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Chapter 26-

18 January 2024

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The day before Bruhannada and his wife were to leave Chittor, he sent me a message asking if we could meet.


‘Forgive me, Highness, for not coming myself but as you know it is not wise for me to stir out.’


I was not a little impatient with Bruhannada since I thought that that unpleasant chapter was closed and found it distasteful to be reminded that, as expected, His Majesty had taken no action against his favourite son.


‘I’ve been pondering about what you said to me some time ago, Sire. What would have happened if the most honourable man in the Mahabharata had thrown his weight with the righteous?’


‘I’m afraid, Bruhannada, that we’ll have to find a more opportune moment to discuss that academic question. And that moment, as you know, will not be available to us since you leave tomorrow.’


‘Would you say that a conspiracy to destabilize the sovereign power of Mewar is an academic issue?’


The eunuch’s breathing may have been laboured and laced with much asthmatic wheezing but perhaps that only helped to augment the effect of his words. I kept a deadpan face but I was sure that Bruhannada knew that I was merely putting on a bad show and was in reality instantly alert and all attention.


‘Will you record my testimony, Highness, or would you rather that His Majesty constituted the highest court in the land?’


‘If it’s treason we are talking about, then I must, as you know, first inform His Majesty. Before I do that, I’m duty bound to ask you to reconsider. For if you are implicated in a conspiracy, turning a witness for the state will not necessarily protect you nor will it grant you immunity.’


‘I appreciate your warning, Highness, but do you really believe I would take such a major step, a step from which there is no turning back, without due thought?’


‘No, Bruhannada,’ I found myself strangely subdued, ‘Few people get a second chance at life. Now you are tempting the fates for the third time. What will happen to your wife Urvashi and to your unborn child?’


‘I’ll take you briefly through a series of contradictory propositions. But that is the logic of my mind at this stage in my life and that is how I arrived at my decision. I’m now truly what I started out my career as: a eunuch. Urvashi is a kind and gentle woman. In time she, too, will tire of a husband who can give her no pleasure.’ Bruhannada paused to drink some hot water. When the congestion in his throat and chest eased a bit, he went on. ‘I’m not very good at being an object of pity, Sire, but in truth, what will kill me is my own bitterness against what my life has become.


‘You may find it difficult to give credence to this but there is no vengeance in me. My destiny and the source of my power lay in my loyalty. However reluctant I may have been to face up to it, you’ve challenged my notion of loyalty. I need to find out if I can still make my life worthwhile.’


I’ve always found eunuch flesh repulsive and yet I caught myself laying my hand on Bruhannada’s shoulder. ‘You are a courageous man, Bruhannada.’


The weight of all the obvious ironies of the moment was a little overpowering. Barring a victory over the Moghul Babur, I could not have wished for a greater boon from the god of my house, Shri Eklingji, than a confession from the man who Mangal and I suspected had masterminded Queen Karmavati’s plans to secure the future for Vikram. And yet there was something disturbing, if not devastating, about Bruhannada’s loss of faith and fidelity which I would always find difficult to come to terms with. If only the Queen and her son had known and trusted their retainer a little better, it would never have occurred to him to reconsider his loyalty to them; no, not even after my brother had tried to butcher the eunuch.


How many of us know when to leave things well enough alone?


* * *


I watched my associate justices take their places with a curious sense of detachment. Had I been in a facetious frame of mind I would have said that it was the same old gang: Pooranmalji, the Pradhan; my uncle Lakshman Simhaji and the Finance Minister, Adinathji. I had forgotten how many years had passed since we had met for Vikramaditya’s treason trial. Like a lot of men who bald early, Lakshman Simhaji had always grown the hair on the side of his head long so that he could train it to cover his pate. But there was so little hair left above his ears now that it stuck out like a cat’s whiskers. Pooranmalji had become frail and there were cataracts in both his eyes. There was still not a wrinkle in Leelawati’s great-grandfather’s skin but the light had gone out of it and Adinathji’s movements were slow and unsteady. It struck me then that while other people age in our eyes, we ourselves never do. You’ll invariably find the elderly referring to a contemporary as that old man, forgetting that they themselves are close to ninety.


How did the other three members on the bench view me? Did they see me as older and worn out, but without a line of wisdom on my forehead? Was I the official court cuckold for them, the prince who would take a new wife only on condition that she would lie with somebody else?


