Author's Notes: This is not a Harry Potter fanfic, although most of mine are. It is based on "The Jewel in the Crown," part one of The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott. I don't know how many of you are familiar with the story, but if you are not, I've included some background notes.
Hope you enjoy the fic.
Introduction: I thought I'd start with this introductory prologue to see if there would be any interest in a fic of this nature. Think of this as a brief 'book report' (the books total about 2000 pages). Most of what follows is from the first book of four, The Jewel in the Crown.
These books and the mini-series adapted from them are definitely top 5 on my short list of all-time favorites. If there are any other fans of Mr. Scott's work, or if this sounds like something you might enjoy, please send me an e-mail or review and let me know. Thanks!
Acknowledgments: I wish to thank and acknowledge the talented Paul Scott, who wrote The Raj Quartet, a four-book set from which the television mini-series "The Jewel in the Crown" was adapted. For those who are not familiar with Mr. Scott's work, here are the setting, character list, and 'mini-plot' summary.
Setting: The story begins in Mayapore, India, in August 1942. Indians are subjects of the British Empire and second-class citizens in their own country. Gandhi and other Indian leaders are trying to gain their country's independence from Britain, which is deeply entrenched in World War II.
Characters: Hari Kumar, the story's central character, is a young Indian man. Hari was raised in England since he was two and educated at public school. Following his father's financial ruin and death (allegedly by suicide), Hari was forced to return to India. It is a country he has never known, and he feels terribly out of place; he finds himself "too British for the Indians and too Indian for the British."
Daphne Manners is a modern-thinking English woman. She meets Hari through a mutual friend, a wealthy Indian named Lady Chatterjee. While Hari sees the futility of a relationship with an English girl, Daphne sees nothing wrong with it. She pursues a friendship with him, which soon turns to more.
Ronald Merrick is an English police chief in Mayapore who seems to have contempt for all Indians, as well as a bit of a crush on Daphne. He asks her to marry him; she declines. When he sees that she prefers Hari over him, Ronald is infuriated. He feels Kumar is just another uppity Indian who 'doesn't know his place', and he tries to convince Daphne to stop seeing him. (Note: Hari and Daphne are in their young 20's, while Ronald is closer to 30.)
Summary: As WWII rages on and India struggles for its independence, riots erupt in cities across the country. Most English people living there are ill at ease, but Daphne continues to see Hari socially, despite advice from both Indian and British friends. It is assumed the two are romantically involved, which causes a great deal of gossip.
One evening, Daphne and Hari are at one of their favorite places, the Bibighar Gardens, where they were making love for the first time. Afterward, while still in the Gardens, they are attacked by five men. The men rape Daphne, tie Hari up, and force him to watch the ordeal. The men are never caught. Then the unthinkable happens: Hari becomes the prime suspect.
Thinking she is protecting Hari, Daphne begs him to say he wasn't there and that he knows nothing. However, Captain Merrick believes he was there; seeing an opportunity, he arrests Hari as the 'ringleader' of the rape. Yet the strong-willed Daphne refuses to press charges, partly because she couldn't be sure who the men were, but mostly to protect her lover. Regardless, Hari remains in prison, wrongfully accused of being a 'political subversive'.
Daphne soon finds out she is pregnant. Certain that Hari is the father, she chooses not to have an abortion. Despite pressure from local British society, she causes a scandal by actually having the baby, a girl she names her Parvati Manners. Daphne dies after Parvati is born, and Hari remains in prison, completely unaware that Daphne had a baby or that she herself is now dead.
Daphne's Aunt Ethel raises the child, causing even more scandal for the Manners family. Ethel reads her niece's journal and comes to believe that Mr. Kumar may well be innocent. Unknown to Hari, she works quietly to secure his release. Once he is freed, he lives his life in obscurity and is thought to be a journalist who writes political commentary for the local newspaper under an assumed name.
Meanwhile, Ronald Merrick joins the war and soon becomes a decorated military officer. But he learns that one can never escape the past. Events start to happen that carry vague reminders of the Manners case, indicating that someone knows he intentionally tried to frame Hari Kumar. Whoever it is is not willing to 'forgive and forget'. An extremely arrogant man, Merrick shrugs them off as a coincidence, saying they mean nothing and are most likely from ex-cons who have a grudge against him from his time with the Indian Police.
