CHAPTER - 17
When the four gypsies left they left Kalidas in great elation. Kalidas had been much impressed by the openness of their heart and their upright speech. Their sincerity of purpose had much uplifted him. That his deep- laid wish, his determination to redeem his master from asceticism to family life, would find fulfillment in a very short time had made his spirits soar. He had never felt so much exultation in his life. All the workers in the farm began to wonder how Kalidas, a man not given very much to joviality or witticism and always serene and self-possessed, was in so much gaiety and high spirits. He walked through the bunds and pathways of the farm with the pride of a man bound for an impossible achievement. The gypsies had guaranteed that his master, within a deadline of three months and not a day more, would be the husband of a pretty young woman. Kalidas had been tempted to ask the gypsies,
And they had said with practically no hesitation even for a single moment "Yes, Very Pretty indeed, an unrivaled Beauty, one who would exceed at least by two levels an Apsara, a wonderfully shapen buxom lass of superior extraction, even at this moment we see her in our vision. She is a woman big and bulging and at the same time slim and slender and swaying like a creeper, quite a bewitching woman, why, you are going to see her soon".
Their repeated assurances came into his mind and he felt like breaking into open shouts of joy. It gave him a springiness of motion and he walked with a high elasticity of steps which the workers saw and smiled although at times it looked a bit comic. Kalidas had no doubt that his master was so handsome a man that he deserved no less than a paragon, a premier brand among the female beauties. His interest had whetted more and more as the gypsies waxed in their eloquence.
"Would she be fair in complexion?".
"Why, indeed, fairer than the sun at daybreak, faire than the moon, fairer than the roses that grow on the American soil".
He remembered he had also asked, "Would she have good long mops of hair?".
"Oh, my God, she would have such abundant shocks of hair that she would need at least three maid servants to hold them when she did it".
After some thoughtful silence Kalidas had even asked if she would be very fertile and productive enough. This was the most important, and in fact the pivotal question, for he was most interested in the perpetuation of a prosperous progeny for Gopilal. They must live down the ages and proliferate. That was the dearest of all his wishes. Their blood must be carried down to several generations, they must grow and make a name in the world. This was one of the purposes for which he wanted his master Jitendra to cast off his saffron cloth and settle down with a woman in family life. He must propagate his race that should rise and become illustrious. "Would she have lots of children?" He had asked the gypsies with an avid insistence.
"Quite a houseful, my dear man, quite a houseful", They had repeated.
In the space of just a week they had become his closest friends. In fact they had become so chummy and had achieved so much intimacy that both sides believed it would last and never be broken. Kalidas had become almost one of their kin. And of their kind too, he would have been happy to wear their costume and speak their awful dialect. In his view they were prodigies in their own line, the profession of spellcasting, and soothsaying. He had actually seen their god coming on them and making them shake this way and that. He had seen it so vividly that he could not but have a tremulous piety for these estimable personages and as much respect for their discordances of speech through which came all their oracles.
He had already begun to draw up in his mind a genealogical table that he expected his young master to inaugurate. His head ached and his fancy flagged when he tried to get beyond the next two hundred years. In his triumphant mood, Kalidas spoke things in which the farm workers saw neither relevance or coherence. He became joyously but intolerably verbose over trifles. He laughed in heckles when there was practically nothing to laugh about. He permitted himself any amount of jest and eccentricity, for the success of one overmastering wish in his life had at last come well within reach. The patron-deity of the gypsies, Lollu Bhetta as they reverently called him, and the wide ranges of Komali Green Hills where he operated sitting astride on a rhinoceros, ever in booze and holding always a pot of liquor in his hand, armed with fantastic weapons and seized with an insatiable wanderlust, frequently crossed the mind of Kalidas. Exactly a week after the gypsies had left, a very pertinent question hugely arose in his mind.
What guarantee was there that these gypsies were really in favor with this dreadful god whom they tried to tame and befriend with their magical exercises and riddling incantations? How could he be sure that they were not in his bad books?" No one could say what species of god this was, whether he was a good one or a bad one. Gods are said to possess a headstrong will, and gods that wander through hills and dales were sure to have ten times more of it and it was sure to be a savage sort of will. And their Will, whether right or wrong, could not be tinkered with. And it was also said that these gods had a wild ferocity and easily took offense. They flared up even at a trifling peccadillo and harbored murderous vengeance. He began to even doubt whether these gypsies knew him at all. Suppose they knew, but were in disfavor with him, then all was at an end. His purpose was gone and lost for ever. The infuriated god might plant woes in his master's life. But Kalidas liked to believe that these gypsies were as chummy and intimate with this god as they were with him. And he did indeed believe. And this belief was reinforced when he reviewed in his mind the rites the gypsies performed with such evident devotion to their deity. His mind now stood strongly centered in this wishful thinking. In the meantime Kalidas wanted more of reassurance. He wondered why he should not try to get directly in touch with this monster of a god and make him his friend too.
