CHAPTER - 22
Bharathi had carefully omitted to tell Jitendra what sort of inspection exactly was that which the brothel keepers made of her in the house of Savithiri Ammal. It was a hateful experience. It made her ill to think of it even at this distance of time. At moments she even trembled as she thought back of those horrors. The man and woman who had come to inspect her were very stylish-looking and modern. Bharathi could see that behind their genteel looks there was a demoniac aspect. They spoke English in an artificially modulated accent. She was presented for their inspection by Savithiri Ammal and her husband. She was taken into a large well ventilated room which was instantly closed. She was made to wear gossamer- thin see-through clothes which they said were currently in vogue among the well-to-do fashionable circles in Bombay and other metropolitan cities. She became very circumspect from the beginning, but they said they were going to enlist her for a beauty contest. But even then she objected to that kind of gauzy clothes, and tried her best to wriggle out of them. But the woman threatened to report her to the police as a trollop in hiding. She gagged her mouth with a cloth, and the man held her fast from moving. She begged, refused, wept, struggled and strained to get out. They behaved like butchers and she felt like an animal that was being got ready for a slaughter-house. She could do nothing, for she had been effectively immobilized. They had already come to know that she knew English. So they spoke what they wanted to speak in a circumlocutory fashion using words not in common use so that she could not easily make out what they meant. The man was then sent out. The woman put her hand inside the clothes and made with her hands a study of her entire anatomy. It was a complete inspection of her corporeal structure. The man was then called in. Bharathi had already been permitted t o get back into her regular clothes. The woman told the man that everything was much above normal, and that they had come upon a bonanza. Everything was more than they could wish for. Commercially speaking the assets she concealed behind her clothes were of the premier grade. They concluded the inspection with the words, "Tantalizing", "Fantastic" And "Exceptional" And "Virginal Treasures Intact". Then they said to her that she was going to knock off the first prize in the International Beauty Contest. The last three words they repeated four times. But this disgusting procedure left her dizzy, sick, desperate, and in an impotent rage. For months she felt her peace ravaged. It had done her a lot of emotional damage. At moments she felt herself in morbid rebellion against the nausea the experience had produced. It was like a lump of nasty mud she carried on her person. It was only after a very long time, she was able to cast it off and become normal again.
Jitendra was full of compassion. That whole night he slept a very disturbed sleep. Each of her woes came to him in the night like pictures in a painting. And each assumed a melodramatic poetic content. That gave him the true depth and poignancy of the various situations of her life. He felt her woes in his own bones. They pierced into his inner self, subself overself and into all the levels of his being. She was the victim of a ruthless and potent fate like some Greek heroines in the classical tragedies. But all the same she was a Jewel of a woman. That perhaps was the reason why gods, in their envy and wrath, were coronating her everyday with a crown of thorns.
Bharathi's face kept haunting him through the following day too. Her face wet with tears had more of beauty, of grace, of sensitivity and more of life. A sublime energy seemed to gather up and bubble on it. There had been moments when Jitendra had perambulated her with his painter's eye and had tried to place her in his own spiritually energized consciousness. He did this because he was becoming aware that since he came to Thiruvaiyaru she had begun to affect him like some divinely ordained force. She was like some unidentifiable power that was getting more and more solid in his life, and become an established fact. Whenever she came into his presence, it was like the coming of something that was manna to his spirit. She was a woman that had a soul embodied and a body ensouled. She was neither Dhivya nor Bharathi, nor Dhivya Bharathi, but something, simply something, that seemed to have no particular identity. And if she had one, the gods alone knew it. In the meantime the more he contemplated her there was more of spiritual sustenance for him. She did not affect him as a woman, but as a power, like something that was abstract but still electrically sensitive. His perceptions as a painter told him that she could be painted. But her body as well as her soul would vie with each other for more and more space, and the painter would have to stay eternally indecisive. And besides neither her body nor her soul would admit of being encapsulated on a canvas. The entire outfit of the painter would stand thwarted. She was a dynamic phenomenon in unceasing formation. No painter could capture her with his brush or colors. She might look like just a placid character, but in Jitendra she had become an intensity, and she kept intensifying this intensity.
Next day Varadachari took Jitendra to the temple of Panchanatheeswarar the presiding deity of Thiruvaiyaru. He then took him to the temple of Thiagarajaswamy, the famous composer in whose memory the present festival was held. He also took him to the important temples of the town. Jitendra took everyday a walk in the early morning on the roads outside the town limits decorated on either side by coconut palms, rice fields, banana stretches and orchards. There were little forests too that looked lush with flourishing green. Twice he had taken bath in the sacred river Cauvery. He gave one public lecture organized by the Citizens' Committee of the town. He had walked through the various bazaars. It was a town in which even the poorer classes seemed to be happy and smiling. He traveled to a few surrounding villages, He could know at first hand the level of the musical taste of the common people. He spoke one day in the local College Union on "The relationship between Art and Religion". He went a few places in Tanjore District wellknown for their ancient sculptures. He stood dumb with admiration. Their excellence could hardly be beaten. The cultural wealth of the district seemed to be just inexhaustible.
