An Unlikely Tale of Love: the Captain and the Bandits Daughter
A long time ago, Central India was ruled by gangs called "thugs." These thugs waylaid merchants and travelers who were traveling from Meerut and Delhi to Calcutta. These thugs or bandits would kill them, however, they would never shed blood and their modus operandi to kill a man was strangulation through a Rumal or handkerchief. These thugs were followers of the Goddess Kali and they killed in her name. The Goddess Kali has an important place in the Hindu pantheon of gods. In the middle of the 19th-century, thugs almost ruled the entire area called Bundelkhand
At that time a meeting was called in Meerut city. It was presided over by the political officer and the garrison in charge, Brigadier Grant. He opened the conference and said, "gentlemen, you are aware thugs in Central India have become very powerful and it has become extremely difficult for a traveler to travel from Meerut to Calcutta. We must formulate a plan to stop them."
The political officer said, "Brigadier, why don't you take a column of soldiers and put this bandit to death."
The Brigadier scratched chin and said, " my friend you are not aware that the viceroy does not want unnecessary bloodshed and would like the matter to be solved differently."
"Have you thought about anything?"
"Yes I have"
"Well tell me your plan"
I have a man named Captain William Sleeman. He is a third-generation Britisher in India. India is in his blood and he knows the local language. I plan to send him with one other Indian soldier to the den of the thugs and once he is there he will identify who are the main thugs and then will signal us and we go in and catch them'
"Do you have confidence in this man brigadier"
"Yes, I have, he is only 24 and young. His father was a colonel who was hit by a Cannon in the Frontier campaign at Peshawar and passed away. I have selected him for this job and he will be leaving tomorrow with another sepoy called Gulab Singh."
"Brigadier, do you believe Gulab Singh and captain Sleeman can do the job? I suggest you do all this pretty fast."
Brigadier Grant smiled, " all this is done and my soldiers are now on their way. They would be already 50 miles away from Meerut right now."
But the political Officer was annoyed, " what is the use of this meeting if you have already decided everything. Anyway, I hope you succeed because your man is captured or killed the Viceroy is not going to be very happy about it."
Falling in Love
William Sleeman was a tall handsome man. He was a 3rd generation Britisher in India and he felt more Indian than most of the natives. He spoke flawless Urdu and other local languages and many a time people would mistake him as a fair colored Punjabi from North India. He has been drafted by Colonel Grant and he was thrilled with the task given to him. He was a man who loved adventure and the moment the Brigadier told about this, his blood rushed to his head.
He decided to take his trusted rifleman Gulab Singh with him. Both of them rode out on their horses along with a mule carrying goods to keep up the guise that they were merchants.
Both the soldiers had disguised themselves and proceeded from Meerut. They covered the distance very fast and by nightfall had entered the jungle. The Jungle was dense and after some time, Sleeman told Gulab Singh, " Gulab I think let's make a camp here. Light a fire and cook some food and then we can rest and continue tomorrow."
Gulab lit a small fire and began to roast some beans and prepare rice. Both of them ate the food and then lay down under the stars. Before going to sleep the horses and the mule were fed and watered.
Sleeman got up in the morning and found Gulab still asleep. As per the map given to him, he was aware that close by there was a small waterfall and within about 10 minutes he was able to locate the place. One look at the spot showed Sleeman the beauty of nature in all its glory. There was a beautiful waterfall which made a small pool which was shallow and excellent for bathing. He thought it would be a good idea to enter the pool but then a sound attracted his attention. With his military background, Sleeman hit the earth, keeping an eye on the pool.
Sleeman was surprised when he saw an enchanting sight. A lovely girl came to the pool. He saw her stand for a moment ina pensive thought. She looked around and slowly loosened the cord that ties her Ghagra ( long skirt) which slid to the earth. After a moment she removed her blouse. She looked around and satisfied that there was no one, entered the water and began to frolic under the waterfall. The more William saw her the more intoxicated he became. He observed the girl was extremely fair with a slim waist and a well-proportioned body. From the distance, he could make out that she had very large eyes as well. He kept hugging the ground because he did not want to attract the attention of the girl. He savored the beautiful sight.
