Yearning for you – my friend – you reign my past!

Shooting all my loathing at you,

I will soothe my heart, if I can at last.

Raghupati is taking a stroll alone on the riverbank this evening. He is energized by own promotion, reunion with Saryu, possibility of fight against Mohammedans once again. Prospect of gaining freedom for Hindus thrills him – everything he is going through makes him happy. He hears someone calling him from behind.

Raghupati looks back – it was Balwantrao Jumladar. He did not expect to see him there, of course.

To his sheer astonishment, he hears Balwantrao saying in an  enraged tone: “Raghupati! This world has no place for both of us. One of us will have to die! “

Raghupati reacts, “What do you mean? You are my superior – my sister’s husband!”

Balwantrao: “I do not want the title of your sister’s husband! Listen to me! You humiliated me. It was me who made you what you are today. Why did I take responsibility of yours? – Because I loved you. My love for you was growing deeper as you were growing before my eyes. I never thought of living without you. Thousand times I have shown my affection for you in thousand occasions. It was you who ignored me! As a child you ignored me, you left me alone. You came back as a man. Your sight frustrated me – I knew you would never be mine. As a grown up you denied my love. How dare you! I dreamt of taking you in my arms – hugging you like an elephant in love.  You didn’t even care even after knowing how much you meant to me. You fell in love with that wretched girl! Rumours about your secret meetings broke me from inside. You ruined me the day you told me about your relationship with her. I cannot let you ruin rest of my life.  I cannot kill you like a coward either. Come  – fight for your life!

Awestruck Raghupati sees him trembling. He doesn’t know how to console his once superior. Pleasant moments he spent with his superior once flashes in his mind – true – Balwant loved him, left no means to keep him happy, waited eagerly to see him after each long day’s journey, fondled him like a heavenly lover on those lonely nights in the jungle camps far away from localities. True he was the man who taught him to fight, made him a hero, taught him love. But no! – He can’t continue with him like that. He needs to establish himself as a leader, not as a subordinate forever. At the same time he needs a woman – a beautiful loving woman like Saryu to fulfil his life –  women who would complete him, feel proud of him, give birth to his children. Suddenly he feels pity for his superior. How could he let this sobbing man ruin his sister’s life or his own? He yells, “You sinner! Get lost or I will forget my oath of not harming you. Don’t force me to punish you!”

Balwantrao: “You are going to punish me? If you had that courage at least! You knew I could shower you with fortune! What did I ask from you in return? Your company! You fool didn’t bother! You were trying to live on your own – create your own empire. Sank in own deep ambition, you choose her to build your own kingdom!”

Raghupati cannot help screaming, “Stop nonsense! I cannot remain your slave forever because you helped me someday. Leave me now!”

Sobbing Balwantrao turns furious within a moment: “You coward! You don’t want to fight? Listen more then, it is I who was benefitted by your father’s death! It was me who found potential in you. It was me who took every effort to raise you as a proud man. And it was me who could not stand your denial. It was me who wanted you to leave the country. I made Shivaji humiliate you declaring you a traitor. My fury calmed down after you went out of my sight. Now you came back to claim a higher role. Today we are at same level – tomorrow you will surpass me.  I have never been defeated, not going to accept it in future as well. Now I know the futility of my chasing you. I hate you now – hate you like a demon from hell. You made my life hellish. Today I will pierce you with my sword – nothing but your blood would be able to appease my thirst.”

Raghupati never considers unnecessary bloodbath an option to win. Patience and integrity makes a leader invincible.  He possesses both the qualities. He is clear about purpose of life – small personal troubles could not hinder him. At the same time, he cannot resist expressing the simultaneous pain and anger his brother in law evokes. “Deceiver! Beheading could be your proper punishment, but I will forgive you. Not because I love you, but because forgiveness has more power than your aggression.”

Balwantrao is not a person to understand his understanding anyway. He hisses, “You or me!” – and attacks Raghupati without a second thought. As the opponent pounces on him with a sword, Raghupati’s empathy disappears. Survival is prime purpose of every human. Be a person pretty sensible and tolerant, once he faces a death threat, he loses his sensitivity. He responds swiftly with his sword. None of them are weak fighter. The duel continues for sometime – they injure each other. But Raghupati had chance to learn strategies from different masters during his exile – finally defeats Balwantrao – presses him against the ground keeping a knee on him.

Blood soaked Balwantrao gives a sinister smile, “Then your beloved sister is going to be a widow – I am dying happy!”

Raghupati feels a bitter taste in his mouth. Images of Balwantrao  giving him a lesson of archery flashes in his mind like lightening. What would happen to Jyoti? How would she react knowing he had done? Did Jyoti suspect anything from Balwant’s behaviour? Wasn’t she overprotective about her husband? Suddenly he feels weak in his knees, How would he inform Shivaji about the incident? Who would believe him?  Going back to Saryu would be impossible. His throat suffocates. He tries to scream as loud as possible; his chocked throat prevents him from making any sound. He falls down, faints beside the dead body of his once teacher who probably loved him too much.

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Both the warriors were lying side by side – defeated Balwantrao’s mud-and blood stained body looked like an Asura killed after a long struggle. Beside him lied tired Raghupati, weakened being unable to carry the weight of his past and pressure of his aspirations. Guards who started searching for their leader seeing him absent for long discovered them after long.

Wounded Raghupati had to appear before Shivaji that night. He was not in a condition to talk. The leader asked, “What happened?” He remained silent. The leader said, “Raghupati, once I made a mistake by punishing you, the punishment came back to me. I don’t want to repeat the same. Please tell me what exactly happened. Please help me to deliver justice.”

“What justice would you deliver, My Lord? Goddess Bhavani has announced punishment for me, how would you take it back?” His master’s kind words made Raghupati burst into tears.  His master did not try to console him – stood gazing at him silently. Probably he sensed the pain of his trusted commander. He was not judging Raghupati’s assassinating his superior; not even for attacking him. Shivaji found proof that it was Balwantrao who gave Rahamat Khan confidential information of Vajragad fort attack beforehand. Treachery needed to be punished.