It was six in the morning and Siya along with her sister Vedika walked near the river to fill water in their pots. Siya loved doing chores, she couldn't sit idly for more than a few minutes. She would either engage herself in social work or would sneak out to learn new arts and works. Vedika was the ideal daughter of her house. She never dared to cross her line, never did she ever argue with anyone. She was taught to be a lady and she was doing every bit of it, without complaining. But what Vedika would never admit in front of people was that she adored her little sister. She adored how courageous and fiery she was.
She adored how fearlessly she was doing wanted she wanted to do. Vedika would have never dared to sneak out to learn the art of healing even though it was the only thing she ever desired. She couldn't have walked into the unfamiliar lanes that led to Sahib's house to help him. Siya was everything Vedika couldn't dare to be. But Siya was oblivious to how much of an inspiration she was to her sister and how much inspiration she was going to be to other girls in the village.
Siya looked down at her reflection in the water. It was the only time she could gaze at her features for her family didn't possess a mirror, an useless expenditure— her father once told her. She was dressed in a beige blouse and faded floral skirt that reached down her feet. Her pink duppata (scarf) lied securely around her neck. The dark coat of kohl around her eyes made her look even more bold. Her dusky skin was a not flawless, they had certain burnt marks and scrapes. But they never bothered her. She pushed her fingers inside the water of the river before running her wet fingers through her unruly dark locks before she tied them in a hasty braid.
"Did you hear about the meeting Sahib called in the evening?" Vedika asked, looking keenly at her younger sister who looked at her curiously. Something about this young man— Sahib attracted her. Nothing that dealt with physical carnal but with raw curiosity and fascination.
Who was he? Where did he come from?
These questions had always bothered her. She was like that impatient bird who wanted to embrace the sky and flew as high as her wings allowed her to. Vedika was expecting her to react but other than the curiousity Siya gave away nothing.
"What's the use when they won't call women in the movement? Can they gain independence with only half the people fighting for it?" Siya asked, her eyes like a dagger as she glared at her own reflection in the river. Vedika sighed at her sister's words. Siya was had a radical thinking and no wonder the village called her a rebel. She was different from others. She knew.
"You know how things are here, Siya. Men fight and work for livelihood and we run the house." Vedika said, trying to calm her sister's raging mind and Siya scoffed, shaking her head as she stood up, taking one earthen pot on her head and other on her right hip. Vedika followed her lead.
"Great Queen, Litaji fought for her people till her last breath, Jiji (sister) and she ruled her people well. She was no men and yet she did no less than a man."
"And she ended up dying in the end." Vedika mumbled, not really wishing for her sister to hear but she did but Siya didn't comment. She knew her sister was worried for her. She was born and taught not to fight. She was always taught a woman is best when at calm and that they are meant to suffer.
But Siya wanted to change their mindset. It would take time, she knew and she would do it. And she shall start from her own family.
Vedika was preparing the curry while Siya was baking the tortillas. Her mother had come from the field before she placed the half bucket of milk down. When both the sisters were done with their cooking, they covered the pots and placed the utensils down waiting for their father to arrive. Vedika knew her sister would probably go again to give a portion of her food to the Sahib. And the thought of her younger sister sleeping with hunger made her stomach to clench.
"Take some food from mine, Siya. They are too much for me to eat." She said nonchalantly and Siya looked ready to argue before she cut her off with a look that said, she won't listen to her younger sister.
"Ah, the lunch's ready." Their father said as he sat down, his lips pulling in a soft smile as he saw his daughters nodding their head as they served him and their mother the food.
"Aren't you going to eat too, my child? And Siya, are you okay dear? You didn't eat had your dinner last night too." Satyavan, their father asked and worry laced his dark orbs. Siya smiled at her father's concern and shook her head.
"I did my dinner last night, Baba. And I just had a cup of milk an hour ago. I'll have my lunch once I've visited the women in the village." Siya lied. She indeed wanted to meet the women in the village for she had just suffered a miscarriage. She wanted to make sure she was alright, mentally and physically too. But the main reason of not eating food was because she still hadn't served Sahib the food.
"If you say so, my child. But make sure to complete all your work before evening. Few people are planning the agitation against the royals. I don't want you to get hurt, okay?" Siya felt guilt stabbing inside her chest as she nodded her head.
"I won't, Baba." She lied when she knew she was going to the agitation in the evening. She would break the stereotype of only men fighting for the freedom, tonight. And if she would tell this to her father, he probably won't ever allow her to be a part of movement, no women will be in. Vedika read through her sister's expression and she knew no one, absolutely no one could stop Siya from doing what she had intended to do.