Merrick is a social climber who connives his way into a well-to-do English family, the Laytons, the main family in the second half of the story. He marries their youngest daughter, Susan, a pretty, young war widow with a history of mental health problems. (One day, she 'snapped' and tried to murder her own baby.)
Susan and Ronald are married for about two years. Then one morning, he is found brutally murdered in his bedroom. There is one clue: Someone has scrawled the word "Bibighar" in makeup on the vanity mirror. His killers are never found.
That's the gist of it. Much, much more happens, but this should be enough background for this fic to make sense. (As far as timing, the books culminate with India's independence in August 1947.) Any questions? Send me an e-mail or include a note in your review.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement is intended, and no money is being made. I have the utmost respect for Mr. Scott and his work.
Author's Notes: I hope you like this; if you've not seen "The Jewel in the Crown" or read the books, hopefully, it will make sense if you read the background/prologue above. Please let me know your thoughts by reviewing! :-)
The fanfic follows.
"Amen," the parishioners chorused after the stocky, white-haired minister finished his eloquent recital of the 23rd Psalm. The people stirred in their pews, the native women adjusting their saris in an attempt to make themselves a bit more comfortable and fanning their sticky faces with their delicately-folded bulletins, as if to spite the unrelenting heat.
Despite their best efforts, it still felt stiflingly hot inside the close quarters of the lately-neglected, little Church of England in New Dehli. While it was certainly not the only public building in their very urban, very modern city that did not yet have air conditioning, they were only too grateful that it was still rather early in the summer and well before noon, so despite the rising temperature, the humidity was somewhat tolerable. Even so, it was 1959; surely the conveniences of air conditioning couldn't be far off. Land's sake – nearly every C of E in Calcutta had had cooling for over a decade! Yet their minister's annual lament was, "I'm sorry, but it's just not in the budget this year."
Still, the dutiful mourners remained seated, waiting patiently for the service to finish. They were there out of respect, to honor the passing of Lady Ethel Manners, the quiet, unassuming wife of the late Sir Henry Manners, as she was laid to rest. The gracious lady's funeral was a rather small affair – less than 50 people were present – considering that her husband had once been a popular regional governor, esteemed by the British and Indians alike.
Among the attendees that morning were a handful of friends and one distant relation, a 16-year-old girl whom Ethel had raised from infancy. This girl was the daughter of Ethel's niece Daphne, a young lady whom she had been quite fond of. When poor Daphne died from complications of childbirth, her elderly aunt gladly took the baby in, causing quite a stir among people in her class. Yet the affable lady thought the entire situation had caused far too much ruckus; after all, it was only a child, her great niece to be specific, so she ignored the spiteful, prejudiced gossip that ensued.
Shortly before the girl's mother had died, she named her daughter Parvati Manners. It was an almost defiant move. The combination of the names, one so very English, the other clearly Indian, symbolized the merging of two countries' ways into the new country that India – once the Jewel in Britain's Crown – was becoming. But this was not the only cause for alarm among Lady Manners' peers; even more surprising was the fact that the beautiful baby girl had ever been born at all.
You see, the fuss didn't begin with her birth or her name. It began with Parvati's father.
Whoever he was.
Parvati's father had never been identified. Daphne was the victim of a brutal attack on the evening of August 9, 1942. It was on that fateful night that she and her Indian lover consummated their relationship. Tragically, as they lay resting after what had been a joyful experience for both of them, they were attacked.
Her testimony to the police read that she was raped by 'five or six men'. When she was found to be pregnant, she was urged to abort the child. How could she give birth to a child of mixed blood, of questionable parentage? What if one of her attackers was actually the father? The Britons were aghast; such behavior from the niece of a British governor, one of their elite, a member of the Raj? How could she even consider going through with it? It was unconscionable.
But Miss Manners staunchly refused. By the accounts in her personal journal, she believed with all of her being that the baby's father was the Indian she was in love with. This belief was what carried her through the strenuous ordeal that followed the events of that night, a time when she could not be with him. For he stood accused by the police of instigating the violent attack. He languished in prison for months, awaiting any news about, or from, Miss Manners. His name was Hari Kumar.
To the minds of most people who knew Daphne – and to all who didn't – hers was the biggest crime of all.
