CHAPTER - 16

Jitendra opened the postal envelope and took out a letter that had a printed inscription on one side. He read it. The letter was from Varadachari, the president of Sri Thiyagaraja Araadhana Festival Committee, Thiruvaiyaru. He had written to say that the Thiagaraja Music Festival was due in about two months, and that the Swamiji should make it convenient to attend the festival. The Committee eagerly expected him. They expected him to stay for the entire duration of the festival, and fully involve himself in it. He should give his encouragement and blessings to the upcoming artists. They would reserve for his exclusive use a big-sized bungalow where he could do his prayers and meditation without any disturbance. He could meet Vedantins and religious scholars and talk to them. There were many such who were expected to attend the festival, for they were lovers of music as well. The great Hindu scriptures, as he knew, or at any rate a good many of them, and particularly the Vedas were all made up of most pleasing and awe-inspiring music. The invocative prayers and the incantations were all music that had an other-worldly quality. The Swamiji could discuss with these Pandits the preeminent place of Music in Hindu religion. As the Swamiji had once expressed to him a deep desire to discuss Sama Gana with some one who was well-versed in it and conversant with its mystic aspects, he had arranged to bring over to the festival a few of them. He was sure to have a lot of enlivening moments and a feel of the place Thiruvaiyaru where music flourished as if by a special will of the Muses. The members of the Committee also wished that he should give a recital of some Thiagaraja Kirthana that he liked on the violin. Varadachari repeated his request, and begged him to attend.

Jitendra considered. The festival that came once a year was one of the greatest music festivals in the country. In fact it was a unique one. As far as he knew the like of it on such a big scale was conducted nowhere else in the country. He used to attend it with one or two of his music- loving uncles when he was a student in the university. The uncles had a versatile knowledge of the Carnatic music by which was meant the south Indian classical music. After he had taken to Sanyasa he had not attended it because of lack of time, but in a sense he was associated with it. His father used to regularly attend, and he had donated funds. He was even in one of their important sub-committees. Jitendra had continued the donations, and had even made liberal financial help to a few talented artists who were in adversity. But when he went, he didn't usually stay for more than a day or two. But the festival went on for more than a week. It was a festival of worship through vocal and instrumental rhythms. It was a festival of worship of the immortal saint-musician and composer. He had a Godly status and was a Godman. And consequently was called by his devotees as Thiagabrahmam. It was said that he saw his patron-deity Lord Rama through his Krithis and ultimately merged with Him through the heavenly melody of his music. He had composed each one of his Krithis in an exalted state of divine transport. Whoever sang them with deep Bhakthi in their heart were sure to sense the presence of Lord Rama in the melting quality of those rhythms. It went deep and had a transforming effect. It was also said that if one had personal problems and worries in one's life, singing of these Krithis in a prayerful mood would bring solutions, for the Krithis, it was said. Had supernatural properties.

Musicians from all over India, particularly South India, used to attend the festival in large numbers. Each one of them was given a chance lasting for about a hour or so to render vocally or instrumentally some Krithi of the famous composer. Usually it provided opportunities for young artists to exhibit their talent, and get themselves known to the music lovers. If any of them showed real talent and deserved encouragement, he or she would receive help from the Music-Sabhas that would provide them with chances for public concerts which sometimes meant good money. During the festival the rural-town of Thiruvaiyaru would look like one of the gayest of places. Men and women and children wore shining new clothes. The very air would look impregnated with music, and one could abundantly feel it as one felt a perfume. The all-diffusive presence of Saraswati, the Goddess of Art and Learning, made the place look sanctified from end to end.

The reply to Varadachari was posted that very day. He agreed to participate. It should have pleased Varadachari very much. For he always made a capital use of the Swamiji to make some money for the committee. He could also expect to be commissioned to write some book that would be published under the auspices of the Ashram which meant some good money for him. His mind, Jitendra perhaps didn't know, was as much centered in money as it was in music. But there was no doubt that he was a religious scholar as well, and had read enough of religion that he could write with some competence on religious subjects. He had already written two books for the Ashram, and Jitendra had appreciated them. They had been well reviewed in the press.

