Anjali Mitter Duva, "Faint Promise of Rain" (She Writes Press, 2014)


In 1530, Babur the Tiger, the self-proclaimed ruler of Afghanistan, moved south and conquered the northwest section of what was then known as Hindustan. Babur, although accepted as padishah and emperor, never much cared for India, but his descendants flourished there until the British moved in more than three centuries later.

Faint Promise of Rain (She Writes Press, 2014) explores the early part of this transition. Two years before the death of Babur's son Humayun, a girl child is born to the temple dance master near Jaisalmer, a citadel in present-day Rajasthan. Adhira's birth is considered auspicious, because it takes place during one of this desert area's rare rainstorms. To Adhira's father, the divine blessing placed on his child means that she will finally be the one to carry on the kathak dance tradition that has defined his life. Adhira's mother worries that no little girl should carry the burden of such great expectations. And Adhira's older brother Mahendra cannot sustain his own service to the temple in the face of the increasing strength and influence wielded by the armies of Emperor Akbar, Babur's grandson. Mahendra, although a dancer by instinct and by training, becomes convinced that his duty to protect his family requires him to fight.

Against this backdrop of religious, cultural, and military conflict, Anjali Mitter Duva paints a richly colored, exquisitely detailed picture of a world in flux. At the heart of the painting stands Adhira, who through her love for Krishna and the dance slowly finds a pathway to a future that is all her own.

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C. P. Lesley

C. P. Lesley is the author of two historical fiction series set during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible and four other novels. Her latest book, The Merchant's Tale, co-written with P.K. Adams, appeared in November 2023.

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