on some other man and ran away with him and when that someone dropped me, I must have picked up with another and, when even that affair did not turn out well, with yet another man and so gradually slipped into the profession. I would not blame them for coming to that conclusion because...
Page 28 - Mother, father, brother, the house with its verandah, courtyard and kitchen all flashed before my eyes. And there was Dilawar Khan threatening me with his knife every few minutes. I was terrified that any moment he would plunge it in my bosom. Although my mouth was no longer gagged I could not utter a sound. While I was in this plight, Dilawar Khan and Peer Bakhsh talked and laughed 28 'It is said that a brave man's son will avenge a wrong even after twelve years,
Page 26 - They are brought up amongst people who talk of nothing except sex and fornication. And whosoever they turn to, be it their mothers or sisters, they only have examples of degradation. That is not the case with girls who are born of respectable parents.
Page 27 - At the time I am speaking of, he had just secured his release by getting someone to intercede on his behalf. Dilawar Khan had a strong grouse against my father. When he was arrested in Faizabad, people of our locality were summoned to testify to his character. My father was amongst them. He was a simple and honest person. The Queen's magistrate had placed the Holy Koran in his hand and asked: 'Well, Jemadar, tell me the absolute truth; what sort of a man is Dilawar Khan?
Page 12 - Critics acclaimed it at once as the best narrative of the life and culture of Lucknow and praised Ruswa's mastery of Urdu prose. Several editions of the novel were sold out.

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