CHAPTER - 29
Bharathi sat on her bed and leisurely went through the albums of paintings for a second time. She now wanted to extract the Yoga concept which was said to be inherent in these paintings. In each album there were all sorts of subjects which included Nudes too. And one of the painters who was a master-artist and whose Nudes have attained to the status of world classics seemed to have done nothing else in all his painting career except painting Nudes. His name was Modigliani. There was another one, a Flemish painter by name Peter Paul Reubens, who had painted all subjects but his fame was said to rest mainly on his Nudes. There were several others like that. There were elaborate critical expositions and lengthy comments on the merits and techniques of each of these pictures side by side with them. She could not take her eyes off from Titian's "Venus of Urbino". The picture entitled "The Naked Maza" Of Francisco Goya engaged her mind analytically for a long while. She lost herself rapturously in three of Courbet's paintings, "The Spring", "The Sleepers" And the "Three Bathers". Gauguin's "Tahitian Women" In which the girl carrying a tray of flowers exercised on her a mighty spell with her compactly built but sweetly verdant body and her fat well-rounded breasts. She was both thrilled and a little intrigued by Monet's The "Luncheon on the Grass" In which a very beautiful young woman sat naked in a forest picnic. There was an enthralling quality in it, rather in too exciting a measure which no Art-lover could ever miss. But one thing stood out in her mind.
The purpose of these Nudes were not to excite sex or to incite to sin or to cater to sensuality but to bring out the cosmic power and the reigning glory of God that lay behind them. It was esthetics, and not sex, that ruled these pictures. Each painter had done his Nude with his own conception of the Philosophy of Art at the back of his mind and with a view to illustrate it and establish his point of view. It was like the painter writing his own doctoral thesis on the canvas through colors. For those who were interested there was spiritual enlightenment to carry in armfuls from these Nudes. It was the inner personality of the artists that had erupted in these pictures. It was a venture of the artist's Mystic Interior, a term which one frequently encountered in Hindu Yogic literature. She had absolutely no doubt now that the painting of these Nudes like the painting of other subjects was a perfectly laudable Yogic Act. Then she told herself with a contemplative smile that when these women stripped themselves naked before the painter they were paying a homage to God and doing something in the service of the Almighty, and were cooperating in the promotion of the basic religion of mankind. Only they did not know it. It was a reverential act meant to be an offering to Mother Nature as well. All that she now wanted to do was to ask the Swamiji to paint a Nude of herself. And to persuade him if he refused, and finally prevail upon him. She knew she was extremely paintable too. She took the decision, took it indeed. She was sure to make the Swamiji agree. The whole Bhagavad Gita came in massive support of her.
As usual, Swami Jitendra and Bharathi took their walk next morning. The weather was clear. The sun was just ploughing through in the east with its red glare. The air was crisp and prickly and gave them a sense of luxury. They walked at a leisurely pace. But they felt like floating in the air. And one would have said that they went floating in the air like a Deva and an Apsara. Such pictures there were in Ajanta and Ellora caves. Jitendra had already assured her that he would someday take Bharathi and her family to these two places. He had already explained to her and told her at length the artistic excellence of these cave paintings, and how they ravished one's soul away, and of the thrilsome quality and mysterious power of those masterly works. They were pervaded by the soul of the Buddha and he had often wondered if the colors the artists had used were made of the astral dust of the great Sakya Muni. Bharathi had already been imagining herself as one of the women in these cave-paintings.
The talk on these cave-paintings was now resumed. Bharathi walked close to him and with a light springiness in her steps. Jitendra was being infected by her buoyancy. He was being infected too by her humor and by the pervasive sweetness of her pure femininity. In her proximity he felt like being renewed every moment into one of his more expansive selves. He did not know, but he had come to regard her as more or less his equal. In height she already measured up to his ear. She was growing in spiritual knowledge and the knowledge of the Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita at a very fast rate. She could intuitively capture the meaning of the great truths which the sages had spoken ages ago in Puranic times and in a thickly veiled fashion that one could never understand them unless one had Dhivya Drishti that is, Divine Sight, and the special grace of God.