How did Father see me for that matter? Was I the harbinger of black tidings or was I the bad news itself? He had sat in his office for the longest time yesterday without uttering a word. I knew he wanted to pace up and down, close his eyes tight and ask me to get out and not show my unlucky face again. But he was the king and he was trapped in the finality of his own authority.


‘How do you know this is not a ploy on the eunuch’s part to go scot-free?’


‘Bruhannada is a free man, Majesty. You pardoned him and set him free.’


‘He wants revenge, that’s what it is. He wants to get back at the … No, that doesn’t make sense because he would lose his own head in the process.’


‘No, it does, Majesty. The thought had occurred to me that the eunuch hated his former masters so much that he was willing to destroy them even if it cost him his own life. But he will have to furnish proof for everything he says and the court will verify all his allegations.’


‘Have you fixed the venue?’


‘Not yet. Mangal would prefer to select the place only after you appoint the judges who will constitute the bench under you and fix the date.’


‘Never delay a good action; but the unpleasant ones, perform them even faster. The proceedings will start tomorrow. You’ll preside over the same court that heard Rao Balech’s plaint against Prince Vikramaditya.’


‘Me?’ I asked incredulously. ‘Your Majesty is the Chief Justice of Mewar. This is a matter that only you can decide.’


‘Do I notice a certain amount of discomfiture, Prince? Since you have aspirations to the throne, I’m sure you’ll have to be doubly careful in assessing the evidence.’


‘What if the case has ramifications not just for Mewar but for the whole confederacy?’


Father turned his good eye upon me. I was not certain whether I saw loathing there or the confirmation of fear. I realized that I had gone too far.


‘What makes you think that?’


‘Bruhannada is an ambitious but circumspect man, Majesty. He would not stake both his reputation and life that lightly.’


‘Whatever the truth,’ there was a chill in Father’s voice which suggested that he had made his truce with the demons inside him, ‘I’ll stand by you, Prince. Consult me when you need to.’


I have no idea where Mangal had stowed the eunuch on the previous night but I was relieved to see him enter the private durbar-room in the Atithi Palace with four of Mangal’s men. Bruhannada had obviously spent as restless a night as I had. His face was drawn and he had the tortured look of a man who had tried hard to still the ghosts of his past but had not succeeded. The only indication that his asthma may have acted up last night was a shortness of breath and the occasional involuntary nasal wheeze. Mangal had remembered to keep the lota of hot water next to the eunuch’s seat but Bruhannada’s voice was steady as he took the oath of truth on the Gita. He knew that he was centre-stage but that knowledge seemed to quieten him instead of making him theatrical.


‘Swearing on the Gita does not make testimony proof from prevarication.’ I could barely hear the Prime Minister, his voice was lower than a whisper but there was no mistaking the virulence in it. It was no idle threat but an earnest of imminent danger and damnation. ‘However distasteful it may be, perjury is an inescapable feature of the judicial process. We are not conducting a trial but today’s hearings may lead to one or several of them. You have come forward of your own free will and, I take it, are about to make grievous charges. They may ruin reputations, they may unseat people and heads may fall. Be warned, that any tampering with the evidence or distortion of the truth, any statement which may not withstand verification, will earn you the highest penalty in the land. Your body will be dismembered, your limbs flung in the eight directions of the universe and your head impaled on the Ram Pol as warning to all those who would accuse others for their own gain or to get even with their enemies.’


I do not believe any of the judges of the Court of Last Resort were likely to take their task lightly but the weight of Pooranmalji’s words was crushing and all of us were a little awed and subdued. All except Bruhannada. He cleared his throat and spoke in measured language.


‘I do not take the Honourable Prime Minister’s words lightly. I put it to you that I am seized of the gravity of the charges I am about to make. I stand here not only as accuser but as one of the chief accused.


‘Fourteen months ago, I was asked to get together a group of the most trustworthy people from within and without Mewar who were deeply dissatisfied with the state of affairs in our kingdom. My sponsors were concerned about the growing power of His Highness, the Maharaj Kumar, a man who they thought had brought dishonour to Mewar. They were worried about the way His Majesty, Maharana Sanga, had come to depend more and more on him. They feared that His Majesty was becoming senile and were anxious about the issue of succession. They wished to save Mewar from the Maharaj Kumar by appointing a candidate of their choice to the throne. Over the next eleven months, I travelled extensively and secretly met some of the most powerful and disaffected nobles, vassals and allies of Mewar and put together a committee of seventeen people. As chief convener, the first ground rule I laid down for all our communications was that under no circumstances would we put anything on paper. Our plan of action was to undermine the authority of both His Majesty and His Highness, the Maharaj Kumar, at every possible opportunity but not interfere with the course of events until the Padshah of Delhi and Mewar and its allies had met and the outcome of the battle was known. If we lost, we did not need proof that His Majesty was ineffectual and incapable of leading the nation. If he won, we would have to rethink our tactics.