Hari had learned of Lady Manners' passing by reading it in The Indian Gazette. Having been raised in England himself, he had an excellent grasp of the language and soaked up anything he could in what he considered to be his native tongue. Mr. Kumar had often looked for news of the girl's famous – or rather infamous – great aunt, hoping against hope that he would be able to learn more about the girl he knew in his heart to be his daughter.
Parvati. Parvati Manners. How many times had Hari marveled at Daphne and the stones it took to do what she did? Despite incredible pressure, she was unwilling to abort the child, on the unlikely chance that it was actually his. Then she rubbed it in the faces of all the British by giving the baby a traditional Indian name, the name of a goddess. She defiantly chose it her with the father's heritage in mind; it was her lasting tribute to him. And although he might never meet their little girl – somehow, it comforted him all the same.
Unbeknownst to Hari was that what Parvati wanted more than anything was to meet her father. The man she had read so much about in her mother's journal, pages she had long since committed to memory, read so many times she could quote them as she meandered about the grounds of her great aunt's estate, and often did. To see him – perhaps get to know him, even – would have meant everything to her.
But she knew better than to ask. She did once, when she was about eleven.
It was on a Sunday. The two of them were riding home from church, talking quietly in the back seat of their old, yet comfortable, car. When the girl asked about her father, her great aunt remained silently, responding only with a weak smile and a loving pat on her knee. Parvati, still hopeful, looked up at her expectantly. Then Ethel lowered the delicate, netted white veil of her hat over her lined face. When she turned away to look out of the car window, suddenly engrossed in the sparse vegetation on the roadside and the few passersby traveling on foot, animal, or bicycle, her message was loud and clear, even to the eleven-year-old, just as loud as if she had vocalized it.
Parvati knew then and there the subject closed. Staring out her own window to hide her bleary eyes, she never mentioned him again.
The funeral proceedings were slow, somber – so very British. Parvati was awakened from her thoughts when the organist struck up the familiar notes which indicated that "Onward, Christian Soldiers" would be sung shortly. Suddenly feeling desperately alone, the girl wanted more than ever to find Hari Kumar, to talk with him, perhaps become friends with him. Maybe the two of them could actually be a family. She could have that opportunity now, as there was nothing or no one to hold her back. But now that it was there, would she have the nerve?
Following the pallbearers as they carried the coffin out of the church, Parvati bowed her head to avoid the stares of the remaining onlookers. A sea of faces, dark contrasting with white, looked at her with doleful eyes. She felt terribly self-conscious. She dipped her head even lower as tears fell and stained the bodice of her traditional Indian dress. To avoid feeling so obvious, she turned her thoughts to her imminent move from New Dehli.
Long before Lady Manners succumbed to the illness that claimed her life, she had requested that her old friend, Lady Chatterjee, look after her great niece until the girl either got married or was settled on her own. This, her friend said, she would gladly do. All the arrangements had been made; Ethel's home was already sold, and her things were either being readied for sale or being packed for her great niece's relocation to Mayapore. As her only surviving relative, Parvati would inherit any proceeds from the modest estate sale.
Parvati had been preparing for her impending move to Mayapore with mild trepidation. She was curious – quite anxious, really – to see the Bibighar Gardens, or what remained of them. She had heard rumors that the site had been destroyed to make way for the future and for industry. She hoped they were not true. She so longed to see them, just as her parents had seen them.
The small crowd of mourners began to gather their belongings to go to the graveyard for the internment. They came up to Parvati, one by one, expressing their sympathies and condolences, saying how much they had loved Ethel and admired her courage. She wondered if she, too, could find some of that courage now.
"Parvati," Lady Chatterjee spoke softly to her young charge.
The young woman smiled at her and asked demurely, "Yes, Aunt Lili?" Her name wasn't really Lili, nor was she her aunt, but she liked it and had asked Daphne, and now Parvati, to call her that.
"Are you ready to bash off now, my dear? Because we have so much to do. The movers are due at your aunt's on the morrow, bright and early." Parvati smiled to herself; Lady Chatterjee's name seemed to suit her to a tee.
Lady Chatterjee was so very warm. From the first time she had met the woman, she genuinely liked her. She could see why her mother had enjoyed her company so much, adopting her, as it were, and calling her 'Aunt Lili' or simply 'Auntie'.
