Plunging into history

Adapting fictional narratives from historical events can be an interesting task. Here is my take on a snippet from Mughal history.


In 1626, the Emperor Jahangir was captured by rebels while on his way to Kashmir. The rebel leader Mahabat Khan had hoped to stage a coup against Jahangir. Nur Jahan intervened to get her husband released. Nur Jahan ordered the ministers to organise an attack on the enemy in order to rescue the Emperor; she herself would lead one of the units by administering commands from on top of a war elephant.During the battle Nur Jahan’s mount was hit and the soldiers of the imperial army fell at her feet. Realizing her plan had failed Nur Jahan surrendered to Mahabat Khan and was placed in captivity with her husband. Unfortunately Mahabat Khan failed to recognise the creativity and intellect of Nur Jahan since before he knew it she was able to organise an escape and raise an army right under his very nose.


Nur Jehan could feel defeat rising in her throat as she realised that her devoted soldiers were kneeling down. The clanging of swords and robust shouts were dying down and suddenly, her elephant’s legs gave way. Raja buckled under her weight, unable to bear the arrow’s fatal wound any longer. She held on to the reins, yet knew that her chances of escaping from this anarchy would be slim. From amongst the tangle of dead bodies and armed soldiers, a distant brown horse came galloping through, it’s silhouette bright against the evening sky. Mahabat Khan and Nur Jehan now faced each other. Her husband’s captor looked down on her with a sneer. She could see through his cold, pale brown eyes, what exactly he was thinking. She returned his stare unflinchingly, and nodded to her deputy commander, Shahzad, who was still on his feet.  “Leave,” she murmured, her head raised high. She dismounted the fallen Raja and this was sufficient as a signal for Mahabat Khan. He commanded the soldiers by his side, “Take her to her husband,” with which Nur Jehan followed the two enemy warriors out of the field. Behind her, she could hear the hasty retreat of the imperial army and the delirious, mocking laughter of Mahabat Khan’s legion.

Once inside the tent beside her husband’s, the Empress closed her eyes and urged her mind to think faster. She paced the tent, her eyes fixed on the partition between her husband’s and her tent. “Jahangir, how I wish I could have saved you…” she whispered, “but Mahabat’s happiness is short-lived, for the time has come to rescue you.” It was only after a few minutes that the flap of the tent lifted and a servant entered with a tray. Nur Jehan’s eyes were focused on his face. He surely seemed the naive kind, freshly hired and on the look-out for generosity. Nur Jehan slid off her valuable gold earrings encrusted with tiny emeralds and laid them on the floor. His eyes sparkled with glee as did the jewels and he nodded vigorously. She whispered in his ear, “Find Shahzad, my deputy commander. Tell him that the night awaits him.” With a courteous bow, the servant exited the tent and Nur Jehan reclined on the floor, waiting for the sun to set deep below the horizon.

Night had set in and a rustle signalled that the flap of the tent was opening. Shahzad came in with a tray, dressed in a servant’s garment, the brown turban casting a dark shadow across his face. He quickly kept the tray down and lifting off the turban, bowed to the Empress. “How may I serve you, Your Highness?” he inquired in low tones. Nur Jehan quickly replied, “The Badshah must be restored to his throne latest by tomorrow noon. You know now what you have to do. Make use of this moonless night and do your job well. Clear the area around these two tents first and then leave the rest to me.” Shahzad was deep in thought for a moment and then after another bow, prepared to leave. “Was the boy I sent reliable?” Nur Jehan questioned to which Shahzad informed, “Surely. He gave me his clothes so I could disguise myself. I was wondering…” Nur Jehan knew and answered him readily, “Yes, use him to your advantage. He can distract the guards around these tents, being one of them.” Shahzad nodded and left as quietly as he had come, shrouded in the night that was soon to witness a fiery combat.


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