Duty unfulfilled makes the existence meaningless”

Late in the evening, Saryu serves dinner. She cooked several delicacies.  Raghupati is hungry but worried – absorbed in own obsession, his taste buds went blunt. Janardan tries to indulge in a conversation about Rajasthan passionately. The young man mumbles – he is being distracted time to time.

The girl brings sweet sorbet in a marble tumbler after dinner. He looks at her holding the tumbler with such a sheer anxiety that melted heart seems flowing to the girl through his eyes. Their eyes meet with each others. She leaved the room blushing. Even the young man blushes.

She comes back with water for him. He is not indecent; doesn’t gaze at her like before any longer. He looks at her beautiful hands adorned with golden bangles; also her beautiful roundish arms bejeweled with armlets. He heaves a deep sigh.

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Raghupati’s bed is made. But instead of going to bed, he opens the door quietly, comes to the flower-garden and takes a stroll under the starry night sky.

Does anyone have any idea what is the young warrior meditating on, looking straight at the starry sky in that dark night? The night is getting colder; all the living beings of the world are taking rest wrapped in the blanket of the cold darkness. Even the fort seems to have been sunk into stillness; only the sentry’s movement brakes that intense silence once it a while.  Only the sound of the fort-bell announces the existence of awareness echoing in the hills around that serene fort every hour. What is the thought in which the sleepless Raghupati is lost in that mysterious obscurity of the night?

Even he doesn’t know why he is roaming in the garden. As if he is still a young boy; suddenly woke up in a new ray of light that shook his peaceful existence. How could one define the passionate thought that propels his speeding mind all on a sudden? Hundred times he remembers that elegant Rajput girl – her distinctive eye-brows, the flower petal-like freshness of her lips, the thick curls of her hair, the roundish arms, the large affectionate eyes and the delicate beauty. He tries to pacify himself – “You are a humble Havildar – the picturesque beauty can never be yours. Janardan is a high-born Brahmin; his adopted daughter would be desirable even to the princes. Why do you hurt yourself driven by such a futile dream? Why are you burning your own heart with this fiery thirst?”

Does hope die so easily in the young heart? Youth is desperate. To young mind, all difficult goals seem achievable; every impossible seems possible. Raghupati can’t resist losing himself looking at the deep hollow of the sky for hours. He stands keeping his arms across his chest, seeking support from God, “help me – make me successful. Everyone dreams of earning fame, recognition and reputation. Don’t I deserve those? Do I have a body slender than others? Are my arms weaker than others? If you are there to help me, I will protect the honour of my forefathers in battleground. I will gain reputation suitable for a Rajput – and then? My success will make me worthy suitor for Saryu.” He mutters addressing Saryu in his imagination, “Someday I will tell you war stories holding your soft hands in mine. I will hold your creeper-like body close to this pounding chest, looking at your flower-petal like lips.” But within moments he comes back to his sense, “Oh no! I am acting lunatic!”

He takes long to find his calm self back; then steps towards his room taking a deep breath. At that very moment, he notices a neck-chain lying on the ground, in which each coral bead is tied in a string along with two pearls. He remembers that he has seen this before. This was embracing Saryu’s neck and chest in the evening. What made her so absent-minded that this one fell on the ground? Looks at the sky he whispers, “God! Are you showing the sign of my longing’s being fulfilled?” He goes to bed keeping the string clung to his chest.

Next morning, the priest communicates the message of the Goddess for Shivaji, “Victory in the battle against anti-Hindus – defeat in war against own fraternity.”

Raghupati meets Saryu once again in the garden before leaving the fort. An inexplicable wave of suppressed desire makes his voice tremble, “Forgive the audacity of the unknown foreigner, my lady! I found this chain here last night and wanted to return it.”

She looked at him straight; sees the same soft amiable face, the wide forehead partly covered with think curls of hair, the bright eyes – the polite young warrior waiting for her reply. Her embarrassment shows in her fair face.

The warrior continues, “Please allow me to put this string in its place for God’s sake.”

The girl closes her eyes abashed. Raghupati’s own heart beating with the rhythm of a lovely emotion understands her expression of granting him permission. He places the chain on her neck carefully; says, “Allow me to leave then.”

The girl’s anxiety didn’t remain hidden as she whispers, “I am obliged. Hope you will visit this temple again if you come to this fort.”

Like the first drop of rain comes to the thirsty swallow, the first words of his desired woman to him overwhelm the man. He murmurs, “I am a servant of my master – a professional warrior – don’t know when I will come back, or if I will be able to come back at all. But I will never forget the kindness you showed me.

His voice chokes. Both the host and guest are wounded by the cupid’s first arrow.

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