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Mirza had to go. Begum Sahiba groaned on seeing him. "Chess is so dear to you that you would not care even if someone was dying. There can hardly be another person like you!"
Mirza: "What could I do? Mir Saheb wouldn't listen; he wanted me to finish the game. With great difficulty I managed to come away."
Begum: "Does he think all the others are good-for-nothing like him? He also has a wife and children, or has he abandoned them?
Mirza: "He is very addicted to the game. I have to play whenever he comes over."
Begum: "Why don't you send him away?"
Mirza: "He is senior in age and higher in status. I have to show him due respect."
Begum: "Then I will send him away. He might feel insulted; so be it. We don't depend on him for our food."
Addressing the servant girl, she said, "Hariya go and fetch the chess board. Tell Mir Saheb that he may leave since Mirza Saheb has decided not to play anymore."
Mirza: "Oh no! Don't you do such a thing. Do you want to embarrass me? Stop Hariya, don't go."
Begum: "Why don't you allow her to go? Okay, so you have stopped her; let's see how you stop me."
Immediately after blurting out her intentions, Begum Sahiba made for the drawing room. Poor Mirza turned pale. He pleaded with his wife, "For god's sake please don't go. You will be the cause of my death if you go there."
But Begum was in no mood to listen. She had almost reached the door when she abruptly stopped. Begum hesitated to confront a male person outside the family. She peeked inside and, fortunately, found the room empty. Mir Saheb had shifted the positions of a few pieces and, so as not to be blamed for the misdeed, had left the room and was strolling outside.
Begum had the room to her own! She overturned the board; threw out a few chess pieces while the rest rolled under the shelves. She, then, bolted the door. Mir Saheb saw the pieces flying out, heard the sound of bangles, saw and heard the door being closed with a bang, and rightly surmised that Begum Sahiba had declared war. He quietly withdrew and took the path that led to his own home.
"You have taken extreme steps," Mirza told his wife.
Begum: "If Mir Saheb comes here again I will show him the door. You spend your time playing chess, and I have to manage the house! Will you be going to the doctor now or are you still pondering over the matter?"
Mirza stepped out of the house but instead of going to the doctor he reached Mir Saheb's house and related the entire incident. Mir said, "When I saw the pieces flying out, I immediately recognized the danger and escaped. It seems your wife is very hot-tempered, but you should not allow such behaviour. She should not concern herself with what you do outside. It is her responsibility to manage the affairs of the home and she should not bother about other things."
Mirza: "Well, what do we do now? Where do we meet to play?"
Mir: "Where is the problem? Here is such a big house; we will play here."
Mirza: "But how do I convince Begum Sahiba? When we played at my place she used to be angry, now if we start meeting here she probably will bury me alive."
Mir: "Oh, let her grumble; after a few days she will get used to it. But you must try to be a little assertive."
For some unknown reasons Mir's wife preferred that he remained away from home as much as possible. She, therefore, never criticised his love for chess, but rather reminded him whenever he delayed in removing himself from the house. Mir, however, misconstrued his wife's behaviour and thought that she was very gentle and serious-minded. But when the chess players began meeting in the house and Mir Saheb remained at home for the entire day, it caused much grief to Mir's wife. It was an infringement on her freedom. The whole day she craved to peek out of the door.
The servants also started whispering among themselves. Hitherto, with Mir Saheb remaining away from home, they had no work to do; they had been least bothered about who visited the house or who went away. But now they had to remain on their toes all the time - sometimes they would be asked to bring betel leaves and sometimes sweets. And the hookah, like a lover's heart, was always burning. The servants complained to Mir's wife, "Master's love for chess has made our lives miserable. This constant running around has caused blisters on our feet. What kind of a game is this in which players sit in the morning and rise only late in the evening! It is alright to play for an hour or so. Well, we don't have any complaints - we are mere servants and will obey the orders unquestioningly; but this game is a dangerous one and it brings some kind of ruin on the homes of the players. People outside speak ill of master, and we feel very bad about it because we eat his salt. But what can we do?"
After listening to the woes of the servants, Begum Sahiba would remark, "I personally dislike this; but your master does not listen at all. What can be done?"
There were a few old-timers in the neighbourhood who, while discussing amongst themselves, predicted doom for the kingdom because of the behaviour of the noblemen. "There is little hope for the kingdom," they said, "when this is the state of our noblemen, then it is only god who can save the kingdom. This empire is destined for doom because of chess. There are bad times ahead."
An atmosphere of despair prevailed in the kingdom. There were daylight robberies but there was no one to listen to the complaints of the people. Wealth from the villages was sponged away and found its way to Lucknow where it was wasted on the pleasures of life. The kingdom's debt to the English Company grew larger and larger with each passing day. Owing to the complete absence of governance, there was a laxity in the collection of annual taxes. The Resident issued cautions from time to time but who was there to listen? Everyone was intoxicated in life's pleasures. No one had ears to listen.
Some useful links for
- Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
- IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
- Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
- Indian Institute of Technology Madras - www.iitm.ac.in
- Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
- Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
- IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
- Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
- Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
- Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
- Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
- Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
- Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu