CHAPTER - 25
Some of the days he spent in the Guest House were days of reminiscences. There was in the Guest House something that raked up all the long-lost things and gave them a life and pulsation, and brought them to him face to face, and vivified them so sharply that he was not able to distinguish the past from the present. In the Hindu religious lore, Time and Space were said to be just myths, just illusions, Maya, and had no objective existence. Now he seemed to experience the truth of it.
Kalidas still seemed to live and not dead. His unbounded affection and loyalty still lived. His live figure was within his arm's length. At the very moment he was thinking of his parents, he found to his amazement that they were still alive. He could feel them hugging him and kissing him. Was he still a child? Had he not grown up and become a Sanyasin? Had not his parents died in a railway accident? Yes, there was a railway accident, but his parents had not died. How was it that he was still a child in his mother's arms but thought himself delusively as a grown man? It Was his saffron robe that was an illusion and a myth. His mother fed him his food with silver spoon. How was it? He felt the thick gold-laced silk saree of his mother and also her diamond-studded gold bangles. Actually he heard their clanging and jingling in his ear. The clock in the hall of his Benares residence chimed ten, and his father was sitting with his friends in the expensively upholstered sofas of his drawing room. He was laughing aloud. He called him to his side, stroked his thick refractory mops of hair and kissed him. Was he in the Guest House of Marthandam temple or in his home at Benares? He saw his college mates, his men and women relatives, all the domestic staff of his great household. He saw the business partners of his father. How all of them poured their affection on him. And how they all treated him like the son of some omnipotent caliph. Jitendra, the Sanyasin, was nowhere. Was he dead, or lost somewhere, or gone out of existence? His professors congratulated him on his winning a Gold medal, and he saw the College Annual Day celebrations and the feast he ate in the colorful glare of the theater-hall. He saw all the girls that were with him in college, and none of them had forgotten him. And every one of them still had the same love for him, the same smiles, the same lovely pass ionate laugh? What was all this? Had he reverted back to his old life ?.
He now came back to reality. He came back to the present, It was not the dead old yesterdays that had been resurrected. It was he that was dead to them. He had recaptured all the breath he had expended in the past. It was the self of his yester years that had now been resurrected. The apparently dead years, months, weeks and days were not really dead. The sap of it all, the live sap, had lived in his subconscious or his over-self or in his Unconscious, or might be even in his cosmic self. Their invisible vibrations could never be extinguished. From out of seeming extinction they could tumble back to life and pick on their former existence. These pictures had all the lifelike solidity one could wish for and passed before his mind in spectacular procession. Before the life that had now projected itself on his mind, his present life as a Sanyasin just paled away. It took him some sustained effort to get it back real. He had to frequently sit in meditation to get back his identity as a Sanyasin. Soon the effulgence of God that had been obscured for a time began to shine again all through his being.
There was now a new turn in Jitendra's thinking. Instead of being in the company of Dhivya and deriving some solace from her and getting back his strength and peace, he wanted to get out of her as soon as possible. He was becoming too much of a Guru for her and her worship of him as Lord Krishna was growing to the size of a fixated obsession. She had absolutely no interest in worldly life. If he continued to be with her, he would occupy all her consciousness to the exclusion of everything else. She must be left alone and his influence on her should be withdrawn if she were to become a normal woman and feel the vital urges of the body that nature had planted in her as in every animate creation. He had no right to obliterate these fleshly drives and stifle their course. In putting too much religion into her head, he was actually putting himself athwart the purpose of creation. He had no business to take away one's right to happiness through one's body and senses!
He feared there would still be one month to go if it rained at this rate. Why couldn't he do some painting both to while away his time and to reduce to a minimum his company with Dhivya. He asked Saptharishi if he could get from somewhere an easel, some canvas, painting board and painting materials. Saptharishi said there was a painting school in Saligram which was about thirty miles distant. He knew one of the painting instructors, an old man who was sure to oblige. He took the bus at once. He returned the same day by evening with all that the Swamiji had asked for. That very night Jitendra set up the easel and all the rest of the outfit in position. He could start on it the next morning. He thought he would paint Still Life before he could come upon some landscape that would commend itself to his soaring, raving, searching, and cosmically pivoted artistic sense. Still life had no great interest for him.
It rained only in the evenings. Most of the mornings were cloudy. It was on one such cloudy morning That Jitendra set out in search of suitable landscapes. He combined his morning walk with it. Bharathi insisted on going with him. He saw in her a possible hindrance to the study of his subjects. She was a talker as well as a keeper of a saturnine silence. But when she went with him on his morning walks, she used to become very mercurial and incessantly chatty. She would chirp like a bird, and pour forth herself in melodious warbles. Outside music too, her vocal gifts were unconsciously on parade. He permitted her to accompany, but warned her to be sparing of her wonted, bothersome babble. She said 'Yes' and said no more. They had covered about half-a-mile on the deserted wet road on which only bullock carts could ply and never a bus or even a lorry or a jeep. On either side of this gravel road stood a number of trees endemic to village parts and called by all sorts of colloquial names. He thought the scene would provide him some idea for a small painting. He stopped to study it. Now the petted bird began its warble. She wouldn't stop whether he listened or not.
