“How Fast Were You Going?”

“Hush, Farida, your Father will hear us!”

“Really, Akhilendra? And what will you do? Scuttle away on that silly horse of yours?” she asked him coquettishly, as they watched the marriage ceremonies being performed.

He gave her an exasperated look. Farida was the youngest daughter of the Wazir.

And Akhilendra was Amir-Al-Umara, one of the highest ranking Rajput Mansabdars in Emperor Akbar’s court.

They had bumped into each other, literally, one sunny morning at the chahar-suq. Akhilendra’s horse had suddenly bolted in the crowded marketplace, almost mowing down Farida’s entourage. She had fallen out of the palanquin, “in an undignified heap in order to amuse the citizens of Fatehabad,” as she put it so delicately.

Akhilendra had apologized profusely to the maiden, who hadn’t uttered a word throughout the spectacle. He thought he’d caught a smirk behind the purdah she wore. He was annoyed that Fate couldn’t have chosen a more inopportune moment for him to meet a maiden.

That afternoon, Farida was sketching a portrait in her garden when she overheard voices. “Have you heard? Emperor Akbar has chosen young Akhilendra and the Honorable Wazir to team up on the revenue optimization policy. The fireworks are worth waiting for.” Both men chuckled as they walked past.

Her interest was piqued. She knew the man they met yesterday at the chahar-suq was Akhilendra. She had watched him, as unobtrusively as possible. Tall, broad-shouldered, self-assured. His eyes were his best feature. Deep brown.

The next morning, she sat behind her Father, at her usual place. Akhilendra was seated at the far end of the table. Both men put forth their views, using logic and brevity in their statements. Though Akhilendra was young, he was extremely bright. She could see a grudging admiration in her Father’s eyes as they debated on various subjects.

As was customary, the Wazir hosted a daawat that night in honour of Akhilendra’s visit. There was general bonhomie between both groups, they were a team.

It was well past midnight, a clear moonlit sky. Farida was unable to sleep. Quietly, she headed towards the stables and untied her horse. “Here, here,” she said softly as she saddled her. Within minutes, she was cantering into the forest.

She dismounted at the lake and dipped her hands in the cool clear waters. When she saw the shadow. She deftly took out her sword, in one smooth movement, turned around, ready to strike.

“Hey? I mean no harm!” Said the tall, handsome, brown-eyed Akhilendra.

Farida stood still as a statue.

He gently held her wrist and took the sword. “Who are you?” he whispered softly to this vision of a woman.

“I am Farida,” she said haughtily, “daughter of the Honorable Wazir.”

“And, the girl from the chahar-suq,” she added, a mischievous smile lighting up her face.

Akhilendra said sheepishly, “My apologies, Lady. For some reason, we always seem to meet under the oddest of circumstances. I hope you weren’t hurt yesterday.”

They talked for a while. Akhilendra was surprised Farida knew so much about her Father’s work in the kingdom. They rode back to her home, just as the sun rose.

Her maid rushed up to her, “Lady, your Father wishes to see you before he leaves.”

“Sit beside me, my child,” said the old Wazir, as she entered his chambers.

Among all his daughters, Farida was his favorite. Intelligent, quick-witted, beautiful. She reminded him so much of his late beloved Begum. He sighed as he realized there was no man he knew who could be worthy of her. Maybe, except for one.

After the policy presentation at the Emperor’s court, the Wazir spoke to Akhilendra, “I would like to invite you to my home again tonight.” Akhilendra accepted the invitation with no hesitation.

After dinner, the Wazir said to Akhilendra. “Son, walk with me please.”

“Akhilendra, you owe me an explanation. My men have brought an incident to my attention. That you tried to attack my daughter’s entourage at the chahar-suq during your previous visit. Do you have anything to say in the matter?”

Akhilendra was taken back. “No, Sir! It wasn’t an attack, it was an accident. In fact, yesterday, Farida and I, I mean ….my horse bolted,” he looked a little helpless.

“Hmm. So your horse bolted. How fast were you going?” asked the Wazir.

Akhilendra replied quietly. “Just fast enough Sir. To know that Farida is my soulmate. With your permission, I would like to marry your daughter.”

The old Wazir laughed happily. “Correct answer.”

©DarshanaKalyanpur 2015

Participating Entry – YeahWrite #210 Fiction|Poetry Challenge

Prompt:
Genre: Historical Fiction
Answer this question in <= 1000 words
“How Fast Were You Going?”

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