The month is ‘Poh’, the coldest as per the Nanakshahi calendar.
We are forced to leave our peaceful abode at Anandpur. It is the middle of the night when I’m saddled up. The eerie silence, seemingly a forewarning.
“It is my order that you all leave immediately and return to your families.” Master’s eager voice alerts me. I fidget, not wanting to miss anything pertinent.
“NO!” the crowd chimes in unison. “Master! We stand this test with you.” The folded hands of faithful disciples mellow him. His eyes close in deep thought.
“Only forty of you may accompany me.” This time HIS hands are folded and the disciples are left speechless to comply.
Danger lurked in the shadows, everywhere. The growing hostility was because of the local chiefs giving into the masquerade of friendly gifts and possessions from the enemy. Thus, he had no choice but to leave.
A tedious journey lay in sight. Yet he remained unfazed. The family had to split to avert danger. The elder sons accompanied him while the younger two accompanied their grandmother. They bid adieu, remembering the Almighty in gratitude, confident of overcoming all hurdles and emerging victorious over the impending tyranny.
“Tears and regret will make you weary.” Master’s voice rang through the opaque darkness. Forward they marched, heads held high, shoulders taught, and eyes alert.
Crossing the mighty Sarsa River in the chill was no mean feat. The skies unleashed fury. The waves rose in unison with the thunder. My steps faltered. Master clenched the reins tighter, his heels pressing into my sides, stabilizing me. I knew he had my back, and I wish I could tell him in human words that I too had his.
The journey ended at a fortress. As I wearily trotted through the darkness alongside him, I could sense his fatigue too. The enemy cannons blazed while the next strategy was discussed. It was forty against thousands. The cuts and bruises on my coat are battle honors, but today seemed like an unexplained test of faith. Humanity was pitted against unfathomable barbarism.
Of all the wars we had fought, the countless cruelty that we crushed, today was bigger. We a battalion of forty bravehearts pitted against the massive armed troops of the Wazir of Sirhind. My gait faltered too, not because of the dreaded cold and nasty glooming winds. It was the thought of his sons facing this gruesome, unbalanced situation. The courageous forty prepared to go out in pairs, fully aware that the end was evitable. The sons stood ready too. The generals pleaded, “No, Master, No. We cannot let the young lives be sacrificed to a deceitful enemy. They have no principles.”
“They are raised to be fearless. They have heard stories of fighting for the principles of humanity. Now is the time to display what they have imbibed much like the rest of you.” He spoke stroking my coat.
He watched, assessing their preparedness, not mourning the suicide mission. Thus, was written history of a man, my master, who sacrificed his family to break down a tyrannical regime and pave the way for a positive and fair future.
Poh – The coldest month (December)
Nanakshahi Calendar – the solar calendar used in Sikhism
Author’s Note – I have written this story from the POV of a horse drawing inspiration from the historic battle of Chamkaur Sahib in which the elder two sons of Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Sikh Guru attained martyrdom. This is the author’s imagination and not a factual representation.