Zeenat Mahal


When The Broad presents C. with the ‘suitable’ Taimur as a possible husband, C. isn’t too happy with the arrangement, no matter how gorgeous ‘Alpha Male’ may be…

Growing up in a Haveli

Book Blurb

Abandoned by her father, C. is brought up by her domineering, intractable grandmother, whom she privately refers to as ‘The Broad’. Raised in the closed environs of a haveli in Jalalabad, C. is rebellious, quick-witted and a self-proclaimed cynic.

So, when The Broad presents her with the ‘suitable’ Taimur as a possible husband, C. isn’t too happy with the arrangement, no matter how gorgeous ‘Alpha Male’ may be. As it happens, the feeling is mutual. Or is it?

And when C.’s long lost father enters the scene, things get really complicated…

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  1. Gayathri Manikandan


    It’s always a pleasure to read a Indireads novella, the winning point being its quality. So far, I have read four and I never had a complaint about the characters, writing or the the story. The stories, being a novella, are just a slice but still you can get a hang of the whole picture. The characters aren’t flat but have depth. The writing is undoubtedly above average, infact a few novellas make a distinct mark. I am now confident that Indireads is doing a sincere job handpicking deserving stories and author.
    Talking about Haveli, its all that’s mentioned above. The lead character Chandni comes across as a confident, egoistic women at the surface but she reveals her naive, dreamy little girl side to us, the readers. Orphaned at birth and brought up by her grandmother, she goes through a phase of illusioned love. The ‘literary’ conversations between Chandni and Taimur are interesting but would have become a overdose had it not been a Novella. Another aspect which of course did not bother me while reading but left me wondering later on was the story’s setting. It’s set in Pakistan in 1970s but that makes little difference to the story. Overall, another quality work from Indireads.

  2. arti

    (verified owner):

    Haveli is the story of Chandni. The story is set in 1971 in Pakistan.
    The characters are well developed and the plot is interesting. There is drama, emotions, humour and suspense all rolled into one story. The book is humourous and the names that C gives to people are actually very funny. I finished it off in one sitting as the book is short, crisp and unputdownable.
    Highly recommended.

    more on http://wp.me/p3cEWT-hw

  3. reksesh

    (verified owner):

    Haveli is synonymous with aristocratic wealth and you find this and more in Zeenat Mahal’s novella. This book transports you to the world of the privileged class in 1970’s Pakistan.

    Etiquette and excellence are the cornerstones of the widow of the last Nawab of Jalalabad -¬ Bi Amma’s life. Her home-schooled grandchild Chandni aka C struggles with the demands of her elitist society. Abandoned by her father – Nameless, motherless C finds affection in her half-brother Zafar (another of her father’s castaways) but it’s never quite enough. The green eyed beauty has her share of admirers but sets her sight on an older, distant relative Kunwar.

    The arrival of much loved family friends Baba and Bua brings a catalytic element into her life. Their son Taimur threatens to rock her cocooned world of books and solitude. It’s contempt at first sight for both, or is it? She rejects his marriage proposal, earns the wrath of the Broad and alienates herself from loved ones, especially Zafar.

    To spice up the heated atmosphere, Nameless turns up in her life with a charming guest in tow. What does this bode for C and the rest of the family? Will she find the father she has yearned for all her life? Is the handsome guest the man of her dreams? Read the book to find out.

    I loved the spunky, warm-hearted and cynical character of C. You may find her naivety in sharp contrast to her strong willed nature, but this is a realistic portrayal, given her upbringing.
    Snarky and in-your-face Taimur, who makes a fashionably late entry by protagonist standards, is the perfect foil. I enjoyed the sarcastic exchanges between the two that’s accompanied by a primal and intense attraction on both sides. The literacy references were a pleasant addition.

    I wanted to know more about the other characters and what made them tick. The writing is smooth and has an easy flow but the author uses more ‘tell than show’ in her writing. This doesn’t detract from the fact -
    Haveli is a breezy romance with endearing characters, a fast paced storyline and well crafted dialogues. I will revisit it whenever I want to read a modern, Asian version of Jane Austen books.

  4. Rubina Ramesh

    (verified owner):

    I loved the way a saucy woman introduces the readers to the Pakistani culture. Where as it should have been a history lesson, if not written properly, but Zeenat Mahal makes you see the culture and the backdrop of the story through Chandni’s eyes. Whether it is defying her grandmother with her dressing style or accepting the wedding proposal out of the duty of a daughter, all portray the social and cultural nuances of the Pakistani society. In such a short story [99 pages approx..] to bring out two upheavals in the life of the protagonist is commendable.

    The chats between Taimur and Chandni could not help but make a reader smile. I loved the scene [Sorry Zeenat but I have to mention this] where Chandni talks about knowing all about sex to Taimur and in the end he finds out where she got her lesson from. Hilarious.

    The only problem I faced with this story is the number of pseudonyms given to the characters. The grandmother was The Board, Taimur was the Alpha Male, father was The Nameless and so on. Even Chandni is ‘C’. In such a short novella, with so many names flying by, makes it a bit confusing. I won’t say that they did not add humor to the story but they did confuse me at certain parts.

    Would I recommend this book to my readers? Most Definitely. In fact there are many threads which surround the Indian Pakistani culture. With such stories in every household of both the countries, maybe one day we won’t need to put on the television and hear about some border fights. Kudos for writing such stories.

