CHAPTER - 26
All of a sudden, a strange thought came into Bharathi's head. She stopped and felt like dead. Her mind, she felt, had gone all defunct. She had lost the power of speech. Some curtain seemed to lift. The sacred river Yamuna and the Brindhavan came right in front of her and the waters almost hit her face. That was the place where Lord Krishna and Radhika, the Gopi, His sweetheart, the belle of belles, the reigning beauty of Mathura, played all their love-sport. It was there, was it not, that they found their heaven built in each other's bodies? Was she not speaking to the Swamiji now, exactly as Radhika would have spoken to Lord Krishna, in those Puranic times? It was an idea that didn't last more than a second. The curtain was at once rung down. She laughed and dismissed the idea. There were two forms of Bhakthi. One was Bhaya Bhakthi, devotion born out of a fear of God, fear of the Imponderable, fear of the Eternal and the Infinite. The other was Prema Bhakthi, the Bhakthi that consisted of amorous love and showed in love-intoxicated madness for God. That of Radhika was Prema Bhakthi. The idea kept recurring and she kept dismissing it. Then it dwindled, smudged, paled and petered away. It didn't come again. It was just a remembrance of what she had read in a religious magazine from the North called "Kalyana Kalpatharu". The idea had just grazed against her and gone. It had no effect on her. She felt normal now, absolutely as normal as ever. Unaffected. Ten minutes after, she was caught by a secret spasm of terror. She told herself again, that was how Radhika would have spoken to Lord Krishna, laughing, laughing and laughing, yes, in an excess of gaiety, in an excess of freedom and in an excess of passion, infatuation and in an inundation of Bhakthi. She wiped out the idea again with a determined firmness.
"No, Dhivya, I am going to paint that leafless tree against that apparently unpromising, sterile background. A gifted artist could lift out of it a great quantity of the cosmic soul, a whole infinity of poetic splendors. He would see the subject not with a layman's eye but with all- pervasive, all-knowing eye of a god. It is the inside of him that would see the inside of this landscape. Every creation is cosmically related and contains a treasure of cosmic meaning. What the poets do with words, rather with sound-rhythms, the painter does with colors. Both concentrate on lifting out of day-to-day scenes a species of beauty that forms its soul and belongs to God. He could bring out, if he is a divine artist, a whole world of stunning revelations".
Bharathi didn't speak and couldn't. This was indeed Amirtha, nectar. She could blindly appreciate without understanding a fragment of it. It was like seeing a ravishing object that was indistinct and elusive, nebulously charming and weirdly chilling as well as inebriating, the outline, yes only the outline, coming in part after part, and the next instant rubbing away and getting lost, but still admirable like seeing some object of beauty lost in distance, but still not altogether lost. Visible enough to enthuse and captivate.
"Will I ever have an artist's vision, Swamiji? I too want to paint. Will I ever get what you call the psychic gift?"
Jitendra could not but laugh.
"Pray to God, Bharathi, you are sure to get it".
Why to God, Swamiji, I pray to you. You are my Guru. It is said in the holy books that one's Guru is one's God. And he should be worshipped as such for gaining knowledge. Bless me, Swamiji, I will become a psychically-gifted painter in no time. I will ask my father to get me another three-legged stand like the one you have, canvas and other accessories, colors etcetera, and start painting with you in the same place".
Jitendra felt embarrassed. He thought of occupying himself with painting only as a means of escape, just to be out of her company for as long as possible so that she could be left alone to feel her natural urges as a woman, to think of a husband, a home, money and children and the like. She was now frustrating his purpose.
"You are fostering in your mind a gigantic delusion, Bharathi. I am an ordinary person in flesh and blood with all the weaknesses and imperfections that are common to all mortals. But in your fantastically bloated fancy, you seem to think I am more than a mortal and as big as the Himalayas".
"Yes, Swamiji, you are. I have no doubt of that".
"Don't talk like a suckling, Bharathi, the real Jitendra is different from the one that is growing in your fancy. You are playing at making a god of one of the lowliest of mortals. Have you heard the saying, "Dust thou art and to dust thou return". I am nothing more than that dust. Please get free of the too exaggerated likeness of me that is building up in you, Bharathi".
