Fear of Lions
Nominated | Book Awards 2020 | Creative Writing in English (Fiction & Poetry)
Fear of Lions
On a hot April morning in 1673, two young Mughal nobles, Shamsher and his sister Zeenat, leave Shahjahanabad for a trip down the royal highway to the market town of Narnaul. The reluctant Shamsher is on a secret mission for his father; an excited Zeenat on one of her own.
Their journey takes them through the shattered landscape of a recently crushed uprising - one different from those the Mughal Empire frequently spawned, of petty warlords fired by dreams of kingship. This revolt was rumoured to have been inspired by Kabir and led by a witch; her militant followers, many of them women and all of them rabble, called themselves 'Followers of Truth'. The rebels were defeated, but the questions remained: Where had they come from and what did they want? Had Kabir, the revered saint-poet of Banaras, really incited violence? Why couldn't the inclusiveness fostered by Emperor Akbar hold the realm together? What role did the firangis have to play? Or was it all simply because of the bigot on the throne?
Set twelve years into the rule of the austere Aurangzeb Alamgir, in a time of impossible wealth and unbearable want, of brilliant architectural extravaganzas amidst ancient traditions of squalor, and of a caste society on the threshold of capitalism, Amita Kanekar's powerful and intricately woven novel tells the story of an unlikely rebellion that almost brought imperial Dilli to its knees.
Amita Kanekar is the author of A Spoke in the Wheel. She writes on history, politics and architecture. This is her second novel.
– The Hindu
‘Fear of Lions’ tells the tale of an unlikely Mughal-Era rebellion. Amita Kanekar’s book focuses not on the failure of the Satnami revolt, but on the fact that even failed rebellions leave an impact… The impact of the work of several reputed historians of the period on her telling of the story is palpable. The story becomes a fascinating weaving of history with the writing of fiction. Her sound grounding in the late Mughal history gives her fiction a close appearance of that reality even as fiction never loses its identity.
– The Wire
Fear Of Lions is a masterful combination of history and evocative prose. Kanekar brings new dimensions to the intrinsic links between tradition and greed, land and power. It is a joy to follow her characters, in particular the lover’s journey to meet her beloved far from the shadow of the crescent moon; and Abul Mamuri, the eternal gadfly and irreverent interrogator. Mamuri’s unquenchable curiosity and diplomacy to uncover the machinations within the walled city are amusing and a treat to read. The book is surprisingly complex, and it is intriguing to see how it brings out the interdependence of faith, land, occupation, identity and the fear caused when these delicate systems are questioned. Much like her witch, Kanekar writes with fury and gunpowder. This book is not to be missed.
– The Al-Zulaij Collective
A lost history of resistance from the Mughal past. Kanekar presents a lucid account of the dubious credentials of people associated with the Mughal court.
– Telegraph India