Anandamath (Dawn over India)/Part 3/Chapter 4
One of those days Bhavan went to the town. There he left a broad street to enter a dark and narrow lane. High buildings stood on both sides of the lane. Only at noon could the sunlight penetrate the lane and that too for a short time. At all other hours darkness reigned supreme.
Bhavan entered a two-storied building by the lane and walked into the kitchen. A middle-aged woman was cooking there. She was fat and dark, dressed in pure white as a widow. She was stirring rice, talking aloud to herself and making grimaces.
'Good morning, grandma cook,' Bhavan said. She was taken aback to see Bhavan, and began fixing her dress. So fat was she that an ordinary sari was too short for the proper veiling of her face. In a mood of embarrassment she said: 'I see it is Bhavan. You are most welcome. But why do you use such polite language with me?'
'You are our grandma.'
'You are very affectionate so that you call me grandma. You are a holy man. Well, well may you live long — that is, you may call me grandma — at any rate I am much older than you are.'
Gouri was in fact about twenty-five years older than him, but the clever Bhavan said: 'What do you mean, grandma? I call you grandma because you are such a romantic young lady! Don't you remember that you were six years my junior the last time we made the calculation? I feel as if I must ask the permission of the leader of our order to get married to you. I came here today only to say this to you.'
'You should never say such things! I am a widow, you know.'
'Do you mean to imply that I can't marry you?'
'Well, you may do just as you please. You are a learned man, and I am a woman of no education. What do I understand about these things? But — then — when do you think we should get married?'
'I must meet the leader of our order first. But, by the way, how is Kalyani?' Bhavan strained every nerve to restrain his laughter.
Gouri looked hurt. She suspected the sincerity of Bhavan and at once came to the conclusion that he was only joking with her. So she said rather indifferently: 'She is all right, as usual.'
'Please go upstairs and tell her that I am here and want to see her.'
In one of the rooms upstairs a beautiful woman sat on a worn-out mat. But at the moment the woman's beauty was somewhat veiled by a deep shadow, like the dark and mysterious shadow of a cloud at noon on the breasts of a full river singing songs of joy. Waves were disturbing the breasts of the river, and on the shores branches of trees were bent low with the burden of full-blown blossoms waving to and fro in the wind. Rows of boats were disturbing the smoothness of the river. It was noon and yet the beauty of the river was enveloped in gloom. So it was with the face of this woman. Her hair was just as dark and as restlessly beautiful as before; her bow-shaped eyebrows were as delicately painted, as if with a brush, as before; her eyes were as picturesquely large, as brightly black, and as eloquently glistening as before. Her glances were not ravishing and sensuous but serenely gentle. Her lips were as intensely bright as before. In unruffled contentment her heaving breast responded rhythmically to her breath. Her arms were graceful and soft. But today that freshness, that radiance, that striking restlessness and that sensuousness were no more. In other words, the freshness of youth had gone. But beauty was there and grace too. She had now acquired ripeness of dignity and contentment. Before, she had looked like the most beautiful of all women on earth; now she looked like an accursed angel born on earth. Around her a few religious books were scattered and the walls of the room were covered with various religious pictures.
'Kalyani, are you well — physically?' Bhavan asked as he entered the room.
'Will you never cease to ask me that question?' Kalyani replied. 'My physical welfare is of no use to you or to me.'
'The man who plants a tree and waters it everyday is happy indeed to see the tree grow. I planted life in your dead body. Why should I not inquire how the tree is growing now?'
'Does the poison tree ever wither?'
'Is life a poison?'
'Otherwise why did I want to put an end to it by taking what was like nectar to me?'
'I have been thinking, for a long time, of asking you that question. But I could never summon courage enough to do so. Please tell me who poisoned your life?'
'No one poisoned my life,' Kalyani replied with the utmost serenity. 'Life itself is poisonous. My life is poisonous. Your life is poisonous. The lives of all human beings are poisonous!'
'Yes, Kalyani my life is poisonous indeed! From the day... By the way, have you finished the grammar?'
'I don't like it.'
'You were so anxious to study before! What makes you indifferent now?'
'When a great scholar like you can be such a sinner, it is better not to study at all. What is the news of my husband, my Lord?'
