‘ The Awakening’ (1894-1919)
The book begins with Mr Curzon, an Ex-Member of Parliament and a future Viceroy of India visiting the subcontinent and Kashmir in 1894. The visit to Kashmir and the Pamirs is to specifically verify if the Russians would encroach into British India through Kashmir and Afghanistan. Because by then the Russians had already occupied most of Central Asia and they were probing the routes to India and Afghanistan. They had also by then had attacked an Afghan outpost at Panjdeh. Major Francis Younghusband’s expeditions to the Pamirs, Karakoram and beyond had confirmed the presence of the Tsar’s army in those areas.
While in Kashmir, Curzon meets Sikandar Khan.(Fictional character) Sikandar Khan who started his life as a simple porter was now an experienced guide and had accompanied many such British expeditions to the roof of the world. Married with four daughters he yearns for a son. Mr Curzon brings him luck and a son is born on the very next day after Sikandar meets Curzon. And in Mr Curzon’s honour he names him Curzon Sikandar Khan. While blessing the new born, Curzon presents the child with a gold guinea medallion that has Queen Victoria’s face on it.
1902-Viceroy Curzon holds the Great Indian Durbar in Delhi-Sikandar Khan with 8 year old Curzon Sikandar Khan are also present at the durbar. They had come as part of the Maharaja of Kashmir’s contingent.
At an official banquet hosted by the Maharaja in honour of the Viceroy, Sikandar with his son accidentally bump into Mr Curzon. Till then Sikandar Khan had no idea that the same Mr Curzon was now the Viceroy of India. During the durbar Sikandar also meets the first generation Sen, Hussein , Pugsley and Edward family and a bond is established between them.( These Families are all fictional characters). A year later in 1902, Captain Reginald Edwards (Reggie) takes over the Gilgit Agency in Kashmir and becomes very friendly with Sikandar Khan’s family.
In 1905, during the visit of the Prince and Princess of Wales to India, Sikandar Khan’s entire family is practically wiped out when a massive avalanche sweeps his little village of Kanzalwan. The only survivors are Curzon Sikandar Khan, his paternal uncle Sarfarz Khan and cousin Nusrat. A few days later the 11 year old Curzon Sikandar Khan is also instrumental in saving Reggie’s life.
Reggie decides to bring up Curzon Khan. Few years later while on their way to his new posting at Peshawar in the North West Frontier Province of India, Reggie and Curzon Khan meet the Bajwa and the Rehman families.(Also fictional characters).
1905-1906-After the partition of Bengal by Lord Curzon, the revolutionary movement in India begins. The second generation from the Sen, Ghosh and Hussein families who are young college students get indirectly involved.
1912-King George the Fifth visits India as King and Emperor. At the King’s Durbar in Delhi-Reggie and Curzon Khan meet up with Reggie, the Sen, Ghosh, Hussein, Pugsley, Bajwa , and Rehman family. A genuine bond of friendship between is struck between them. A year later in 1913, Curzon Khan is enrolled as a soldier in the Punjab Regiment where Col Reggie is now the Commanding Officer. That same year he also gets married to his cousin Nusrat and in mid June 1914 a son Ismail Sikander Khan is born to them.
1915-Curzon Sikander Khan dies in the Battle of Loos in France and is awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry. Reggie too is badly wounded in battle and is medically boarded out. Meanwhile Curzon Khan’s wife Nusrat who is pregnant again has a miscarriage and dies. Their son Ismail becomes an orphan.
After the war Reggie remains a bachelor and decides to go back and settle in India and bring up the little orphan boy (Ismail Sikandar Khan). During this period Mahatma Gandhi returns to India and the Freedom movement in India is given a kick start again.
In April 1919 during the Jalianwala Bagh tragedy, the second generation of the Sen, Ghosh, Hussein and Rehman family with their little children visit Punjab. They are there on a holiday and there they come to know the truth of what happened at Jalianwala Bagh.
This part of the book also narrates the important events during this period and also of those that took place earlier-like that of the 1857 Indian Mutiny.
Book Authored by Brigadier Samir Bhattacharya