As a postscript to the letter Jitendra had added :

"Please convey my greetings and good wishes to your pupil Ms. Dhivya Bharathi. Her musical talent is an asset to all of us. Indeed to the world of music. In the firmament of Art she is sure to splash forth like a mighty star. The vocal rhythms she had left with the Ashram still live in our premises and in my mind. I expect the divine artist to favour me with more of her music when I am at Tiruvaiyaru."

Varadachari showed this to Bharathi. It was like honey to her from Swarga. It felt so inebriating and stayed alive in her consciousness ever thereafter. She repeated it night and day and felt each time a bracing effect and a rare thrill. Henceforward she seemed to be conscious of nothing else.

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Jitendra had no idea when he would finish painting the village of Sheegampur. The Sheegampur village which he wanted to paint existed only in his mind as an artistic possibility. But it didn't exist on ground. This artistic possibility slept in his subconscious, and though it could be felt by Jitendra, the artist, he could not easily wake it up on the canvas. It wouldn't shape or assume dimensions. But it still, even as a mere idea, continued to please him. It had a high content. It was a mystic idea, and had a great conceptual existence. It was something like an assemblage of intangible but extremely soul-stirring visions. He was sure that it was there, but he couldn't easily put it through his Art. He kept struggling with it everyday. It had become an obsession, but a most exciting one. It was a shapeless fantasy on which his imagination delighted to dwell. It was like some unrealized thing being more enjoyable than the realized one. All the same Jitendra made a sincere war on the canvas everyday. He had never found his colors and the canvas more stubbornly unresponsive. The work tended to become more and more demanding. The eerie landscape of the village was devilishly elusive. But Jitendra saw in it a lovely scrap of God's beauty and told himself that God's beauty like God himself could never be easily captured. It could be brought to exist on the canvas only by very subtle suggestions. But those suggestions seemed to be so remote that they were out of his reach altogether. But a thing doesn't keep going back always. It also is subject to certain fundamental laws. It was sure to come forward and show itself. That would surely happen, and Jitendra seemed to be counting on that. The universe itself, before its birth, should have existed only as an idea. And that idea itself, before it was born, should have existed only as a diffuse mass of loosely blended nothings. But soon shapes form ed on the canvas but as if in stubborn reluctance to reveal their beauty.

When he sat before the canvas with his colors and the brush, he forgot himself. It was as if some bodiless being, hardly recognizable even to himself, was at work on the canvas. The Ashram went out of his eye. Actually it dissolved into some impalpable nothingness. When he stopped and put away the brush, it took him some time to discover himself and recognize his surroundings. The Ashram would slowly return as if from some astronomical distance in a hazy outline before it solidified into a visual reality. It had become a fever with him. But a fever that enriched him and supplied him with ever new visions. The landscape of the village which meant the village itself possessed nothing to others, but to an artist like Jitendra who possessed an eye of his own it possessed an inexhaustible fecundity. It seemed to be endlessly productive of something that seemed to hold him and would not leave him, an overwhelming something that should certainly possess some relationship to his soul. It was this something that he was constantly in search of both in his artistic mind and in the uncooperative canvas. Some bright idea would flash, he would at once make a stroke with his brush and put some colors, the idea would keep eddying and whirling in his mind, but wouldn't stay or stay long enough for him to clutch at and make it real and factual. He would sometimes think that there was in fact a beauty that he could grasp, but it would not lend itself to words or colors. It was rather too great that it could never be so easily translated through his Art. But still he had to do it. He would not give up the work. Artists had always to struggle with ideas and till they matured into something hard and crystalline, the brush and the canvas must wait. The artist must pass through his delirious fevers, his mind tremulously caught between the born and the unborn, the elusive and the illusive.

Jitendra's disciples had always felt that the Sheegampur village was the ugliest and a most hateful one. It puzzled them how their Guru was trying to make a beauty of it. Perhaps artists were alchemists or performers of miracles. The disciples thought it all a wasteful labor. They once asked him why he painted this half-dead eyesore of a village. Then Jitendra answered them from a standpoint of high artistic perception which they could hardly catch or could only half understand. It was in spiritual terms.