‘I’m now open to questioning.’


There was a rasp to Bruhannada’s voice and he was overtaken by a fit of acute coughing. When he was able to breathe, he poured himself some hot water from the lota and drank from it. Even as he sipped the first few drops, Mangal looked at the copper container as if he was mesmerized by it and sprang up, ‘Don’t drink the water, don’t drink.’


It was far too late, the tumbler had fallen from Bruhannada’s hand and he was choking. Seven interminable gasps and only the whites of his eyes showed and he was dead.


Looking back, I keep asking myself if matters may have stood differently with Sugandha had I been a little more attentive when I got back from Bruhannada’s funeral on the day, or rather, night of the hearing. It was late, past three thirty in the morning by the time we briefed His Majesty, informed Bruhannada’s wife Urvashi and as the parting irony, I poured the ghee over the wood blocks and lit the pyre. Mine were the last words over the dead man’s body.


‘There is no man of greater integrity, the Mahabharata tells us, than Bhishma. Bhishma was Bruhannada’s ideal in life. There is little doubt that Bhishma’s patience, self-control and abstinence were tried as no man’s were. Yet when it came to loyalty, I doubt if even the great Bhishma was tested as harshly as Bruhannada was. He came through without any consciousness of doing something special, something almost superhuman. He did it because he believed in the teachings of the Gita: because it was his duty and nothing more.


‘But that is not where his greatness lay. His valour and his daring lay in the quality of his mind and soul. He had that rarest of gifts: he could question the very principles which had been the polestar of his life and which had nearly cost him his life. Not, mind you, out of vindictiveness or a sense of despair and disillusionment, but because he perceived the possibility of a more honourable and meaningful loyalty than the one he had been practising: a faith in just causes and the value of right over wrong.


‘He could be accused of overreaching. Anyone who challenges accepted wisdom, is. The sad truth is that it cost him his life without his being able to test his new concept of duty.


‘Was he greater than Bhishma? That is an irrelevant and meaningless question. What matters is that he may have made not just all of us but even the great Bhishma rethink the notion of loyalty.


‘There are not too many people about whom we can say that.’


And then I sang out, loud and clear, in the morning darkness the words of the Gita that I had heard on a thousand occasions and which only gained in meaning and vision instead of losing their edge, the more I heard them.


The soul is never born, it does not ever die;


Never having come to be, it will never cease to be


Unborn, immortal, perennial, the pristine soul


Survives even after the body is slain.


When a man casts out old clothes,


He must perforce wear new garments.


So does the soul discard old bodies


And enters new ones.


Swords cannot cleave through it,


Fire cannot burn it,


Water cannot wet it,


Wind cannot dry it.


Never to be cut, never incinerated,


Never wet, nor dry ever


Ever-present, immovable, eternal,


It is steadfast and perpetual.


Death comes to all who are born.


The dead too cannot escape birth.


If both birth and death are inevitable,


Wherefore wilt thou mourn?


Sugandha was asleep leaning against the banister of the landing to the first floor when I came home. I wondered if Greeneyes had locked her out Not another silent cold war, please, I said to myself though I had no reason to complain since Sugandha never tattled against the Little Saint or anybody else in the zenana. I removed my shoes and walked up on my toes but that didn’t prevent her from waking up.


She smiled as she looked down on me.


‘I’m pregnant.’


Her hand reached out to touch me. I shrank back from her since I had not yet had the mandatory bath after a funeral. I tried to explain my reasons later but they sounded like an apology and the damage was done.


‘You think it’s your brother’s?’


‘What?’


‘The baby.’


‘I hadn’t thought about it.’ I had. This is perhaps a despicable observation but I tend to think the worst about myself or anybody else before I think better about either party.


‘You did. It is not. I don’t think so.’ Her face crumbled. I had wrung the joy out of her good news. She turned away from me and walked towards her own rooms.