He was just about 20 feet away from her. The girl thinking she was alone began to sing. She had a melodious voice and she sang and bathed under the waterfall William realized that the girl was a beautiful creation of God. There was no doubt she was not only beautiful but looked almost like a muse from Paradise. The entire scene reminded him of the garden of Eden with lovely flowers and trees around and the lovely pool and the waterfall accentuated the idyll world. Get a grip on yourself man his inner voice said you are here for a job .you can't get infatuated with a girl.
Lord Krishna now took a hand. Once William Sleeman shifted his leg a small stone rolled down into the pool. At once the girl was alarmed. She looked around and in a forced whisper said, " I know you are there, so please come out ."
This was like it shot in the dark but Williams thought he had been discovered.
He got up and removed the flap from his face. She recognized he was an English man and said in English, "who are you and why are you spying on me?"
Williams was surprised that the girl knew English but he replied in Urdu and said: "I am a traveler coming from Meerut but how do you know English?"
The girl replied, "my father who is the chief of this village did not want me to study here and sent me to the Convent in Meerut to school and now I have come back"
Suddenly she realized are nakedness and covered her body with her arms, while below the waist she was still in the water. Suddenly the water begin to spurt as the rain began to fall and thunder boomed and boomed and the sky darkened. A cold wind began to blow and the girl still covered her bust with her arms. She gathered courage and said, "go away I want to come out and dress up."
Something unique happened as suddenly the water from the waterfall began to fall in a torrent and in a moment Williams could make out that girl was being swept away by the current. If he did not help her the girl could be in trouble. He dived into the pond and quickly reached the girl and cradled her in his arms and took her out of the pool.
He had an insane desire to kiss the girl in his arms but he refrained from doing so. The girl was shocked but she realized she was without clothes and said, " please let me wear my ghagra and blouse"
William put her on the earth and looked away. He was the real gentleman and soon the girl dressed up. She said," you are such a nice man but what are you doing here in the jungle, you know this entire area is infested by thugs."
"Yes," Williams replied, " I know but I have a job to do and I have to continue but at the same time tell me lovely girl what is your name and what are you doing in the Jungle all alone."
The girl said, "my name is Rukmani. it is the name of the Goddess who loves Lord Krishna. I told you I had come to our house in the colony. I told my father that I was feeling very unhappy with the goings-on in the village. I did not like the activities of the people around, particularly that my father is the chief of the thugs. I told him I want to go into Jungle and think over and then I came to this waterfall and thought I should take a dip."
"Were you not scared young girl, there are wild animals around.
"Maybe," she replied and with a laugh continued"but then a lucky man like you has come and saved me"
"How far is the village from this place"
"Just a few miles but there are jungles all around "
"But you are in English man"
"No my dear, I am from Punjab but I have spent time in England, so people mistake me to be an Englishman. I am a traveller and a trader taking my goods but I think I will spend one more day here in the jungle, if you promise to come tomorrow in the morning again and meet me."
"Let me tell you Rukmani, you are the most beautiful girl I ever saw and I can understand how beautiful the real Rukmani would have been "
She remained close to him and whispered, " It's not fair you have seen me."
"What's wrong with it, you are the most beautiful girl I've ever seen"
"OK, I will come tomorrow" the heart of Rukmani beat fast and now the arrow by Lord Krishna had struck and she realized this man is great and he had not even touched her.
William Sleeman went back to Gulab Singh and told him, " Gulab we are very close to the village where we are supposed to go and we will stay for another day.." Gulab nodded his head in agreement.
Back in the village, the chief Ravi Singh was informed, "sir two travelers with lots of goods on a mule are passing through the jungle. If you give the order we will catch these men and kill them and confiscate the goods."
Ravi Singh smiled, " I will consult the Goddess Kali and then I will give you the order to strike. In the meanwhile do nothing."