"Yes, Auntie. Let's go," she agreed, as they gracefully descended into the back seat of the car.
Less than a week later, everything was sold off, and Parvati was on her way by train to Mayapore. Her comfortable, private sleeping car had nearly all her belongings in the world, excepting the funds from the house sale. That was still winding its way through the legal system. She looked out the window sleepily as the view of the countryside changed from urban to desert to village, over and over again. The journey dragged on and on.
Her escort on this trip, a man called Aziz (although she doubted this was really his name; it was just easier for most people to pronounce), knocked on the door. On being admitted, he asked if Miss Manners required anything. She said no, she didn't, then thanked him and sent him on his way. Before closing the door, he slipped in a tray with a sandwich, a slice of chocolate cake, and a glass of iced tea with lemon. "The diner car was closing, so in case you get hungry during the night," he announced.
"Thank you, Aziz, that's very kind of you," she replied. He bowed and turned to go, closing the door behind him. She sighed heavily; how could she possibly eat now? In less than four hours, she would be entering MacGregor House, the very home where her mother had spent most her life in India. Wasn't that where her parents had first met? She thought that Aunt Lili had said that once, on a day when her Aunt Ethel wasn't around.
Too restless to eat or sleep, Parvati knelt by the nearest trunk. She opened it and began rummaging through it. She smiled wistfully; it contained Daphne's journals and a few remaining trinkets from her short time on Earth. Parvati handled the well-worn, beloved journal gently, opening it to the best part, her eyes scanning over her some of her favorite passages. It was the part in the Bibighar Gardens, where Daphne wanted him to touch her; he was angry because he couldn't – or at least, because he knew he shouldn't. Maybe because once he did, he knew he wouldn't be able to stop himself . . . .
That catching hold of my wrist was like the impatient gesture of a lover . . . But then we were kissing. His shirt was rucked up . . and my hand was touching his bare back, and then we were both lost.
There was nothing gentle in the way he took me . . . And then it was us.
It was the best part, because without it, Parvati herself wouldn't exist. If her mother had left Bibighar before things escalated, before the two of them lost all restraint – she might never have been born. Certainly the way her mother described it, it was all very primal, a passionate love she felt for him; she willed him to love her, as if she could not live without him. The pages of her journal revealed a lot about the woman she was. She was so very strong, and now her daughter drew on her strength.
Parvati set this particular book aside and rifled through the other items in the trunk. Underneath another older diary of Daphne's and a few of her books were several layers of lace and satin. She picked them up to see what treasures might lay undiscovered at the bottom of the trunk.
A thin, small manila envelope slipped out from between the layers. It looked to be quite old. Parvati was surprised that she had never seen it before. Hurriedly setting the fabrics aside, she dove for the envelope. Perhaps it was a love letter to Daphne from her father. Or one her mother never sent to him. Maybe it contained . . a marriage license? It was obviously quite special, as it was not included with Daphne's own personal effects. It seemed to have a unique place all its own, enshrouded in delicate materials so many ladies adored.
She opened the envelope gingerly, careful not to tear it or whatever treasure lay within. Slowly, she pulled back the edge of flap, unfastening its loose seal. Inside were two black and white photos, both of the same handsome, young Indian. In one, he was facing front, in the other, he was facing to one side. They almost looked like pictures the police take when someone is arrested. What do they call them . . . mug shots? He looked strikingly familiar, particularly his eyes; it was as if she knew she had seen before – but where?
Then she remembered; this man was at her aunt's funeral.
She cried out to her escort, who was resting in the hallway just outside her door, "Aziz!!!"
End of Chapter
Notes: Well, did you like it? Hate it? Should I continue? I hope my summary of the background is adequate but not overly long, in case you have not read the books or seen the mini-series. At any rate, I hope you are intrigued enough to do one or the other. :-)
Thanks for reading the fic. Now go click on that Submit a Review button.
For my regular readers, I have by no means abandoned any of my other fics. We are getting ready to move across town in about 3 weeks, so hopefully, I will have the opportunity to upload at least one chapter for each of them before then. If not, watch for something in mid to late October. I appreciate your patience.
One Last Acknowledgment: The italicized words (from Daphne's journal) are taken directly from the text of The Jewel in the Crown. Full acknowledgment for those phrases goes to Paul Scott. I own nothing but a love for this novel and a desire to share it with others.