“Cat: Where are you going?
Alice: Which way should I go?
Cat: That depends on where you are going
Alice: I don’t know
Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
– Lewis Carroll (English writer, mathematician, and logician, in his fantasy novel, ‘Alice in wonderland’)
The guard gaped at her incredulously.
“How the hell did you get out?” he asked, suspicious that the lady was a spy.
The Raigad Fort was Emperor Shivaji’s capital. Once the gates closed at sunset, no one could either enter or leave the fort. Hirkani, a milk vendor from the nearby village of Pachad was trapped inside. Like others who came into the fort daily to sell their wares, Hirkani was busy selling her milk. She realized a little too late that the gates would close if she didn’t hurry. She pleaded with the guard to make an exception; her small child would be hungry at home. “Sorry, these are the orders of the Emperor himself” declared the guard, “they will now open only tomorrow morning.”
At almost 3,000 feet above sea level, the fort was located in the expansive Shayadri mountain ranges. Although no enemy could penetrate the fortress, this was the year 1675 when the wily Mughals posed a real threat to Shivaji’s reign. The guards couldn’t take a chance; Hirkani would have to spend her night inside the fort.
She decided otherwise. How could she let her little one go hungry? She explored the fort and learned that strong walls with 70 foot high doors guarded the citadel on all sides. She soon discovered that on one side the generals had decided not to build a wall because the steep vertical drop made it impossible for any human to scale the fort. Her friend had once told her about this: “There’s no way someone could climb through that without notice.” Today, however, for Hirkani, this was the only chance. She saw the village below from that high point and realized the challenge; although no warrior dared to climb up or down from this height, she’d now attempt, just for her child.
To be continued..