Sahib was practicing his fighting skills. The sword in his grip shun under the bright sunlight. It was hot, really hot. Siya could feel the sweat dripping down her forehead and for once she wasn't sure what if it from the temperature or the thought of sneaking inside Sahib's house made her sweat. Like the other day, Sahib still was in a white dhoti (clothe), draped securely around his waist and his upper torso bare, glistening with his sweat.
Siya felt her throat parching as she gazed at the nearly half naked man in front of her. How until yesterday, she had never even had a single conversation with single a man in her life and now she is sneaking inside a man's house to provide him food and medicines. Siya was biting on her dupatta (scarf), playing with it nervously as she saw Sahib practicing will full swing. It looked like Sahib would attack anyone who would enter his doorless house. She took small and light step inside. Her bare feet soiling in the mud but she didn't care. She walked under the banyan tree and placed the banana leaf rolled up with food and a small disposable bowl of turmeric paste for his still fresh wounds on his cot.
She waited outside his house, staring at his still practicing frame in expectation of him looking at the banyan tree and he did. His dark eyes narrowing as he stared at the parcel before gripping it in his long fingers. Like the very other time he first rose the food closer to his nose to take a whiff of the food. After being assured of the poison free food, he sat down on the hard cot before he washed his hands. He wiped his forehead with the white clothe he often kept hanging on the branch.
He took a small piece of tortilla and dipped it inside the curry before he placed it in his mouth. His mouth chewing on the content slowly. Siya felt euphoria hitting her chest. Though he had neglected the ointment she placed under the tree, he still ate the food. Though it wasn't enough to perish the hunger of a grown up man but it was still something. Siya gazed at him for the last time before she turned on her heel and rushed back to her house, making sure nobody saw her walking in the lane which would only defame her.
As soon as Siya left Sahib's doorstep, Sahib lifted his face and looked at the empty space where once Siya was hiding. His dark eyes had the figure of Siya etched in them. When she thought, she had successfully sneaked inside his haven and placed the food parcel without his notice, he knew the second she had entered inside his house. He could still smell her presence. She smelt like those lavenders she usually placed in her braids. He saw her sneaking inside, placing the food down and he also saw how she waited only not today but that night too until he took a bite inside his mouth.
Sahib knew what Siya was doing was dangerous. If anyone in the village saw Siya sneaking inside his house, without the notice of her parents, she would have to answers questions that could defame any woman. But he couldn't deny how grateful he was to her who bestowed him food every morning and evening, without expecting anything in return. Shaking his head, he took another bite followed by many more until the banana leaf was left empty with no food left. Though a tortilla and half wasn't enough for him but he felt his insides brimming as his hunger had sated down the very moment she walked in. And she did taht every evening without caring much about the world because he was hungry.
It was dark and Satyavan had locked his doors and windows. Tonight would be long. Protests and agitation were going to break out. People would bomb the police stations and would burn their firms. Where Satyavan was scared of the safety of her daughters and wife, Siya was waiting for the evening, impatiently. She was looking to sneak out and take part in the protest.
She had pulled the dried up grasses together, tying them securely with the rope. She quietly placed the tied up grasses on her place, covering it with a blanket. It looked as if it was Siya sleeping peacefully. She turned around to gaze at her sleeping family members. She felt guilt bubbling inside her gut. I hope you would forgive me, Baba. She spoke inside her mind, lightly brushing his feet to take his blessings before she sneaked out, nodding at her sister Vedika to close the window as she walked out on the deserted roads.
She covered herself with the dark blanket as she walked towards the back of the forest where people were going to gather for the meeting. Siya was feeling the excitement rumbling inside her chest. She would be called a woman fighter from today. The first woman from the village who rose her voice against the royals. She was going to make a history today and she knew it.
When she reached the location she saw men had already gathered there. They were nearly forty or fifty in numbers. All of them had a blanket over there face, covering their identity but only one man had his face unveiled. Sahib. Who else could it be?
Standing crisp as ever in nothing but a dhoti and a white clothe around his neck, barely covering his chest. His perfect, dark skin glowed under the moonlight. His dark eyes burned as the sun itself, fire lurking in them. He had his fingers curled in a fist as he pumped it up before she saw his lips moving followed by a deep voice that reverberated in her chest. This was the first time she was hearing him and she knew she could hear him for a lifetime. Bold and brave voice of Sahib awoke courage in others. Only two words could be heard roaring in the crowd which made Siya's inside to tremble and hair on the back of her neck to stand.
"Let the best win!"
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