"Why do you want to paint, Swamiji?".
He kept silent. He thought that would silence her too, but she asked again. He was again silent. But she wouldn't leave. She became pestering. She loved to be talking with him all the time. He laughed. There was no escape. "Why do you want to paint, Swamiji?".
"Because it gives me pleasure".
"How could I say it?"
"If you can't say it means you don't understand it. Is it so, Swamiji?"
Jitendra laughed and answered. "It gives me a superior sort of pleasure".
"But that is no answer, Swamiji".
"Dhivya, it is difficult to explain to you. You won't be able understand because you know nothing about painting".
"I can understand, Swamiji. Do you mean to say that all the people who buy paintings don't understand anything about painting. Just explain what it is, Swamiji. Let us see if I understand it or not"
"Dhivya, it gives a lift to my whole being. It is a pursuit in which One’s mind, senses and the soul are all together involved, it is a creative endeavor, therefore a godlike function. Do you understand anything?"
"What are you going to paint, Swamiji?"
"I don't know".
She laughed. "Swamiji, if you don't know at all what you will paint, then why did you get all those painting things? Do you paint, then, whatever comes to your mind? You select your subjects at random?". Dhivya closed her mouth with her right hand and giggled.
"No, Dhivya, I don't select. It is the soul that elects, not selects. The artist paints whatever subject commends itself to his inner vision".
"Swamiji, you are already painting fruits, vegetables and flowers placed in bowls, and the like. They too commend themselves to your inner vision. ?"
"Yes, Dhivya. But that is to occupy my idle time. Learners paint them for practice. But I could get in them too a glimpse of my soul. But I paint them because I want to do something. I will be going to higher subjects".
"I don't know. I am an artist. Artists rely on inspiration. They don't know what they are going to paint until they are right on the threshold of their subject where God has led them. What they paint would sometimes look like a lump of sheer nonsense. But such nonsense sometimes sells for millions of rupees. There are people interested in Art who know what an infinite sense this nonsense holds. A great artist sometimes looks to uninitiated folks like an advanced lunatic. But for those who have the eyes to see they are verily gods that walk the earth ".
"Have you ever painted such costly nonsense?" She laughed uncontrollably. He too laughed a large rippling laughter.
"I mean costly paintings, Swamiji".
"Yes, Bharathi, I have done, and I have sold a few for good prices.".
If you are interested in an object, you could make a photograph of it, and keep it, Swamiji. Why should you paint it?"
"Bharathi, a photograph shows you only the physical features of a place or object or a person. But a photograph could never bring out all that is there in the subject. An object does not consist of mere physical features. It consists not merely of what you might call its externals. It contains character, qualities, inner beauty, hidden meanings, there are things in an object which only your inner eye can see. There are things in an object, place or person which show themselves only to the trained spiritual perceptions of an artist. An object is made up of a lot of mystic substance too. It contains a lot of lyric which only your inner depths can catch, and which would reflect only there. In every object there is a particle of God, a bit of the cosmic substance, which an artist has to realize on the canvas. He ought to, otherwise he is no good artist. In every object, person or place there is what is called the body and there is what is called the soul, and any amount of intangible poetry. All this should be brought out. In this sense, what you get in a photograph is only a scrap of the object, not the whole of it. A place or person or an object is just inexhaustible, there is so much of treasure in it which is food for the soul. The quality of the picture depends on the quantity of this treasure he is able to capture, assimilate and bring out in his work. It all depends on the strength and purity of his vision and his talent as an artist. A great artist has psychic perceptions, Bharathi. Sometimes they take him far".
"Swamiji, it is all very interesting, but I don't know if I could grasp it all. Can one bring out on a painting God and the cosmos?"
"Bharathi, after all what else are you if not a particle of the cosmos and of the God that made you? What else are objects and places? What else are earth, sun and the stars, hills and valleys and the seas, the stone that you put in the temples and all that you can think of? Everything is part of this Infinite Whole. I have taught you in religion that in every Jeevatma, the individual soul, there is Paramatma too, the cosmic soul which could also mean the supercosmic soul and the nameless that lies beyond it, the nameless and the formless, the attributeless, that which lies out of the ken of mortal understanding. The more and more you proceed toward this in Art, the more an artist you are. Read Bhagavad Gita again, Bharathi, read it over and over, read particularly the Slokas 29, 30 and 31 of the chapter entitled Dhyana Yoga. These three Slokas will give you some idea about what I meant in our today's discussion about Art. The content and meaning of these three Slokas at least should be realized in Art. In my view that alone is Art. A picture made on these lines would bring out the unity of God, Man and The cosmos and the subject you are painting. After all Yoga as defined in Gita and in other Hindu scriptures is Union with God and all his creations. That way, painting is a sort of Yoga. It is a Yogic act, a most sacred one, it is an act that makes you spiritually blend into the God that is in you."
