Chandra Shekhar/Part 2/Chapter 2
HE name of the person to whom Dalani's letter was carried, was Gurgan Khan. Gurgan Khan was the highest and the ablest of all the officers of the Nawab, in Bengal, at the time. He was an Armenian by nationality. Ispahan was his birth place. Rumour has it that he was originally a cloth-dealer. But he was a man of uncommon parts and abilities. Within the short period of his service under the Nawab, he obtained the exalted post of the Commander-in-chief. Nor was that all; after his appointment as the Commander-in-chief, he organised a rifle-corps and trained and armed it after the European fashion. The guns and rifles which he got made in Bengal under his supervision, surpassed in quality even those made in Europe. His rifle-corps in every respect became equal to that of the English. Mir Kasim had hoped so far that with Gurgan Khan's help he would overthrow the English. Gurgan Khan's influence consequently became very great. Mir Kasim would do nothing without consulting him. The Nawab would never listen to anything said against his advice. So Gurgan Khan had virtually become a bit of a Nawab. The Mahamedan high officials, therefore, got annoyed.
It was midnight, yet Gurgan Khan had not retired to bed. Alone in the room, he was reading some letters, in the light of a lamp. They were addressed to him by some Armenians from Calcutta. After reading the letters, Gurgan Khan called out his attendant. The waiter came in and stood before him to receive orders.
"Are all the doors open?" Inquired Gurgan Khan.
"Yes, if it please you," replied the attendant.
Gurgan Khan. Have you made it known to all that if any one comes to me at this hour, nobody should stop that visitor or enquire the person's name?
"Yes sir, your order has been carried out," replied the man.
Gurgan Khan. All right, you now keep away.
Gurgan Khan then bundled up the letters, and concealed them in a safe place. He then said within himself, "Now, what course should I follow? India is now an ocean, so to speak—one would pick up as many gems as often he would dive into it. What gain will there be if I simply count the waves from the shore? Well, I used to sell cloth measuring it out with the yard, but now India is afraid of me; I am the absolute master of Bengal. Am I really so? Who is the real master? The English merchants. Mir Kasim is their slave; I am Mir Kasim's slave—I am, therefore, a slave of the real master's slave! Very exalted position after all! But why should I not be the master of Bengal? Who can. stand before my guns? The English! O, if I could only meet them! But I shall never be the master unless the English are driven out of the country. I want to be the master of Bengal—I don't care for Mir Kasim in the least—I shall drag him down from the throne whenever I will like it. He is merely the step to my rising up to that exalted position. I have got up on the roof and can now throw down the ladder if I like, but the cursed English is the thorn on my way. They want to win over me and I want to gain over them. They will not come over to my side and so I shall drive them away. For the present let Mir Kasim be on the throne; siding with him, I shall blot out the name of the English from Bengal. This is why I. am actively trying to pick up a quarrel with them. Afterwards, I shall dispense with Mir Kasim. This is the best course. But how is it that this letter comes to me so unexpectedly to-day? Why has this girl rushed into so bold an undertaking?"
Forthwith, the person of whom he was thinking came in, and stood before him. Gurgan Khan gave the visitor a special seat. It was Dalani Begum herself. Gurgan Khan said to her,
"I am very glad to see you to-night after a long time. I have not seen you since you got into the Nawab's harem. But why have you taken this rash step?"
Dalani. How is it rash?
Gurgan Khan. Being the Nawab's Begum you have stolen away from your place in the night, and have come to me alone—if the Nawab comes to know of it, he will surely put both of us to death.
Dalani. If he comes to know of it at all, I shall disclose our relation. Then surely he will have no reason to be angry.Gurgan Khan. You are a mere girl and that is why you are so very confident of what you say. We
have not disclosed our relation so long. Hitherto we have not told any one that we even know each other. Who will believe us if we speak of our relation in difficulty? Every one will take it as a means to escape. You should not have come.
Dalani. But how will the Nawab come to know of it? The sentinels are all obedient to you. They have allowed me to come here on my showing them the badge you gave me. I have come to you to know something—is it true that there will be war with the English?
Gurgan Khan. Why, don't you hear of it from within the castle?
Dalani. Yes, I do. It is a rumour in the castle that war with the English is certain, and that you are bringing it about; why should you do so?
Gurgan Khan. You are a mere girl, how will you understand it?
Dalani. Am I speaking like a girl or do I act like a girl? When you have placed me in the Nawab's seraglio as your supporter, can you now ignore me as a girl?
Gurgan Khan. Let there be war. What loss shall you or I suffer from that? Let it break out if it will.
Dalani. Do you hope to win?
Gurgan Khan. Yes, there is every chance of our gaining the victory.
Dalani. Who has yet conquered the English?
Gurgan Khan. How many Gurgan Khans have the English encountered?
Dalani. Seerajuddaulla fancied the very same thing. However that may be, I am a woman and I believe in what the mind feels from within. It comes to my mind that we shall by no means be victorious in our fight with the English. This war will bring about our ruin. I have, therefore, come to entreat you not to encourage the idea of war.
Gurgan Khan. In a matter like this, woman's advice is not acceptable.
Dalani. You must accept my advice. O, save me—I see nothing but darkness all around!
Dalani then began to weep. Gurgan Khan was taken aback. He said, "Why should you weep? It does not matter if Mir Kasim is dethroned—I shall take you home along with me."
Dalani's eyes flashed fire. She said in a resentful tone, "Are you forgetting that Mir Kasim is my husband?"
Gurgan Khan was put out of countenance, and said, "No, I have not forgotten that. But then, one's husband is not immortal. If one husband is lost, another can be had. I have every hope that you will one day become the second Noor Jahan of India."
Dalani rose up. Checking her tears and dilating her eyes, she said, trembling with rage, "You go to hell. In an evil hour I came into this world as your sister—in an evil hour I promised to help you up. That woman has within herself affection, sympathy and a sense of piety, is a fact of which you are quite ignorant. If you desist from your counsel about the war, good and well. If not, my relation with you ceases henceforth. But why should there be no relation at all? From this day I shall bear to you the relation of an enemy. I shall take you to be my greatest enemy. Know it, I am your greatest, enemy. Bear in mind that in the royal seraglio your greatest enemy will live in my person." Dalani then rushed out of the mansion.
When Dalani got out, Gurgan Khan began to reflect. He felt that Dalani was no more his own—she was Mir Kasim's. She might have some affection for him as her brother, but she was far more affectionately attached to Mir Kasim. When she had come to know, or would come to know, that her brother was other than a well-wisher of her husband, she might do harm to the brother, for the good of the husband. So, she should not be allowed to re-enter the castle. Gurgan Khan called out the attendant. An armed retainer appeared before him. He sent orders through that man that the sentinels must not allow Dalani to get into the castle.
The messenger on horse-back reached the gate of the castle earlier. Dalani arrived there at the proper hour, and heard that her admission into the castle was prohibited. The news proved a terrible shock to her—she could no more remain standing—she gradually sat down on the ground, like a torn creeper. Tears came out of her eyes in torrents, and she exclaimed,
"Brother, you have deprived me of my only shelter in this world!"
"Let us go back to the commander's place," said Kulsam, in despair.
"You better go there. I shall have a place under the waves of the Ganges," replied Dalani, in grief and anger.
In that dark night, standing on the broad thoroughfare, Dalani began to weep. The stars were then glittering overhead, the sweet fragrance of blooming flowers was being diffused on all sides and the leaves of trees, enveloped in darkness were murmuring under a gentle breeze. Dalani in a voice of agony cried, "Kulsam!"