The Live Game of Chess

Excerpt: My love for the country was flowing out ! I had seen with my eyes Indian army and their king being defeated and killed. It was a terrible shock for me. (Reads: 22)

 

Let me tell you right in the beginning that even after my marriage, I have spent more nights with history books or with chess pieces than with my wife. My love for history, historical places and chess, extends to such an extent that till late, I’d decided not to marry. But I married. Well, that’s another story and I shall narrate it some other time.
For the present, I was in Thanesar ( Punjab ) and felt very romantic about it.

In India’s history, Thanesar, or Thaneswar occupies a unique place. Mohmed Ghori, the brother of the Sultan of Afghanistan, had led a Muslim army against Prithviraj Chauhan, the Hindu King of Delhi and Ajmer. In the first battle here in 1191, the Hindu army defeated and chased them away for forty miles. But next year, again Mohmed Ghori came, he defeated Prithviraj Chauhan who was captured and killed. For the first time in India, a Muslim kingdom was established in Delhi. Both these battles were fought at Thanesar. They changed the course of Indian history. Now, we have a nation called Pakistan.

Hindus and Muslims live in peace in India, which is secular country but at times troubles arise between them.
“ Sir, you’ve the surname of that famous Prithviraj Chauhan.” The receptionist told me, as he entered my name – Arjun Singh Chauhan, in his register. It was Hotel Gurjar – a small hotel. There were no big hotels around.

“ You seem to know history.” I told him.

“ Sir, I’m very much interested in it. And when you’re coming from such a far off place, you should see the battleground also.”

In fact, it was my mission. But his statement whetted my appetite.

“ Are there any special things ?” I asked him pretending ignorance.

“ There are many.” He felt enthusiastic about the whole thing. “ Do see the place where Muslim army had camped.”

“ Sure, but could you arrange a good guide for me ?”

“ Oh, there are no good guides around. If you permit, I shall accompany you. I shall show you everything.”

“ It’s good idea. What’s your name ?”

“ I’m Himmat Singh Rathor.”

“ That’s fine. When shall we start ?”

“ Sir, you’ve come just now. You have a room. Go and relax. Read things and be ready. We shall start at 5 p.m. My duty will be over at 4 p.m. Is that okay ?”

“ Okay.” I said.

At 5 p.m. sharp, he knocked at the door of my room. We started on his motorbike. Soon, the town was left behind, and we were on a narrow dusty road.

“ And sir, may I tell you a real story from real history ?” Himmat Singh soon asked me at the first jerk.

“ Sure.” My interest in history will not allow me to escape.

“ On the eve of the battle, Mohamed Ghori had sent his messengers with a message that if Prithviraj accepts Islam, Muslim army will go back.”

“ Then ?”

“ But Rajputs – the Hindus, were complacent because of their victory the previous year. So Prithviraj replied harshly. His message was, “ Last year you were lucky to escape, though you were injured badly. This time, you will not be that lucky.”

“ Oh ! Was that so ?”

“ Yes. And you know what Mohmed said ? He said that Prithviraj’s reply was merciful. He was so afraid that he did not dare utter a single wrong word even in the presence of the messengers. But Muslims played stratagem. They attacked Hindu army in the wee hours. Prithviraj was sleeping. He was woken up. Brave as he was, he brought out his cavalry and made a dash to Ghori’s centre. But then Muslim army attacked from left flank and made some advances. Rajputs could not press home the advantage, which they’d gained in the centre. They were caught in between and were butchered.” He spoke all this in a single breath, as though, he were giving a running commentary.
Now we neared a hillock. He parked the mobike near a small tree.

“ Sir, this is the place where Mohmed Ghori’s tent was piched.” He spoke, as we were climbing the hillock.
I looked around. It was a little plateau of about forty feet by fifty feet at a height of about two meters. Dry grass was there around. The soil was hard and even. I moved around looking at the ground, as though, I were trying to find out the nail-marks or was searching for other clues.
Then his mobile phone rang.
“ Hello ! I’m Himmat Singh.”
He replied and continued his talk. After he was finished with, he sought my permission to go for about 30 minutes. “ My uncle has become suddenly ill and I don’t want your romance with the history broken up. You may please continue and I shall return soon.” He assured me.
I was engrossed in history, so granted him permission. “ Take your own time.” I told him.
And he was gone.
Then I was alone, and on my own on that historical battleground.
I remembered an incident from the first battle. Most of the Muslim army had taken to heels. And Mohmed was still on his horseback in the battlefield along with some of his lieutenants and other soldiers. Govindraj, Prithviraj’s cousin and the Chieftain of Delhi, was on his elephant. He saw Mohmed and took his elephant to him. As he came near, Mohmed hit him with a javelin, which struck him in the mouth and knocked down his three teeth. Govindraj retaliated and attacked Mohmed with his spear which pierced into Mohmed’s upper arm . Mohmed lost his balance and was about to fall down from his horse, when a Khalji noble came to his rescue. He held his master before he fell down and took him on his horse and ran away. The remaining of the Muslim army also fled the battleground.

