CHAPTER - 13
Kalidas would sometimes walk in to the little colony of workers inside the farm. It was a routine thing he used to do. Now he came upon a household where a woman had given birth to a male child two days ago. The husband was there. He had married her only the year before. It was a Buddhist family.
But Kalidas was in no mood to stop, and make inquiry and to express his happiness. He was much depressed in mind. All that he was worried about was when was his master going to marry, bring forth a child and perpetuate a line of a progeny for Gopilal's family. He had already been seeing in his mind's eye the hell his parents should be passing through. He used to see phantoms of Jitendra's departed parents. They might be real or offshoots of his diseased fancy, but there they were. He saw them one night, when he was neither waking nor sleeping. When he had lost half his consciousness that sleep had devoured and when there was half his consciousness he had been struggling to keep alive, then he saw those great souls. They had cadaverous faces, skeletal bodies, tormented breathing, anguished gasps, failing legs and lunatically bulging eyes, this was how he saw them. And since that moment he had been weeping and losing his senses. It was to get some relief from these horrible scenes that came before him often and often that he had to walk aimlessly and going about the farm round and round. A week before he had another scene brought up before his mind's eye. Having lost their peace, they looked like scarecrows. Unrelieved mourning was writ large on their faces. They looked like a pair of shipwrecked souls wandering in the accursed fastnesses of some nameless hell, clutching at everything for support and yearning for a moment's peace. If only Jitendra saw them as he saw! Kalidas, however, stopped before the house where the auspicious event had taken place. Certain elementary courtesies one could never forget.
The old man of the house, the child's paternal grandfather, a retired worker who had been on the farm for more than ten years, received Kalidas with due marks of respect. The neighboring householders, on seeing their manager, hurried and brought a rope-cot which they placed in front of the hut on which they begged him to sit. The old man sat in front of him on comfortable jutting rock. The neighbors collected around. A conversation ensued between the old man and Kalidas. The old man, taking care not to parade his joy and elation at the happy event at home, fell into a discursive chat as Kalidas led him on. The old man said his son was aged thirty five. Kalidas expressed surprise for he did not look more than twenty three or twenty four. The son who stood beside him confirmed that what his father said was true.
It came off during the chat that the old man and his wife had been urging their son from his twentieth year to marry. But he refused. He would not yield to any amount of cajoling and entreaties on their part. He said he had a horror of marriage, and would stay unmarried all his life. He would not get caught in the meshes of family life and ruin his peace. The doctors to whom they presented him pronounced him sexually all right. Every one standing around laughed at him and made jest. The old man was in a mood for uninhibited prolixity. He continued. The son stubbornly fought his parents and stood unshakable in his resolve. He used to cite the case of one of his ancestors in defense who had been a bachelor all his life. The said ancestor had a distrust of women who, he thought, invariably enslaved men and gave them hell. He was a man that had read much, thought much and he had amassed plenty of money and had wherewithal enough to marry and run a family in comfort and happiness. The son's mind was replete with stories about this ancestor's greatness. The old man and his wife finally gave up the idea. They no longer wanted to raise with his son this question of marriage because that often resulted in unpleasant exchanges.
Then something struck the old man one day. It was just an inspiration. It was too sudden and seemed to come out of some unthinkable nowhere. He thought he should sit in prayer to Lord Buddha continuously for a fortnight and weep himself out. He did it with pious devotion. Then, one day during prayer, he suddenly saw with his mind a great stone on a hilltop splintering to pieces. The old man stood up in unspeakable joy. Buddha had answered his prayer. The stone stood for the obstinacy of his son. The hilltop showed the peak to which his obstinacy had gone, the extremity of his stubbornness. It was going to break. He was going to marry. That was what Buddha said. . The old man had not communicated this vision to any one, not even to his wife. At an unexpected moment his son, quite voluntarily, said he would agree to their request. It was fifteen months now that he got wedded. It was Buddha's blessing and nothing else. They were going to Saranath after a month to offer a thanksgiving worship to Lord Buddha. He concluded by saying that miracles did at times happen in life. The change of mind on the part of the son was a classic instance. It was simple unaccountable.
