Lt. Patrick had been in India for only six months but he had already begun to love the strange country. He was young and reckless and, unlike other officers of the Company, had become quite friendly with the natives, even some lowly folks.
But Ali declined to be friendly with him; he was khansama of Maj. Robert. Ali was a great cook and English officers, who often visited the Roberts, relished the delicacies prepared by him and some of them would sometimes indulge him in small talk. But Ali detested the Englishmen and was always a reluctant participant in such silly talks.
Maj. Robert hated Indians and treated them like vermin. ‘Young man, beware; they are worse than serpents. You would not even know when they bite you.’
‘Sir, I am too young to worry about such treachery. But I think...………..’
‘And above all, be wary of my khansama. I tolerate the scoundrel because he is the finest cook in this wretched country. But the bugger can poison us whenever he wants.’
Rumours were floating that some Indian soldiers had revolted against the Englishmen. And then the ‘mutiny’ broke out.
Indian soldiers had gathered in a large number and a battle seemed inevitable. English officers were concerned about the safety of their families. Maj. Robert was particularly worried; he had chosen to live in a palatial house which was somewhat isolated. It was the local ruler’s summer palace that he had illegally appropriated. He was commanding the troops while his family was being guarded by native soldiers.
But Ali had already foreseen the ensuing danger. He had cleverly shifted Robert’s family into a safe house in his village. Everyone in the village had opposed him but he was adamant; Robert’s family had to be protected for it would be a sin to let innocent people die in the violence that was about to erupt and become unbridled.
Robert had turned vicious when he had learnt that his family had gone missing; someone accused Ali of kidnapping the family. He waited till reinforcement could come. And then he struck. His family was located and rescued. All houses in the village were then burnt to the ground and all males, even young boys, were hanged from the trees.
The first person to be hanged was Ali, Maj. Robert’s khansama.
(* Khansama = Male Cook/Steward)
my earlier post