A Tryst with History


Daniel’s Diary by Rajeshwari Chauhan


The Blurb
When Mrinalini, an art restoration expert, ventures into the ruins of Rang-Mahal and the Palace of Sumangarh, an accidental discovery of a skeleton and a manuscript detailing the exploits of Daniel, a Portuguese artist, opens a window to the forgotten era of grace and grandeur. The blossoming of love between a Moghul Emperor and a Rajput princess, is seen through the eyes of a foreign traveller, who himself falls in love with Jodhabai.
The plot revolves around Daniel’s quest for beauty and passion, the ecstasy and agony of love. He marries the famous courtesan Mahamaya only to lose her. It also draws a modern day parallel in the life of Mrinalini, a woman who seeks refuge in artistic pursuits and architectural ruins when relationships in life confuse her. 
Will she and Surajsinh be able to decode the clues left behind by Daniel? Will the curse of centuries-old unfulfilled love break into a happy ending for Mrinalini?
There is a moment in “Daniel’s Diary” when Akbar says to Jodhabai “But, Amber Princess. you have been hurting yourself all this while; how can I forgive you for causing this much distress to yourself?” and at that moment I could see the beauty of this story. These story is peppered with moments of glory like this. There are absolute moments that can grow and make you fall in love with themselves. However, the whole story does not hold up in the same way.
The thing about novel writing is, often it is a walk upon a highly held tight rope, and sadly there is no cushioned heaven underneath. You need to achieve a kind of balance to make the story reach across the stars. this is what this story sorely lacks. When it starts, the narration is pretty peppy, but, it is also distracting as soon enough the lack of dialogues shine through. Are dialogues absolutely necessary to drive a book? Absolutely not. However, a dialogue between the author and the reader should be established in order to make the story flow effortlessly. Here the story never really connects that bridge for me, it goes on and on for pages without any sort of images that will appeal to you, leaving the reader with the feeling that he is being told everything and seeing almost nothing.
The lack of scenes that will hold you affects the book throughout and parts of the book could have done much better is the author had made the characters speak instead of taking the responsibility upon herself as the narrator for the most part.
Talking about characters, I never really understood the role that Bubbles was supposed to play here. A child can be a vital addition to a lot of stories but, I asked myself again and again what purpose he really served. There is a particular montage where the author described his mischievous feats, however, they seemed unnecessary. Even as a person there to provide some comic entertainment or respite, he failed that purpose.
Mrinalini, the protagonist had the potential to become one of the best characters I have read, however, even she became quite a caricature when early on in the novel she seemed to be doing the work of a governess, a cook, a hotel manager, an interior decorator, all while she was in the place as a professional with real time obligations. It struck me more when throughout the story she was the one character whose voice took a long time to come by. Even though she arguably had some of the best scenes in the story, she also had one of weakest presences, not somebody who I could particularly classify as a very effective character.
However, enter Daniel, the hero who I quite like. He explores and has a sense of wit. He is also quite positively charming in his ways. There were particular scenes between him and other characters which came alive because of his presence. Same goes for Mahamaya whose presence was magnetic for the short while she was there.
Mahamaya is a character who could be used in a much better way if she was given more place in the text. For the most part the saga of Akbar and Jodhabai read well, but, sometimes it feels like a glorified history book because of the way it is told.
The ending too, does not resonate well with the story. The last arc seems to be quite rushed. The end for Daniel especially leaves a lot to be desired.
While, the author does a credible work with research and the language, the story suffers throughout because of the difficulties with narration. It screams out for something that would take it up and make it seem better than what it is.
I would admit, the idea of the book appealed to me. I read through the beginning for a lot of times before I actually started delving within the book because I hoped somehow to be captured by the book in the first few pages alone. However, the novel took a long while to find a comfortable footing. The idea of this novel is good, and I would love to see more works from this author. However, right now, this piece of literature asks for much more finesse.
  • Rating – 2/5
  • Verdict – An wonderful idea that demands much more finesse in its execution
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Meet the author
The Author’s Thoughts
A freelance writer, artist, and teacher, Rajeshwari Chauhan has contributed as a script and content writer for many creative and promotional literature, short movies, and plays. 
A passionate artist, she loves to create realistic paintings on canvas as well as doing wall paintings. For her, painting and creative writing are complementary to eachother.
Being from the Royal family of Chhota-Udepur, she has always had a fascination for history and conservation of heritage.
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8 thoughts on “A Tryst with History

  1. Excellent review. You got across a few points that I could find words for.
    “leaving the reader with the feeling that he is being told everything and seeing almost nothing” is absolutely correct. Daniel’s Diary is a superb idea that needs better execution

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