‘Are you telling me that you know what’s in my mind better than I do?’ I wanted to make amends to this daughter of Medini Rai so badly that I got myself in worse straits.


‘You are a good actor, Highness, but there are times when the acting shows. I know you’ll never be sure whose child I bear.’


I changed tactics once again and called out to her. ‘Sugandha, you’ve given me the only good news of a day when almost everything I have heard was not just bad but disastrous. Please don’t ruin this little happiness.’


She was instantly contrite. ‘I’m sorry. I am. You really believe me?’


‘Yes. Yes, I do.’ Maybe I meant it too. I certainly had no wish to break our friendship with Medini Rai or destroy the peace in the kingdom as no less a god than Shri Rama had done when he doubted the chastity of his own wife because of a dhobi’s suspicion. I did not want to take any more chances with Sugandha and wrapped my impure hands around her.


* * *


Will somebody enlighten me about the way the human mind works? From the day I got married to her, Greeneyes has told me to keep off her. Now I’m married the second time, never mind that it was against my wishes, and all she spends her time doing is wooing me. Her tactics are out of the ordinary, to say the least, and she has an unusual arsenal. She was born with a flair for colour and cloth but all these years she has been casual about them. Forgive the banality but it is the only way to describe her intentions, she now dresses to kill. The last seven days she has gone on a rampage of green. She can carry any colour, a garish yellow or a tinselly brown to devastating effect but it is green that looks lethal on her. She is well aware of this and has a hundred, more likely two hundred odhanis, ghagras and cholis in shades of green.


She makes it a point to be around fully dressed before I go to work. I may ignore her (no, that’s not possible) but I must say that I am not a little amused by her: why attempt to seduce someone who was hers the day he first saw her and has never shown any signs of changing his mind? Poor Sugandha never did stand a chance against the Princess of Merta but frankly there was not a woman from the zenana who was a match for Greeneyes in this avatar.


What did the Little Saint want? Was it even remotely possible that she missed me? Or was she insecure that she was about to lose her position as prospective Maharani if at some time in the future I became the Rana of Mewar? Why else would she be jealous of Sugandha’s pregnancy and want to break my already shaky marriage?


Greeneyes put a halt to guerilla combat with my second wife when she discovered that Sugandha was pregnant. It was open war now.


She let it be known that there was no guaranteeing that even Vikramaditya was the father of the child in Sugandha’s womb. Who, after all, was to know how widely my second wife had spread her infidelity? To cast Sugandha as villain, it was essential for Greeneyes to make a paragon of me. She was, as can be expected of so capable a woman, up to the demands of the task. My deification was well under way, but most of the mud and calumny would not unfortunately adhere to Sugandha. My first wife had set a trap for herself from which she could not escape. The more she talked about the paternity of my second wife’s foetus, the more smug Sugandha became.


‘I can’t quite recall who the father of the child is, whether it was an eunuch, the gardener or the milkman,’ Sugandha seemed to puzzle over it when she ran into Greeneyes. ‘Whoever’s responsible for it, I’m going to deliver one of these days. Can you muster up even a false pregnancy, Princess, after all these years?’


Suddenly there was a desperation and hurt in Greeneyes that she could not conceal and which Sugandha latched on to instinctively. Greeneyes could carp and insinuate as much as she wanted, all Sugandha had to do was to get more pregnant by the day.


Do you remember the advice that Kautilya (the very same one whose treatise on the art of governance Leelawati had copied with such care for me) gave to a king? It is not wise for a prince or king to trust anyone. It was dinned into my head in the Military Academy and I practised it up to a point when I grew up and started aspiring to the kingship. I realize now that I was faking it. My heart really hadn’t been in it. No longer though. Bruhannada had not died in vain. It is his legacy to me that I suspect everyone now. Who were the seventeen conspirators who were lying low but were even now working towards destabilizing Mewar and getting rid of both His Majesty and me?


In my more cynical moments, I am convinced that it would have been far better for His Majesty, Mangal and me and the three judges of the tribunal if Bruhannada had not attempted to be heroic and outdo Bhishma. He is dead and gone and none of us is any the wiser. Mangal has offered to resign since Bruhannada died under his nominal care. Urvashi has been sent off to her parents and I doubt if anyone gives a damn whether Bruhannada fathered a son or daughter or a genderless creature. That leaves Vikramaditya. His Majesty seems to have finally, if feebly, woken up to the threat posed by this son of his and has despatched him to Ranthambhor and kept him under house arrest there. I believe Queen Karmavati protested vociferously that Vikramaditya had only done what any prince barring the ball-less (her word) Maharaj Kumar would have when he discovered that Bruhannada had broken the eunuchs’ code of conduct.