'Why do you ask that same question over and over again? He is dead, as far as you are concerned.'
'I am dead to him but not he to me.'
'You committed suicide so that he might be dead to you too. Why do you repeat the same thing so persistently, Kalyani?'
'Does death ever put an end to kinship? How is he, pray?'
'He is well.'
'Where is he? Is he at Padachina?'
'He is still there.'
'What is he doing now?'
'The same thing as before. He is building a fort and manufacturing arms and ammunition. Today thousands of the Children are well-armed with the arms he has manufactured. It is due to his endeavours that we no longer need guns, rifles and ammunition. Among the Children he stands paramount. He is the supreme source of our strength today.'
'All this would have been impossible if I were alive! The man who has a stone tied to his neck can never swim. The man who has chains around his feet can never run. Why, O holy man, why did you save my useless life?'
'A wife is called her husband's co-religionist. She helps him in the discharge of his duties.'
'In small affairs, yes. But in duties of major importance, she is a hindrance. I took poison only to put myself away from the path of his duties. And you, a sinner of a holy man, you villain, why, why did you give me back my life?'
'Well, Kalyani, let what I gave you stay as my very own. Will you give me the life I gave to you?'
'Do you know how my daughter, Sukumari, is?'
'I have not had any news of her for a long time. Jiban has not been home.'
'Can you not get me any news of my daughter? I have to give up my husband. But while alive, why should I give up my child? It would make me happy to find my daughter at this precarious time. But, why should you do so much for me?'
'I shall indeed, I shall fetch your child to you, dearest Kalyani. But then — what?'
'What do you mean by that?'
'How about the husband?'
'Of my own wish I have given him up.'
'If he attains the summit of his quest?'
'Then I will be his again. Does he know that I am alive?'
'Do you ever see him?'
'Does he ever speak of me?'
'No. What relationship can a husband have with a wife who is dead?'
'What do you mean by that?'
'You may marry again. You have been born anew.'
'Please bring my daughter to me.'
'Yes, I shall. You may marry again, I say.'
'Marry you; perhaps that's what you mean!'
'Will you marry again?'
'Suppose that is the case.'
'What will happen to your vows as a Child?'
'My vows may go to hell!'
'How about the life after death?'
'That also may go to hell!'
'And the sublime mission of your life?'
'That too may go to hell.'
'Why do you want to make all these big sacrifices?'
'For you, Kalyani and for you alone! Listen Kalyani, be he man or Mahatma, master or deva, mind is unconquerable. The duties of the Children are my life, but let me tell you for the first time that you are more precious than my life or my salvation. The day I brought you back to life I sacrificed my all at your feet. I never knew that such beauty could exist on this earth! If I had ever suspected that I was to look upon such a beautiful woman, I would never have joined the Order of the Children. All my sense of duty has been burnt to ashes by the fire of your beauty. Only my life has been left in me. And for these last four years, that life too has been burnt into charcoal. I cannot stand it any longer, Kalyani. My heart, mind and body are on fire. On fire, Kalyani, yes, on fire. Fire burns out and yet the embers keep sizzling, my dearest Kalyani. I am hungry for your love. I am thirsty for your divine embrace. For you, Kalyani, and for you alone, I have endured this excruciating torture for four long years. I can stand it no longer — I cannot, Kalyani, I cannot —.'
'You have told me yourself that the code of the Children demands death as an atonement for the Child who has been conquered by the craving of the senses. Is that not true?'
'Yes, that is true, absolutely, true!'
'Then the atonement for your sin is death?'
'The only atonement for me is death.'
'Will you die if I fulfil your desires?'
'Certainly, I will die.'
'And if I do not fulfil your desires?'
'Then, too, death is my atonement; for my mind has been overcome by lust. Death, and death alone can atone for my sin.'
'Then I refuse to fulfil your desires. When do you think you will die?'
'In the fight that is imminent.'
'Then you may go now. Will you send my daughter to me?'
'Yes, I shall. But Kalyani, will you remember me when I am dead?'
'Yes, I shall ever remember you, but as a sinner and as a fallen Child of the Mother.'
Bhavan walked out of the room and Kalyani sat down to read the scriptures.