I was very much upset and grieved that the destiny had been cruel to Hindus. If the Khalji noble would not have been there, or had he not been successful in holding his master in that fraction of a second, Mohamed Ghori would have been killed. The Indian history would have then been different.

The vivd descriptions, which I had read umpteen numbers of times in various history books, started coming to my mind. Other related things also became live in my memories. I started moving here and there restlessly amidst the patches of hay and the barren ground. I lost the sense of time and direction as well.

Suddenly, I realised that it was getting dark. I climbed the hillock again and looked at the horizons. Some shepherds were walking away with their cattle. Some rural ladies were carrying the bundles of hay on their heads. On the other side, the bright sunlight was fading away. There was beautiful coloration with light to dark – red in the background. The birds were retreating towards their nests. I felt a thrill of everything.

Now I was little worried as it was dark. Why Himmat Singh has not come yet ? Should I leave this place to reach the hotel or should I wait ? I decided to wait and sat near a tree leaning against its trunk. A cool breeze started and I went to sleep.

Suddenly, my sleep was broken. The tree was gone ! it was night now. Half-moon was there in the sky and stars were also twinkling. Before I can concentrate on any thing, I heard some footsteps and chattering. Soon sounds of clanking were also heard. I turned around and saw a number of people. All were stout and sturdy. They were all in Middle age Islamic dresses! Some of them were moving in an order with swords, spears and shields. Other were moving with some or the other implements like axes, spades, pricks, pedals, millets, hammers and all that. They were busy with their jobs and nobody seemed to pay any attention to me. I was bewildered but was then scared also. “ Who could they be ?! Muslim soldiers of twelfth century ?!”

I rose on my feet and found a number of horses and camels with their riders. No doubt, they were all soldiers. I now realised that I was amidst a Middle Age Muslim Army. To my surprise, I found that I was not visible to them. They could not touch me or harm me. I was like air for them. They could not touch me or harm me. I was like air for them. They could pass through me, move through me. I soon realised that I was also not in a position to harm any of them. Unique experience had started for me. I felt pleased and thrilled. I felt as though I was seeing three-dimensional real historical events while being among them.

They pitched their tents all around and soon I realised that it was a big army. A big and beautiful tent was pitched on the hillock. It was pink coloured from outside and sky blue inside. I started moving here and there with great enthusiasm. The beauty and the wonder of the thing was that though I was near them and they were having long torches with them, still none of them was seeing me. Even if they passed through me, they never felt me. On the other side, I could see them and hear them, though I could not touch them or any of their materials or resources. It was a weird situation for me, which I started enjoying. Most of them spoke Turkish language of which I did not understand a single word. Still I was trying to decipher the things and talks as far as possible.

Soon the tents were ready and it was like a war camp. Sentries were taking rounds and were giving cries of all well. Again, the biggest and the largest tent on the hillock attracted my attention. I was drawn towards it. I sneaked gingerly towards its entrance. And when I peeped in, I just could not believe myself. It was like a scene straight from some medieval Muslim Sultanate of Middle – East. There was pomp and glory. The tent was sufficiently large with a high ceiling. Burning torches were placed at every possible place so that there was bright light inside. By now, I was certain that by some strange accident of time and space, I was witnessing a part of history. My sixth sense told me that it was Mohmed Ghori’s camp and tent. I felt thrilled about it.

In the tent, on far side in the centre was seated Mohamed Ghori with his courtesans on his right and left. They were on some or the other type of thrones. The seat of Mohmed Ghori was bigger one and was elevated considerably in comparison with others. It was made up of gold and diamonds were studded in it. In all, they were eight people all looking like Amirs or nobles. They all had different kind of sharp weapons in their hands. Mohmed Ghori himself was carrying a big spear. The others were having long swords. They were eight soldiers – one in front of each of the Amir. The soldiers were carrying simple swords. All these sixteen people were in light coloured shining attires. Then, there was empty space and on my side of the tent again the same number of people were there. The front raw consisted of soldiers. From their look and attires, it was clear that they were Rajputs. Now, my seventh sense told me that they were the combatants of Prithviraj Chauhan. In the middle of the rear raw, was Prithviraj Chauhan himself. A bright young man of about twenty-five years. He had piercing eyes and long sharp moustaches. He was putting on a golden crown studded with jewels.

Both the sides were ready in a combating position. It looked certain that now a battle might start in the open middle space.
I became very curious. But then suddenly, I felt like peeing. I rushed out. Peed in one corner. It look a considerable time for me to exhaust my scrotum and I realised that since morning I’d not peed..

