CHAPTER - 33
He had started. He was thoughtfully working on the canvas. He was sketching her face. She was a little terrified as he studied her face peeringly with a dreadfully animated concentration. She had never received such a look from any male all her life. She began to shake, her face turning pale and sickly, and her eyes widening in sudden fear. She shook again, and as she did so, the towel slipped and fell to the floor. And she stood, all naked, leaving all the majesty and glory of her features hit on the artist and knock all his senses out. She was startled as the towel slipped and she was in such confusion that she had no strength to pick it back and put it on her body again. Jitendra was startled, felt himself thrown helter-skelter. He couldn't stand the almost divine perfections of her form and their impossibly large seductive appeal. Instantly all the sex in him came uppermost. His youthful manhood rocked the very foundations of his being. He was in the grip of a voluptuous fire. His blood boiled with sex. Even the sages Vasishta, Viswamitra and Vyasa would have fallen before the impact of that fabulous beauty. And Jitendra could not but fall. And he fell. He fainted and slanted limply on the chair. He looked dead. Bharathi was frightened. She was in panic. She didn't know what happened. She rushed up to him, all naked, took him in her arms, and tried to steady him and lean him on the back of the chair. He was breathing hard. And as her body touched his, the fleeting flush of sex she had experienced already on two previous occasions, shot up again and spread all over her being. It was sex in terrible explosion which she could not stand. She embraced him, pressed him fast against her bosom, and showered kisses on him all over his arms, nape, chest and face, kisses hard, lusty, deep and ravenously eating. He was still unconscious. She then stopped kissing him, and started to revive him. She fed him with some hot coffee that was in the flask, and after about fifteen minutes, he opened his eyes. But both were already wetting and sweating .
"What was it, Swamiji, what happened, why did you faint?", She asked.
"Nothing, Bharathi, last night I didn't have enough sleep. I had a head- ache too. That is now telling on me. Shall we stop today, and take it up tomorrow?"
"Yes, Swamiji, I too feel a bit shaken. I was caught with fright when I saw you collapse on the chair ".
Neither of them knew that the other had had a ripping attack of uncontainable sex.
That night Bharathi suffered intolerable pangs of conscience. Her guilt weighed her down, and all the burden of hell was on her. She wanted to weep, but she could not weep. There was a lump in her throat, and she choked with sobs that were unable to escape. She sat helplessly and in a fit of rage with herself, like a woman lost, doomed and thrown into eternal perdition. She was in a daze. She couldn’t sort out her ideas: What was her idea? Had she ceased to be the holy man's disciple? Was she trying to take him as her lover? Oh, God, was she so damned, abandoned and so accursed a creature? She had never known there was so much sin concealed in her, so much dirt, and so much of the beast. Was it her intention to wrest the saffron-robe out of her Guru, tear it to pieces and throw it on the dust, the saffron-robe she had so much worshipped and reverenced, and thought as the very vestment of God, and which she had rescued from the tumultuous fury of the Ganges after such mortal struggle? Was it not a treachery she was attempting against that heavenly garment? Was she going to break faith with it and walk out on it? Suppose the Swamiji knew of her sin, her succumbing to the sudden cataclysmic sex, would he accept her any longer as his disciple? Would he not refuse even to see her? He would hate her and spurn her, for ever, ever, for eternity. What pain he would have to bear? He had already too many sorrows on his head. If he knew it, perhaps it would stop his breath. All the same the libidinous assault she had experienced had left ineffaceable echoes all through her vital being. And they stayed.
There was the house-well about twenty feet from her room in the little garden on the south. She went there straight. She drew water from it in the large bucket. She poured it over her head with all her clothes on. And bucket after bucket of water she drew from the well, and went on pouring it on her head like a woman gone mad, like one in a frenzy, all a tremble, feeling like a ghost that was on an expedition from Hell. Then, like one breaking away from her own self, her dirty self, her sinful damned treacherous self. Like one trying to exorcise some devil out of her, the devil of sex. To drive out all the fleshly temptation, all the stain on her flesh, blood and bone, the deep imprint of stain on her soul, the heaviness of sin on it. And all the erotic dirt that lay in her thought. With water streaming all over her body and her clothes, shivering and shaking like a child yet more orphaned than before, she went straight into her Puja room, lighted a camphor on a brass plate, waved it before the picture of the Swamiji, the pictures of Lord Rama, Krishna, Ambal and other gods and goddesses. She sat in meditation, and weepingly she continued her meditation till it was four in the morning. Then she felt too drowsy and disabled. She slanted on the mat, tumbled and fell to sleep. She got up at five in the morning, changed her clothes, and finding her eyes closing again with sleep and feeling a little feverish too, she again fell on her bed and slept away. When she woke up, she had a lingering sensation in her that Mother Anna Poorneswari had visited her while she was in sleep, had pardoned her, purified her and blessed her. She felt reborn, remade, and cast anew into some thing altogether fresh and new. She felt like newly minted and the blessing of God shone in her.