Rukmani overheard the conversation because she was just outside the room and her heartbeat quickened. She did not want to wait till tomorrow to meet the man and she decided to go straight away. She walked fast through the Jungle and soon reached the small pool. At the pool, she shouted, "hello there, are you still around"
William heard the voice and told Gulab, " you wait here I am coming."
He reached the pool and saw Rukmani standing there. She saw him and said, "look, sir, my father is going to pray to the Goddess Kali and by tomorrow they will try to come and kill you."
William just held out his arms. She looked like a lovely apsara, a dainty fairy and he forgot all about the killers.
Emotion overcame Rukmani and she compulsively ran towards William Sleeman. it was something spontaneous and with her, in his arms, Williams jumped into the pool
He took her under the waterfall and then something glorious happened. He began to kiss Rukmani and with the water falling around there was nothing he could do to restrain himself. What was to happen will happen and soon after William Sleeman carried her cradled in his arms and came out of the pool. As if on cue the heavens broke asunder. In such an atmosphere with the rain enveloping them, he began to kiss her.
He carried her out of the water and laid her on the soft grass. Williams kissed her again and again. Before long as thunder crashed across the sky a gasp a from Rukmini conveyed her transition from girl to woman.
Sleeman whispered, "I am going to take you to my mother and I am going to marry you because in the eyes of the Lord what we have done today can have the only one result and that is you are mine forever."
Captain William Sleeman looked at Rukmani after she had dressed and said, " Rukmani I will not tell you a lie, I am a captain of the Indian Army and my aim is to destroy the thugs. Would you like to be on my side?"
Rukmani held out her arms, " yes, yes," she said, "a100 times. I will be with you and I would like to be your woman and bear your children. At the same time, I will support you against the thugs, I hate them."
Sleeman and the girl were started with a rustle of leaves. They looked from where the sound was coming. From the thick foliage, two men emerged. They were in for a shock when they saw Sleeman along with his arms around the daughter of the chief. They had come with the plan to strangle Sleeman. Seeing him with the daughter of the chief anger welled up in their heart and one of them took out a sword and said, " you scoundrel, you are trying to seduce the chief's daughter. We have no choice but to kill you. We do not want to shed blood but even now the Goddess Kali will be happy."
Captain Sleeman was unarmed and he was wondering what to do when suddenly a shot rang out. It was Gulab Singh and he emerged with a smoking gun. On of the men crumpled to the floor and the other dropped his sword and tried to run away.
Freeman leaped towards the man and caught his dhoti, sending him crashing to the earth. The man thought he would be killed but Sleeman told him, " I will not kill you but I will spare your life if you will take me to the chief right now but I will go disguised as the second man and you lead the way."
Sleeman quickly put on the turban of the fallen man and the party began to March through the jungle to the chief's mansion. They reached the mansion. Gulab Singh and the girl stood outside as Sleeman and the man quickly went inside. The chief first saw the man who had gone and he smiled, " Bahadur you have done a great job. How much of gold and silver have you brought?"
Sleeman pushed the man away removed his turban, "Chief" he said, " I am captain Sleeman of the British Indian army and I call on you to surrender and stop your nefarious activities."
Gulab Singh entered, "Huzoor, a platoon of 9 Gurkha rifles has come, I had called them and already the top ring leaders are in custody. We had to shoot two of them dead."
William Sleeman turned to the chief triumphantly, "I also believe in the Goddess, Kali, but this killing must stop, I hope you will agree with me. But I have a request,"
"What is it?"
Willliam called out, "Rukmani, come here."
William caught Rukmani's hand and said, "Chief, I request you to give your concurrence for me to marry Rukmani."
The chief looked bewildered. He looked at Rukmani and her face told him everything as she snuggled closer to Sleeman. He turned away and said, "If this is the wish of Kali so be it."
The story is over. Most of the gang members were rehabilitated and the chief has given a responsible position. And Sleeman? He received a message from the Brigadier, "well done my boy, you made us proud. Your chivalry is the beacon and our motto"