Sukhram Lodhi sat leaning against a rock, his turban over his eyes, the warmth of the sun on his bare feet. His feet told him where he was. They knew the feel of the sand and the stones, and the different kinds of grass. To his right a bird twittered. It seemed to Sukhram that he knew what it was saying. Because he was blind, the birds and beasts let him into their world, made him a party in it. He never spoke of this except to his brother Rajbir and his grandfather Shivpriya Chauhan. They never laughed at him for his fancies.
Sukhram was fourteen and he knew that people were sorry for him. But he thought, if only they could guess how beautiful his world was, they would envy him. Most people did not know about the little rustlings in the grass. They did not know the feel of things, round things like eggs, and water-worm stones, rough things like rocks, or of leather, or of skins. They did not know anything about smells. They went through life with blind noses.
Sukhram spent his time herding his father's hundred goats. He knew them by the sound of their cloven hoofs on the stones by their smell. It was easy to herd goats. When Sukhram called, they came. When he played the flute, they followed him over his father's fields and hills' beyond.
There was less heat in the sun now. It was time to go. Sukhram got out his flute, raised it to his lips, and blew a note softly. He could feel a movement about him. The goats had raised their heads and were looking towards him. He blew again. The goats were all about him. Now he would play them down the mountain and into the shelter, and tomorrow he would lead them out again. It was a happy life.
But while he had been on the mountain that day Rani Lakshmi Bai, the queen of Jhansi, declared war on the English and was joined by the indomitable Tantia Tope. He found his father and Rajbir saddling their horses. They kissed him goodbye, their rifles pressing into his chest as they held him. As the sound of hoofs faded into the distance.
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