A Crooked Shadow

A Crooked Shadow

“Aakraman!” bellowed the King atop a handsome horse that was adorned with unique embellishments. The beast was trained for war. The majestic rider was in full command of the army behind. His men were nothing less. They displayed sheer valor, bravery, kinsmanship, and implicit obedience.

The opponents didn’t outnumber them, most certainly, and their leader was also no match for the formidable native warrior. But, the other side seemed to showcase updated trends in warfare which the indigenous army was unprepared for. Their gallantry was superior but was not superior enough to match the arms and ammunition of the opponent.

The mighty King was wounded and the battle ended with a huge loss of lives. Trauma ensued. Our native land was conquered by foreign men and those who survived amongst us were ousted. We were banished to live in forests. We were deemed as an outcast in the society. The new rulers who took control of our kingdoms disowned us. We were denied even the pettiest of jobs. We struggled. We tried all means for survival. That was when we took to hunting as a living. We were not left in peace. We were attacked, looked down upon, and sneered at. We were not known for our service earlier to our native land. The brave soldiers were reduced to nothing more than a feeble shadow of their past and former selves. 

Those last words from his great-great-grandfather before his death, to a much younger Sena, rang shrilly in his ears and penetrated to every nerve of his body. The storm outside the window of his dimly lit cellar seemed to tone down and subdue. The tempestuous winds, that accompanied, attained a level of eerie serenity and with it, came a deafening calmness.

Yet, its counterpart, brewing inside the convict threatening to engulf him, was trying to suck his being into its vicious vortex. It refused to settle down at any stage of compromise.

We are warriors, who served the nation.

We are not what we have been made to be.

We belong to a page of uncelebrated history.

We are from the brave Rajput clan of our motherland.

His cries of plea, mingled with attesting himself to be from a band of combatants with a glorious past, did nothing to assuage the enormity of the judgement passed against him and his gang. He was charged with man-slaughtering and dacoity, which led to an unpardonable verdict.

“Sena!”

A brusque voice bounced off the alarmingly concave stone walls of the vast prison.

He looked up. His bloodshot eyes betrayed no emotion. Years of unjust treatment of their tribe had conditioned his soul to a state of austere fortitude.

“You live until dawn,” announced the uniformed man, with a lopsided smile.

No answer. 

Sena went back to living in the past, which so rapidly disappeared in a blur with every passing moment, that only a crooked and unrecognisable shadow of his magnificent clan of warriors remained alive until the verdict was executed.

Author’s Note:-

‘Aakraman’ – attack in ancient Hindi dialect.

This story is from the perspective of a protagonist from the Bawarian tribe, who hails from Rajasthan, India. They served in the army of warrior kings from the ancient Rajput clan and are also considered to be a branch of the same warrior clan.

The last that is heard of this tribe serving army was in 1527 in the Battle of Khanwa under the leadership of the valiant Rajput ruler, Rana Sanga against the first Mughal emperor of India, Babar. The warriors that they were, the Rajputs put up a brave fight but weren’t as organized and updated as the Mughals. The King was hit by a cannon and lost his consciousness. The army crumbled soon after, without a good leader. The remaining of the tribe of Bawarias were sent to forests and they tried to create a living for themselves. But, society rejected them. They took to thieving as a resort to survive. And henceforth, demarcated as a criminal tribe. With two Acts passed before and after the Independence, they were permanently relegated as criminals. They were homeless and jobless and deemed guilty by society unless proven innocent. Such became the plight of the once-famous tribe of warriors.

As late as the 1990s, a huge gang of Bawarias was hunted down by the TamilNadu Police for ruthless killing, thieving, and dacoity. The tribe had reached extreme marauding in the Southern states of India then, that the TN Government had ordered an investigation on the same. Eventually, it led to the nabbing of the gang members. 

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