Jitendra realized that he shouldn't have talked to her so much about Art. He had already talked to her too much of religion and that had already been working a havoc on her. Now quite thoughtlessly he had talked to her in such a riotous verbosity about Art. This meant another havoc was preparing.
"Swamiji, you said that an artist sees in things truths which others don't see and cannot see".
"Is it not then open to me to see in you a man of wonder, a far greater personality which neither you nor others can see. What an Artist sees in an object he alone can see and none else, not even another artist. So too what I see I alone can see and none else, not even you. God sometimes endows even poor humble girls like me with an intuitive vision".
Jitendra's eyes blinked and were covered with a cloud. Here was a child, ten times a child, an unweaned, milk shop of a child. He simply did not know how to deal with her. He thought back and a memory of his own childhood surfaced. Was Dhivya a child? No, she was so very wise and talked of such high things that she could very well have been his mother. When he was a child his mother used to beg from him off and on a kiss, and it should be a deep, hard and lusty kiss. It should be so hard that it should leave a mark on her cheek for weeks. Presently Bharathi had vanished for a moment, and in her place stood his mother, so vivid and lifelike and he could feel her breath and the very bliss of her noble presence. All consciousness of the place and time he was now in was suddenly blotted out. It was his mother that stood before him, expecting him to press a kiss to her face. He had become a child again. The old memory took the shape of a massive irrevocable impulse in him. He did not know what he was doing, but held Bharathi between his arms and printed on her cheek a long, deep, hard and lusty kiss. It took him just a couple of seconds to come back to his consciousness of the present. And his heart thumped at the folly he had committed. Before he could ask for her pardon, Bharathi, who had already become too emotional to contain herself and thrilled like mad, planted on his cheek in return a kiss much larger, harder, longer and lustier, and she had left even a mark of her teeth on it. And she had left a large spread of her tears too on it. She had wept. His cheek was drenched in her tears.
They walked back in silence.
"Forgive me, Bharathi. I had been foolish."
"What, Swamiji, what was foolish?"
"I mean my kissing you. I never wanted to, nor ever did I mean it. It had just happened. I don't know how. I am puzzled. This place must be a haunted one. There should be a devil here. It should have 'possessed' me and pushed me into this rank foolery. Certainly, Bharathi, it was not me that kissed you, but some dirty evil power that held me like a vice. I regret it, Bharathi, please forgive".
"What is wrong, Swamiji, in a Guru kissing his disciple? I would need many more kisses like that, Swamiji. It is a sort of confirmatory act of our relationship as preceptor and pupil".
Anyway Jitendra continued to regret. If Bharathi would not hear, God would certainly hear. With a pang in his heart he had already prayed to God to forgive him, and to keep him from intrusion of devils into his thought.
After a few moments they seemed not to think of it. They walked talking as familiarly as ever.
"What should I do to learn Painting, Swamiji? '
"I have got in my portmanteaus albums of famous paintings of great masters. I will give them to you. You look through them. Then try to concentrate on any one of them, some picture you like. Try to make out whatever meaning it is possible for you to make out. Before you understand them, you must learn to love them. The more and more you keep seeing them, become familiar and friendly with them, even if their meaning is closed to your intelligence, you would soon have a feel of those pictures. The pictures have life in them. You would come to a stage when you will not like to put them away, and that means the pictures too have begun to love you. Soon you will find them throbbing with a love for you. They will return your friendship. Then your astral self will merge into the pictures. That is the point when a miracle would happen. The men and women in the pictures will talk to you. You will also talk to them. You will hug each other like longtime friends. You will be right on the beautiful landscapes, the villages and town streets that you see in the pictures. Those places will love you as much as you will love them. Don't think that landscapes, trees, rocks, and trees don't have life. They have as much life as you have. You could speak to a tree as you now speak to me. You can ask questions, it will answer. You converse with a rock as you now converse with me. You should only know how to. But that could never be taught. In time God will break out in you and shine like a thousand suns. That light will teach you. You would then like to become one of the men and women you see in those pictures. That is the most auspicious moment when you can start learning. When you learn you can take for your company some woman you know in the albums you see or some grand old man you like, or some little girl of seven or eight or a little boy. They would stand beside you invisibly and keep supplying inspiration and encourage and cheer you up. Since you are a young woman, preferably take some young woman some great master had painted. She would posses, in a great measure, the personality and the soul of her maker who had brought her to life on the canvas. Her being beside you, invisibly of course, would be equivalent to that master himself being there to teach you and guide you. The master who had painted that woman would stand transferred in her. It all depends on how much and how deep and how passionately you love those animate and inanimate objects. Any painting of any master would charge you with its life, and take you forward. Do you understand, Bharathi? You will soon see your own life fermenting and bubbling in those pictures. Make friends with those men, woman, buildings and the landscapes. You would then have become more than half a painter. Do you follow me, Bharathi?".