But when I returned, I had another wonder in store for me. All the pomp and glory of the persons, their attires, jewellery and their other belonging including their weapons remained. But the tent with the torches and all was gone. It was now an open ground. The smaller tents of all other army-men also vanished. And I realised that the thirty-two people were arranged in a fashion of a game of chess, white and black. Indeed the ground on which they were standing became like a big chessboard with black and white squares. Sixty-four squares, I realised.
And sooner than later, I realised that the oriental version of live chess started. Kings in the middle. Their positions were elevated than the rest of the combatants. Their vehicles were not visible. Then, by their sides were their vazirs – Prime ministers, the equivalent of chess queens. Then the bishop versions – the combatants were on camels, knight versions – the combatants were on horses. And rooks – the combatants were on elephants. The foot soldiers remained as they were.
Soon the game started.

Mohmed Ghori’s centre, soldier in his front moved two steps. Prithviraj’s center soldier moved just one step and that too after a long time. “ Would Prithviraj go for French defence ?” I asked myself. I knew that it was invented only in twentieth century. “ Or would he transform into the King’s Indian ?” Then Ghori’s left flank moved ahead and started stacking Prithviraj’s soldiers. The moves were systematic, as though, they were part of a well – thought out strategy. Prithviraj’s soldiers moved ahead in the centre and the game was balanced. “ It will be a draw.” I concluded.
But soon there was bloodshed on Prithviraj’s right flank. Here the capturing men really killed the Rajput men occupying the squares. Blood started flowing on the ground. But dead bodies disappeared as soon as they fell and touched the ground. In the middle, Prithviraj’s soldiers killed some Muslim soldiers and Amirs of the opposite camp. Comparatively, the bloodshed was less. From the point of view of chess, now it looked certain that Prithviraj was loosing. Soon his whole force was killed. On his side, he was the only man living. There was lot of blood around. Ghori’s men also diminished but still some force was left. Along with him, there were here Amirs – one vazir, one camel – rider and one horseman. No injury at all on any of their person.

Ultimately, Prithviraj was captured alive, though he fought bravely till then. Mohmed Ghori pierced his spear in his stomach. Parithviraj fell on the ground.

And soon everything vanished. It was daylight and nobody was there. Except that Prithviraj was lying on the ground and blood was rushing out from him. I thought his body would disappear as it happened with others, but no, it did not happen like that. I rushed to him. He looked into my eyes and told me in Rajasthani Hindi, “I’ve done my best for the country. I lost because we were complacent. You people please take care now. Don’t be complacent.” And he died.

I felt very nervous and knelt over his body. There were tears in my eyes. My love for the country was flowing out ! I had seen with my eyes Indian army and their king being defeated and killed. It was a terrible shock for me. I remained in that position, for I could not move.

And then someone touched me. I came to my senses. Slowly I looked up and was bewildered on seeing Himmat Singh in wee-light of the dawn.
“ Sir, I’m sorry ! I became very late. But I was searching for you here around since two hours. I was about to leave when I found you here.” I just could not believe my ears and eyes. I got up, steadied my mind and gaze with a lot of efforts. I breathed deep. The fresh air rejuvenated me.

I looked around and was baffled. Was it dream ? was it reality ? Had I travelled in history – eight hundred and ten years back ?
“ Sir, were you in sleep or you saw and experienced something drastic, historically ?”
I straight looked into his eyes. “ Should I tell him ? Should I not ?”
“ Let’s go sir.” He told me as he walked towards his mobike parked nearby. He kick – started it, as I took my position on pillion. Sadness had still not left me.

“ Sir, sometimes some people who stay late, experience weird kind of things. I hope you did not have any bad time.”
And suddenly I asked him to stop. I got down from the pillion, went to the place where the bloodshed had taken place. I looked at the ground. Yes, there were bloodstains. I scooped samples from each place, twenty-five in all, and collected them in the unused pages of my pocket – dairy. I put the small individual packets in my hankie and made them into a bundle. I held it in my hand. Before returning to the bike, I smelt the place where I’d peed, and confirmed that every thing had taken place and that it was not a dream. And yes, that tree was also there now. During all this time, Himmatsingh was looking at me as though I was a crazy guy.

Then we rode to the guesthouse in silence.

Nobody would believe my experience, but I’ve got the blood samples analysed. It is human blood. In all twenty-five different samples were made out, because out of thirty-two human being, only seven – one of them being Mohmed Ghori himself, survived. Eight samples are found belonging to the group A. another eight belong to group B. yet another eight belong to AB and only one sample belongs to O group, the universal donor’s, which I believe must be Prithviraj Chauhan’s.

–END–

About the Author

ambalal

I am IPS Retd., Advocte in Gujarat High Court, Ahmedabad, an established fiction writer in Gujarati and English, have won many prizes / accolades at state/ national / international level.

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