But that night Jitendra's condition was far worse. He had already sinned twice or thrice in his mind. And he could no longer pardon himself. Four times in that night he was dead and brought back to life by some benign power. He meditated but refused to ask for God's pardon. He begged to God to send some plague on him, some scourge, something worse than hell to punish him. But only he wanted his Sanyasa and his Saffron-robe preserved. Then he saw his Guru, the Himalayan Yogi, appear in his dream, and solaced him. God always tested his devotees with such insurmountable crises at times. Only the devotee should gird up himself yet more strongly, and continue to advance. He would be with him, and wouldn't leave him until God gave a turn, and permitted him to withdraw. There was now peace in Jitendra's heart. He felt like one built anew and built stronger.
The picture was completed in about a fortnight. There was now on the canvas an apparition wrought out of Paradise, one to be visually fed upon, spiritually savored, a complete banquet to the senses, a woman mystifying and tantalizing, her ethereal charms fit to be borrowed by angels, a woman that stood spectacularly alone in the world, and she had no parallel in any of the existing Nudes of the great masters.
They didn't want to leave the picture in the open, he lest the spell of the fairy should revive the storm of sex in him again and she lest the burning appetite from which she had secured her release should rear its head once more. They covered the picture with lots of padding material and packed it up in a quantity of thick brown paper and sack cloth. It was then put in the largest shelf of an almirah and locked.
There are pictures that are nothing more than pictures. They are just to see and appreciate. Otherwise they have no more effect on one than a piece of paper or a lifeless commodity. But this was not one like that. Jitendra, in painting it, had so identified himself with it, that he had incorporated in it a good deal of his own astral power, rather built it into the picture that it possessed a life and vibration of its own, and began to throb and breathe. It was always possible for a Yogi to stand transferred in another person or thing, and still stay apart absolutely unaffected. That was what had happened in this case. It was something that had perhaps happened automatically without his ever consciously willing it. The picture possessed a fair quantity of Jitendra's psychic energy. And the picture began to live and give off sparks and had become a sort of phantom that could move and act. Even otherwise any picture that had a superlative quality and was possessed of the genius of its Maker in appreciable measure would not fail to possess a bit of his breath too and to exercise certain mystical effects on one's emotional field. Some of the pictures painted by sages have come to possess breath and pulsations and have been walking the earth mysteriously even now, invisible to the mortal eye, but effectuating a purpose. Jitendra became a victim of what he had himself created on the canvas.
The beautiful woman, broke open the bundle as it were, stepped out of the frame, haunted him and started pestering him. He tried to send it back into the colors that lay on the canvas and the wooden frame. But it was not something that could so easily be contained. It could and did smash its way in to his consciousness. Having produced a masterpiece that was twice or thrice a masterpiece, Jitendra could not help being proud of it or thinking about it constantly. And in the process he could not but feel the breath and body of the woman against his own, and love the warmth and power of it, experience it and get infatuated with it. And so Bharathi again began to settle in his vital being as an invisible power. The old tempestuous sex was now swiftly on the rebound. He now began to tremble that he was again being cast in sin. Morally he was again getting reduced. His Sanyasa was again beginning to fail. As an artist he could not help thinking of the godlike beauty he had created on the canvas and loving her. As a Sanyasin he was not supposed to permit such vitally provocative intrusions in to his mind, and expose his soul to the devil.
