Anandamath (Dawn over India)/Part 1/Chapter 16

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The young woman who entered the house was about twenty-five years old, and yet she looked no older than Nimi. As she crossed the threshold in her dull and torn sari, the house beamed with the lustre of her beauty, as if hundreds of buds hidden behind leaves had suddenly blossomed; as if someone had opened a sealed jar of rare perfume or had thrown perfumed incense into a dying fire. In vain the beautiful lady searched the house for her husband. He was nowhere to be found. At last she went out of the house and found him in the yard leaning against the trunk of a mango tree. He was weeping as if his heart would break.

The woman approached him gently and quietly placed his hands in her own. It would be idle to deny that she felt like crying. Providence only knew that the stream of tears that gathered in her eyes was sufficient to drown Jiban in its torrents. Yet she restrained her tears and said: 'Please do not weep. I know you are sorry for me. I am happy indeed in whatever state of existence you have placed me. Please do not cry for me.'

'Shanti, why do I see you dressed in rags?' Jiban asked as he lifted his face and wiped his tears. 'You should not be in need of anything in the world.'

'I have kept your wealth intact for you,' Shanti replied. 'I have no use for money. But will you accept me as your wife when you return home?'

'Why do you ask such a question, Shanti? I have not deserted you, my beloved!'

'I do not mean desertion. But will you love me as before when you return home after the fulfillment of your vow?'

Before she could finish, Jiban embraced her fervently. With his head on her shoulder, he said: 'I am sorry, sorry indeed that I wanted to see you now.'

'You have thus broken your vow?' Shanti asked anxiously.

'I am not afraid of that, Shanti! There is atonement for broken vows. It is only that it will be difficult for me to return to the ashram of the Mother after having looked at your face again. That's why I told Nimi that I did not want to see you. I knew that I could not return to my national duty if I looked at your divine face, Shanti, dearest. Place religion, money, ambition, salvation, society, vows, devotional rites, rituals, prayers, sacraments and all that is involved on this earth — yes, place all these on one side of the scale, and you, and you alone on the other and I swear by the holy name of Mother India herself that I do not know which side weighs heavier, my dearest Shanti!

India is quiet. She is almost dead. What can I do with the country? If I get an acre of land somewhere I can create a heaven if only I have you there. What shall I do with the country? The sorrows of my countrymen? Yes, sorrows indeed! But is there a more sorrowful figure in the country than the man who is fortunate enough to obtain, and then renounces a wife like you? Who in this country is poorer than the man who has just seen you in rags?

'You are my helpmate in all the noble deeds of my life. Yet with a rifle in my hands I roam alone in the hills, on the plains and in the forests, killing the enemies of our country's freedom. I do not know whether the country will be ours again or not. But this I do know, that you are mine and I am yours. You are greater than this country. You are my heaven itself. Come, let us go home. I shall not return to the ashram again.'

For a while Shanti could not utter a word. She thought intently, and said: 'Shame on you! You are a hero! The greatest happiness in my life is that I am the wife of a hero. And you want to renounce the path of heroism just for the sake of a wife? Do not love me so. I am willing to deprive myself even of that happiness, but never forsake your path of duty. Now tell me, what is the price for this violation of your vow?'

Atonement — oh, that is very simple. It is by fasting a little; and also by giving alms of only a few coins. That's very simple, Shanti, very simple!'

'I happen to know the nature of the atonement for such sins!' she retorted, smiling. 'But I wonder if the punishment for a single offence is the same as for a hundred such offences?'

'Why do you ask such a question?' Jiban inquired in sorrow and in surprise.

'I have only one request to make. Please do not make atonement for this breach of vow before you meet me again.'

'You may rest assured of that, Shanti. I am not going to die before seeing you again; that is certain. There is no hurry for death anyway. I must not stay here any longer. But my eyes are still hungry and my soul thirsty to see you. Someday we are sure to meet each other when time will be unlimited. And someday we shall reach the destined land of our heart's desire. I must go now. But, please honour a request of mine. Please give up this dress of yours and go to live in my ancestral mansion.'

'Where are you going now?'

'I must return to the ashram and search for the Mahatma. I am worried about the manner in which he went to the city. If don't obtain any news of him at the ashram, then I myself must hurry to the city without the least delay.'