"How long before they arrive?"
"Possibly an hour. Do you need anything Sir?"
"I will be fine."
That was an indication to my man friday to leave me alone. Having lived with me for the past 30 odd years, he knew me inside out. Might I say, he knew me better than my wives. He knew that it was a crazy request given the circumstances, but he did not want to spoil my last day.
My last day as a ruler.
I feel sad. I had built something new and wanted to move there quickly, but fate intervened. It looks like I will have to leave from my old fort. It holds so many memories. Some good. Most bitter. But then, like all men, I preferred clinging to power. At this ripe age, I should have passed the baton of leadership to my fueding sons, but did I?
Like most men, I was afraid that I would lose respect. My power. My position. For all these years, people have asked me for favor. I could not even imagine a situation the other way around. No wonder men hate to be retired. I can realize that they feel so....impotent. The strange notion that you hold other people's fate in your hands is like aphrodisiac to any man. But today, it was all about to change.
"That bitch." I cried aloud.
My man friday smiled. That was how I addressed her privately. While talking to anyone else, I would curb my instincts from blurting it out. I knew it would be inappropriate to reveal it publicly. I might be old and senile, but I am anything if not dignified.
But the resentment I felt towards her was inexplicable. Never has a day gone by when I have wanted to strangle her with my own hands. I wanted to see her eyes bulge out and her milk white skin flush pink with anger and pain. I would give anything to do it or watch it happen.
Heck, I am day dreaming. That's not gonna happen.
Like a game of chess, we had tried to outwit each other for so long. Seems its time to be checkmated. That cunning old hag. She had found my weak spot. My family.
She targeted my fueding sons and their ambitious mothers. In their own dreams for the coveted crown and throne, little did thay realise that they were playing into the enemy's hands. I remained vulnerable like a cornered bull fighter who watches a mad bull with its sharp horns aimed at his stomach. All you can do is to take your eyes off horns and keep away from looking. Its one thing to be deceived by your own judgement, and another to be denounced by the very people whom you expected to take forward your legacy.
"Aalampanah. They are outside."
Sigh. There it was, the inevitable right outside my door steps. A little birdie in my head was singing in a sweet cuckoo voice asking me to kill as many as possible and go down bravely. Perhaps, even at this ripe age, I preferred clinging to my powerless body rather than die peacefully.
Perhaps, death would indeed be relieving no matter how it comes. At least, when you are dead, people will start saying good things about you. Dont they always?
The officer, Major William Hudson, walked towards me and smiled. Perhaps, he wanted to be dignified doing this heinous act. He knew he was carving his name in the history of this country and that gave him an authority.
"By the power vested in me by the Queen of England, I hereby arrest you, Bahadur Shah Zafar. Have you anything to say regarding your arrest?"
I smiled. Hearing her name, I should be feeling angry. But why was I smiling? Part of me was sad, and part was happy. Maybe I wanted to rest. Perhaps, involuntarily, this was the best. I nodded and walked with him.
I looked back once at the tomb of my Mughal father and forefathers and a little pearl ran down my cheek. I thought to myself
"उम्र-ए-दराज़ माँगके लाए थे चार दिन
दो आरज़ू में कट गए, दो इन्तज़ार में"
I asked for a long life, I received four days
Two passed in desire, two in waiting.
P.S: What were you thinking?