devoted sons of the motherland, the Kundu and the Chakravarti
__zamindars__. If only, say they, the country had a few more
of such staunch patriots, the mills of Manchester would have, had
to sound their own dirge to the tune of __Bande Mataram__.
Then comes a letter in blood-red ink, giving a list of the
traitorous __zamindars__ whose treasuries have been burnt down
because of their failing to support the Cause. Holy Fire, it
goes on to say, has been aroused to its sacred function of
purifying the country; and other agencies are also at work to see
that those who are not true sons of the motherland do cease to
encumber her lap. The signature is an obvious __nom-de-
I could see that this was the doing of our local students. So I
sent for some of them and showed them the letter.
The B.A. student gravely informed me that they also had heard
that a band of desperate patriots had been formed who would stick
at nothing in order to clear away all obstacles to the success of
"If," said I, "even one of our countrymen succumbs to these
overbearing desperadoes, that will indeed be a defeat for the
"We fail to follow you, Maharaja," said the history student.
"'Our country," I tried to explain, "has been brought to death's
door through sheer fear - from fear of the gods down to fear of
the police; and if you set up, in the name of freedom, the fear
of some other bogey, whatever it may be called; if you would
raise your victorious standard on the cowardice of the country by
means of downright oppression, then no true lover of the country
can bow to your decision."
"Is there any country, sir," pursued the history student, "where
submission to Government is not due to fear?"
"The freedom that exists in any country," I replied, "may be
measured by the extent of this reign of fear. Where its threat
is confined to those who would hurt or plunder, there the
Government may claim to have freed man from the violence of man.
But if fear is to regulate how people are to dress, where they
shall trade, or what they must eat, then is man's freedom of will
utterly ignored, and manhood destroyed at the root."
"Is not such coercion of the individual will seen in other
countries too?" continued the history student.
"Who denies it?" I exclaimed. "But in every country man has
destroyed himself to the extent that he has permitted slavery to
"Does it not rather show," interposed a Master of Arts, "that
trading in slavery is inherent in man - a fundamental fact of his
"Sandip Babu made the whole thing clear," said a graduate. "He
gave us the example of Harish Kundu, your neighbouring
__zamindar__. From his estates you cannot ferret out a single
ounce of foreign salt. Why? Because he has always ruled with an
iron hand. In the case of those who are slaves by nature, the
lack of a strong master is the greatest of all calamities."
"Why, sir!" chimed in an undergraduate, "have you not heard of
the obstreperous tenant of Chakravarti, the other __zamindar__
close by - how the law was set on him till he was reduced to utter
destitution? When at last he was left with nothing to eat, he
started out to sell his wife's silver ornaments, but no one dared
buy them. Then Chakravarti's manager offered him five rupees for
the lot. They were worth over thirty, but he had to accept or
starve. After taking over the bundle from him the manager coolly
said that those five rupees would be credited towards his rent!
We felt like having nothing more to do with Chakravarti or his
manager after that, but Sandip Babu told us that if we threw over
all the live people, we should have only dead bodies from the
burning-grounds to carry on the work with! These live men, he
pointed out, know what they want and how to get it - they are born
rulers. Those who do not know how to desire for themselves, must
live in accordance with, or die by virtue of, the desires of such
as these. Sandip Babu contrasted them - Kundu and Chakravarti -
with you, Maharaja. You, he said, for all your good intentions,
will never succeed in planting __Swadeshi__ within your
"It is my desire," I said, "to plant something greater than
__Swadeshi__. I am not after dead logs but living trees - and
these will take time to grow."
"I am afraid, sir," sneered the history student, "that you will
get neither log nor tree. Sandip Babu rightly teaches that in
order to get, you must snatch. This is taking all of us some
time to learn, because it runs counter to what we were taught at
school. I have seen with my own eyes that when a rent-collector
of Harish Kundu's found one of the tenants with nothing which
could be sold up to pay his rent, he was made to sell his young
wife! Buyers were not wanting, and the __zamindar's__ demand
was satisfied. I tell you, sir, the sight of that man's distress
prevented my getting sleep for nights together! But, feel it as
I did, this much I realized, that the man who knows how to get
the money he is out for, even by selling up his debtor's wife, is
a better man than I am. I confess it is beyond me - I am a
weakling, my eyes fill with tears. If anybody can save our
country it is these Kundus and these Chakravartis and their
I was shocked beyond words. "If what you say be true," I cried,
"I clearly see that it must be the one endeavour of my life to
save the country from these same Kundus and Chakravartis and
officials. The slavery that has entered into our very bones is
breaking out, at this opportunity, as ghastly tyranny. You have
been so used to submit to domination through fear, you have come
to believe that to make others submit is a kind of religion. My
fight shall be against this weakness, this atrocious cruelty!"
These things, which are so simple to ordinary folk, get so
twisted in the minds of our B.A.'s and M.A.'s, the only purpose
of whose historical quibbles seems to be to torture the truth!
I am worried over Panchu's sham aunt. It will be difficult to
disprove her, for though witnesses of a real event may be few or
even wanting, innumerable proofs of a thing that has not happened
can always be marshalled. The object of this move is, evidently,
to get the sale of Panchu's holding to me set aside. Being
unable to find any other way out of it, I was thinking of
allowing Panchu to hold a permanent tenure in my estates and
building him a cottage on it. But my master would not have it.