"Yes, Swamiji, I do".
They had arrived at the lodgings.
There was a lull in the rains. The grounds were dry. The discourses went on as usual. The same worthies of the village who used to sit on the stage continued to sit. Bharathi sat beside Jitendra as usual to provide music during the brief intermissions. Quite unexpectedly, Kalingaroyan came one day and sat in a front seat on the grounds. He refused a seat on the stage despite pressures. He was all the time observant of the girl and the Swamiji, watching out for signs of any submarine understanding between the two. Bharathi noticed the lascivious beast with an oblique glance just for a second. She had already given him proofs enough of what fight she was capable of and how much of an intractable hardihood she possessed. Whenever they had an encounter he had always withdrawn. She was armed with nothing else except the unyielding strength of her solid virtue. The leer in his face was more ghastly than ever. The whole village knew that he was a licentious swashbuckler and believer in extravagant bravados. Everyone was absorbed in the discourse. Nobody watched him except of course Gora Reddy. He watched him continuously from a corner of his eye. He had of course never cared for this blusterer. But Bharathi could judge from the too openly malign expression on the face of Kalingaroyan that he must have some sinister plan at the back of his mind. Of course there was no need for her to worry at the moment since nothing had come on view so far. But still she felt that continual vigil was necessary. She would ask her father to speak to Gora Reddy. He would take care of things. Besides it was he who bore the chief responsibility for arranging the present discourse. It was his duty therefore to see to the personal safety of the Swamiji.
In the temple outhouse Bharathi had taken two rooms for her use. One was her bedroom and the other was her Puja room in which hung on the wall the same picture of Swami Jitendra to which she daily offered Puja and before which she sat in meditation. She never allowed this practice to be interrupted for even a single day. Daily she went to bed at ten but sleep would evade her till twelve. Till then she would lie on bed and summon to her mind all she had learnt during day and think of all that the Swamiji had said to her, and all that had happened. She thanked God for her rare fortune in having brought into her life the Swamiji as her Guru. She might be near him, sit with him and talk to him, even jokingly, but she could never escape the feeling that she hovered about a godly phenomenon. He looked like some occurrence, some occurrence of some incomprehensible magnitude, some vast enlightening power in mortal encasement. She had often felt his grace enter her body and throw her into tempestuous ecstasies. She had often jumped, danced, gyrated, and rolled on her bed when the spirit of her Guru ‘possessed’ her.
She thought of the kiss he had printed on her cheek the other day. She saw in it all the heavens the Puranas spoke of compressed in it, all eternity. It was the kiss of an immortal god, the loveliest possible kiss which only a god could give, and no mortal. That was perhaps how gods kissed. That was perhaps the sort of kiss Lord Krishna would have printed on the cheek of Radhika. Who knew how many thousands of such kisses she had received from him and how many she had given Him. No woman, on earth or in heaven, would ever have been blessed, as she was, with one like it. The kiss was still on her face, it would be ever on her face. It would never fade or vanish. It would stay on her through all her future incarnations. No god or combinations of gods could ever wipe it off. The ecstasy of that kiss would live through aeons. It was a kiss spiritually the most stimulating one. That one kiss was enough to give her Moksha, liberation from the cycle of births and deaths. All the meaning of all the Slokas of the Bhagavad Gita stood centered in that single kiss. She felt the kiss had made her into something else. What that something else was she didn't know. Would she ever know? Only she felt like a goddess herself and stood alongside her Guru shoulder to shoulder, perhaps like how Radhika would have stood beside Lord Krishna.
