The Lionesses OF PUN­JAB

AU­THOR ANITA ANAND THROUGH HER BOOKS, SOPHIA AND THE LAT­EST KO­HI­NOOR: THE WORLD'S MOST IN­FA­MOUS DI­A­MOND, OF­FERS IN­SIGHTS ABOUT THE INIM­ITABLE WOMEN OF THE DULEEP SINGH FAM­ILY

India Today - - INTERVIEW - By MOEENA HALIM

Seated right at the cen­tre of the stage at a lit­er­ary fes­ti­val in Mumbai, Anita Anand seems a bit shifty, shuf­fling through her cue cards. She cricks her neck to face the podium in the far cor­ner, lis­ten­ing to Wil­liam Dal­rym­ple, with whom she is shar­ing the stage as well as the au­thor­ship for their lat­est Ko­hi­noor: The World’s Most In­fa­mous Di­a­mond. The much-ad­mired Dal­rym­ple— the first of the “Lau­rel and Hardy duo” (in Anand’s words) to re­gale the packed au­di­ence with the his­tory of the cursed Ko­hi­noor di­a­mond—would seem a tough act to fol­low for most.

But Anand, a broad­cast and ra­dio jour­nal­ist with BBC who turned au­thor with her 2015 book Sophia: Princess, Sufragette, Rev­o­lu­tion­ary, seems to have lost all hes­i­ta­tion by the time she takes the mi­cro­phone. Pac­ing the length of the stage, she holds the au­di­ence in rapt at­ten­tion, her eyes gleam­ing with ex­cite­ment as she nar­rates grue­some tales of the tor­ture that the cursed Ko­hi­noor in­spired. “There’s some­thing quite com­pelling about peo­ple be­hav­ing in the most ex­traor­di­nar­ily ap­palling ways; do­ing things you would never dream pos­si­ble. I mean, there’s no­body I can think of, who would pour molten lead on some­one’s head for com­mit­ting any sort of crime,” she ex­claims, when we meet for a chat in the au­thor’s lounge later.

It was at another lit­er­ary fes­ti­val, the Jaipur-onThames in Lon­don two years ago, that the duo first thought of writ­ing a book on the di­a­mond. With Dal­rym­ple’s ex­per­tise on Shah Shuja, thanks to his book Re­turn of a King, and Anand’s ob­ses­sion with the Duleep Singh fam­ily, the duo re­alised that they al­ready had a wealth of trivia wait­ing to be penned together in one book. “We won­dered why no one had done a book on this be­fore and de­cided to do a from­ground-to-crown story,” she says. The In­dian gov­ern­ment’s an­nounce­ment, that the Ko­hi­noor was nei­ther “forcibly taken nor stolen” by Bri­tish colo­nial­ists, gave their project a sense of ur­gency. “The an­nounce­ment was wildly in­ac­cu­rate. And as jour­nal­ists would say, now we had a peg; a whop­ping peg to hang our di­a­mond on,” ex­claims Anand.

Her fas­ci­na­tion with Duleep Singh’s fam­ily, par­tic­u­larly his daugh­ter Sophia, be­gan when Anand came across a pho­to­graph of the suf­fragette in a lo­cal newspaper in the UK. “I was on ma­ter­nity leave after the birth of my el­dest son. With a lot of free time, I read ev­ery­thing I could. When I found this black and white pic­ture of a brown-skinned woman sell­ing copies of a suf­fragette newspaper out­side Hamp­ton Court Palace in this lo­cal rag, which would un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances have gone straight to re­cy­cling, I was quite

Au­thor and broad­cast jour­nal­ist Anita Anand

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