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"ਲੱਗੀ ਧਮਕ ਸਾਰੇ ਹਿੰਦੁਸਤਾਨ ਅੰਦਰ, ਦਿੱਲੀ, ਆਗਰੇ, ਹਾਂਸੀ ਹਸਾਰ ਮੀਆਂ। ਬੀਕਾਨੇਰ, ਲਖਨਊ, ਅਜਮੇਰ, ਜੈਪੁਰ, ਪਈਆਂ ਭਾਜੜਾਂ ਜਮਨਾ ਤੋਂ ਪਾਰ ਮੀਆਂ। ਚੱਲੀ ਸਭ ਪੰਜਾਬ ਦੀ ਬਾਦਸ਼ਾਹੀ, ਨਹੀਂ ਦਲਾਂ ਦਾ ਅੰਤ ਸ਼ੁਮਾਰ ਮੀਆਂ। ਸ਼ਾਹ ਮੁਹੰਮਦਾ ਕਿਸੇ ਨਾ ਅਟਕਣਾ ਈਂ, ਸਿੰਘ ਰਹਿਣਗੇ ਦਿੱਲੀ ਨੂੰ ਮਾਰ ਮੀਆਂ।(੬੩)"
- Shah Mohammed (Jangnama)

Satwant Kaur : An 18th Century Legend (Chapter 6)

Source: Bhai Veer Singh Ji, translated by Bimal Kaur

Satwant Kaur sat for a long time in deep thought. Finally, the only ray of hope being Fatima, she made her way there, planning all the while to get in without anyone seeing her. She found the large doors of the house locked, and decided to wait until dark to try and get in. She covered herself completely with her shawl and wriggled into a niche in the wall, lying so still that it seemed as if a stone lay there.

A couple of hours passed and suddenly Satwant heard the sound of horses’ hooves. She could see some riders in the distance coming this way, and carrying flaring torches in their hands. She was sure they were Amir’s soldiers. Her hiding place was not secure. She looked around desperately and spotted a dark outhouse surrounded by a high wall. Above it a wooden beam extended outwards. Quickly, she tied her shawl and outer garments together and wrapped a large stone at one end. This she flung at the wooden plank so that the rough rope of garments encircled it and fell back into her hands. Using this for support, she scurried up the wall and hid in a dark corner. Now she was completely invisible but she could see the doors of Fatima’s house.

In the next few minutes the soldiers arrived and knocked on the Khan’s doors. Loudly they enquired if a Sikh girl had been seen there. The occupants denied any knowledge of this, but the captain insisted on searching the haveli thoroughly. They left after satisfying themselves that she was not there.

Satwant Kaur stayed in hiding till dawn. As soon as daylight broke, she saw Khan Sahib leave with a number of guards carrying guns. A little later two servants left for the market.

Satwant Kaur knew the whole household well. She calculated that only the women folk were left inside. She climbed down from her perch and, wrapping a cloth around her head and face and bundling the rest of the clothes in her arms, she slipped inside. Taking care to avoid being seen by any of the maid servants, she reached Fatima’s room.

The little boy was asleep but Fatima was awake. At the sight of this strange figure, she opened her mouth to scream, but Satwant quickly uncovered her face and signaled to her not to make any sound.

Fatima was reassured to see Satwant but puzzled because she had heard that the Amir had made Satwant his begum.

Fatima: What are you doing here?

Satwant Kaur: I have come to you to beg for refuge, my mistress.

Fatima: Why, has the Amir thrown you out?

Satwant Kaur: No. I managed to run away.

Fatima: But why? Why did you run away leaving the riches and comforts of the Amir’s palace?

Satwant Kaur: I am a Sikhni. I cannot give up my faith just because I am threatened by a tyrant or tempted by riches.

Fatima: (totally astounded) You are truly extraordinary. I have not seen another Indian slave girl like you. You are more faithful to your religion than even the mullas and qazis, and your intelligence beats even that of Lukman. I can never repay what you have done for me. I shall forever and ever be grateful to you. Tell me how I can help you.

Satwant Kaur: I have not done anything. It was your own good luck that saved your husband. As you know the soldiers are looking for me. Please hide me in your home in such a way that you, and only you, should know of my presence here.

Fatima: Don’t worry, I now how I can keep you safely here.

(Getting up from her bed, Fatima went into the adjoining room. One wall was fully paneled with wood. She pressed a knob and a part of the paneling moved aside, revealing a smaller room).

You can stay here, Satwant. You will be safe because no one comes here. In fact, non one knows the existence of this room. It was made many, many years ago by my ancestors. I will come with your meals and spend my free time with you. And at midnight, when everyone is asleep, I’ll take you out into the courtyard. Don’t hesitate to tell me if you want anything. I owe you my husband’s life and my family’s happiness. He loves me now and we have regained our lost respect and position in society. I can never do enough to repay you. I promise to take care of you and do everything in my power to see that you are safe and happy.

Satwant Kaur: My dear, dear mistress, I am deeply grateful to you for your kind and loving words. I thank the Lord who has brought me to a safe haven. I promise not to trouble you but shall quietly spend my time here. Some milk and grapes once a day will be enough for me. But be careful that no one gets an inkling of my presence here, neither your husband nor your son, otherwise you and your family will be in grave danger.

Fatima: Don’t worry! The Lord is great and will protect us. Come, let me show you another door in the opposite wall. In case a time comes, when you need to escape, open it and go down the tunnel which leads into the jungle on the city’s outskirts. The mouth of the tunnel is blocked by a large stone, but when pushed from inside, it moves easily.

(continued...)


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