CHAPTER - 12
Akbar Khan announced some visitors. They had come in a car and waited at the gate. They wanted to see the Swamiji. Jitendra asked them to be shown in. Varadachari now entered with his wife and another, a girl. Jitendra received them very courteously and made them sit on the blankets. They exchanged civilities and spoke about what was happening in Thanjavur and Thiruvaiyaru. Then they spoke about what was being done by the Thiagaraja Araadhana Committee. Then they spoke about the activities of the Ashram and a number of things in which both were interested.
Now Varadachari introduced the girl to the Swamiji. Her name was Dhivya Bharathi. Some called her Dhivya and some called her Bharathi. Some called her Dhivya Bharathi. She was one of his relations. She was the adopted daughter of one Saptharishi who was a priest in a temple in a village known as Marthandam in Nellore district, Andhra Pradesh. She had lost both her parents in her tenth year. She had completed School Final. Originally Tamil was her mother tongue. Now she had become a Telugu girl and she spoke Telugu like one born to the language. She was now with him in his own house learning Advanced Music. She had a great talent for the Art. Currently she was running a small music school too in a building opposite his house. Her father had taught her dance also. She was not in the dancing line now, but she had not forgotten it. Occasionally he made her dance in some temple function with necessary instrumental and vocal accompaniments. That had fetched her a lot of praise from critical circles. Soon he would be arranging concerts for her. After she had achieved some standing in the field of music, he proposed to ask her to devote some time to dancing in which Art many people said she could make a mark and earn a fortune. But she had a partiality for music. Not that she loved dancing less, but she loved music more. God willing, she could shine in both.
Inside the room a lot of sunshine was pouring. It centered on and around the girl particularly. Jitendra saw that the sunlight threw her features in good relief. He called Akbar Khan who waited outside to close the window. Bharathi felt more comfortable now. In the sunlight she had sparkled. She was a very fair-complexioned, well-modeled beauty, artistically crafted by Nature, and carrying an opulence of its grace.
Varadachari disclosed the purpose of his visit. It was a courtesy call, no doubt. But he wanted to speak to him on something else too. Something very important. He was planning to relinquish the post of the chairmanship of the Thiagaraja Araadhana Committee. For one thing he had held that post for too long. For another, his health was not too good. The Committee was unanimously of the view that he, Swami Jitendra, could and should be the chairman. He would have a full time secretary who would reside in Thiruvaiyaru and attend to all the work. The Swamiji could monitor the work from his Ashram. He could go to Thiruvaiyaru when there were urgent meetings and important business to transact.
Jitendra laughed. He didn't like the idea at all. There was practically no use his being the Chairman or even a Member. It was an important work and the Committee was an important one. One should devote full time to it. Otherwise it would amount to an irreverence to the divine and immortal composer Thiagaraja. The Committee existed to perpetuate his memory and propagate his music. But Varadachari persisted. Jitendra got over it noncommittally by saying that he would consider. He needed at least a month to think it over. That was the only way to dodge it off for the present. But in fact he never did consider. When months later pressure was again mounted on him, he regretted he could not accept the offer. He declined it thankfully.
Varadachari suddenly remembered something.
"Swamiji, will you be kind enough to keep standing for a few moments. The girl wants to touch your feet and take your blessings."
Bharathi's whole being welled up with piety. Jitendra stood up smilingly. Bharathi had already stood up. She opened a small parcel made up of plantain leaf and paper, and took out of it large handfuls of roses and lotus flowers. She placed them most devoutly at the feet of the Swamiji which she touched with both her hands. She then very reverently placed these hands on her eyes. Then she laid herself full length at his feet, then came to kneeling position, and again touched his feet, and then got up and stood before him, with both hands joined as if in prayer, and respectfully bowing. Jitendra now recited some Vedic Mantras, and closing his eyes in a brief meditation, blessed her. Then he opened the packet of Prasadam from the temple he had kept near him, which consisted of sacred ash, Kumkum, sandal paste, some flowers and crystals of sugar candy. He put some of the Prasadam in her hands. She again touched his feet, put the Kumkum, the sacred ash, and the sandal paste on her forehead, and then withdrew to her seat. Bharathi felt that she was face to face with God and feeling the breath of Heaven. She had certain psychic ecstatic experiences. She kept them to herself. It was a treasure of an experience. Jitendra had already sat. Varadachari and his wife had got up already and taken the Prasadam. They took his blessings. Jitendra never allowed Varadhachari and his wife to touch his feet. For they were too elderly and aged enough to be more than his parents.
Varadachari wanted to know if he had permission to ask Bharathi to sing a song. Jitendra said he had no objection. He would be too glad. Then Bharathi sang. It was a Kirthana from Thiagaraja in Charukesi Raga which commenced with the line "Ada Modi Galadhe" She had a fine liquid voice and her rendering was superb. Jitendra had forgotten himself. The heavenly strains threw him into a transport. Suddenly he had an urge to accompany her on the violin and see if he could match her. The violin was brought. He played. Both of them began excelling each other. The whole Ashram throbbed and echoed with the divine sounds. The girl was wonderstruck with the talent of the Swamiji. Jitendra was wonderstruck with the talent of the girl. Then there was a discussion between the two about the works of various composers in Carnatic Music. In between Varadachari put in his mellowed comments. Jitendra blessed the girl's music He said that he would pray to God that her music should grow and keep for ever growing. Bharathi bowed and thanked him with a pious smile. They spoke in Telugu. Her Telugu was one of the sweetest.
Then they all took leave. Jitendra gave them a very courteous farewell.
When they came to Haridwar, Bharathi looked for a picture shop. She found one. They sold pictures of Swami Jitendra too. She bought a fair- sized one. She put a lot of roses and lotus petals on it. Then she packed it up in a big silk towel and put it in her box.