The twilight grew bright but before the sun was up they had arrived at the usual spot from where they used to view the tree. Though he had finished painting the tree, he could not but think of it as something dear to his heart. The tree had become a dearmost favorite of Bharathi too. He felt that a part of his spirit still lay on the tree, throbbing and vivifying his own self on it. For her the tree meant another thing too. It had forged a much closer spiritual link between her and the Swamiji. All the three formed a triangle of lonely souls steeped in some sort of poverty and beckoning to the heavens to come down, stand beside them and protect them. The tree had become a mute participant in their religious mission. Now a great wind blew. Bharathi and the Swamiji were standing together very close. The saffron robe fluttered high in the air and fell on Bharathi and covered a great part of her back and a good part of her front. Now the same wind rose again and restored the flying garment to its owner. In the meantime, Bharathi had kissed the garment without the Swamiji knowing about it. She remembered what a fight she had waged with the furious waters of the Ganges to rescue it. Now some thing flashed across her mind in a terrific intensity. She thought she would take a vow, an oath, silently before the tree. She would spend all her life in religious missionary service under the guidance of her Guru. She would spend every moment of her life in protecting and enhancing the spiritual import and purpose of the saffron-robe. She could do it only if she was free of all sin and above sin and kept her virtue intact, totally intact, yes, totally. Whatever it meant. She would live like a disembodied soul and live the life of the soul. The great tree would bear witness. She invoked the mercy of God on the tree and prayed that he should bless it with an abundance of life, and start it on a renascence. May God write a common fate for all the three of them.
The place was becoming cloudy. Suddenly Bharathi noticed something on the tree. She saw two birds sitting together in a dim outline on one of the branches. Excitedly Bharathi held his arm and showed them to him. Perhaps her invocation of God's blessing on the tree was materializing. They observed again. They were amorously close, putting their faces one upon the other. They were a pair of doves. Jitendra smilingly muttered they might be turtle-doves.
"What is meant by turtle-doves, Swamiji?".
"They are insuperable love-birds, Bharathi. Always mating together, cuddling and caressing each other, and existing for each other. They are bound mutually by such affection and by such unwavering constancy that they live together or die together. When one of them dies naturally or due to some ill fate, the other automatically gives up its life too.".
Bharathi's emotions were stirred. In the depths of her being she felt that this was Life and this alone was Life. It summed up the whole meaning of existence. She drew her breath deep. The whole universe shrank and shrank till nothing was left in her consciousness except the two birds. The two little birds seemed to sum up for her all the galaxies in the Heavens. This kind of steadfast adherence could apply to an individual and the cause one had espoused. One could love a cause, be loyal to it, bind oneself to it with all one's heart and soul, stake all one's life to make it a success, in short, live and die for it. She would thus bind herself to her religious mission. And die for it if need there was. Likewise she would also bind herself to her Guru. The moment he sheds his life, she would give up hers too.
They left the spot and took their return. Jitendra thought a while. He anticipated a problem. He wanted to take a new route. If they took the old route, Bharathi might again ask for a kiss, a long lusty ravenous kiss when they stepped on that critical spot which she was sure to remember, and where she was sure stop by an automatic impulse. He took her by another route, but she didn't know why. Suddenly they came by a thick bramble hedge in which her half-saree thrown easily and informally over her jacket was suddenly caught. It was all a highgrown mesh of thorns. From among the dry closely interwoven branches of the vicious-looking bushes it was difficult to extricate the negligee. The negligee was called locally by the name of Dhavani in common parlance. They did not know how to take out the saree. It looked just almost impossible. It was a terrible mess. First the half-saree should be removed from her body before they could think of what they should do next to recover the garment. Before he could suggest she had herself removed it.
Now came into full view of Jitendra a pair of her overmastering virgin treasures. He stood stupefied as if struck by a lightning. He could see at that moment what an imponderable, immeasurable Artist God was, what beauty he could introduce in the human body, what curves he could draw, what weight, size and hardness he could impart, and what fatal power and ecstatic appeal he could implant in them. Fortunately he was not sexually touched, for he had already at that very instant gone into Yogic meditation and trance in the waking state. He saw no sex and felt no sex. His admiration had turned into that of a sinless artist. She instantly set to order her unclasped blouse that came off and hung in the air. There was already the violence of another strong wind taking wild liberty with her clothes. The lengthy wrap was presently recovered, of course, after what looked like an epic struggle. She put it on at once, and both, after bungling through many sticky pathways, came upon the road. In the next half hour they reached the lodgings. After ten they took up their music session and then played a game of chess untiringly for two hours. In the night there was the discourse in the village as usual which now continued regularly everyday. That night the entire discourse centered on Sita, the consort of Lord Rama. Bharathi, the wood-nymph, the cherubim product of unblemished purity, sat by and heard with rapt attention. She was emotionally struck in a remarkable degree by Sita passing through the fire to establish her chastity. It was the sort of purity a woman should possess.