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Anyway, few months passed after the chess players began meeting in Mir's house. New moves were contemplated, and fresh strategies were devised. There were occasions when the chess players quarrelled and almost came to blows in the heat of excitement. But the two friends always made up readily. Sometimes the game would be abandoned midway over a disputed move and Mirza would walk away in a huff; Mir remained sitting at home. But after a good night's sleep, everything was forgotten and the two friends would meet as usual at Mir's place in the morning as if nothing had happened.
One day while the two players were thus immersed in a game of chess, an officer of the king's army arrived on horseback and asked for Mir Saheb. Mir was horrified. What fresh trouble was coming his way? Why was he being sought? This portended something sinister. He had all the doors closed and instructed the servants to tell the soldier that he was not at home.
Horse rider: "He is not at home! Where is he then?"
Servant: "I don't know. What work do you have with my master?"
Horse rider: "Why should I tell you? There have been summons from the king, perhaps some soldiers are required for the army. Is he a vassal or a jester? He will realize the true worth of things when he has to go to the front."
Servant: "I will convey your message."
Horse rider: "It is not just a matter of conveying the message. I will come over tomorrow. I have orders to bring him along with me."
The horse rider went away. Mir was shaken to the roots. "Friend, what will happen now?" he asked Mirza.
Mirza: "Yes, this seems to be deep trouble. There could be summons for me too."
Mir: "The wretch said he will come back tomorrow."
Mirza: "This is indeed troublesome. We will die for no reason if we have to go to the front."
Mir: "There is only one way out. We should stop meeting in my house; instead let us find some secluded spot near the River Gomti. Who can find us there? The man when he comes tomorrow will have to return back without me."
Mirza: "That is a marvellous scheme. There can be no better scheme than this."
Meanwhile, Mir's wife had engaged herself in a conversation with the horse rider. "You have made quite an impression," she told him.
"I make such rustics dance to my tune. Their intelligence and courage have been blunted by chess. They will no longer remain at home henceforth even by mistake," the rider replied.
From the next day onwards both friends started sneaking out of their homes even before the break of dawn. Carrying a small mat pressed under the arms and a box of betel leaves they would make their way to a ruined mosque that had probably been built by Nawab Asfaudullah. On the way they would buy tobacco and chillum (clay pipe). Immediately upon reaching the mosque they would spread the mat, fill up their clay pipes and begin playing chess. Once the game began they forgot everything else, and not a worry in the world could trouble them. Barring a few words like "Checkmate" and "check" no other words escaped their lips. Not even the most devoted of the yogis could have shown so much concentration while meditating as these two did. When they felt hungry in the afternoon, they would go to an eatery and have their meals. After resting awhile and smoking their pipes, they would enter the combat zone once again. Sometimes meals were also forgotten.
Meanwhile, the political situation in the kingdom was turning for the worse. The Company's forces were marching toward Lucknow. There was panic, and people fled to the villages with their children. But our two players were least worried. During their sally to the mosque and back home, they had to make their way through narrow lanes; the only worry that troubled them was that they might get noticed by some king's official and compelled to offer military service. They wished to enjoy the vast annual returns from their estates for free without having to fulfill their obligations to the king.
One day the two friends were playing chess in the mosque. Mir was in a precarious situation. Mirza was harassing his king with checks. Just then soldiers could be seen marching toward the city. These were British troops who were advancing to gain control over Lucknow.
Mir Saheb said, "The English forces are approaching, god save us."
Mirza: "Let them come; check! Here, save your king."
Mir: "We must see to this; let's watch them from the corner."
Mirza: "We will see them, where is the hurry. Check, once again."
Mir: "They are carrying artillery guns too; there may be around 5,000 soldiers. They are so young and have faces like red monkeys. The very sight of them causes terror.
Mirza: "Sir, stop the farce. You had better use such tactics on somebody else. Here, check once again."
Mir: "You are a strange person. Here the city is under threat and all you can think about is check. Have you considered how you will return home if the city is besieged?"
Mirza: "We will see to that when we have to go home. Save your king now; this is checkmate!
The troops disappeared into the distance and could no longer be seen. It was 10 O'clock and the players settled down for another game.
"What about our meals, today?" Mirza asked.
Mir: "Today is my day of fasting. Are you feeling hungry?"
Mirza: "No; I wonder what might be happening in the city."
Mir: "Nothing unusual must be happening. People may be having a siesta now after their lunch. The Nawab might also be relaxing."
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