Anandamath (Dawn over India)/Part 2/Chapter 2

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After Jiban's departure, Shanti sat on the verandah of Nimi's house. Nimi came out and, with the child in her lap, sat near Shanti. There was not even the least trace of tears in Shanti s eyes. She looked cheerful. Now and then she smiled a little, and then she was grave and pensive; but her thoughts strayed elsewhere. Nimi understood Shanti's mood.

'Isn't it nice, Shanti, that you met my brother?' Nimi asked. Shanti said nothing. Nimi felt that her sister was not in a mood to give expression to her thoughts. She knew too that Shanti was never fond of speaking out her inner thoughts. So she changed the topic of conversation by asking: 'Look here, sister, how do you like my child?'

'Where did you get the child, sister?' Shanti asked. 'When did you give birth to a baby?'

'Good gracious! You should be ashamed of your ignorance. The child is not mine. She is my brother's child.'

Nothing was further from Nimi's thoughts than to hurt the feelings of her brother's wife. She merely meant that she had obtained the child from her brother.

Shanti, however, did not take it so generously. She thought that perhaps Nimi meant to hurt her feelings by taunting.

'I did not ask you about the father of the child, but of her mother, sister!'

Nimi was rightly served. She felt embarrassed.

'Dear sister,' Nimi said gravely, 'how can I tell you whose daughter she is? I forgot to ask brother about her in the hurry. Perhaps brother picked her up somewhere. In these days of famine even mothers are deserting their children. You know how so many parents come to us to sell their children. But who cares to adopt other people's children?'

Again her eyes became moistened with tears. She wiped them away and said: 'Oh, such a beautiful girl! She is as beautiful as the moon; and so plump — I begged brother to give me the child, and he did.'

For a long time they talked on various subjects. In the meantime Nimi s husband returned and Shanti walked back to her own cottage and locked herself in. Then she picked up a handful of ashes from the oven. As she stood on the floor, she thought for a long time. At last she spoke thus to herself: Tonight I am actually going to do what I have been thinking of doing for a long time. What kept me from doing it has now been fulfilled. Well, is it a success or a failure? This life of mine itself is a failure! I must carry out my resolution. The punishment is the same for one or a hundred breaches of a solemn vow.'

Then she threw away the rice and curry she had cooked for her meal. Plucking a few fruits from the garden, she ate those instead. Next she picked up her beautiful Dhaka sari; and tearing away the borders, she dyed the cloth yellow. It was almost dusk when she had finished dyeing and drying the borderless piece of cloth. Closing the door of her cottage, she engaged herself in another task. She scissored off a part of her long and shaggy hair and saved it carefully; then braided whatever was left on her head. Her head thus became covered with the jatas of a sanyasi. She cut the yellow cloth in two, put one part on, and tied the other around her breast.

There was a little mirror in the cottage. For a long time Shanti looked at her dress in this mirror.

'I really do not know,' Shanti said to herself, 'how to finish this task.'

She threw away the mirror. With the hair she had cut off, she made a beard and moustache. She did not put on this artificial beard and moustache then, but saved them to fool someone at the proper time. Then she picked up a large deerskin, and covered herself with it from her neck to her knees. Thus dressed, the young sanyasi looked around the cottage to be sure that she was alone there. Exactly at midnight she opened the door and entered the deep forests alone in the guise of a holy man. That night the wood nymphs heard this wonderful song sung divinely:

'Maiden, where dost thou go,
Thus trotting on horseback?'

To battle I go, please stand not in my way,
Please stand not in my way.
So I sing Bande Mataram, Bande Mataram, Bande Mataram.
And today I plunge right into the waves of warfare;
Who art thou and who is thine and why dost thou follow me?

'Oh woman, who cares to be a woman today?
Our fight is on — our fight is on!

So sing victory to Mother India,
Victory, victory to Mother India,
I beg of you, my beloved, please
Do not leave me behind.
Leave me not, leave me not.
Hark, hark, there beat the drums of victory!
And look! my war-horse neighs and paws
To go to war, yes, to go to war to free India
From England's yoke. I cannot —
I cannot stay at home any longer.

Oh, woman! Who cares to be a woman today?
Our fight is on — our fight is on!

So sing victory, victory to Mother India,
Victory, victory to Mother India —
Bande Mataram! Bande Mataram! Bande Mataram!'