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…

Additional Information

Book Formats



  1. pratikshya


    Set in the 1970’s in the town of Jalalabad, Pakistan, ‘Haveli’ is a witty humorous contemporary novella by Zeenat Mahal. It narrates Chandini’s story from her point of view- her childhood and upbringing at her strict influential maternal grandmother Zaitoon Begum, the widow of the last Nawab of Jalalabad; her romantic fantasies for Kunwar Rohail who is almost twice her age; her war of words with Taimur, the guy she’s attracted to; the return of her estranged father after 20 long years and the change of all her beliefs, values and events. It’s a roller coaster journey as Chandini eventually realizes who’s her own, who actually cares for her and where she belongs.

    Chandini’s mother had secretly married and fled with her lover who abandoned her when she was pregnant with Chandini. She died after Chandini was born, leaving her under the care of the grandmother, Bi Amma. Being from the upper class society she received home schooling, learned a couple of languages, read every piece of good literature and grew up to be a beauty with brains. Her green eyes mesmerized many a visitors and merchants, and Bi Amma received and rejected rather too many proposals for the 20 year old. Baba and Bua took care of her as their own children. Zafar, her half brother was her closest in the family and the secret keeper with whom she shared her fairy tale like romantic dreams of being with Kunwar Rohail and taking care of his 13 year old daughter, Manhal. All till Taimur entered the family scene. Let’s leave the rest a mystery. It’s ridiculous, hilarious, very interesting, and unputdownable.

    The character ensemble in ‘Haveli’ is one of my favorite. I disliked the father Shen Jahan so much from the very beginning. Faisal was just a gold digger. Zafar’s brotherly love for C and their mutual hate for their father Nameless proves challenging for her decisions in the later part of the novella. Chandini called herself C, her grandmother-The Board, her father- Nameless, and Taimur- Alpha Male. Comic and witty conversations and the game of tit for tat between her and Taimur are my favorite. She’s a brat, but he’d take no nonsense. Taimur is her perfect husband to be. (Laughs!!)

    Zeenat Mahal is a very good narrator. Though this is the first work of hers’ that I read, I’m already a fan. I loved the plot, and the backdrop- Pakistan of the 1970’s. The novella is easy to read and follow, quite engaging, never dragging or boring. Since Indireads novellas are available only in ebook format, the font is adjustable. I’d recommend this book to all romance and contemporary readers who love good humor.

  2. Kritika


    A sweet and charming novella for everyone to enjoy!

    As much as I was intrigued by the setting(Pakistan in the ’70s), I was also expecting a more conservative and serious story but was I ever so gladly delighted to be stand corrected!

    The protagonist is a strong-willed young girl of 20,Chandni or C as likes to call herself. C is stunning, sarcastic and also sensitive. She appears headstrong, impulsive and bratty but is also sweet, caring and vulnerable along with being extremely well read and educated. C is a rebel and larger than life.
    C is not afraid to go after the man of her dreams or to not accept her overpowering grandma’s decision to marry the man she chooses for her granddaughter.C yearns for her absent father’s love and yet is not afraid to thwart his plans when she learns his ulterior motives.

    Alpha Male is the perfect antidote for C. His dark good looks, handsome face, cocky attitude and roguish charms endear him to not only Chandni but us too.
    He is not just good-looking, wealthy, cocky and smart but also sweet and caring and totally infatuated with C.

    The sexy sparring between them was highly entertaining. Together they made a very adorable couple.
    The couple obviously had a happy ending but I would have wanted to know the father’s reaction when his schemes and plots are derailed.

    All in all, a very enjoyable and hilarious story!

  3. Manogna


    Set in Jalalabad, the Princely state in Pakistan,the protagonist Chandni is the granddaughter of the late Nawab of Jalalabad. Growing up along with an elder half- brother and a grandmother(nick named The Broad!) who didn’t believe in showering love through sweet words.

    ‘C’ (Chandni calls herself ‘C’) hides her innocence behind her sharp tongue! At first, she is spoilt and sassy, but as we get to know her, we begin to like her.
    I loved the setting of the story. The heroine who shows her innocence as the story progresses.

    I also liked Taimur, who for a man who never read much, knows his literature! (It is a rare sight seeing a man talk about Darcy and Jane Austen!)

    Will i read other books by the author? Sure!
    For detailed review, visit http://beeafteryou.com/haveli-review.html

  4. Sadiya

    (verified owner):

    I was initially a little hesitant in reading the book but when I started it once, I could not set it aside. It’s a fresh and breezy story of a sassy, rude and an insane girl chandini aka C who you will definitely end up liking for all the chaos she creates in the story and the insults she throws at anyone around her. The grandma aka brood is always very classy and proper and had surely failed to instill the proper behavior in C. The alpha male is notorious yet charming. The literal banter between C and alpha male is the highlight of the novel. The novella is a first person narrative of C and she surely pours her heart out with rather opinionated view of everything that is going around her. The story and the narrative is extremely entertaining. The chemistry and romance is amazing. The story is set in 70’s yet it’s very easy to relate to the characters as they belong to the royal elites. It’s a very entertaining rom com genre story with high voltage drama and an unpredictable ending. Loved it.

