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?
My Review of DANIEL'S DIARY by Rajeshwari Chauhan
The story begins with Mrinalini’s arrival at Sumangarh. The Palace of Sumangarh is being converted into a heritage hotel and she’s come over to restore the age-old paintings, a job she loves. Driver Surajsinh receives her at the station and he is a guy with an attitude much to her irritation.
Arvindsinh aka Arrow and his obnoxious girlfriend Suzan are the ones who have hired her company for the restoration work. Mrinalini settles down in a small cottage within five minutes of her palace and gets involved in her work soon. She gets to meet Dadasaheb aka Laxmansinh and his grandson Bubbles.
Dadasaheb gifts Mrinalini with a painting that sets off a string of events. From here on the story goes back and forth in history and present day intertwining the events in Daniel’s life as Akbar’s protégée and the painting restoration conducted by Mrinalini.
Ten-year-old Bubbles and she get along like a house on fire and it’s Surajsinh who accompanies them on a visit to Rang Mahal. Rang Mahal is a crumbling structure and is in danger of falling apart.
It is here they discover a skeleton that probably belonged to Daniel, a Portuguese travelling during the times of Emperor Akbar’s reign. They also find a diary that has been written by him in Portuguese. Surprisingly, Surajsinh appears to know Persian and translate the diary to Mrinalini and Bubbles who are both fascinated.
The novel is off to a slow start. Some of the characters have been introduced well with interesting scenes and dialogue. But the others have been introduced in the way of narration. The author could have made the novel a lot more interesting by letting her characters speak for themselves rather than her talking about them.
While Daniel’s Diary is a mine of fantastic information about Akbar’s court and the people in the emperor’s life, it reads more like a history lesson than a work of fiction. A lot of research has obviously gone into this work and the author should definitely be applauded for the same. I only wish the presentation had been way more interesting.
Despite all that, I would still recommend the book as it gives one a fascinating look into history.
I have kept the best for the last. The sequence between Daniel and court dancer Mahamaya along with many characters of her household - Chhimiya, Fufi, Paro and the rest were really brought to life by Rajeshwari Chauhan’s pen.
I also liked the way the author connects the various objects and paintings that influenced or affected Daniel’s life to many things that are found in Dadasaheb’s palace.
All in all, it’s worth a read and I will go with 3 stars for Daniel’s Diary by Rajeshwari Chauhan.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in return for a honest review.
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 each other.
Being from the Royal family of Chhota-Udepur, she has always had a fascination for history and conservation of heritage.
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