After taking inspiration from the Epic Retold series on Twitter, I’ve planned on retelling the epic we all know and are familiar with, Sholay. The story I am presenting is narrated through the popular character, Radha and may have some variations from the film itself. But hey, why don’t you just sit back and enjoy the story a little? I will be retelling the entire story over this weekend, through multiple blogposts. So please do not forget to keep checking. Hoping that you like this fan-fiction. Enjoy!
Its almost like I can see him. A dark figure, that scares you even from a distance. His steed grunting as it climbs the rocky terrain and carries on it the messenger of death. His band of horrendous murderers and pillagers riding in behind him. The smell of gunpowder still lingering in the air, as I hear shot after shot being fired. I am at the village temple, but the sound of each fired bullet echoes across the land. After each bullet fired you can hear one scream less, while the murderers laugh. The loudest laugh however belongs to the beast. He sounds like a hyena laughing to glory after locating his prey. His voice makes my skin crawl.
Three rounds fired in immediate succession, wonder what is he waiting fo-yes, there is the fourth one now. I can see how they died. I can only weep while standing here. A Thakur woman heralded much respect in the old days, but things aren’t what they used to be. My great grandmother could shoot a pigeon in the sky they tell me. But I have never even touched a real gun.
Ramlal can barely get his head up. His spine shivers. I can see the coward hiding behind the large Peepal tree. In under a second, he has forgotten his decades of service to the Thakurs. That we fed him, provided him a place to stay and clothes to wear. The coward doesn’t bother. If those murderers were to come here right now, he would gladly give up his “Radha Bahu” without any questions asked.
Tears cannot stop rolling, but my voice is stuck somewhere in my throat. I know I am crying with my mouth wide open, but I can only exhale air. The pain slowly choking me. I look at the gold bangles. He had just got them for me from the best goldsmith in town. I try and wipe my face. The red sindoor is spread across my mehendi clad palms. All this colour, all this was so new. And now, one fine morning, all gone. I hear another gunshot close by. He is coming for me too. The world is suddenly dark. I can feel him around me, the disgusting smell of tobacco and horse excrement makes me want to vomit. They are here.
I wake up. It has been six years but for the nth time, this nightmare has plagued me. I keep a dagger under the pillow as Mausi had told me to. But it changes nothing. I think I need a glass of water to help my heart stop pounding. But the way to the kitchen requires me to pass his room though. The Thakur must not be sleeping I am sure. I don’t think he ever sleeps. Just stares at the empty walls, sometimes looking at Chhotu’s old drawings that he stuck on the almirah. I’ve seen him weep many times on such nights. But never outside. Never in front of another human being. Thakur Baldev Singh, once a police officer who used to wreck havoc in the hearts of criminals and the village spinsters equally, now sits helpless in his bedroom.
I peek into his room, he is not asleep. But tonight he doesn’t weep, no. There is another look on his face tonight. It looks calm but determined, like he has a plan in mind. Must be something that Ramlal was talking about earlier. About bringing in someone to control the situation. Apparently help was here already, but I didn’t what the whole deal was. I go back to bed without drinking the water. If his face is calm, maybe my heart can be too.
The morning is drab as usual. There is barely anything that Ramgadh can offer to a widow living in a house with two men. I finish the morning puja and can already hear commotion in the living room. I hear two men walking, but only one talks loudly to the Thakur. Wonder how he tolerates loud speakers. He is such a calm man himself, or at least had been over the last few years after the incident.
I walk up near the temple room window to catch a glimpse of who these men are. People in the living room may often miss this window, but if you’re inside the temple room, you can see everyone pretty clearly. I can see that loud buffoon, acting as if he owns the place. The man looks like he needs a bath right away and what is with the look? All tight clothes and that foolish looking hat. If these were the old days, the Thakur would have thrashed him then and there just for talking like that. But these weren’t those days.
But the other one. Wow. I look at him once and I can’t seem to look anywhere else. Tall and lanky, he walks with the elegance of a beautiful wild animal. Those eyes! Beautiful, powerful eyes. Hypnotic even. He speaks in a low-pitched voice, but with such authority. And that baritone! I am at least 20 feet away from him and I can still hear each of his words clearly. What is this man? I caught myself fanning myself with my palloo just after looking at him. Enough, Radha. Enough, with the letching.
The Thakur gives them some money from the almirah, but I know that they’ve seen the rest of the cash. The buffoon particularly is salivating from his mouth after seeing all that money and gold. I see them exchange looks to each other. I know what their plan is.
I go to tell the Thakur about the deception he is about to face from his soldiers of fortune. He doesn’t budge. Instead he asks me to stay up tonight. Wait for them to attempt stealing and then confront them. He tells me that Jai and Veeru are thieves, no doubt, but they’re more humane than most people in Ramgadh. They just need some encouragement to go soul searching, he says. The Thakur is a smart man and I’ve learnt to not question him ever. But why does he want a woman to do this? He could do it himself. I don’t get it.
Like clockwork, I hear them making their way to the almirah at midnight. They manage to open it before I get down. These two are professionals indeed. I know I must catch their attention so I use the kerosene lamp. The minimal light, the white saree and the pitch dark surrounding makes me look quite intimidating. They’ve frozen, I can see. The buffoon is just embarrassed, but the tall one looks at me with hungry eyes. I like it. I tell them to clear the almirah of all the money and the gold. I know I don’t need them anymore. The women of Ramgadh would probably lose their breath if they see a widow wearing jewelry. They’re looking at the floor now, even as the tall one is smiling mildly.
I try to conceal my face with the palloo as I walk back to the room. I had done my part and encouraged them enough to stay back. Doubt if they’ll run even after this. But why can’t I take his faint smile off my mind. Oh God, its been a while since I’ve felt this excitement. No sleep tonight, it seems.