.........Amar had been newly posted under Major Wilson then, they had grown to respect each other immensely; Major Wilson had saved Amar's life in a battle. It was during their first hunting trip that Amar had returned that favor. Major Wilson and Amar had been separated from the rest of the hunting party; they had chased the tiger deep into its own domain: the thick humid jungles northeast of Delhi.
Just as Amar Singh had now been chased deep into his own village, he remembered with irony. There was no sound except for crackle of peeple leaves falling as a rope was slung around one of the thick branches of the ancient tree. Again he thought of that day.....
.........The beast had attacked them from behind; ripping into the flesh of Majors' horse. The Major had jumped off just in time to avoid being devoured by the beast. Amar clearly remembered the defiance in the animals fire blazed eyes as he circled around the fallen horse towards its intended prey. The major laid there; pointing his rifle at the approaching angel of death. The tiger stopped a few steps from its prey, stareing straight into the barrel of Major Wilson's gun, and growled; its roar piercing the humid jungle air. Major steadied the rifle with shaking hands. And squeezed the trigger!......Amar Singh, who was a few feet away, his own rifle aimed at the beast, his heart thumping like a drum in the deadly silence of the jungle; heard the empty click! The rifle had jammed! Tiger moved in slow, measured steps and jumped. Amar squeezed the trigger of his own rifle; catching the beast in midair: it fell lifeless with one last roar. Amar dismounted his horse and raced to Major Wilson's side. He helped the injured man on to his own horse...and raced off in search of their party, mud, dirt, and water spattering Amar as the horse raced out of the jungle. He had to get Major sahib to safety.
.......Cold water splashed on his face, as he came to... " The devils' come to Sir!" Amar heard the Soldier yell to his commanding officer. "Secure the rope!" An order was shouted back. .......Amar felt his breath tighten "I am not guilty--" One of the soldiers hit him with the butt of his rifle, silencing him again.
"Traitor bastard! You were seen running from the bungalow. With the other rebels," Amar recognized the voice of the man commanding.... "Secure the rope!" The two soldiers began to tie the other end of the rope to the commander's horse.
Amar wanted desperately to scream. He had not done anything... "I helped--" Amar doubled over with a kick to his stomach. As he lapsed once again into unconsciousness he could hear the crackle of thatched roofs burning. the village was being set on fire..........
............he could hear the whispers of ashes. Just as he had then, during the height of the Mutiny.......Amar Singh's horse was galloping through the long, winding street of the village in the dead of night. He had seen it coming, though he could hardly believe it: Mutiny against the British. He had heard the men in his own regiment speak of it. The British had done the unthinkable; they had offended both Hindus and Muslims together. The new cartridges, it was rumored, were laced with pork and beef. This would not be acceptable to any Indian soldier in the Imperial Army. And so when the news had come that troops elsewhere had already mutinied; Amar's regiment would waste no time. Finally, Major Wilson's bungalow loomed into view as the village fell far into distance behind; Amar hoped desperately that if the Major was warned bloodshed may be prevented.
"Major Wilson....Major Wilson...," Amar knocked on the door, above which hung the head of the tiger from that memorable hunt. There was no answer. Amar hammered the door again; in the distance he could hear the screams and howels. The sounds of an army on the march. The regiment had rebelled! "Major sahib...open the door--" The door to the bungalow swung open abruptly. But it was not Major Wilson or a servant who opened it. "He's gone to the Governor earlier this evening," Annette Wilson said stepping on to the verandah. "what on earth is the matter," then she too heard the sounds approaching.
"Memsahib we must leave it is not safe here." Annette Wilson had never spoken to Amar directly since he had known the Major. British women looked on Indians with contempt unequaled ever by British men. "What's happened..," she looked around the verandah not understanding.. "the servants appeared to have dashed off." The cook and gardener were permitted by Major Wilson to sleep on the verandah. "Memsahib the seepahis have rebelled. We must leave. It is not safe--" As in if on Que., shots rang out from around the corner; Amar's horse, spooked by the noise, took off. Amar pushed Annette Wilson inside and they ran for the rear door of the bungalow. Just as he shut the door behind him; lighted mashaals landed on thatched roof of the verandah. Amar heard the crackling sound of fire spreading.
They raced down the street, the bungalow far behind them; was just a ball of red hot fire, ashes from it raining down on the street below. They ran through the night until Annette could not take it any longer, collapsing just as they rounded the corner of street; tap-tap-tap of fast approaching horses behind them! Amar spotted an empty small mule cart used for hauling cow dung away; he lifted Annette Wilson on to it, slung the harsh, coarse rope around his shoulders and ran, dragging the heavy cart behind him. He ran until he could not feel the pain in his legs anymore; he could not feel the thick rope dig into his flesh right through his clothes. Only when he saw the gates of the governor's residence did Amar stop. He collapsed, hardly able to breath from the efforts of his exertion..........
..........Awareness returned slowly to Amar Singh; he looked up at the party of soldiers, focusing on one face that commanded them. The face of Major Wilson! Wilson began to back his horse away slowly, pulling on the rope that was slung around the branch of the tree; on the other end it held Amar Singh's neck securely in a death grip. Amar Singh saw his village burning around him. He heard the whispers of ashes. He understood now that his fate was far worse than that of the tiger. The tiger had died in defiance; facing the hunting invaders that had conquered his domain. Amar Singh had served and protected those who had invaded his country. Unlike the proud tiger that died as the king of his domain; Amar would die like a caged animal.
With one swift jerk Major Wilson surged his horse back pulling on the rope; which strained with Amar's weight on the other end. Amar Singh's body jerked upwards, dangling in the rope. Until it hung there; all life squeezed out of it.
As the party of soldiers rode away; there was nothing behind them but a perishing village. Nothing but whispers of ashes.
It was much later that Major Wilson learned that it had been Amar who had saved his wife's life. By them memorials had begun to be erected, tributes to hundreds of British men, women, and children killed in the Mutiny of 1857-58. But for those innocents whom Major Wilson and many others like him had beaten, burned, butchered, and killed in revenge; there would be no memorials. None but the whispers of ashes that would enflame them for the next ninety years and decades beyond.