Reaching a clearing, Sardar Sham Singh signaled to his troops to stop. They dismounted and within a short time set up camp. The horses were tied to the near—by trees and given bowls of water and hay from the surrounding fields. Two Sikhs went to a near—by village in search of food.
Sardar Sham Singh spread a cloth on the ground, and calling Balwant Singh and Saraswati, asked them to sit down. Every Sikh in the group came up in turn to greet Balwant Singh with a warm hug and Saraswati with folded hands and ‘Gur Fateh I The skies echoed to the exuberant calls of "Gurbar Akal I"
Gradually, everyone became quiet as Balwant Singh began to narrate his painful experience. He was locked up in a dark cell and alternately tortured and brain washed with promises of enormous riches and comforts. But his worst suffering was at the thought of the Nawab forcing his sister into marriage.
In due time the two men returned from the village, empty-handed.
"There are few Hindus in the village and mostly Mughals, said one, "So, no-one is ready to give us food and water. We even offered to pay, but they are too afraid."
Sham Singh said, "Then bring two ‘Panch’ (head men) of the village.
"We have already brought them, Sardar sahib," said the second Sikh, pushing two villagers forward.
Sham Singh : ‘Why didn’t you give food, Chaudhary ?"
Panch: "The ruler of the land does not allow it
Sham Singh : "Khalsa is the ruler at present."
Panch: " How can we rely on the Khalsa – here today, and like the passing clouds, gone in the next instant !"
Sham Singh turned to his companions and said, "Some of you go into the village and bring whatever food-stuff you can find. But don’t touch the women and children1 or anything else besides the food."
He had barely finished speaking, when four Muslim women in "burqas" came slowly up to them. They were crying softly and had a 14 – year old boy with them. Using the boy as their spokesman, they requested the Sikhs, "Please, don’t hurt our men-folk We are ready to give whatever you need."
Sardar : "We only need food and water."
Women : "We will make the Hindu women prepare large quantities of food and send to you. But you won’t trouble our men, will you ?"
Sham Singh : "NO. We will also pay for the food, We don2t believe in harassing the people. Our fight is only against the tyranny of the rulers. Now, go quickly, take this money and send us the food, May you and your men live long I"
Soon, with contributions from each house – hold of :"flour" and "dal", wooden stoves were lit and cooking begun in large pots.
Meanwhile, the waiting Sikhs finished of f all the carrots growing in a couple of near – by fields.
As soon as the hot food reached them, they sat down and hungrily ate their fill. Now, it was time for them to move onwards. With energy they cleared the temporary camp and climbing on to their horses rode off like the soft breeze of spring and were soon out of sight.
As the evening shadows began to lengthen, a company of Mughal soldiers rode into the village.
The commanding officer called the village ‘Panch’ and asked if a battalion of Sikhs had passed that way.
Panch: "Yes, sir! They stopped here, had food and water and left only a short while ago.
Officer: "Who supplied them the food?
Panch : "The Hindus of the village, sir."
Officer: "Any Muslims also?"
Panch : "No, sir. As you know, sir, the Muslims never help any ‘Kafir’ willingly. But these Hindus were delighted to see the Sikhs.
At this, the officer became thoroughly enraged, and ordered his soldiers to capture the Hindus and bring them to him. Without questioning them, or giving them a chance to talk, he ordered them to be brutally beaten up, with the result that many died on the spot.
One of those killed was a newly – married young man, and the order was given to perform the ‘nikah’ (Muslim wedding ceremony) of the bride with the officer.
The young woman beseeched the officer to let her die with her husband, but who was there to pay heed to her pleas! Frustrated and in a fury, she turned towards the officer1 and lashed out at his face. Her fist hit him in the eye so hard that he fainted and fell off his horse. Seeing his officer’s plight, one of the Mughal Soldiers rushed up with his sword drawn. off the girl’s head, but unfortunately before he could stop himself, the point of his sword pierced the officers breast.
A few days have passed since the above event. In one of the camps, in the heart of a deep forest, the Sikhs are moving about, doing various jobs, in an atmosphere of carefree joy. They seldom remember their homes and families. They are united in their love and devotion for Guru Gobind Singh Ji, and they are eager to spend their lives protecting their religion. This single-minded purpose gives them the courage to withstand all hardships, and to live in the deep jungles as fearlessly as the lions.
After the evening meal, they all gathered around Sardar Sham Singh, who was sitting with Balwant Singh and his sister.
Sham Singh :"So, Bibiji (politely turning to Saraswati), what do you want to do ?
Have you decided?"
Saraswati :"I would like to be guided by you."
Sham Singh: "You have to make the decision and we shall give all the help we can. If you like, we can bring your husband here. And if you want to go to him, we can escort you to his village. The only problem with the latter plan is that the Nawab will not let you live in peace, and you will be back in his clutches, So think carefully before you decide, You are our sister and we shall do everything to see that you are happy."
Saraswati : "Respected Bhraji, I have lost interest In my marriage as my husband has abandoned me. It was his duty to protect me, and he failed in his duty. Now, I don’t want to get involved in a situation, from which my Guruji has liberated me. My only desire is to spend the rest of my life in the service of the Khalsa. If you allow me, I would like to live among my brothers. During peaceful days I can help with the cooking and other jobs, and when you set out to do battle, I would like to go along, so that I can help in taking care of the wounded. I can’t bear to sit idle, while my brave brothers face such ordeals for the sake of their religion. I, too want to be part of this struggle, and I beg you to teach me Gurbani, so that I can do the daily recitation, meditate en the Lords ‘name’ and be of service to everyone. I shall consider myself extremely lucky if you will let me lead such a life."