Father, however, did not pursue the little matter of the conspiracy since we had nothing but the eunuch’s word for it and that, as he had mentioned before the treason-hearing began, may well have been nothing more than a vendetta. Did His Majesty really believe that cock-and-bull story even after Bruhannada had been snuffed out before he could reveal any names?


But Father’s right. We needed proof, dates, plans, names and anything and everything connected with the conspiracy. We could easily have got them and more, if only His Majesty was willing to use a little bit of persuasion and pressure on my brother. It is almost axiomatic that those who get pleasure by inflicting pain upon others are rarely any good when they are at the receiving end. I am not suggesting for a moment that Vikramaditya is not every bit as brave as any Rajput. But an armed confrontation like a battle is nothing but carefully orchestrated mass frenzy. There is usually enough time to prepare oneself mentally, let the juices flow and be prepared to kill or be killed (we never entertain the thought of being maimed) within a matter of four to six hours.


Torture, especially torture by your own people, however, is an altogether different proposition. There’s incredulity that your own friends and relatives can turn on you, do all kinds of inhuman things to you and the fact that nothing is time-bound or barred. It may take a day, a week or months and there’s no telling if they’ll stop at anything.


You need a different kind of temperament, rather than sustained physical endurance to come through unbroken from such an experience. Frankly, I doubt if it would take much to get Vikram talking. The one thing that my brother is almost pathologically allergic to, is being alone. Put him in solitary confinement for a couple of days, three on the outside and he’ll spill his guts without much coaxing. He can’t think long-term and will dump even his mother if he feels hemmed in and hopeless.


I was sorely tempted to take some extralegal measures and intercept the progress of my brother to Ranthambhor. A small detour wouldn’t inconvenience him too much and we would soon be privy to all the details of the treason plot. I will never know whether I lacked the daring to do something unorthodox or I behaved sensibly. Perhaps this is the fatal flaw in me, that I do not have it in me to do what is necessary, whatever the cost. If I captured Vikram, I could take the information I elicited from him to His Majesty and confront him with the sordid details of the plot that mother and son and the other nobles involved had hatched. But where would that leave me? Father would feel cornered. He would be forced to recognize that I had had the courage to do something he could not face up to and he would have no alternative but to take action against his favourite queen and Vikram. All to the good. He would know who among the vassals and allies, were his friends and who his enemies. But he would never forgive me for taking the initiative and countermanding his orders. And worse still, for putting him in a spot. He would never trust me again. My only realistic option was to interrogate my brother and then kill him ‘accidentally’. I would then know who the enemies within the kingdom and the confederacy were. Mangal’s men would take over from there, put them under surveillance and catch them red-handed.


Of course, the plan could misfire but perhaps it was worth trying.


Instead I went to Father again.


‘Mewar may soon face its deadliest enemy to date, Your Majesty. The Padshah at Delhi is likely to exploit any weakness within our ranks. The eunuch’s death will have been in vain if despite his warnings, we do not identify the people who have been plotting against the state and expose the conspiracy. We need to take the severest action against them.’


‘Let us for a moment assume that Bruhannada was telling the truth, but barring resurrecting him, I have no idea how we could come by the names of the people involved in the conspiracy.’


‘We could,’ I paused since I was not sure of Father’s reaction, ‘question Vikramaditya.’


‘Summon him back from Ranthambhor?’


‘Or we could send a team of interrogators.’


‘And how do you plan to elicit this information?’


‘Isolation and a few threats might do the trick.’


‘But if necessary you would not hesitate to use third degree methods?’


I thought about it for a moment: Should I tell the truth or not?


‘Yes,’ he seemed to be talking to himself, ‘I believe you would not hesitate to eliminate your brother in the so-called interest of the state even if he is innocent.’


‘That is untrue and unjust, Your Majesty.’


‘Is it? Both my elder brothers tried to sacrifice me in their self-interest.’


