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Bollywood Actor Ronit Roy – on My Magical Palace

November 19th, 2013 | No Comments

“A simple narration…..yet so deep in its understanding……its an awesome feeling to go through Rahul’s growing up…..and the character sketches around him gives you a feel as if you are a part of ’70’s Hyderabad….kudos Kunal for such a nice, subtle yet bold narration.” – Ronit Roy

Thank you Ronit Roy for your kind words of appreciation and I am gratified that you were able to walk with Rahul on his journey of self discovery Ronit-Royas a teenager. Your interest in the role of Colonel Uncle inspires me to add this excerpt.

Hyderabad in the early 70’s was a city moving from the cultural legacy of the Nizams and post-partition India to one infiltrated by western culture, an extension of the Beatles era. Parents and grand parents, already fearful that old ways would be corrupted, were hostile to any sign of independent thinking. They were merciless and swift to end any rebellious behaviour. Political and social tension coloured and constricted the lives of the Chatterjee family also, as they were confronted with shifts in tradition.Rahul’s adolescent angst reflects the confusion of a place and time when long-drawn boundaries—physical, political, racial, and sexual are in the midst of drastic transition. And then there to the rescue is, s his mentor and kind protector, Colonel Uncle who assures him  that is not alone in the world, feeling different and alienated, not fitting in and  fulfilling the expectations society has of boys, as he shares his childhood, rigorous and in a royal setting and regimented.

Excerpt from My Magical Palace:

“Colonel Uncle looked grave and sighed. ‘No, when I was your age, if I spent time in the kitchen my father would punish me. In Rajput families, men never cook. Only women do. In Rajput culture, the place of a man is supposed to be on the battlefield. We lived in a large palace, almost as large as this one.’

‘Tell me about your palace and what you liked to do there,’ I said.

‘I used to love to go to the kitchen to watch the cook make chapatis and curries and roast the spices. The cook, Padma Bai, used to be my nurse and loved it when I helped her in the kitchen. It was our secret. Then, one day, my father’s valet saw me in there, sitting on the floor with the maidservants, cleaning the chaff from the rice and wheat, helping them make balls of dough for the chapatis.’

Colonel Uncle paused as he stirred the sauce on the pot one more time. He put a handful of spaghetti in a pot of boiling water. The stiff sticks of dried spaghetti started sliding into the pot as the boiling water softened their ends.

I sat upright. I knew something was going to happen to him in the story. Just like me, Colonel Uncle was going to be teased for behaving like a girl. I looked at him, tall and upright—his frame strong and proud. His grey hair and clipped moustache were trim and neat. I could see him on the battlefield, wearing a suit of chainmail armour, riding his horse, just like Rana Pratap rode his brave horse Chetak in the history books.

‘That night, my father called me to his room. He was sitting in the men’s quarters of the palace, with his friends. I entered the room nervously. He was smoking a hookah and laughing about something. His face turned to thunder when he saw me. He said, “Only girls work in the kitchen. No son of mine is a girl. Tomorrow, you will be sent to a boys-only military school. Now go, and come back to me next summer—a real man.’ Colonel Uncle’s voice grew softwith remembered pain as he gazed at a wall-hanging, his mind far away.

‘What did your mother say? Didn’t she stop your father? My mother would never allow me to be sent away to boarding school,’ I said.

He laughed—a strange, bitter laugh. ‘In those days, women could not say or do anything outside the women’s quarters in the palace. I was sent away to Bikaner. I did not see my mother for a full year. When I returned, I never went back to the kitchen. I was forced to spend all my time with my brothers, riding horses and playing polo.’”

 

 

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