Courage and vigour placed me high above

My love is not the one I’m supposed to love–

Fuelled by desire I become a mourning dove!

This is our first meeting with Balwantrao Jumladar. He is unquestionably brilliant, valiant and strong-willed. He is few years older than Raghupati, tall and handsome, strong and stout bodied. Women of his village compared him to the Sakya king Buddha, who even though favoured by women a lot, never liked their company. His wide forehead is marked with few deep wrinkles of thought. His small eyes are very bright. He is self made man.  Born as a small farmer’s son, he took the occupation of a warrior at an early age of fifteen.  His deep envision, sheer grit and determination as effective as his vigour and courage helped him become one of Shivaji’s trusted commanders. These two critical faculties are very much apparent in his face. His soldiers, who are aware of his unconstrained vigour, cunning wrath, sheer intelligence and strong determination, do not engage themselves in argument with this Jumladar of few words. Apart from all, Balwantrao  has another virtue or vice – of which few are aware. He is driven by outrageous ambition. He discovers his own path to fulfil own aspirations, follows that with absolute determination and clears that with the sharpness of his sword.

Balwantrao does not want to talk about his past. None knows about his origin. His mentor was Ganga Singh, a trusted commander of Jai Singh. The commander once camped near the village what he stayed. The strong young boy serving the soldiers caught the commander’s attention. He called him in his tent and within a few days, pleased with his loyalty and diligence, offered him a foot-soldier’s role. The new joiner performed well in the next few battles which obviously secured him permanent role as a Havildar in Ganga Singh’s battalion.

He saved Ganga Singh’s life once. After the battle was over, the master called him to express own gratitude for his support. He was promoted to a commander.

One year after this incident, a fierce battle between Jai Singh and some rebels took place near Ujjain. Ganga Singh was killed. Balwantrao gained trust of his late superior. As per his master’s last wish he took charge of his home after his death. He left only two children along with his property. The orphaned children of Ganga Singh – twelve year old Raghupati and nine year old Jyoti found new shelter. He married the girl but Raghupati caught his attention. The boy had the spirit of a warrior even at that tender age. Taking them along he came to his Shivaji’s domain. He built own small troupe of armed men. As the strong and influential Balwantrao applied for a role in Shivaji’s army, he was immediately given the position of a Jumladar.

During the battle of Pratapgarh, Balwantrao fought like a demon, before whom many of the Afjal Khan’s soldiers couldn’t stand. He earned trust.

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Photo: Wikimedia commons

The young Raghupati becomes his companion throughout his journey. He teaches him how arms are taken up, how a sword is held, how a simple stick fatally hits an enemy, how a small knife pierces the heart of a strong man, how one arrow can strike both a rider and his horse, how empty hands can defeat five enemies altogether. Balwant know his young companion needs to learn how to climb steep hillocks without support of a rope, how to ride horse without stirrup. He takes him to battlefields, whenever the platoon has a chance to camp – where the boy would find scope to watch and learn. The boy becomes his only company in his ten. The spirited boy fascinates him. He still has a tender body, his skin as soft as flower petals, his face as innocent as a child; yet he is showing the sign of his developing as a man of bravery and strong determination. His hands are growing tough yet gentle, his feet muscular yet adorable, thin lips rigid yet loving – thin line of his moustache announcing his approaching manliness. Balwantrao cannot stop looking at him at times, admire his divine physique, showering kisses on that divine body, caressing its tenderness in the lonely starry nights. Raghupati is the one he lives for. He doesn’t want to go back to the fort, enjoy the life of luxury any longer, look at anyone else – only if he could stay with Raghupati in this remote tent in any of these bushy fields!

Young Raghupati is not only loyal; he understands his master’s love for him. He loves being centre of his superior’s caring attention.

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He is growing fast – respects his superior for his bravery, his magnificent control on the horses, excellence in handling weapons. He knows he won’t be able to return his favour. Raghupati venerates him, but at the same time, he does not want to stay with his superior any longer. He wants to immerse himself in his own dreams, dream of becoming a war-hero, dream of owning own palace, dream of owning own woman. Perhaps a beautiful girl would adore him much more than Balwantrao does? He sees himself in the position of a leader, not a follower. Superior’s continuous surveillance irritates him – he knows he cannot protest.

In one of the silent winter nights, he frees himself from sleeping Balwantrao’s warm embrace, runs away from his tent, leaving love-struck Balwantrao alone.

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The orphan boy seemed to be floating on everlasting circumstances. He crossed mile walking – he wanted to be far away from Balwantrao and his troupe. He travelled across the region – sometimes took up begging, at times worked as servant at wealthy people’s homes. The strong and stout young man earned respect wherever he stayed. He was working as a guard of a trader’s home when he heard about Shivaji’s camping with his troup somewhere nearby. His heart danced with cheer, He didn’t want to spoil the opportunity. He met the leader he worshiped since ages.

Did he find himself unfortunate when after coming back from Toran he came to know that he actually replaced a deceased havildar under Balwantrao jumladar, who passed away just before he met Shivaji? Both the former superior and junior recognised each other – as the once-companions met in Shivaji’s court. Balwantrao looked at his new havildar – he felt sad, as if he had lost the most precious stone from his ornament. The havildar looked at him, straight and strong, powerful and confident. Jumladar understood he would have to build his relationship anew with his new soldier. The new soldier lost the tenderness he adored once. Energetic youth made Raghupati even more attractive – suppressing his desire for the young man was difficult for him, yet his common sense became a bridle to his temptation. He knew Raghupati would not reciprocate. Honest Raghupati would not turn a revenge-seeker, but he would have to remain his sister’s husband forever. Balwant welcomed the new havildar in his troupe formally. Raghupati did not carry grudge against him either. He happily engaged in a long conversation with him.