The surrounding men and women were moved. Kalidas was moved. He smiled. Here was something he could think about and resort to. Then there was a man in the crowd who was a strong believer in miracles and in the omnipotence of the Buddha. He said he was firmly of the view that the Buddha's spiritual body was still in the farm though the original worshipers had left. Buddha seemed to love this farm and its present owner. They had seen signs of it. The land was once owned by a Buddhist as every one knew. And the majority of the workers then were Buddhist. He repeated the oft-repeated legend that the owner had put up a small Buddhist temple for his own worship and for the worship of his workers. He certainly would have done it, for there was once on this land quite a population of Buddhists. They would have certainly asked for a temple of the Buddha. Such a surmise would easily stand to reason. When the land changed hands the Buddha temple would have fallen into neglect and decay, and would have eventually broken and fallen, and the debris had either been washed away by rain or it would have been overlaid with deposits of earth and gone underground. They could dig the land and try their luck. If the owner was fortunate enough and had the grace of the Buddha, the debris of the temple would surely be sighted. And they could put up the temple again. For it could never be right to see a temple disappear. They should go in search of some solid and dependable traces and dig up every possible site. If they kept praying to Lord Buddha the right place where they should dig for the debris would strike their mind.
Kalidas was seized with the idea at once. Now Buddha was his only hope and only resort. He should henceforth stubbornly hold on to the Buddha and should never leave him until his prayer was granted. Buddha Himself should think up and choose a bride for his master, and he should himself solemnize the wedding. Nothing was impossible to him. He was a God of infinite compassion, and he would never reject any prayer for mercy.
Next day Kalidas called the man who gave the suggestion for digging up the land. This was for further consultations. He, in his turn came with half a dozen elders who were all Buddhist, and who could give ideas. The five foremen who worked under Kalidas also joined. They decided to split themselves in to five groups that would go about in different directions and keep exploring and looking for signs of temple-debris. For a fortnight they vigorously continued this exercise. Nothing happened. Then one of the men in the searching teams came upon a piece of marble that was chipped, cracked and roughed away, about two feet long and about nine inches wide. He brought it to Kalidas. All the men sat and discussed. The marble piece could not be explained by any reasoning other than that it should belong to the vanished Buddha temple. Then they decided to dig up the place. They dug up to about twenty feet. Nothing happened. Then they went three feet deeper. Then broken stone pillars and marble slabs began showing.
All men and women who had assembled were excited. Enthusiasm rose. Joyous suspense and expectation mounted. Then came a small marble dome broken into six or seven pieces. By now more workmen and their families had collected. Excitement became louder and all felt intense. The diggers kept digging. Then they brought up a heavy block of earth looking like laterite. When they began scraping the earth, some metal became visible. Then they went on with more and more of hard scraping. Then more metal became visible and in the next few minutes, a beautiful Buddha image in metal began gleaming. A Buddha seated on a lotus flower and smiling. There was uproarious joy, shouting and jumping of the workers and children. They all kissed the Buddha, fell at his feet and took the earth out of the image and smeared it on their forehead. And there were wild scenes and dancing spree. A jubilation they had never before witnessed. Kalidas became uncontrollably emotional and in the intensity of excitement he tumbled. He was almost on the point of swooning when water was sprinkled on his face to revive him and keep him steady. They decided to take the glad news at once to Swami Jitendra. Kalidas had to drink all the water in a large can to steady himself.
Kalidas arrived at the Ashram with a few elders who took leading part in the operation. The news made Jitendra immensely happy. He had had always a suspicion that somewhere in the farm some solid grace of the Buddha resided. He went into meditation for some time in his Puja room. Jitendra then left for the farm with Kalidas and other men. He arranged for a Buddha temple to be built on the site all in marble. It was completed in about a month. It was a fair-sized temple built in the traditional style of Buddhist temple architecture. Jitendra sent a letter to a Buddhist monk who was in Saranath asking him to please come over and consecrate the temple to the Buddha and conduct the ceremonies. The Buddhist monk was accompanied by two other monks who gladly took part, conducted the ceremonies, and offered the first worship. There were many great and small bells fixed in and out of the temple. The function was over and the Buddhist monks blessed everyone and left. The Buddhist monks had never witnessed such a wild exhibition of joy.
There was a feast for all the workers and their families. There was poor feeding. Many people from the Gambeera village came and ate. They also offered worship. One of the Buddhist elders on the farm was appointed to officiate as priest. A salary was to be given to him and he would work full time. Daily Pujas were conducted. There were always some persons sitting before the Buddha and meditating or offering Puja irrespective of the hour. There were metal lamps and electric lights burning all the time. It was as if the farm was starting on a new phase in its existence. As part of the temple there was a meditation hall in front of the Buddha. Jitendra had been staying in the farm for two weeks after the consecration. He sat in meditation at the temple at five in the morning and at nine in the evening. Kalidas offered prolonged prayers three times a day.
