Columns

Sarna’s ‘The Exile’, a moving story
Zee News
September 25, 2008
Spicezee Bureau


New Delhi, Sept 25: Navtej Sarna’s latest novel ‘The Exile’, is a compelling and deeply moving portrait of one of the most tragic figures of Sikh and Indian history.

In this nuanced and poignant novel that draws upon true events, Navtej Sarna tells the unusual story of the last Maharaja of Punjab. Soon after the British had annexed his kingdom, Duleep was separated from his mother and his people, taken under British guardianship and converted to Christianity.

At sixteen, he was transported to England to live the life of a country squire – an exile that he had been schooled to seek himself. But disillusionment with the treatment meted out to him and a late realization of his lost legacy turned Duleep into a rebel.

He became a Sikh again and sought to return to and lead his people. The attempt was to drag him into the murky politics of nineteenth-century Europe, and leave him depleted and vulnerable to every kind of deceit and ridicule. His end came in a cheap hotel room in Paris, but not before one last act of betrayal and humiliation.

Narrated in Duleep Singh’s own voice, and the voices of four characters based on his contemporaries, The Exile is a compelling and deeply moving portrait of one of the most tragic figures of Sikh and Indian history.

Navtej Sarna’s first novel was ‘We Weren’t Lovers Like That’ was published by Penguin India in 2003 and has been translated into Arabic and Hindi. His latest work seems equally promising.

In the book, says writer Khushwant Singh, Sarna presents a gripping tragedy: a sordid tale of intrigue, treachery and cold-blooded murders that greeted the end of the Sikh kingdom, and of the exile to England of its last Maharaja, Duleep Singh.