"God is an Abstraction. Vedanta calls it Brahman. This Abstraction is beyond the mind of Man. The limited mind of Man, however, could not keep from attempting, and it attempts always to know what it is and to realize what little of it could. Our Rishis and Seers conceived this Brahman, among other things, as an Infinite Rhythm. They conceived it as an eternally unvarying, but still an eternally varying, cosmic and super-cosmic rhythm. They also conceived it as a host of rhythms working in various combinations, and each combination an ecstasy, a beauty, an ecstatic beauty. The universes are all made up of these rhythms. It is these rhythms that constitute Beauty. All our Vedas and Upanishads try to capture this Beauty and realize it, in whatever measure it is possible, in the Mind and Soul of Man and in his temporal and spiritual life. It is these rhythms, this Beauty, that reveals itself in Music, Sculpture, Dance, Painting and suchlike Arts. It also reveals itself in Nature. Now coming to Sheegampur village, I have sensed in it this Beauty, rather mentally seen it. I have seen God's exuberance in this apparently sleeping village. In the ultimate sense, the realization of God, that is Brahman, is the realization of Beauty. Wherever there is Rhythm there is Beauty. And wherever there is Beauty there is Rhythm. Whoever creates Beauty performs a Godlike function. Whoever appreciates Beauty sets his soul toward God. He charges his being with God-power. It is in this Rhythm the happiness of Man is centered. It is an Aradhana, a worship of the ultimate.

"Do you now know why I paint the picture of this village. To you it is just fifty or sixty huts huddled together, a prosaic scene that is fatiguing to the eye. The village certainly has no physical beauty. It is an ugly village no doubt. But I see in it a spiritual beauty, a poetic beauty. To me the village is tremendously alive, because I see it not with your eyes, not even with mine, but with another eye that is lodged in an artist just as a seeing power. It could see what no one else could see. And again I see in it the mystique of the Himalayas, the encompassing Himalayas, the Himalayas that is waking in it, that is waking in me. The village is to me as big as the Himalayas, and as ravishing and as beautiful and as imposing. My inner vision presents it to me always like that. A thing is not what it looks, it is not even what it is, It is sometimes infinitely more, and means infinitely more. Himalayas is a revelation of God's rhythms. So too the Ganges. God resides in Beauty and is Himself the Beauty. Read the chapter on Vibhuthi Yoga in Bhagavad Gita, you will know it. Read it any number of times, you will get each time a new revelation of this truth. You must concentrate on the intangible basics that lie beneath the tangible forms. There you see nothing but beauty and rhythm."

One of the disciples by name Vikram asked frankly an embarrassing question. He asked it in a spirit of academic debate, an exercise in dialectics.

"I have a doubt, Swamiji, could I speak it out?"

"Yes, Vikram, by all means".

"Is the beauty of a female constituted of God's rhythms? If yes, can one experience God through the possession of a female body?"

"That is true, Vikram. It all depends what means you want to choose to achieve God. The means one chooses are different from what another chooses. There is what is called Ananda Marga. Woman is an important element in their secret religious rites. They conceive God as Ananda, Ecstasy. They want to realize Him through that means. That is called Vama Marga, the Left-Hand path. There are other Margas like Vaidhika Marga. There are any number of Paths. It is for each to decide what he would choose."

The discussion ended there.

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Lynda Wallace spoke to Jitendra on the phone. It was about the land deal they had discussed about a month ago.

There was an extent of about ten acres adjoining the Ashram site. The owner was one Samuel David who was a dealer in textile goods and also an export trader. He was well known to Lynda Wallace. He frequently traveled abroad. Lynda had fixed up an appointment with him for 23, September. Could he fly to Calcutta on that day and arrive in time for negotiating the deal at Hotel Oberoi where she would be staying? The owner had been invited to dine with her on the same day. She could effect an introduction between the two. They could get ahead with the talks and finish the deal in about two hours. She had almost finalized it and what remained was to conclude it and sign formally the agreement. Jitendra agreed. He would stay in the Ramakrishna Mission Guest House, and would drive to the hotel at the time which she had to suggest. She suggested 1-30 P.M., and he agreed. On 22, September Swami Jitendra had to be present at Amritsar to do the formal opening of a building which was to house a multinational industrial center. They had been putting off the ceremony because Jitendra could not make it for want of time There was no flight for him from Amritsar to Calcutta on 23 in the morning. He could take only the afternoon flight. But that would upset the arrangement Lynda had already fixed up. He thought therefore he would fly to Calcutta on the 22nd evening itself. There was a flight at 14-40 hours. He could take it. He booked a call to the organizers of the function at Amritsar and asked if they could finish the function before noon so that he could take his lunch and drive to the airport well on time. They readily agreed. And so all was comfortably settled. Jitendra took the 14-40 flight from Amritsar to Calcutta.

