Chandrashekhar (Mullick)/Part4/Chapter 1



PROTAP was a Zemindar and Protap was a robber. At the time we are talking of, most Zemindars belonged to this class. Darwin says that man is the great-grand son of the monkey. If no one would take offence at it, we dare say no Zemindar would take umbrage at our disparaging remarks of his forefathers. After all, it does not seem to be a slur to come of such a stock, as elsewhere we find the robber family held in the highest estimation. The descendants of the notorious marauder Tamerlane came to occupy the first rank in family pedigree in the world. In England, those who take a special pride in their ancestry, always trace their descent from the Norman or Scandinavian pirates. In ancient India the Kurus were particularly regarded, but they were cow-stealers—they stole cows from the northern cowshed of King Virat.[1] Some of our Bengali Zemindars have got a touch of this ancestry.

But Protap’s case was somewhat different from other ancient Zemindars. To save his own property, or to chastise a powerful foe, he would have recourse to bandits, but never for the sake of wanton oppression or spoliation. He would often resort to these acts of violence inspired with a desire to uphold the weak and the oppressed. Now he was ready to follow that course again.

At the first blush of the morning after Shaibalini’s flight from the skiff, Protap rose from his sleep and was glad to find Ramcharan had come. But he grew uneasy for Shaibalini. He waited for her for some time, and when she did not turn up he began to search. He looked for her along the bank of the river, but with no result. It had now gone pretty far into the day; Protap despaired of finding her out and came to the conclusion that Shaibalini must have drowned herself. He knew that in the then frame of her mind it was not an unlikely eventuality.

Now Protap began to meditate: “I am the cause of Shaibalini’s death,” was his first thought. “How am I to blame?” he further thought. “I have never swerved from the path of rectitude; whatever might have led to her death I could not prevent it.” Therefore, Protap could not find any reason to get angry with himself. He grew a little displeased with Chandrashekhar——why did he marry Shaibalini? He felt slightly annoyed with Rupasi—why was he married to her and not to Shaibalini? He became angry with Sundari—if she had not set him on to this quest, there would have been no swimming in the Ganges with Shaibalini and Shaibalini would not have died. But above all was his ire at Foster—if he had not haled Shaibalini away from her home, none of these things would have happened. But then if the English had not made their appearance in Bengal, Shaibalini would never have fallen into the hands of Lawrence Foster. Therefore, his exasperation against the English became irrepressible, and Protap concluded that Foster must be caught once more and killed; and this time a cremation should be arranged for him, else he might come to life again——he might force his way up through the grave. The next conclusion he arrived at was, that the English must be extirpated from Bengal as there were many Fosters among them.

With these thoughts he went back to Monghyr in the very same skiff.

He went into the fort and found that the Nawab was going to fight the English and mighty preparations were afoot.

Protap’s heart was gladdeued. “Wouldn’t the Nawab be able to drive these ruffians from Bengal?” he asked himself. “Wouldn’t Foster be caught?”

“Everyone” he went on, “ought to help the Nawab in this affair as much as it lies in his power. Even a squirrel might bridge an ocean.” [2]

“Can I do any service? What can I do?” he next asked himself.

“I have no disciplined troops,” he again thought, “I have only clubmen—a band of desperados. Can they do any service?”

“If nothing else could be done,” he continued, “atleast, the plundering was possible. I could make raids on the villages which would help the English; I could intercept and plunder the English provisions wherever I should find them; I could take to pillage wherever I should come across English goods on their way. If I could do this even, I should have helped the Nawab considerably. Victory in open fight is only a common way of destroying the enemy. To harass the enemy in the rear and to bring about a scarcity of provisions are the chief ways. I will do that as far as possible.”

“Why should I do all this?” be finally asked himself.

“Yes, I must do it, there are various reasons for it. In the first place, the English have been the ruin of Chandrashekhar; secondly, Shaibalini is dead; thirdly they kept me in durance; fourthly, they have done similar injury to others and are likely to do it over again; lastly, if I could render this service, the Nawab might reward me with a few big districts for my trouble. Therefore, I must do it,” was the final conclusion.

By currying favour with the ministers he managed to procure an interview with the Nawab What passed between him and the latter, did not transpire. The interview over, he started for home.

On Protap’s return after a prolonged absence, Rupasi was relieved of a terrible anxiety, but she was grieved at the news of Shaibalini’s death. Sundari came to see him as soon as she heard of his return. She was extremely pained at the news of Shaibalini’s demise and said, “The inevitable has come to pass, but Shaibalini’s troubles are now over. How can I persuade myself to believe that after all death has not been better for her than life?”

After his meeting with Rupasi and Sundari, Protap again left home. Soon the whole country-side rang with the news that all the clubmen and bandits from Katwa to Monghyr were being banded together and Protap Roy was collecting them. Gurgan Khan grew anxious at the news.

  1. The Kurus and the Pandavas were the two rival factions in the great war described in the Mahabharata. Both came of a princely stock. King Virat had an extensive cow-house consisting’ of myriads of cows. The Kurus in course of the war once attempted to take away these cows.
  2. The allusion is to a story in the Ramayana where a squirrel is said to have worked in its own humble way in the construction of a bridge between India and Ceylon so that Rama and his army might have an easy passage to the latter place for attacking Ravana.