Kalidas wore no longer a melancholy face. His old vivacity and cheer had returned. In fact he was in great spirits as he thought over the series of unexpected events that had taken place just in the space of little more than a fortnight. Each incident was just an accident. He didn't know where they lay hidden all these days. Were they gestating in the womb of Time? Behind these apparent accidents, he could not but perceive the purposive course of a kindly providence.
He offered daily the same prayer to Lord Buddha with growing intensity and earnestness, a genuine purity of heart and single-minded devotion, the prayer that his master should give up his asceticism and turn to married life. Day by day he felt an inner assurance that Lord Buddha had taken over from him the whole responsibility. He was now at peace with himself and the world. Everything seemed to smile on him and he smiled back. He would lie on his bed in the night and wouldn't sleep till late. He would keep visualizing all possible felicitous scenes of the wedded life his master was going to enter into. He would then tell himself that it was not his business to be indulging in all these pleasing and stimulating visions when Lord Buddha had stepped into the scene and taken over all responsibility. Buddha would work out the right kind of destiny for his master. He didn't know what plans Lord Buddha had, nor would it be right for him to speculate on them. It might amount to unbelief and blasphemy. All the same he could not keep from wondering what projects He had. If He had the will he could alter one's fate in no time. He could do it in just the winking of an eye. All that he wanted of the Buddha was just one thing, He should remember that he was aging fast and that he could not wait much longer. He might die any moment.
Jitendra would stay on the farm yet for another ten days. Apart from going to the Buddha temple and sitting there for meditation in the evening and the morning, he would often keep looking at the temple every now and then through the window from his roomy ancestral manor house. The temple was just close to it within about sixty yards. The sun rays of the morning and moonbeams of the night fell on the face and the body of the Buddha. Jitendra, watching it through the window, would keep thinking what a wonder had happened, and how suddenly and smilingly Buddha had erupted into his life. As the bells, the big and the small, clanged in the temple, he would close his eyes and love to think that they chimed from Heaven.
It was a night of abysmal peace. The sky was loaded with stars that shone like diamonds. Three or four farm lights, distant and widely separate, were burning. Jitendra felt restless and impatient and he didn't know why. Something was trying to wake up in him but he didn't know what. The grandfather clock on the hoary wall of the vestibule struck the hour of eleven. The chimes sluggishly echoed, and the sound seemed to freeze inside the building. Everything stood still and unmoving. Slowly all sense of Time vanished. He had somewhat a tremulous feeling that he was face to face with trackless centuries, a massive phenomenon that stood utterly inert and immobile. It stood invisible, yet visible to a fringe of his consciousness that seemed to be sinking into eternity. The centuries coalesced into massive nothings and kept dissolving away, away and away into yet more nothingness. Was Time really a myth ? Time at the moment had no sense for him, it only baffled him. Everything was vapid and there was a vacuity in all things. As he thought more and more he saw through these vacuities and voids the presence of an immensity, awesome and imponderable, the feathery touch of the Great Beatitude.
He felt himself a Being and Non-being, each separate and then they seemed to blend, each in its separateness and in its association with the other, lacking sense and that lack of sense was the only sense of all existence both mortal and immortal. What was everything and whither were they all proceeding? The great constellations of the sky huddled together and flaring brilliantly seemed to stand and watch the strange processes of thinking in him. Amid all this thinking which in fact was equivalent to Un-thinking, he had some unrecognizable urgings of the soul. He did not know what they were, but only they wouldn't cease.
To recover himself from the seething, teeming turbulence of thought, Jitendra asked himself why he should not play for a while on the violin. He took up the violin and started to play on it one of his favorite Ragas, Reethigowla. He played and forgot himself in the sweetly fermenting melodies. Suddenly he discovered that he was not playing Reethigowla but Charukesi, the Raga which Bharathi, the divine singer, sang the other day in his Ashram which he followed on the violin. It was as if great chunks of that Raga were stored up in the strings of the instrument, waiting to be awakened and played out again. As he attempted again to proceed with Reethigowla, the bow stood still on the strings and would not move. A petrifying sensation came upon him. He now returned to Charukesi, but there too he failed. For he felt that the harmonies he attempted turned into discordances. He felt he could not play the Raga except in accompaniment to the cherubic nectarine voice of that Muse of a girl. This sensation of his having become absolutely null, and gone void of all music, was soon broken as the melting voice of the girl suddenly poured as if from across mysterious spaces and dissolving centuries. It kept pouring as long as he wanted to. The violin had turned into an inexhaustible source of super-terrestrial rhythms. Even after he had stretched himself on bed he felt in the company of that disembodied honeylike voice. It seemed to linger.