The Tribune - Spectrum


, September 22, 2002

Short takes
Simple and gripping tale of Rani Jhansi
Jaswant Singh

Rani Lakshmibai: The Indian Legend
by Shahana Dasgupta. Rupa & Co. Pages 88. Rs 70.

Rani Lakshmibai: The Indian LegendTHE story of the Rani of Jhansi, her fight against the British and her heroic death on the battlefield, have made her the subject of songs and ballads which folk artistes of Bundelkhand have been singing at festivals, fairs and weddings. Her picture, riding a horse sword in hand and charging into British soldiers, adorns the walls of houses and temples.

During the 20th century, as the Indian struggle for freedom gained momentum, the Rani became a symbol of resistance against the British rule in India. Poems, novels and plays written on her valiant struggle were widely read. When Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose organised the Indian National Army, he named its women’s regiment after the Rani of Jhansi.

Shahana Dasgupta in this book has narrated the tale of the Rani in a language which is simple enough for school children to comprehend and in a style which is gripping enough to retain their interest. From her snub to the priest at her own wedding to her defiant roar: "I shall not surrender my Jhansi," and the events that followed have been described as seen by a teenaged son of one of the soldiers in the Rani’s army.


The ruler of Jhansi had been loyal to the Marathas till 1817 when the British defeated the Peshwa and seized his territory of Bundelkhand. Thus Jhansi passed into the hands of the East India Company. In 1853, Maharaja Gangadhar Rao, two days before his death, adopted five-year-old Damodar Rao as his heir in the presence of the Company’s representatives. The Rani was to look after the affairs of the state till he grew up. This arrangement did not suit the Company and it took over the state of Jhansi. Humiliated, the Rani had to swallow her pride and move to a smaller residence. Her troops were disbanded. Her opportunity came three years later, in June, 1857, when the sepoys in the cantonment rose against their British officers, executed 60 white men, women and children, took all the money from the treasury and weapons from the armoury and marched towards Delhi.

The Rani ruled the state for about six months, during which she withstood attacks from hostile neighbours and also prepared for a showdown with the British. By the time the British started their campaign in Bundelkhand under Gen. Hugh Rose, Jhansi had become a centre of resistance. The siege of Jhansi, the defeat of Tatya Tope who came to her rescue, her escape to Kalpi, the battles at Kalpi, Koonch and Gwalior, where the Rani finally fell to battlefield wounds, have all been described in a telling manner. This is a book that parents would love to put in the hands of their school-going children.

Sitagita Speaks on Social
Graces and Sitagita Speaks on Corporate Etiquette.
Rupa & Co. Pages 66 each.
Rs 50 each. is a portal for women which aims at brightening their lives and bringing about a change for them at home, at work and at play. The two booklets are intended to enrich women’s lives and to make them stand tall in a crowd and be noticed. The one on social graces tells them all about social behaviour that can enable a woman to appear distinctive and be a cut above the rest. The one on corporate etiquette deals with the manners and rituals of the corporate world. On social graces, the book lays stress on good manners, how to conduct yourself in a civilised society, the right way to pay a compliment, and how to do plain speaking without being rude.

The book on corporate etiquette is intended to be a tribute to the young woman of today who is ambitious and confident and is keen to take on the world. It gives general tips on how to tackle various workplace problems and how to say goodbye when the time comes. Some of the points can apply as much to men as they do to women.

How Fear Came and other stories
by Rudyard Kipling. Rupa & Co.
Pages 72. Rs 50.

How Fear Came and other storiesKipling’s Jungle Book has, over the years, delighted innumerable readers all over the world. Mowgli, the wolf boy; Bagheera, the black panther; Baloo, the bear; Akela, the lone wolf; Kaa, the python; Chil, the kite; Hathi, the elephant and Shere Khan, the tiger, are some of Kilping’s characters that have caught the fancy of the young and old alike. Their actions and behaviour reveal the author’s remarkable knowledge of the wildlife of India and also of its people. These stories, which have been taken from the Second Jungle Book, give us a glimpse of Mowgli and his jungle friends. How Fear Came describes a year of drought when all sources of water dry up in the jungle and the plight of the animals deprived of food and water. Yet the jungle animals behave in an orderly manner to cope with the calamity. The Law of the Jungle is a verse that lists some of the characteristics of wolves and their behaviour. Letting in the Jungle narrates how Mowgli, captured, humiliated and ill-treated by men, finds his way back to the jungle and gets help from his friends, Bagheera, Akela, Baloo, Hathi and several others to wreak vengeance on the village which had ill-treated him and threatened to burn his human parents as a witch and a wizard. At the end of it all, the village is swamped by the jungle. Mowgli’s Song Against People expresses his contempt for humans and his wish that their settlement be turned into a jungle fit only to be the habitat of animals.