The Flight of the Swans is a rich and fascinating family saga set in British India and Malaya. Cursed, and with blood on his hands, Captain Ramdas Rao Bhonslé is forced to flee Killa Fort, which has fallen to the British. A strange flight of swans signals his flight from Killa; a flight that will drive Ramdas and his family into further adversity. But great adversity spawns great dreams.
Ramdas dreams of ousting the British from his motherland. His sons, the handsome and irascible Nilkanth and the plain and romantic Madhav dream of possessing the same girl, Tara Bai, who is the most beautiful courtesan in the land. And Ramdas’ granddaughter, blind Arundhati, dreams only of seeing one day. Woven into this tapestry is a lone white swan inextricably linked to the ebb and flow of the Bhonslés’ fortunes as they flee across India to Malaya.
In the new land, they find solace in Penang Island’s embrace. They make history as they pioneer the birth of the Federated Malay States Railways; they wallow in the scent of spices and wonder at the rich blend of migrants and cultures on the island, and they bask in the warmth of its natives until Fate drags them back to India where it deals them its final blow.
At once magical, poignant and exotic, Devika Bai’s debut novel mesmerises as it unravels the love, loyalty and courage of the Bhonslés. The saga unfolds against the backdrop of war, famine, family conflict and social injustice, and hurtles towards its inevitable end in a masterful blend of history and fiction.
Praise for The Flight of the Swans
“New voice of Malaysian fiction” TODAY, Malaysia
“With The Flight of the Swans, Devika Bai has firmly marked for herself a place in the Malaysian literary scene” New Straits Times, Malaysia
“Devika Bai has a wonderful eye for detail” Rani Manicka, author of The Rice Mother (winner of 2003 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize)
“Swans is a sweeping saga of the Bhonslés – from the fall of India to the British and their journey of hope to then Malaya. Devika identifies most with the fearless and independent Rani Meera Bai, who takes on the British and relaxes by reading, listening to old Tamil songs and watching classic movies” The Star, Malaysia
“Swans contains a lot of historical, cultural and religious detail” The Sun, Malaysia
Shortlisted for the Star Readers’ Choice Awards 2014 (Malaysia)
About the author
D. Devika Bai is a retired school administrator of Malaysian Indian descent. Her short stories and articles have been published in print in Singapore and Malaysia, and online in several North American e-publications. She is the great-granddaughter of one of the earliest Tanjore Maratha immigrants to British Malaya.