Chandrashekhar (Mullick)/Part2/Chapter 2


THE name of the addressee of Dalani’s letter was Gurgan Khan.

Of all the state-officers who were employed in Bengal at that time, Gurgan Khan was one of the highest and best. By nationality he was an Armenian; Ispahan was his birthplace. A report is current that in early life he was a clothier, but he was a man of great genius and extraordinary talents. Within a short time of his service, he rose to the rank of Commander-in- Chief of the Army. Not only that, soon after he came to his new position, he formed an artillery force. He had it properly trained and equipped after European methods; the guns and muskets he manufactured turned out to be even superior to those manufactured in Europe. His artillery force became in every respect equal to the European artillery soldiers. Mir Kasim too, had his hopes that with Gurgan Khan to help him, he would beable to defeat the English. With his rise, Gurgan Khan's influence increased apace. Mir Kasim would not engage in any undertaking without his advice. He would not listen to anybody who spoke contrary to it. In a word Gurgan Khan grew up to a little Nawab himself; naturally the Mahomedan officials became jealous.

It was midnight; but Gurgan Khan had not yet retired. Alone in lamplight he was reading some letters. They were from certain Armenians at Calcutta. After finishing the letters he called to a servant. A footman came and awaited orders. Gurgan Khan asked:

“Have all the doors been kept open?”

“Yes,” answered the footman

“If any one should like to see me, he must not be obstructed or asked who he was. Have you explained this?”

“Your Excellency’s order has been carried out,” replied the footman.

“Very well, you can go.”

After the footman had gone Gurgan Khan tied up the letters and secreted them in a fitting place. Then he began to meditate. “Now which path to follow? This Hindusthan is now like a sea, whoever dives most, will pick up the largest number of gems. What is the good of counting the waves from the shore? Take my case: I used to measure out cloth with the yard-stick and sell it. Now all India is trembling at my name. I am the master of Bengal. Am I really the master of Bengal? Then who if not I? No, the English merchants are the master, and Mir Kasim is their slave. I am the slave of Mir Kasim, therefore, I am the slave of the master’s slave. A very high position indeed! Why shouldn’t I be the master of Bengal? Who can stand before my guns? The English? Let me once catch them! But unless I cast them out of this country I cannot be the master. I want to be the ruler of Bengal. I don't mind Mir Kasim; I will tear him away from the throne the very day I shall wish it. He is merely my ladder to mount up to my exalted position. Now that I have got up to the terrace, I can safely kick it. The rascally English are the only thorn. They want to have me under their thumb, I want to have them under mine. But they will never come under my thumb; therefore, I must drive them away. Let Mir Kasim continue on the throne for the present; I will co-operate with him and obliterate the British-name from Bengal. With that object I am contriving to bring about this war; all this done, I will bid adieu to Mir Kasim. This is the right path. But why do I get this letter so unexpectedly today? Why has this girl launched in this reckless adventure?”

Just then the person who occupied his mind entered appearance and stood before him. Gurgan Khan conducted her to a separate seat. She was Dalani Begum.

“I am very glad,” said Gurgan Khan, “to see you after such a length of time. I have not had the pleasure of seeing you since you entered the Nawab’s seraglio. But why have you embarked in this mad adventure?”

“How mad? ” asked Dalani.

"You, the Nawab’s Begum,” replied Gurgan Khan, “have secretly stolen out at night to my place; if the Nawab should come to know of it, he would kill us both you and me”

“If he at all comes to know of it, I will disclsoe our relationship. After that there will be no further cause for his displeasure.”

“You are a mere girl, therefore you expect such a thing. We have not disclosed our relationship to anyone up to this time. That you know me, or that I know you, none of us have yet revealed; and if at the time of danger it is made public, who will believe it? People will call it a subterfuge for escape. You have not done well to come here.”

“What is the chance of the Nawab’s knowing of it? The sentries are all under your control, and they have let me pass on seeing your token. I have come to ask one word only. Is it a fact that there will be war with the English?”

“Don’t you hear it talked about in the fort?”

“Yes I do. It is current there that war with the English is inevitable, and you have brought it about why?”

“You are a mere girl, how shall you understand it?”

“Am I talking like a girl, or am I in the habit of acting as such? When you yourself have planted me in the seraglio as an instrument of your self—advancement, then what is the good of ignoring me as a girl?”

“Let there be war. This war with the English can neither harm you nor me. If it should be war, let it be.”

“Do you expect to be victorious?”

“Our victory is most likely.”

“Who has been able to defeat the English up to the present moment?”

“How many Gurgan Khans have they fought?”

“Serajuddowla also thought in a similar strain. However, let that go. I am a woman, I believe in what my mind prompts me to. To my mind it seems, that in our war with the English we shall never come off victorious. This war will be our ruin. Therefore, I have come to beseech you——do not advise this war.”

“In matters like this a woman's advice is not to be accepted.”

“Oh, do listen to me! Be my saviour, I see darkness all around!” and Dalani began to weep.

Gurgan Khan was astonished. “Why do you weep?” he asked. “Suppose Mir Kasim should lose his throne, I would take you back to our native country.”

Dalani’s eyes flashed fire. In a paroxysm of rage she cried, “Dost thou forget that Mir Kasim is my husband?”

A trifle taken aback and confused, Gurgan Khanr replied, “No, I do not. But no one’s husband lives for ever. After the first, one can take a second husband. I entertain hopes that one day you will be another Nurjehan of India.”

Trembling with passion Dalani stood up. She stifled her tears and with dilated eyes and trembling limbs, she began to pour forth :-

“Perdition take you! In an evil moment was I born your sister; in an evil moment did I pledge myself to help you. That a woman is capable of charity, affection, and virtue, does not enter your head. If you desist from instigating this war, well and good; if not, from this day forth, I will disclaim you; or why disclaim only, henceforth I will look upon you as my enemy. I will consider you as my ‘dearest foe,’ and I wish you also, to know me as such. I will remain your mortal enemy in the palace.”

With these words Dalani flung out of the room and went away.

When Dalani had gone away Gurgan Khan began to reflect. He knew that Dalani was no longer his, she was Mir Kasim’s. She might have a sister’s affection for him but her love for Mir Kasim was far stronger. When she has known, or will know, that the brother is no well-wisher of the husband, she might do the brother an ill-turn for the good of the husband. Therefore, she must not be allowed to enter the fort again. With this decision Gurgan Khan called to a servant.

One of the armed attendants appeared. Gurgan Khan sent orders through him that the sentries must not allow Dalani to enter the fort.

On horseback the courier reached the gate of the fort in advance. Dalani duly arrived there, and was told that her admittance had been forbidden.

At this, she slowly sank on the ground like a torn creeper. Torrents of tears flowed from her eyes, and she exclaimed, “Alas, my brother! you have made me completely desolate.”

“Come,” suggested Kulsam, “let us go back to the Commander-in-Chief’s house.”

“You can go if you like,” said Dalani, “I will take shelter within the billows of the Ganges.”

In that dark night Dalani stood on the public highway and wept. The stars were shimmering overhead; the scent of new-blown flowers came floating from the trees; the leaves, mantled in darkness were rustling in a current of gentle breeze; and Dalani, through her tears muttered “ Kulsam.”