Anandamath (Dawn over India)/Part 3/Chapter 2

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In those days in Bengal the East India Company owned a great many silk factories. There was a large factory at Shibgram with an Englishman named Dunniworth as manager. The Company made excellent provision for the protection of the factories, and that is the reason why Mr. Dunniworth had managed to save his life. He felt compelled however to send his wife and children to Calcutta, leaving himself to be harassed by the Children.

Captain Thomas encamped at Shibgram with a few companies of his soldiers. Encouraged by the example of the Children, a group of pariahs had begun to seize other people's properties by force. Once a huge wagon full of flour and butter, rice and poultry was approaching the camp of Captain Thomas. The new pariah bandits could not resist the temptation to seize such a prize, but they were beaten off by the soldiers.

The victorious captain at once sent reports to headquarters at Calcutta saying that that very day with the help of only 157 sepoys he had defeated 14,700 rebels; 2,153 of whom had been killed, 1,223 wounded, and seven taken prisoner. Only the last item of the report was really true; but the captain felt as if he had won the Battle of Blenheim. His excessive pride in this achievement caused him to strut about with the air of a conqueror. And so he advised Mr. Dunniworth: 'I have quelled the rebellion. Now you may send for your wife and children at Calcutta.'

'Splendid advice, indeed,' Mr. Dunniworth answered. 'But, please stay here for another ten days. Let the country get quieter still, and then I shall send for them.'

Mr. Dunniworth's pantry was full of rare and delicious foodstuffs, and he had an expert cook. So Captain Thomas cheerfully began to take the fullest advantage of Mr. Dunniworth's hospitality.

Bhavan, on the other hand, was becoming impatient to conquer Captain Thomas, and thus acquire the title of Sambarari II. 'We are sure to destroy these alien aggressors some day,' Bhavan said to himself. 'Let them gather as they grow in number. We must stay away from them, and they will grow even more careless.' So the Children did not display even a sign of their existence. And the Captain ate and drank plentifully and slept well.

Captain Thomas was exceedingly fond of hunting. Occasionally he ventured forth into the jungles around Shibgram. He was a fearless man. In strength and courage he was unrivalled among the English in India. Once he was out hunting on horseback with Mr. Dunniworth and a group of hunters. The dense jungle he chose was dangerously infested with tigers, bears and wild buffaloes. The group penetrated far into it. At last the hunters refused to go any further, for all paths in the jungle had closed. Mr. Dunniworth, who had once been attacked by a tiger in these very forests, also refused to proceed.

The Captain, having sent them all back, alone entered further into the wilderness. As there were no path, his horse balked; so he placed his rifle on his shoulder, left the horse and proceeded on foot. He looked all around for tigers, but failed to find any. Instead he found something quite different — a young holy man seated under a huge tree almost wrapped by creepers and foliage laden with full-blown flowers. The young man was radiantly beautiful. The glow of his face added a lustre to the flowers. Captain Thomas was surprised. Surprise was quickly followed by anger. He knew a little Bengali, so in that language he asked: 'Who are you?'

'I am an ascetic,' the sanyasi replied.

'Are you a rebel?'

'What is a rebel?'

'I am going to shoot you.'

'Kill me, I have no objection.'

At such a reply, the Captain was hesitant whether to shoot or not.

Just at that moment the sanyasi fell like lightning upon the Englishman and snatched his rifle away from him. Then he dropped the skin from around his body, and the matted locks of hair from his head. And the English captain found himself confronted by a ravishingly beautiful Hindu woman.

'Look here, Englishman, I am a woman. To say nothing of a human being, I do not hurt even a creeper. So do not be afraid of your life. But I want to tell you that this country belongs to us.

This is our Motherland. We are the children of this soil. You have no more moral or legal right to rule over this country than we have to rule over your England. Why don't you Englishmen, like true Christians, return peacefully to your own homeland?'

'Who are you?'

‘You see, I am a female sanyasi. I am the wife of one of those heroes of India with whom you have come to fight.'

'Will you stay in my house?'

'As your mistress, I suppose!'

'You may stay as my wife — but there won't be any marriage.'

'I had a silver-coloured monkey. It died recently. The cage is empty. I shall tie you with a nice chain around your waist. Will you stay in that empty cage as my pet monkey, Englishman? And we grow delicious bananas in our garden. I shall give you plenty of bananas to eat.'

'You are a very spirited woman, I see. I am pleased with your courage. You had better come to my house. Your husband will die in the war. What will happen to you then?'

'Then let us come to this understanding. War is inevitable. It is now only a matter of days. If you win the war and if I am alive after the war is over, I agree to live as your mistress. And if we win, will you live in my monkey cage and eat bananas as a monkey?'

'I love to eat bananas. Have you any now with you?'

'Here you had better take back your rifle! It is difficult to talk with such savages!'

Shanti threw away the rifle and walked away smiling.