Whenever he traveled by flight, he never failed to visit the airport book-stall. When he landed at the Calcutta airport he automatically did the same. He looked for the latest bestsellers on Art. Suddenly his eyes lighted on a journal that bore the title "Concord". Instantly his memory clicked, and he remembered something that he had long been trying to recollect but could not. Now he was face to face with it. The figure of Dhivya Bharathi clarified out of the wrapper page of a back issue of the same journal. The particular issue might date back to at least nine months. He had bought that issue at this same book-stall. That he could very well remember. It was a high class luxurious journal printed in fine art paper. It dealt with painting, sculpture, dance, operas. And ballet and suchlike things. It contained scholarly articles and critical reviews of recent performances and productions of noted artists. That particular issue contained on its wrapper a color transparency of a young female artist. On an inside page, there was a lengthy write-up about her talent in music which, it said, was of an admirably high order. The sub-editor of the journal who happened to be present at the concert at a marriage reception had written the review. The article spoke in choice superlatives about the way she rendered some of the Krithis of Swami Thiagaraja, Swathi Thirunaal, and Dikshitar. Jitendra remembered that the article said that the young artist was sure to blossom out in time into a virtuoso and bring credit to the world of Art. A woman of rich liquid voice and peerless resources in creative rendering she was sure to rise to stellar heights in a very short time. All this Jitendra could remember. Only he did not remember the name of the artist. As far as he could think back, he was almost sure that the artist's face looked very much like that of Dhivya Bharathi. He didn't know where he left that journal. If it was not at the Ashram, it might be at his Benares home unless he had left it somewhere during his tours. Usually he never kept magazines with him. He wondered if he could trace it at all. But the article was so well written that some of the luminous paragraphs he kept repeating for days. He had even wanted to meet the artist, complement her, encourage her, and discuss music with her. He even remembered that the artistís face was a wonderfully inspiring one. It had a close resemblance to that of the "Venus Anadyomene" of the French painter Ingress. He could also recall that the artist far exceeded in beauty this much renowned and widely celebrated Venus.

The land deal was concluded the next day. Jitendra dined with Lynda Wallace and Samuel David at the hotel. Then he bade adieu to both of them and took his departure. He was now back at the Ashram. Next day he made a search for the back issue of the magazine. He couldn't find it. Then he thought that sometimes the faces might look alike but the persons would be different. He was no longer interested in the magazine. All these days he had been conscious only of Bharathiís music. Now he suddenly became aware of her beauty too. It had escaped him till now. Suddenly her whole figure came before his minds eye in successive clarifications and imprinting itself deeper into his artistically blooming consciousness. Her body was like another version of her music. Both were compositions of Godís rhythms. Suddenly his reason stilled away. He was in the grip of a gigantic impulse. It struck him that he was the inheritor of these majestic and marvelous rhythms by some inscrutable ordinance of an unknown but kindly fate. An artist owned all the beauty in the world. Whatever beauty belonged to the universe belonged to him as well.

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Jitendra was to proceed next day to Benares, and from there he would go by car to Shyam Nagar where he would preside over the opening ceremony of the Cultural Academy. The sponsors had met him at Benares during his last visit, and had got the date from him. He had vehemently expressed himself to the sponsors against what he saw in the press report. He had strictly warned them against advertising him as a Godman or an avatar of Lord Krishna. He was really worried about such things being said of him again and again. It had become a regular irritant and very badly handicapped him in his missionary work. It came in the way of his being a free man and moving with the poor and the less fortunate on equal terms and doing them good.

The function at Shyam Nagar had been got up on a big scale particularly in view of his coming to so small a town. They thought of capitalizing on his visit and making the place and the institution known throughout the state. The media people were sure to flash it up and secure enough publicity for the institution. The name of Swami Jitendra would do. All the rest would automatically follow. It would help the growth of the institution. It would attract the attention of the ministry and the higher bureaucracy. Already the Cultural Academy, by reason of its being associated with Gopilal's family and now with that of their illustrious son, was getting known to very important circles. It had also begun to spread its tentacles in the adjacent towns. In three or four years it was likely register a growth out of all proportion.