Subhadra Sen Gupta
Talking Cub
March 10, 2019
Final Verdict

About the Author

Subhadra Sen Gupta has written over forty books for children because she thinks children are the best readers in the world. She loves telling stories woven around history; plotting complicated mysteries and crazy adventures; dreaming up ghostly tales and scripting comic books. In 2014 she was awarded the Bal Sahitya Puraskar by the Sahitya Akademi for her children’s books.
Other Works By Subhadra Sen Gupta
Danger in Darjeeling: Satyajit Ray’s Feluda Mysteries
A Flag, A Song And a Pinch of Salt
Marching to Freedom
The Secret Diary of the World’s Worst Cook
The Secret Diary of the World’s Worst Friend
Caring for Nature: Bapu and the Missing Blue Pencil
A Children’s History of India
The Constitution of India for Children
Mahal: Power and Pageantry in the Mughal Harem

The Teenage Diary of Jahanara by Subhadra Sen Gupta

Noor Jahan, Lakshmibai, Jodh Bai, Rajia Sultana and Jahanara. What’s common between these historical figures besides the fact that they were all strong women of their times? One, Hindi films have been made on all these personalities and two, they feature in the series “The Teenage Diary of”, published by Talking Cub, an imprint of Speaking Tiger Books. Out of all these figures, I was the most drawn to Jahanara because I realized I knew the least about her and wanted to rectify this.

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The Teenage Diary of Jahanara tells us the story of the life and times of a period of three years in the life of this Mughal Princess, from 1626 to 1628, in her own words. We see her and her world as this young girl takes to writing about her life and the lives of those around her in her diary, as she attempts to make sense of the world. 

The Story

The book begins with Jahanara and her elder brother Dara waiting for the royal messenger who is supposed to be bringing the message from emperor Jahangir to his estranged son Shah Jahan. She is twelve years old as she begins writing in her diary and we witness with her the changes in the fortunes of her parents and their siblings as they move from Mandu to Nasik to finally Agra where Shah Jahan is crowned king. And there, Jahanara the Mughal Princess, bids us good night.

The right mix of fact and fiction 

The Teenage Diary of Jahanara mixes fact and fiction with ease, and it gives its readers a sense of the time and the place it is set in a succinct yet interesting manner.

Sen Gupta never lets the facts tower over the storytelling, never lets the reader’s attention waver or make the story bogged down by history. At the same time, she also ensures that her readers witness the events that shaped Jahnara’s world. She never includes too much of historical details in one place. Instead, she gives it to her readers bit by bit, by linking the piece of information she provides with the events happening around Jahanara that she writes in her diary. We go back and forth in time and get an idea of all that has happened to Jahanara and her family up to the time of her diary entries. The world of Jahanara that we see is of make-believe for sure, but it is well-grounded in historical facts and therefore feels very real and engaging.

As we read the diary of Jahanara, we get a clear sense of her character. She emerges before her readers as a girl who is tender-hearted, poetically inclined and mature beyond her years.

The other characters of her brothers Dara and Aurangzeb as well as her sister Roshan Ara, her parents and her grandparents also emerge in her diary. The book also ensures that its reader learns a lot about Mughal politics, the Mughal army, the internal squabbles, the life in the zenana, the Mughal lifestyle, rivalries within the family over the Mughal throne and the Mughal-Rajput relations through marriage – but in a way where all this feels an organic part of the story. And because we see this all from the eyes of a young girl, we also witness her as she grows up to the harsh realities of life and comes face to face more than once with the difficulties of being a Mughal royal. 

Fit for all ages

The simple language of the book also ensures that it is an easy read. At the end of the book, Sen Gupta also gives a short piece on the life of the “real Jahanara” and this adds to the value of the book for a young reader.

I only wished that there was a list of sources provided at the end for the reader to consult if they wanted to. But even without it, The Teenage Diary of Jahanara is definitely recommended for teenage readers who are interested in history and have a basic knowledge of the Mughal dynasty and the chronology of its rulers. At the same time, it is an equally good book for any adult reader who might want to brush their knowledge of history or know more about Jahanara. 

Favourite Quote:

The Teenage Diary of Jahanara

Sneha Pathak

Sneha Pathak

Sneha Pathak loves reading over everything else and has a degree in English Literature. She loves discovering new authors and new books. Her favourite genre is mystery/detective fiction, but she reads all genres with equal gusto and enjoys writing about them. When not reading, she can be found book-browsing.

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