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After reading the newspaper and finishing my Moghlai meal, I extinguished the lamp and lay down to sleep in a small corner room. A bright star millions of miles away, piercing through the darkness, was intently inspecting the tax collector on his humble bedstead from an open window. While watching the star in wonder I fell asleep. I cannot say for how long I slept but I woke up suddenly. It was not owing to any sound, nor did I see anyone in the room. The star that had been scrutinizing me had long since disappeared, and the faint light of the moon entered the room guiltily as if afraid of trespassing.
I could see no one and yet I felt as if someone was gently nudging me. When I woke up, I felt as if that person, without uttering any words, was instructing me through signs to follow her.
I rose noiselessly. Although there was no one excepting me in that large palace with its countless rooms, yet I experienced a fear lest I should wake up somebody. Almost all the other rooms in the palace were kept closed and I had never entered them before.
I cannot say where I was going that night. I cannot say how many dark and narrow paths, how many wide verandahs, and how many secret chambers I crossed while following the invisible escort.
Although I could not see the invisible guide, yet I had formed an image in my mind - an Arab maiden, the strong and supple hands could be seen through the loose sleeves; a veil, attached to the cap, fell over the face, and a curved dagger hung from the waist. I thought a night out of the 1001 Arabian Nights had made its appearance before me. It was as if I had embarked on a perilous adventure on a dark night in Baghdad.
Finally, the journey came to an end. The guide halted abruptly in front of a heavy dark blue curtain and made signs to me. She said nothing, but my blood chilled in fear. I thought I could see a shiny black-skinned eunuch, sitting and dozing on the floor with his legs spread and an open sword on his lap. My guide nimbly leaped over his legs and lifted a corner of the curtain. A part of the room's interior came into my view, and I saw there was a thick Persian carpet on the floor. I could not see who was sitting on it - but I caught a glimpse of the lower portion of a saffron-coloured puffed pajama and a pair of beautiful feet, adorned with laced slippers, emerging out of them. The person was seated on a rose-coloured velvet cushion. At one corner of the floor there was a blue-coloured crystal tray containing few apples, pears, and plenty of grapes. By the side of the tray were two smaller cups and a golden-hued crystal wine glass which were awaiting the arrival of the guest. The rich fragrance of incense sticks emanated from the room and made my head swim.
I was quivering all over, and as I made to leap over the outstretched legs of the sentry he woke up instantly and his sword dropped on the stone floor making a clattering noise. Suddenly I heard a loud scream, and saw that I was sitting on my bed and my whole body was drenched in sweat. In the light of the dawn the moon appeared like a weary patient who had spent a sleepless night, and our crazy Meher Ali, in his usual manner, was walking along the solitary road while screaming at the top of his lungs, "Stay away, stay away."
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