Dhivya was arranging things in the dressing room of the Swamiji. It was a daily routine. As she did so, she found one of his suitcases lying on a long table fully open. The contents were in a pellmell. There were his clothes, his books, his mail and a few odds and ends. She decided to attend to this at once and put everything in order. Suddenly her eyes lighted on a large weighty magazine with a creamy pretentious wrapper on which was printed the figure of a female unadorned and in very simple clothes but still a gorgeous beauty exceedingly well modeled and nobly cast. She stood for a moment lost in the beauty of the woman. She looked like one of God's wildest extravaganzas. She wouldn't have noticed the journal if she had not removed the few copies of Times Literary Supplement(London) under which it lay inconspicuously. It lay hidden under them so completely that she had to literally `excavate' it. She again had a look at the woman. She looked like shying away from all the world. Quite a Femme Fatale nevertheless. A peach blossom still fresh and verdant from some garden of Indra Loka. She looked more like an apparition than a real woman in flesh and blood.
She took the magazine to Jitendra and handed it to him thinking that it should contain matter for him to occupy his leisure. Jitendra first looked at the picture, then at the title of the magazine. It read "CONCORD". Both the title and the picture were a pleasant shock to him. It was the magazine he had long been trying to locate. The woman on the wrapper was no other than Dhivya. He went through the article inside. There was no doubt. It was the same article. The article about the concert she had given at a marriage reception. Her name in the article clearly read, `Dhivya'. His memory had served him right.
"Dhivya, Are you able to recognize the woman on the wrapper?"
"No, Swamiji, I do not know who she is".
"Please go and look at the picture closely. Read the review article inside. You will then know who that woman is". With a laugh rich in meaning, he handed back the magazine to her.
She took it and went away. She sat in her own room and began to read it through. When she came upon the review article about her music performance, she was surprised. It was one long piece of eulogy. The writer was too generous in his praise. Then she came to the picture on the wrapper. She looked at it closely, once, twice and thrice. She could not believe her eyes. She was startled, and shocked too. All she could do was to keep in place her reeling head. The rosy cheeked woman on the wrapper was herself. She again looked, no doubt, it was herself. How did the picture come there? The color dazzled. Why did they so widely publicize it? Mentally she was a sort of purdah woman. She had never liked to be seen much in male company. She detested glamour and cosmetics. She never applied powder to her face. Even when she took her bath, she never removed her under-garments. All her wish was to live humble, earn just enough money to get on in life, and live in relative obscurity. It was the life of the soul and not that of the body she was interested in. A sense of shame, a loathsome feeling, swiftly tingled all through her. The picture seemed intended to advertise her anatomy above the waist in tantalizing curves. Her initial pleasure vanished when her virtue took possession of her thought.
An argument rose in her. She was the owner of her body. And she ought to own it herself. It was her rightful property. No one else had the right to own it except with her consent, if at all. Now she had been made a public property. She could as well have been raped in a bazaar.
Then she shuddered to think a thought that she would never have ventured to think but for the fact that it crossed her mind in an automatic sequence. One couldn't tell how many debaucherous males would not have stripped her naked at night on their bed. Most males make their fantasies on such pictures. She wished the magazine had not caught her eye at all. For the puritan girl, it was an accursed day she gave the concert at the marriage reception under pressure from Varadachari, and it was another accursed day when the accursed magazine caught her eye. It had despoilt all her peace.
Next day Bharathi met the Swamiji and expressed a wish to him that she wanted to discuss her future. She told him she would like to work as a music teacher all her life, and would never be a professional artist. But she wanted to combine with it some missionary work on the religious side under the guidance of the Swamiji. She could start a missionary center at Vijayawada, a prosperous city in Andhra Pradesh, where she would collect a number of energetic females, fed up with and frustrated in life, and who wanted to take to religion. It would be a center consisting exclusively of women. She could be also an agent and distributor of the Swamiji's magazine, "Madhura Vauhini". She would run the center with her own earnings made through teaching music. She could supplement it with donations from willing sources. There were very rich people with a love of religion who would willingly supply necessary finance. Jitendra again smiled the same smile he had smiled earlier. He told her he was not opposed to the idea, but they could consider it when the opportune moment came. His wish was that she should marry, beget children and preside over a very prosperous and happy home. But he did not speak it out. But he placed this wish to God everyday in his prayer.
It was eight in the morning.
Jitendra stood before a shining brass tray on which there was a freshly laundered saffron robe. The tray was set on a table in his dressing room. He waved before it a lump of lighted camphor placed on a small brass plate. He stood before it in meditation for a few minutes with folded arms, and took the usual vows of Purity, Virtue, selflessness, poverty and renunciation. He repeated he would live up to the injunctions of the Vedas, Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita, and would avoid sin in thought, word and deed, and show compassion to all creations as much as it was possible for him, and live up to the divine import of the saffron robe, and see that the great truths it stood for are not in the least violated or transgressed. He would dedicate every moment of his life to the Good of humanity. Then he chanted the sacred names of Lord Krishna a dozen times. He took from the brass plate some sacred ash and sandal paste which he applied to his forehead, and then put some of it on the saffron robe. Then he took it, put it reverently on both his eyes, and then wore it.
Dhivya had been watching it through a window from the parlor. Her whole body shook with a pious thrill. She too lifted her hands piously in prayer to the sacred garment and set her eyes glisteningly on it. Her eyes had become wet. It was the garment she had rescued from the Ganges. It shone in her eyes with godly splendor.
Two days later, Swami Jitendra took his farewell from the people of Thiruvaiyaru. There were pressing crowds that surrounded him, garlanded him and threw flowers at him. Dhivya had already taken his blessings. A convoy of about a dozen cars followed and preceded the vehicle in which the Swamiji traveled. Dhivya watched it all from behind a window. The window bars dripped with a profusion of tears.