Fact and Fiction: A Tale of History
One of the initial events of the day, the discussion of Nandini Sengupta’s ‘A Poisoned Heart’ was a fitting opening to the three day long event, dedicated to the vibrant culture of literary arts. Chaired by Aloka Niyogi the audience was introduced to the author’s writing process, as well as the inspiration behind her long-held interest in the genre.
Historical fiction, Mrs. Sengupta said, was a happy coincidence, as she never gave history a second thought in school, and took up journalism as a professional career. It was only much later, on a trip to the Ajanta & Ellora caves, that fascinated her to an extent that she started reading extensively on the topic, developing a burgeoning interesting in the subject.
Sengupta deftly recreates an imagined world rooted in historical realities; Skandagupta is her protagonist, and a fascination character study. A gripping tale of the Gupta empire, ‘A Poisoned Heart’, like all the rest of her work, is a standalone novel. A complex plot centring along the lines of a tragic love story, the King’s palace is swirling with conspiracies, threats of invasion after invasion, it circles the themes of ambition, power, and accounts of hard-won battles.
Skandagupta isn’t brushed off simply as a picture of nobility; the text reveals finely tuned survival instincts he brandishes, when put in a tough spot. Love and war are central to the book, however it ends up providing a far more nuanced picture of royal relationships and the politics of the kingdom, including the complicated but deeply interesting relationship Skandagupta has with Rohini, an imperial officer – the foundation of their bond being a shared childhood affection, full of trust.
The work is replete with a mixture of history and an altered imagination of how the author views these historical legends. Her other two works of fiction, also focus on two other crucial members of the royal family, in ‘A King Within’ and a third under the same theme, soon to hit the stands.
The Pondicherry-based journalist and writer lay emphasis on the importance of the genre and linked history to contemporary themes. She mentioned an encounter over an email exchange with a historian she sought advice from, saying. “He told me it was no use making is easy for me. I had to start from scratch.” Thus began a long, arduous but rewarding journey of exploring history and conceiving literature. She hasn’t looked back since.
Yusra Khan, St.Stephens