  5. Ruchi Singh

    (verified owner):

    What comes to mind with a setting of 1971, nawabs and haveli? Iridescent chandeliers, flowing gharara, shimmering dupattas, tinkling bangles, and an intense, magnetic hero, each of these things came alive for me from the first page when ‘C’ starts to pour tea under the watchful eyes of ‘The Broad’.

    Intrigued? Well…it’s a must read.

    Chandni, our well-read protagonist, is an innocent girl abandoned by her father, who tries to handle life on her own terms. But is she able to understand the wicked ways of the world? Taimur, handsome and emancipated, complements Chandni’s innocence with his intelligence so well that it is beyond words.

    Zeenat Mahal has managed to capture the essence of all the characters magnificently and I so loved Bi Amma and her affection (read helplessness) with Chandni. The story is utterly engrossing right from Chandni’s habit of re-christening every thought and everyone who went against her to ‘kalank ka tika’ (hilarious) to the twist at the end.

    I read the story once, then read it again the same day, this time slowly savoring the sparring between C and Alpha Male, which is humorous yet poignant and romantic. And would read it again when I want to read a heart touching romance, where the settings move like a movie in front of my eyes and characters giving their Oscar performances.
    Highly recommended for all romance lovers!

  6. Muhammad Omar Iftikhar


    The expression and style with which Zeenat Mahal describes the scenes and settings in her novel, ‘Haveli’, takes the reader back in the 1970s. Although those readers born in the 1980s, like myself, may not truly connect themselves with the aura of the 70s, nevertheless, Zeenat expression creates vividness and a strong image in the reader’s mind.

    Before the readers could involve themselves in the novel, the title, Haveli, brings upon a burst of imagination where the reader is compelled to think if the story is about a Haveli, or has to do with its residents. However, the story is set in a Haveli – which focuses on a family – and specially a girl, Chandni, who is quite open-minded.

    Furthermore, one objective that Zeenat Mahal accomplishes through Haveli is to break the stereotypes about the 70s. Any writer could explain the beliefs prevailing among the middle and upper class of that era; however, Zeenat’s appropriately correct words used in the right context blends her views about the 70s with the story, giving readers something for introspection.

    The story is about Chandni, a girl who grew up under her grandmother, Zaitoon Begum’s wing. Chandni calls her grandmother Bi Amma or The Broad, a name that is appropriate to a grandmother, who has a strict nature and lives in a Haveli in the 70s. Chandni’s mother, Zainab, left this world for her eternal abode when Chandni was a child. Shah Jehan is Chandni’s father, who abandoned her years ago. Although Chandni never found the love of her parents, she does know how to love, for she has a crush on a man named Kunwar Rohail Khanzada. The one-sided love affair began for Chandni, when she was only nine years old, and Khanzada was 28. Chandni loves her despite the fact that Khanzada is married.

    Living with her half-brother, Zafar, Chandni has a different personality from her family members. Chandni doesn’t like her name; perhaps it was an old-fashioned name for her. However, Zeenat Mahal chose an appropriate name keeping in mind the time the novel is set in. Instead of being called Chandni, she prefers others to call her ‘C.’ While Chandni is daydreaming about Khanzada, her aspirations of being her bride shatters when a wealthy and an arrogant person, Taimur, arrives at the Haveli. He is Ali or Baba’s son, her late mother’s friend. Moreover, Bi Amma, or The Broad, has decided to wed Chandni with Taimur. This is a decision Chandni wants to overturn at the earliest. It seems that Taimur and Chandni aren’t on the same page. Despite hating each other, Chandni also refers to him as Alpha Male, Uriah Heep, and Evil Moriarity. The animosity between the two is so deep, that Taimur calls Chandni as Medusa.

    While this love-hate relationship is expanding, out of nowhere, Chandni’s father walks at the Haveli to claim Chandni. To add confusion, he wants Chandni to marry a groom of his choosing. To everyone’s surprise, she is willing to go with his father, perhaps to get Taimur out of her life. This also shows Chandni’s father’s egoistical behavior but also reveals that she wants to use her father to leave Bi Amma, Taimur, and the customs of the Haveli.

    Perhaps it’s the rules being followed inside the Haveli that she despise, and not the structure itself. The suspense gradually builds as the readers become curious about Chandni’s future. The moment she fights with her half-brother, Zafar, with whom she has a good relationship, things becomes unsteady. The readers find themselves entwined in between many people, issues, and a question; what will Chandni do? What makes Haveli an interesting read is Zeenat Mahal’s ability to blend the characters with the plot and gradually move the story forward. Instead of giving importance to one character, she treats all characters equally. Where she thoroughly explains Chandni’s interest in Khanzada, she also explicates the hate that Taimur and Chandni share for each other. Moreover, Zeenat manages to place Bi Amma’s rigid nature right in between. Furthermore, Mahal’s prowess to put humor, comic timing in-between dialogues, and interweaving all characters together to form a cohesive plot, retains the reader’s attention throughout the 63-page novella.

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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!

  19. Sana


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

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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!

  23. 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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