I was appalled by Father’s equivocation, if not outright mendacity. This was the first time that he had ever mentioned his brothers and the internecine struggle for succession. He had the gall to compare my desire to pursue the perpetrators of the plot against him and Mewar with his brothers Prithviraj and Jaimal’s murderous race for the throne. He was obviously identifying with Vikramaditya since both of them happened to be younger brothers and third in the line of succession. For him, however great my brother’s faults or crimes, he would always be the underdog. That may help explain Father’s behaviour with me over the years but it was a disturbing comment on human frailty. Here was a thoughtful, sensible and astute man who had steered his people and state through some explosive and trying times and was preparing to meet his most dangerous adversary. And yet this very paradigm of a king could not think straight and was willing to allow the most shallow and sentimental paternal feelings to endanger the fate of his own country.


‘We have banished Vikramaditya, that is warning enough to all those who would indulge in treason against us. Let sleeping dogs lie, son, at least till we have defeated this Moghul upstart.’


I had nothing more to say to my father.


‘You are, I’m told, about to become a father soon. You’ll judge me less harshly when you have children of your own and not all of them are as exemplary as you are and some of them try your patience to the breaking point.’


Eklingji Shiva, what is my dharma? What is my duty to the state, to the people of Mewar, to the confederacy of Muslim and Hindu allies and to myself? I’m not just a kshatriya, I have aspirations to the crown. If it is my duty to preserve and protect Mewar, then how should I conduct myself? Should I not ignore His Majesty’s tepid response to the plot and take matters into my own hands? Corner my brother and whatever the cost, get the information out of him? What will it gain a man if he loses his kingdom to say that he had the responsibility but not the power and authority to contravene the Rana’s command and act on his own?


There is another unanswered question underlying all these. Why did I approach Father except to ward off all possibility of my having to deal with Vikram and if need be, eliminate him?

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He was returning from a seven-mile walk along the parapet of the fort at eleven at night when he saw his wife sitting at the Flautist’s temple. He turned towards the palace but something about her mad

19

Chapter 19-

17 January 2024
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Things had not changed much. Father pleaded indisposition when I asked for an audience to lay my head at his feet. Why had he called me back? When I went to the Victory Hall in the evening, a bandage

20

Chapter 20-

17 January 2024
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Raja Puraji Kika and I may be soulmates but it’s mostly a long-distance closeness. Besides, even when we are together, neither of us is very voluble. What we share is taciturnity and silence. I often

21

Chapter 21-

17 January 2024
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I got news from home mostly from Mangal. The first phase of the water and sewage system was coming along nicely. Lakshman Simhaji had had a stroke but was recovering fast. The royal barber’s wife had

22

Chapter 22-

17 January 2024
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I am like a schoolboy, I am always rushing home. From Idar, from Kumbhalgarh and now from Dharampur. It’s as if I need to pretend that there’s always something of moment, a crisis that cannot be resol

23

Chapter 23-

17 January 2024
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The good times had idled by. The party was over. It was time to get back to work. What next, heir apparent, question mark; husband of the Little Saint; black sheep, black cloud on horizon, source of a

24

Chapter 24-

18 January 2024
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I should have seen it coming but my vaunted prescience was malfunctioning or has it been just a matter of guesswork and some luck posing as clairvoyance all these years? Political considerations alone

25

Chapter 25-

18 January 2024
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Who, Mangal, who?’ It was seventeen days since ‘the accident’ as the court bulletin preferred to call it. ‘Could be any one of a hundred and fourteen people.’ I looked sharply at Mangal. Why

26

Chapter 26-

18 January 2024
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The day before Bruhannada and his wife were to leave Chittor, he sent me a message asking if we could meet. ‘Forgive me, Highness, for not coming myself but as you know it is not wise for me to sti

27

Chapter 27-

19 January 2024
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Had I really been that preoccupied formulating the new tax proposals to finance the war that I hadn’t noticed the night descend? How could that be, surely it wasn’t more than two and a half hours sinc

28

Chapter 28-

19 January 2024
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‘Krishna Kanhaiyya, Krishna Kanhaiyya,’ she had called him. He had decided that night that he would never, not even on pain of death, enter her bed. And yet here he was, going through the blue charade

29

Chapter 29-

19 January 2024
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At the final meeting of the War Council on the night before the battle, the mood was buoyant, even jocular. Most of the talk was about how small the Padshah’s army was and whether the ditches had been

30

Chapter 30-

19 January 2024
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That afternoon a party of seven came over from Mewar to meet His Majesty. Father was delighted with the company and the attention. Baswa is a godforsaken place though its ruler, Rao Himmat Simha, has

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