Jitendra didn't take Bharathi seriously when she said she wanted to paint. He thought it just the passing whim of a suddenly excited girl. But he was surprised when two days later a complete painting outfit including an easel, board, pastels, brushes, crayons and rolls of canvas arrived into the room where he had set up his studio. As Saptharishi opened the bundle, Bharathi took out every thing. Jitendra set up the easel and put the board on it. He told her he would not start on the lessons unless she had thoroughly familiarized her self with the paintings in the albums he was going to give her. Before that she would give her two books to read.
"Bharathi, I would be leaving in about two weeks. How could I teach you in so short a time. I could teach you just the rudiments and nothing more. What would you do after that?"
"In Ashtaksharam, there is a painting school, Swamiji. I will join that school. And continue learning. There is a working women’s hostel where I would stay. I will teach music for some girls in the Agraharam, earn some money and pay my way through the course. In fact I will have a number of children to teach. It is such a place. Everyone would want to learn music".
Jitendra went into one of the rooms, opened a box, took out two books. One bore the title "How to paint and draw". The title of the other read "Paint your own Masterpiece". He put them into her hands. "Read these books any number of times. You will come by ideas. I hope they will kindle some thinking in you. Go through these albums too. Keep looking into them as long and as often you can.". He put in to her hands a few albums that contained the famous paintings of Renoir, Rembrandt, Reubens, Modigliani, Courbet, Ingress, Delecroix, Raphael and a few others.
It was a cold morning, and the time was around ten. Bharathi was cooking the day's food in the kitchen. She was a very good cook. Saptharishi was in the temple arranging for the midday Puja. Saptharishi’s wife Renuka had gone to the village for some shopping. Bharathi suddenly stopped in her work. She heard the Swamiji playing on the violin. He was playing a Kirthana of Muthuswamy Dikshitar, "Halasyanatham Smarami" In Ataana Raga. The delicious music overflowed the Guest House and filtered into the kitchen. Bharathi couldn't leave the kitchen, for there were things on the stove cooking. From the kitchen she sang the song in a fairly high key so that it could be audible to him. She also put a brass pot upside down on the cooking platform and beat time to the music in appropriate Thaalas which Jitendra heard and admired. They had such extraordinary technical perfection. He now stopped. She too stopped. He could imagine Bharathi laughing. Indeed both laughed from where they were. Jitendra then resumed. Bharathi too resumed. It was a joke they exchanged from invisible positions. At one point Jitendra heard her metallic giggle. After the work in the kitchen was over, Bharathi came from the kitchen into Jitendra's room laughing. Then they started on a game of chess which lasted for two hours.
Next day Bharathi was in one of her happiest moods. The dance Bharatha Natya which her father had taught her she had not altogether forgotten. She had resumed it and took training for about six months with a dance teacher, one Thirumathi Kalpana, who was running a dance school in Ashtaksharam. Saptharishi had arranged it. He did not want a precious art she had learnt to go to waste. The dance teacher Kalpana, after six months, had told Saptharishi that she had already learnt from her father all that one had to learn in Bharatha Natya, and that she was already a perfect dancer and that no more training was necessary. It was Bharathi's desire that she should give an indoor performance for the Swamiji to watch, and she should get his blessings for her dance as she had already got it for her music. Saptharishi could very well play on Mrithangam. The same Kalpana was invited to be present and sing the Nattuvangam songs. Jitendra went on the Violin. In one of the rooms in the Guest House, the performance was held. It was a breath-taking one, and Jitendra was amazed. Next day the teacher Kalpana sent to Bharathi a book she had recently bought. She had asked her to return it after she had read it. Bharathi read the book and instantly fell into an orgy of joy. She went into the Guest House, stole into a room and began dancing again in a fit of mad felicity. Jitendra happened to see it through the window. A fear seized him. He wondered if the girl had gone mad. He knocked the door and asked her to come out. She came. He asked her if she was practicing dance, or was she giving a performance to the walls?
"No, Swamiji, see this book". She gave the book into his hands. Jitendra saw it and turned the pages over. It was a biography of himself written by some Bengali author in English. He had tried to establish in about five hundred pages that Swami Jitendra was none other than an Avatar of Lord Krishna. Jitendra laughed, and then threw the book into her hands with a sneer.