Jitendra was now engrossed in the study of an album of paintings by Rembrandt, the German Impressionist painter. His painting "Three Trees" provided a lot of scope for study. Its merits were discernible only to advanced painters and connoisseurs. It was a masterpiece. Only the trees were small and dwarfish. The composition was so simple, so subtly balanced. He had seen the original painting in the British Museum, London.
But the trees among which the village Sheegampur lay were great vertical ones rising to a height of about eighty feet each. And in number they were thirty five to forty. They stood scattered. The village itself was at the bottom of a hill. In fact, the village seemed to grow out of a green and brown forest spotted with rocks and a glut of tangled vegetation amid which the trees stood. Some trees had golden leaves, some red and pink, some brown and some deep green, some were losing leaves, some were shriveling. But by and large they had a loveliness to show in each season. And it was beautiful in all weathers. The village might be about twenty to thirty years old, but it already possessed the romance of a historical survival. He even wanted to think that it was antediluvian. He loved the village so much that he even told himself at times, though he did not mean it, that God created this village when he first created the earth. The village actually lay entangled among trees that stood so tall, so mighty and so upright. They stood quite close to one another that they looked as if engaged in a secret converse. Their rustles looked like the whispers of some deadly monsters. They seemed to conceal terrors and in cloudy weather they seemed to impart to the place a large wideflung poetic flavor. They were like trees planted by God in the garden of Eden. They had a purity and a power, an innocence and might, they could scrape the skies but still feel one with the poverty-ridden, woebegone and life -eroded village. A great part of the beauty of the trees the village seemed to appropriate to itself. The village had already begun to climb over the lower elevations and spread itself on the mountain rocks.
Jitendra went ahead with his painting on the easel. As usual it was a struggle, but a struggle he loved, loved and loved. He was working the physical shape of the village on the canvas. But eventually the village would stand spiritually abstracted. That was the idea.
Kalidas had written to Jitendra a letter stating that he had marketed the paddy, the wheat, grapes, banana and other produce, and that the moneys had been remitted in to the bank. There was a lot of profit, and there had been a record yield that year. It was mostly due to the efficiency of Kalidas who apart from the measures he had taken to augment the yield, had also intelligently exploited the unusual rains. He had been watching the market trends also and had made very good use of his intelligence in timing the sale of the produce. There was indeed a sizable upshot in the yield. Jitendra thought that the abundant profit they had made should be used for charity and to extend special help to the needy and the poor and to create employment for youth from the poorer classes. Therefore Jitendra thought up some lines on which the money should be utilized.
He swiftly got into touch with leading industrialists and some of the governmentarians. He made arrangements for investing a good part of his profit in certain small scale industries that would provide work to unemployed youths coming from the lower strata. The work-units were started in several places. Jitendra, in addition to using the profits they had made from the agricultural produce, used his other idle funds too he kept in the banks. Within about three months steps had been taken and finalized to provide employment for about five thousand educated, unemployed youths from the families who were down and out. Jitendra then thought of starting a few large orphanages and workhouses for the destitute who had no education but who had energy and skill. He also took measures to start a few elementary schools to give free education to the deserving children of the lower classes. All the charity works they were launching were to be spread out in Benares and the suburban parts and the villages around it. Within three months all the project-works had been put into execution and the works had commenced. And within the next few months they had all started functioning. And the intended beneficiaries had begun to receive the reliefs and benefits. All the poor folks, and the youths who were given employment, and the families that had seen all their hardships go, thanked the Swamiji from the bottom of their hearts. They prayed to God for his long life. Jitendra made visits to all the places and saw if all were happy and if there was anything more to be done for them, He also studied if there were any deficiencies in the implementation of the measures they had set in motion. In the meantime Jitendra got two litigations decreed in his favor. They were pending since his father's time. This also resulted in the accrual of yet more funds. These amounts too were channeled into charitable works. It had long been the wish of Kalidas that an extent of about fifty acres that adjoined the farm should be purchased and annexed to the farm. Jitendra thought that this wish of Kalidas should be fulfilled. It was accordingly carried out.
Kalidas was happy about all this. But what was the use? The owner of so much wealth, a well educated handsome youth, one brought up like a prince, one whom he had dangled on his arms as a child and whom he carried on his shoulder as a boy, and about whose future he had been building so many gorgeous dreams, and whom the best beauties of Benares were hoping to marry, had at last become a monk, and had been telling that he would be a monk all his life. It was a personal calamity for him. And against this misfortune what point was there in continuing his own life. Sooner it was put an end to the better. In fact his existence had no sense. The health of Kalidas had been failing of late. He had developed rheumatic pains, he was breathing hard, and often sat down in fatigue. He could get no proper sleep. The night hours were a torture. The entire night had nowadays become a night of one long lamentation. He would wait for a few more months. He would keep praying to God and to all the gods he knew and all the gods he had heard of. Some miracle might happen. And his Jitendra, his beloved Jitendra, his master Jitendra, might suddenly arrive at a change of mind, and cast off that saffron cloth. Every time he saw it, his heart thumped and his whole being wept. He was already in a mortal rage against that cloth. In some opportune moment for which he should wait, he would himself tear it to pieces. The cloth was to him a horror of horrors. It was a symbol of all the misfortunes and tragedies that had befallen Gopilal's family. It was an ill-fate of the worst kind. Who knew there might be a turn of fate for the better. There have been instances like that in many people's lives. Would not something happen in his dear Jitendra's life too. He hoped against hope. And the hope sprang eternally in his breast. Seeing Jitendra in monkish costume was equal to watching a funeral and suffering a be reavement.