  5. Karen Henderson


    I won this book in a contest. Not sure if I would have actually bought this book if I hadn’t won but I am glad I did win it as it is a good book. Getting to read a book about a different culture was very interesting. The only thing I actually had a problem with what the different names she had for different people. I would have liked a list of who was who so I could keep track. I will read another book like this as I enjoyed it. It was a short read but good. I would like to know what happened to the couple after the wedding a little more but all in all a good read

  6. Saman Roshail

    (verified owner):

    I was hooked to this story right from the first paragraph! Zeenat Mahal has a wicked sense of humor which is portrayed through her writing. All women can relate so easily to
    Chandni. Taimur as the Alpha Male is the dream hero all girls wish for. Hilarious and heartrending at the same time! I loved all the slapstick sarcasm. It left me wanting more.
    A beautifully written story and I look forward to reading more from this delightfully
    engaging author.

  7. Yamini Vijendran

    (verified owner):

    Zeenat Mahal is the name to watch out for, that is a given. The attitude in the narration is just… juicy! It breaks a lot of stereotypes, about the people, about the era and about writing itself. I loved the way literary characters moved in and out of Zeenat’s world. And the sheer command over the language that Zeenat exhibits is in itself a treat. I commend Zeenat for having created a masterpiece.

  8. Mimmy Jain


    It’s a special treat when you chance upon a romance with a heavy pinch of humour in it. And Haveli fully satisfies those of us who crave this special flavour. Hats off to author Zeenat Mahal for her spoilt, impetuous, saucy heroine, Chandni, who lives up ably to the Scarlett O’Hara mould in which she is cast. The hero, Taimur, remains tantalisingly in the shadows for a large part of the book. The chemistry between Taimur and Chandni is hot and sizzling, but has been sadly underplayed. We wanted more!

  9. Sumeetha

    (verified owner):

    I was hooked on to the book right from the line ‘the Broad’ makes an appearance. Chandini who prefers to be called C is a beautiful wilful child abandoned by her father. She wants to marry Kunwar, on whom she has a big crush but her grandmother’s choice of groom is Taimur, whom she loves to hate. Too add to her confusion, her long absent father makes an appearance and not alone. He too has a groom for her.

    I love the descriptive style of Zeenat Mahal’s writing. It is so lucid that I felt as if I was watching a movie, instead of reading it on my phone. I fell in love with C. She is such a lovable character. And Taimur is my dream hero come true. The ending was so perfect that I read through the last chapter again. I truly wish someone could make a movie out of this.

  10. jazz singh


    Loved reading it! Beautifully written, the narrative is fluid, the writing lucid and you get taken into the world of the Haveli immediately. Keeps you hooked from start to finish.

  11. ShwetaGK


    Zeenat Mahal’s Haveli is all about old-world charm and romance in the truest sense of the word. Despite the setting and the era though, the heroine of Haveli, C is a firebrand – a lovable, fiercely stubborn and outspoken girl. Mistaking the throes of her first crush as true love, she fails to recognize the actual thing when it stares at her in the face from another set of piercing eyes.
    So beautifully written, I could see the entire story story play out in my mind’s eye with one of my favourite Indian actors Sreedevi in the lead role. I could see it being made into a movie like Lamhe and leaving its mark in the hearts of romance lovers everywhere.

  12. roopa80

    (verified owner):

    Zeenat Mahal’s Haveli belongs to its protagonist C, a stunning, sassy 20- year- old with a strong mind of her own. She has a delicious Scarlet O’Hara bite to her that makes her absolutely unforgettable! As for Taimur- Alpha Male, sigh! The reader is clearly left gasping before his smouldering, roguish charm. Superb characterization aside, another stand out is Zeenat Mahal’s style-she uses the stream of consciousness narrative style with such flair and mastery that it takes this book to another level altogether. One thing is for certain-Zeenat’s book will thoroughly satisfy readers scoping for literary nuances as well as those looking for a charming, heady romance with refreshing, well etched characters. Overall an unputdownable and compelling read!

  13. Sana


    An interesting peek into a world of a bygone era. A highly enjoyable read.

  14. Bina Shahid


    Read it in a single sitting! Just unputdownable…loved the references to all the books i grew up reading. The descriptions of Cholistan and the historical atmosphere full of glamour and tradition was so intriguing. A MUST READ! Can’t wait to read more from Zeenat.

  15. Sunila


    Right from the masterly opening till the end, Zeenat Mahal’s story of C a young heiress, her life, surroundings, her disillusionment in her charmer of a father and ultimate finding of love, the story carried me along with ease. The characters, plot, the lifestyle all of it engaging and clearly from a writer who is clearly meant to weave many more tales for the readers to relish.

  16. Neelima


    In Haveli, Zeenat has effortlessly combined east and west….the conversational tone of the characters is so subcontinental, the witty sarcasm on the other hand so western. Musharaf Ali Farooqi and Jane Austen come to mind. Zeenat is excellent at characterization. You adore the tongue in cheek Chandni(or oops pardon me C), bossy Broad and the Alpha Male(just loved that!) Taimur. I read the story in one breathless sitting and was sorry when the story ended as I had to tread out of beautiful Cholistan.
    I’d like to see more of C….and much much more of Zeenat Mahal. Kudos!

  17. Khadija Zul, Johannesburg, South Africa


    Set in the summer of 1970, ‘Haveli’ is a coming-of-age tale of Chandni, a 20 year old girl, who has been brought up by her gharara-clad, old-school grandmother. The story transports one to the bygone, romantic era of ‘Nawabs’, residing in their extravagant ‘mahals’, surrounded by expansive, well-manicured lawns.

    Chandni is vivacious and out-spoken, yet has all the innocence of a girl stepping into the next phase of her life. The men in her life are handsome, rich and mysterious. She just has to figure out who is on her side.

    ‘Haveli’ has all the elements of a great book; complete with well-rounded characters, a beautiful setting, humor, drama and some action. All in all a fun read that ends much too soon.

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