He hated this heat. The sun was scorching mercilessly on his weather beaten face and he disliked the sweat trickling down his shoulder blades. All sticky and dusty, he longed for the cool confines of Mysore. Dindigul and this fort on the hillock just was misery. But resting here, far away from Mysore had him safe, tucked away from the prying British.
Completing his namaz, he swiftly rose from the prayer rug, closing his eyes and stared long and hard towards Holy Kaba. Mecca! Some day, he would go there. Now that his son Tippu was caring for his homeland, he would one day visit Persia and the Holy Land. Hyder Ali, the Nawab of Mysore one one day perform his rites.
|Hyder Ali- Nawab of Mysore|
Mehboob Khan strode towards him in careful guided steps and cleared his throat. One look at his face said he was amused by something and Hyder Ali, could not repress his knowing smile. " Salam, Nawab. You have visitors. They are from nearby Sivagangai Kingdom. And funny enough, they have been ousted by the British", he informed. "Let them in", Hyder Ali ordered and slouched further down on his throne. The day was not at all progressing as he had planned. He needed his beauty sleep and this tiny contingent was out to spoil it. Irritation spanned his wrinkled face as he scowled at the people who filed in behind Mehboob Khan.
His eyes were scrutinising her with guided distance, irritation etched in his face was clear. They were quite unwelcome, she understood. But Velunachi had travelled two days, braving the humidity and the unnerving presence of British soldiers stationed everywhere. Dusty, sweaty and dirty, she itched for a shower, but first things first. "Salam Nawab Saheb", she bowed. It took no time for Hyder Ali to sit straight from his reverie and notice the man- boy before him. The voice was certainly not manly, the dress was definitely no give away. Who was this? His interests perturbed, the Nawab watched.
As the fluent Urdu flowed from the pink and lush lips, Nawab Hyder Ali was left with no doubt- this was someone special, very special. He knew instantly it was a woman and asking someone hooded to remove the garb and show the face was against his religious belief. He listened in rapt attention as the woman continued in her mellifluous voice. Whatever she had to say, can wait. She looked like she could use some sleep and food.
Summoning the guards, the Nawab ordered a feast and bade the weary team some rest in the Fort. From all the information he could gather, the Nawab understood the contingent from Sivagangai had come asking for help. Help against the British? By God, he would! He had retreated from Mysore giving reins to the able hands of his son- Tippu Sultan and now he had nothing to worry. He would teach the British a lesson.
Velunachi loved the serenity and the comfort of the cool stone walls of the Dindigul Fort. She had sent word through Udaiyal to Gopala Naicker, the King of Virupakshi. Hyder Ali wanted to strike against the British, but he needed to plan carefully. His agent Chanda Sahib ruled over the eighteen palayams around Dindigul, including Virupakshi, but dis not want to enter the warpath with the British without foolproof plan and sufficient manpower.
|Gopala Naicker Memorial- Virupatchi|
Velunachi was permitted to stay in Dindigul or Virupakshi Palaces with her consorts by Hyder Ali. Gopala Naicker, King of Virupakshi who already had locked horns with the British over Virupakshi had willingly submitted himself to Chanda Sahib, the brother-in-law of Hyder Ali. He was sure the Nawab would stand by his brother-in-law and fight the British till the end. Velunachi now had all the time in the world- she had the support of Hyder Ali and Gopala Naicker. She just needed men and women for her army. Most importantly, women- a force that was untapped so far. Women force- formidable and lethal. She would show them!
To be continued...