Bharathi was thrilled. If Painting was a Yogic act, a most sacred one, in which one could see God and one's own self in unity with God, then it was a religious concept. It was indeed religion through Art. She was mightily taken up with the idea. Painting was then like Meditation or Dhyana. It was a sort of Bhakthi Yoga. A devotee achieves merger with God through intense Bhakthi. She should practice this Yoga. She should lose no time. She should take it up at once. She would ask the Swamiji to teach her painting. He might try to dodge her off. But she should persist and cling on. But that should be tomorrow or the day after. But certainly not today.
She reflected for a moment. "Yes, painting is Bhakthi Yoga. It could be Dhyana Yoga too. It might even comprise all the eighteen chapters of Bhagavad Gita. A mortal could enact the immortal on the canvas. It was a soul-culture through which one could evolve himself into the immortal."
"Swamiji, I seem to understand all that you say, but still I don't seem to understand anything. But it provokes in me a series of tremendous thoughts. It is all thrilling, stunning and almost ecstatic, but only I don't understand anything. A painter brings out in his work a divine romance. A divine resonance. A divine music. That idea appeals to me. It is a Yogic act, a most sacred one, that idea too appeals to me. I am simply smitten with these ideas. It is all a terribly rousing thing. In fact I am roused all inside. But since I am not an artist, I could only love the idea, it has a magic in it, but I couldn't get beyond and understand it all".
"True, Bharathi, you won't be able to understand it much. But by and by you will know".
"I told you by and by'"
"No, Swamiji, I want to know. Tell When will it be, Swamiji, I want to know when exactly it will be?"
"Don't bore me, Bharathi, right at this moment I am studying a subject, a landscape I have fortunately tumbled upon. I think there is matter enough in it for me to go on the canvas directly. Please leave me to concentrate, don't disturb".
"Yes, Swamiji, I will keep silent, I certainly won't talk. I won't disturb you. You can depend on me. I am a most dependable girl, you know. Go ahead please, think deep, and fetch out the most wonderful ideas possible. This particular spot appeals to me also. Truly, Swamiji, you have tumbled upon something that is worth painting. That in a hopeless village like this too you are able to find treasures for painting gladdens me and makes me very proud of my village. It is all the grace of Lord Rama of our temple. It will be a nice picture, isn't it, Swamiji? When will you finish it? Anyway I am happy, Swamiji, that will provide you a lot of diversion and relieve you of all your distresses you have brought from your place. I have another reason to be happy too. This painting business will keep you longer at Marthandam. I wish you don't get on with it too quickly. Let it take three months at least. Do it slowly, Swamiji, only then it will come aright. And then, Swamiji, I have one more doubt."
"Is this what you meant by silence?". Jitendra looked at Bharathi and laughed. "You promised not to talk and be quiet, Bharathi ".
"Yes, Swamiji, I forgot. Kindly pardon me". She laughed covering her mouth with both her hands. But he still could hear a lot of giggle escaping.
"Do you see that blighted landscape, Bharathi?", He pointed at a stretch of wilted grassland where the earth had crusted up in every place and on which stood some lone trees and some in a cluster that had lost more than half their life and were sinking into death. They seemed to look desperate because their extinction was fast impending. They would die in a few months, a good many of them ".
"Yes, Swamiji, I see ".
"Do you, then, see a leafless tree, absolutely nude, standing all alone, beside that ramshackle wooden cabin?".
"Yes, Swamiji, I see that too".
"Then do you see a woman a few yards away collecting dry branches and making up a bundle of fuel?"
"Yes, Swamiji, that woman in mildewed ragged clothes, the shriveled woman with cheeks sunken too hollow, a woman all wrinkled, the woman with toothless gums all red with the munching of betal-nuts. See how that woman laughs, Swamiji! Don't you like that laugh? I love that kind of laugh, she laughs like the mother of my great grandmother. Can you bring out that laughter on your canvas? Is it this subject that you said you have fortunately tumbled upon? Well, you have really tumbled upon a most inspiring subject, Swamiji". She has a handful of hair on her head, Swamiji, some brown and some gray. There are exactly twenty seven of them flying in the air, eighteen silver and nine gray. "Will they also come in the picture?", She laughed a heckle of a laughter. Jitendra joined her and laughed more.