Zenana1 Deorhi was a honeycomb with many queen bees. From outside the complex jalis, the zenana looked like a quiet place, full of beauty and grace. But inside, it buzzed with disgruntled murmurs, noisy altercations, and jealous confrontations. A dense, bitter fluid of insecurity filled its cells. There were invisible walls of pride and position.
The only person who could penetrate these walls was Gulabrai. The patrani2, pasvans3, pardayats4, and ranis – everyone liked her. She was no threat to anyone. She was not even a contender in the race to win the maharaja’s favor. No one really knew who Gulabrai was. She had always been there in the zenana, as far as anyone could remember. Most of the women in zenana considered her as an inanimate object, like a pillar or a fountain. Gulabrai was passed down as an ancestral property when the last Maharaja’s harem was evaporated on his funeral pyre.