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Saturday, Dec 04, 2021
Outlook.com
Unpublished Excerpt

The Deccan Chessboard

From Manohar Malgonkar’s unpublished manuscript

The Deccan Chessboard
The Deccan Chessboard
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Close to the highest point of Gutti fort, built to cap so sheer a part of the precipice that it seems to hang into space, is the tiniest of pavilions, an arrangement of arches open to the breeze, no bigger inside than an elongated camp-bed. It is known as ‘Murarrao’s Seat’. One can almost see him in it, squatting on a mat, his brass telescope glued to his eye, studying the horizons for signs of an approaching enemy. But local legend recognises the pavilion as the place where he used to sit playing chess with his favourite mistress. The pavilion is a restless sort of place, perched too precariously over the precipice for safety—you merely have to lean over to look down into space—and the breeze comes blowing in a gale over the vast, empty plains of the Deccan, strong enough to have upset the chessmen on the board or even to send them flying in all directions.... Pigeons come whistling from nowhere and rush past, avoiding collision with the stonework by inches. Both the master of Gutti and his mistress must have possessed iron nerves and a strong head for heights, and perhaps they used chessmen made of pure lead.

***

Haidar Ali turned eastwards and after annexing Bellary and collecting a tribute of three lakhs of rupees from the Nawab of Kurnool, decided to attack Gutti.

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