There was still a quantity of charred wood and ashes on the spot where the gypsies performed their fire ceremonies. That place ought to have still left some life and mystical sensitivity. He would make a fire on the same spot at midnight everyday for a week, sit before it and chant the name of the deity Lollu Bhetta a hundred and eight times, the prescribed number for rituals of that kind, and address his prayer to him in passionate concentration. And one great trait with Kalidas was that once he had decided on a thing he would never flinch or have second thoughts about it. From that very midnight on he started wooing Lollu Bhetta and courting his favor. He did it for a week before a heavy fire, and began seeing satisfactory proofs of success. He didn't fail to remember that gods never came before men in physical shape. But one could sense their presence if one inclined his faculties with a subtle watchfulness and devotion. And whenever the fire suddenly took a violent leap he became sure at once that Lollu Bhetta had arrived, and increased the vibration-rate of his chanting by several octaves.
Then, one night, all of a sudden, he felt himself haunted, then he felt the whole place haunted, then the entire farm and then his own residence. It was a case of overall haunting. Which meant for him the omnipresence of Lollu Bhetta and his love for him. The surrounding trees, haunted to the core, made a lot of sound in the night. The winds also looked haunted and blew very hard. Lollu Bhetta was everywhere. Sitting before the fire Kalidas gyrated on all sides like one in the grip of a magnificent inspiration. He saw suddenly something burning inside the fire. He took a peep. He couldn't believe his eyes. There was the saffron-robe of his beloved master burning in the fire and more than half of it had already become ash. "Oh, almighty Lollu Bhetta ", He cried in joy. The gypsies had said that their deity would make a bonfire of his master's monkish garments. The gypsies were right, too very right in fact. He didn't know how to thank them. There was no more need for Kalidas to light the midnight fire. Lollu Bhetta was already his guest in the premises. To his bewitched eyes every illusion became a reality. He found his sole delight now in weaving delusions and thrusting them to the bottom of his consciousness.
Another week had passed. It was an early hour of the morning. A police constable met Kalidas at his residence. He served on Kalidas a notice from the office of the City Police Commissioner, Benares, requiring him to appear for an enquiry. The date and time were noted in the summons. It was on the seventh day from the date of service. Kalidas shook. He didn't know what it all meant. The constable had no knowledge.
Kalidas, in the meantime, passed through hell. Such torment and agony he had never experienced. As the tension mounted, he caught fever. His heart every now and then missed a beat. He had never been to a police station all his life. The summons threw him into hysterics, and he babbled to his wife things which she could never understand. She advised him to be calm and collected. Perhaps it meant nothing. They might want from him some information about something. The temporary peace his wife administered could not altogether palliate his misery. He suffered spasms that seemed to split him all over.
He presented himself at the police commissioner's office on the date notified. An Assistant Commissioner of police presided. Then something happened that made him feel the worst ever shock. Two police constables ushered into the room the four gypsies who were in fetters.
"Did you harbor these criminals in your residence, Kalidas?", The Assistant Commissioner asked. Kalidas was already a mass of nerves.
"Forgive me, sir. I did. But it was not intentional. I never knew they were criminals"
"They are criminals, Kalidas, worst criminals. They have committed every possible crime under Law. The police records are full of it. They had been escaping police net for the past one year. They belong to the Bombay underworld. They have committed murders, bank robberies, rapes and molestations of women, and what not. Usually they operate around Bombay. Now they have come to Benares looking for safety and shelter, and for imposing on gullible characters like you and making a bit of money. Did they take from you. Seven thousand rupees?"
"It is here, take it". It was in a leather wallet that lay on the officer's table. Most respectfully Kalidas received from the constable who took it and put into his hands. The Assistant Commissioner made a significant laugh and a jocose remark.
"I know the Swamiji, old man. He is your master, isn't it? I have the greatest respect for him. We all have. Before you go please sign the papers". Kalidas signed the papers that were on a table at the places a constable indicated.
Kalidas left with a sigh of relief but with a heavy heart. His only hope had dashed, and gone with the wind.