In the nights the woman from the canvas came and sat before him in one of the chairs or on the sofa, sometimes even on his bed, and started chatting. Its lips opened in honeyed whispers to the world-renouncer. Some times the naked torso alone showed, enlarging in size power and intensity. Some times the head alone showed laughing and readily poised for a passionate kiss. Sometimes there was nothing else to be seen except whatever there was below the waist. There were moments too when the whole figure stood before him, impinged on him, and seemed to force him for an orgy of love- sport. He knew he had tripped into the vile grossness of the flesh, that he was in the midst of coarse passions and forbidden indulgences. There seemed to be no escape except suicide. He did not want to pray any more, ask for pardon from God, or even sit in meditation. For he had not the face to face God. He had neither the moral strength or spiritual purity that would give him the right to put himself in God's presence. In fact he had no right to step even into his Puja room. He had fallen headlong into sin. He had the feeling of an exile from God's domain. The universe had become a colossal triangle in which his consciousness, the whole of it, was now centred.
Bharathi had lost all her peace. She found herself torn between two opposing states of mind, each laden with torment. The Swamiji had created out of her a surpassing goddess, and what he had created must naturally belong to him. Did she mean that she should go into his arms and give him sex? My God, what a thought, she shuddered. On one side there was in her Bhakthi for her Guru. On the other, she had the weakness of a woman vitally well-endowed, a longing, a forbidden longing, loaded with sin. Both these states of mind alternately took hold of her. The sense of guilt again became intolerable. The saffron-robe put her in the dock, and stared her in the face. He felt around her impending terribly the wrath of all the divine powers that stood guard over the saffron-robe. Had they forgotten that more than anyone of them she was the guardian of the robe, and had pledged herself to defend and watch over its purity and its sacred mission? True, but she was sinning against it now! This time she did not weep. She had already exhausted all her tears. She decided to allow her thought to kill her. She would take any punishment from God. She wanted to lose her sanity and become mad. That would certainly save her from profane thoughts and sinful fantasies.
During the past week, the Ashram was more in touch with Jitendra than before through telephone and postal correspondence.
The civil engineer to whom he had entrusted the construction of buildings on the newly purchased ten-acre plot had said in a letter that it wouldn't be right to put off construction work any longer since the cost of materials was likely to shoot up enormously after the budget. He had asked the Swamiji if he could engage labor from a village on the other side of the Ganges known as Viralipatty where he knew some labor contractors. He had asked for the Swamiji's instructions on the phone. Jitendra sent a return message on the phone agreeing to the suggestion. After a week another urgent message came to Jitendra from the engineer. The workers from Viralipatty had come and started the work. But the former inhabitants of the village Sheegampur made a forcible entry on the construction site, and gave a lot of trouble. They asked the newly employed workers to get out of the land since they had already obtained a promise from the Swamiji that he would not engage any labor other than themselves, Anyway the workers the engineer had brought were more than a match to them. They had beaten back the intruders, who had all taken flight. The matter had been reported to the police. The police had arrested all of them, and had filed charge-sheets against them in the criminal court. They were mow kept in the police lock-up.
There was also a letter from the newly appointed manager of the Gambeera farm. He had asked for instructions as to how to dispose of the newly harvested paddy which would come to about twenty lorry-loads. He had also mentioned in his letter about a dozen merchants who usually bought their produce, and the prices they quoted. He had added that the usual quantity was set apart for the orphanages, poor feeding at the temples, distribution of monthly food-packets to the convicts in various prisons, free allotment of rice to the work-houses, and for consignment to elementary schools where the poor children studied. Jitendra gave him instructions through post. The manager had at last said that all the farm-workers wanted to see him and were anxiously expecting him since it was a long time since he made his last visit.
His lawyer who was handling some of Jitendra's bank deposits and accounts had suggested in his letter that they could invest some of their funds in the shares of certain companies which were selling at a premium, and asked for instructions. Jitendra said in his reply that if nothing would be lost if he waited till he came, he could wait. Otherwise he could go ahead and invest as he had suggested.
There was a letter also from Lynda Wallace. She had said that she was leaving for Switzerland and Germany in the next twenty days, and that she wanted to see him before she left. Why was he stuck up in a faraway rustic place for so long? She heard that it was a seedy old sleepy village tucked away in a blighted forest. She had also heard that it was a chronically drought-stricken village where people lived in dingy holes and carried on their bodies all sorts of infectious diseases. Did he not think that there was risk to his health? She urged him to hasten and come away at once. He wrote back a letter asking her not to leave on her tour abroad without seeing him. He would be starting for his Ashram in about a week.
There were letters from Ashram disciples who had said what was being done at the Ashram and what was not. Many things had come to a standstill because of his absence. The Ashram was only half alive without him. They also had said that the artist Vidyapathi had already come with his family and had taken up residence in the Ashram premises. The Ashram was like a den without its lion.