Bilkees I. Latif is a social activist who has received national and international awards, including the Padma Shri in 2008. She is the author of The Andhra Cookbook, The Fragrance of Forgotten Years and O Dharavi.
Forgotten tells the stories of women who transcended great tribulation to bring strength and succour to others. We meet Donna Juliana, a devout Catholic of Portuguese descent, whose influence in the court of the Mughal prince Shah Alam-later Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar I-was so strong that the Dutch, the Portuguese and the British frequently sought her help to get an audience with the ruler. Similarly, the poetry of the beautiful court poet, singer, song writer and warrior Mahlaqa Bai Chanda was largely ignored by critics for nearly two centuries after her death. At a time when few women could read and write, Mahlaqa received an elaborate education, compiling her first collection of poetry when legendary Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib was just a year old. The author draws vivid portraits of Chand Sultana, the Ismaili Muslim warrior-princess who defended Ahmadnagar against the Mughal forces of Emperor Akbar, and of two queens of the Deccan, Rudramma Devi and Hayat Bakshi Begum, who exemplified the ability of women rulers to govern well. The aurhor also remembers Radha Bai, a courageous Brahmin child-widow whose lifelong search to call someone her own touched all those she encountered. Bilkees Latif skilfully merges real and imagined events from the lives and times of these extraordinary but forgotten women, to restore to them their place in the annals of history.