Silence prevailed while separation long

He stated again touching his feet.

“Lotus eyed hero! Forgive me –

The ignorant humiliated thee”.

Entire Delhi came to know that Shivaji was suffering from prolonged illness. His doors and windows were closed. The physicians were taking care of him day and night. None of them could assure if he had any chance of recovery. Some could not even guarantee his survival till the next day. Some were convinced that Shivaji was already dead. People crossing the road used to take a glance at his closed window while some of them enquired after his health from the sentries those were posted their to guard the mansion. All city dwellers were busy discussing rumours about Shivaji – how he was, whether he would be free again, whether he would be alive till next day – made the core of  conversations one could hear in Delhi streets those days. Aurangzeb was also worried and kept on asking for his information through his agents, but never relaxed the tight security he placed around Shivaji’s mansion.

In one of such evenings, an old aristocrat Hakim arrived to meet Shivaji. As the guard asked him the reason of his meeting Shivaji, he informed them that he came to treat him with an order from the Emperor. He showed authorisation letter too. With due honour, the guards showed him the way inside.

Shivaji was lying in his bed. One servant brought the news of one Hakim’s arrival with an order of the Emperor. The very sharp King thought that the Emperor sent someone to poison him. He told, “Tell him with due respect that I am being treated by a Hindu physician. Being a Hindu, I do not want to be treated by any other medicinal practice. I would thank the Emperor a thousand times for his benevolence.”

Even before the servant left the room, the Hakim entered without an invitation. His entry annoyed Shivaji, but keeping his annoyance with himself, he welcomed him in a very low voice. The Hakim sat beside Shivaji on his bed as he told him so.

The Hakim’s appearance was beyond suspicion. He was very old. His long gray beard covered till the chest. He was wearing a big turban. He was talking in a solemn voice. He told, “My King! I have heard what you were telling your servant. You do not want to be treated by me. Still, saving human life is our duty. I will be truthful to my duty.”

Shivaji knew the voice, Mughal turban, gaudy cloths and long beard worked well to camouflage but not so well that the sharp king couldn’t identify his childhood friend.  He sat on his bed and looked straight at the guest. Tanaji smiled at him; said, “What makes you wonder? I’ve worked with you so long – obvious that I have adopted some of your qualities. I always admired you for entering enemies’ place in disguise to get minute information about them. Today it didn’t seem that difficult!”

Shivaji was laughing, “My friend! One may get injured at times while playing with a tiger. Anyway, I cannot express how delighted I am seeing you here. I was expecting you here since several days. Now tell me the news!”

Tanaji: “Everything is arranged properly to ensure your safe escape. Let me state one by one – with the permission we received from the Emperor, all your companions could safely leave Delhi. All are staying in Mathura and Vrindaban dressed as hermits. Many of the priests in the temples of Mathura are also waiting for you. I have taken charge of the route from Delhi to Mathura; also collected people in the places on route you wanted to.”

Shivaji: “I have no doubt my friend – we will safely reach homeland having an efficient supporter like you.”

Tanaji: “I also arranged a swift horse outside the wall of the city as you ordered. Everything will be in place whichever day you decide.”

Shivaji: “Well done!”

Tanaji: “I met Ram Singh, the son of King Jai Singh. I made him remember the word his father had given to you. He is truthful and broad minded as his father. I have heard that he appealed to the Emperor for you. Emperor said he would do whatever his duty is. ”

Shivaji: “Betrayer! See how deceitful a person can be! Shivaji will take revenge some day!”

 

Tanaji said before leaving: “When my kind of a wise Hakim took charge of your treatment, then you have to get well soon.”

As he was about to cross the gate, the guard at the gate asked him how the condition of his patient was. The Hakim answered, “His illness is severe, but my medicine worked well. I anticipate, he will get well soon.”

 

****************************************************************

Few days after the incident, the news of Shivaji’s recovery was declared. The capital came to a festive mode. Hindus found this good news. Open-minded Mohammedans did not have different opinion. Even Aurangzeb had to express his happiness.

Shivaji started sending honorarium in form of loads of gold and silver coins, donations to temples, goodies to all the physicians who were looking after him. Sending baskets of sweets to all influential’s homes in Delhi took shape of a ritual. Baskets were being sent to mosques for the service of fakirs as well. Aurangzeb’s intension was crooked, but common people were praising Shivaji a lot. In a word, everyone in Delhi applauded his friendly gesture.

Sending sweets directly from sweetmaker’s shop did not please Shivaji. Sweets were first brought to his mansion. Those were assorted in large baskets at his place and then sent to destination. In case those baskets were prepared for large mosques or temples, those used to be several feet high. Carrying them to the destination was arduous task even for of eight or ten people.

One evening, as two of those kinds of large baskets were being taken out of his Delhi home, the guards asked the carriers a routine question, “Whom are you sending the sweets today?” The carriers replied, “To the King Jai Singh.” Guards asked, “How long your master will send sweets like this?” The carriers replied, “Probably today is the last day.”

The carriers left the mansion along with their baskets. But instead of Jai Singh’s palace, they arrived a shadowy place in a lonely corner of Delhi. They looked around. No other human being was visible; silence reigned in the area, evening breeze was flowing silently keeping harmony with that complete stillness. They kept the baskets down on the ground. The carriers knocked on the baskets; The Warrior-king Shivaji came out from one of the baskets; from another, Sambhaji. Both thanked the almighty God for the safe escape.

Both men in disguise proceeded towards the boundary wall of Delhi without wasting time. The roads were almost empty in the late evening. The sight of one or two pedestrians on their way frightened Sambhaji. Shivaji and Sambhaji walked faster to cross the locality as soon as possible. In a short while, they found a horse standing under a tree. They came closer with caution and found it resembled the description Tanaji had given. He asked its keeper, “What is your name?” The horse-keeper replied, “Janakinath.”

Shivaji: “Where are you heading to?”

Horse-keeper: “Mathura.”

He jumped on the horse. Sambhaji sat behind him. The horse keeper was walking behind as they started galloping towards Mathura.

That way, Shivaji was running away from Delhi silently crossing the villages and fields in that darkness. The stars in the sky were blinking at them. The voluptuous river Yamuna in the rainy season was flowing keeping pace with the rider’s movement through the road.

Suddenly, they saw three soldiers coming hastily towards Delhi. All of them had swords tied on their waist. They hurried their horses towards Shivaji’s as they spotted them on the way. Their movement scared him. Blocking the road in front, one of them asked, “Who is that?”

Shivaji: “Hermits.”

Soldier: “Where are you coming from?”

Shivaji: “Delhi.”

Soldier: “Destination?”

Shivaji: “Mathura.”

But all three soldiers, seeing his confusion were convinced that they have found a fugitive or dacoit on horse. They pounced on him. Shivaji alone could kill them all if he had a weapon in hand. Even empty-handed, his quick punch was strong enough to throw one from his horse, but the other two attacked him with swords. Shivaji fell down. He lost hope of his life. Little Sambhaji’s innocent face made him emotional. At that very moment, he heard an unexpected sound – he saw all three soldiers lying on the ground with arrows stuck to their bodies. All three were dead.

Shivaji got up thanking God. He realised that his horse-keeper, who was walking behind him, was the archer! He called him closer to thank him and only then he saw that the person who introduced himself as Janakinath was Sadanand Swami in disguise!

He didn’t know how to express his gratitude, “Sadanand Swami! It seems there is no other sincere friend of Shivaji like you at the time of distress. I ignored you considering you a simple horse-keeper. Forgive me! What can I do for you in return of this?”

Sadanand kneeled down before Shivaji folding his hands with humility, “Forgive me, My King! I am neither a horse-keeper, nor Sadanand. I am your old servant Raghupati Havildar. I have dreamed to serve since I was a child. You gave me the opportunity to serve you for sometime. I do not want any other honorarium. If I am guilty of committing any wrong to the Master, I would beg pardon of master.  You, my Master are the shelter for the orphan!”

Amazed Shivaji gazed at the young man. He could not hide his emotion. He embraced the soldier and erupted, “Raghupati, I doubted and humiliated you – that memory is killing me from inside. I will never forget your graciousness till the end of my life.”

Both the master and servant were embraced each other in high spirits. The reunion ended Raghupati’s self-abasement and freed Shivaji from remorse.