I should not give in to these nefarious tactics so easily, he
objected, and offered to attend to the matter himself.
"You, sir!" I cried, considerably surprised.
"Yes, I," he repeated.
I could not see, at all clearly, what my master could do to
counteract these legal machinations. That evening, at the time
he usually came to me, he did not turn up. On my making
inquiries, his servant said he had left home with a few things
packed in a small trunk, and some bedding, saying he would be
back in a few days. I thought he might have sallied forth to
hunt for witnesses in Panchu's uncle's village. In that case,
however, I was sure that his would be a hopeless quest ...
During the day I forget myself in my work. As the late autumn
afternoon wears on, the colours of the sky become turbid, and so
do the feelings of my mind. There are many in this world whose
minds dwell in brick-built houses - they can afford to ignore the
thing called the outside. But my mind lives under the trees in
the open, directly receives upon itself the messages borne by the
free winds, and responds from the bottom of its heart to all the
musical cadences of light and darkness.
While the day is bright and the world in the pursuit of its
numberless tasks crowds around, then it seems as if my life wants
nothing else. But when the colours of the sky fade away and the
blinds are drawn down over the windows of heaven, then my heart
tells me that evening falls just for the purpose of shutting out
the world, to mark the time when the darkness must be filled with
the One. This is the end to which earth, sky, and waters
conspire, and I cannot harden myself against accepting its
meaning. So when the gloaming deepens over the world, like the
gaze of the dark eyes of the beloved, then my whole being tells
me that work alone cannot be the truth of life, that work is not
the be-all and the end-all of man, for man is not simply a serf -
even though the serfdom be of the True and the Good.
Alas, Nikhil, have you for ever parted company with that self of
yours who used to be set free under the starlight, to plunge into
the infinite depths of the night's darkness after the day's work
was done? How terribly alone is he, who misses companionship in
the midst of the multitudinousness of life.
The other day, when the afternoon had reached the meeting-point
of day and night, I had no work, nor the mind for work, nor was
my master there to keep me company. With my empty, drifting
heart longing to anchor on to something, I traced my steps
towards the inner gardens. I was very fond of chrysanthemums and
had rows of them, of all varieties, banked up in pots against one
of the garden walls. When they were in flower, it looked like a
wave of green breaking into iridescent foam. It was some time
since I had been to this part of the grounds, and I was beguiled
into a cheerful expectancy at the thought of meeting my
chrysanthemums after our long separation.
As I went in, the full moon had just peeped over the wall, her
slanting rays leaving its foot in deep shadow. It seemed as if
she had come a-tiptoe from behind, and clasped the darkness over
the eyes, smiling mischievously. When I came near the bank of
chrysanthemums, I saw a figure stretched on the grass in front.
My heart gave a sudden thud. The figure also sat up with a start
at my footsteps.
What was to be done next? I was wondering whether it would do to
beat a precipitate retreat. Bimala, also, was doubtless casting
about for some way of escape. But it was as awkward to go as to
stay! Before I could make up my mind, Bimala rose, pulled the
end of her __sari__ over her head, and walked off towards the
This brief pause had been enough to make real to me the cruel
load of Bimala's misery. The plaint of my own life vanished from
me in a moment. I called out: "Bimala!"
She started and stayed her steps, but did not turn back. I went
round and stood before her. Her face was in the shade, the
moonlight fell on mine. Her eyes were downcast, her hands
"Bimala," said I, "why should I seek to keep you fast in this
closed cage of mine? Do I not know that thus you cannot but pine
She stood still, without raising her eyes or uttering a word.
"I know," I continued, "that if I insist on keeping you shackled
my whole life will be reduced to nothing but an iron chain. What
pleasure can that be to me?"
She was still silent.
"So," I concluded, "I tell you, truly, Bimala, you are free.
Whatever I may or may not have been to you, I refuse to be your
fetters." With which I came away towards the outer apartments.
No, no, it was not a generous impulse, nor indifference. I had
simply come to understand that never would I be free until I
could set free. To try to keep Bimala as a garland round my
neck, would have meant keeping a weight hanging over my heart.
Have I not been praying with all my strength, that if happiness
may not be mine, let it go; if grief needs must be my lot, let it
come; but let me not be kept in bondage. To clutch hold of that
which is untrue as though it were true, is only to throttle
oneself. May I be saved from such self-destruction.
When I entered my room, I found my master waiting there. My
agitated feelings were still heaving within me. "Freedom, sir,"
I began unceremoniously, without greeting or inquiry, "freedom is
the biggest thing for man. Nothing can be compared to it -
nothing at all!"
Surprised at my outburst, my master looked up at me in silence.
"One can understand nothing from books," I went on. "We read in
the scriptures that our desires are bonds, fettering us as well
as others. But such words, by themselves, are so empty. It is
only when we get to the point of letting the bird out of its cage
that we can realize how free the bird has set us. Whatever we
cage, shackles us with desire whose bonds are stronger than those
of iron chains. I tell you, sir, this is just what the world has
failed to understand. They all seek to reform something outside
themselves. But reform is wanted only in one's own desires,
nowhere else, nowhere else!"
"We think," he said, "that we are our own masters when we get in
our hands the object of our desire - but we are really our own
masters only when we are able to cast out our desires from our
"When we put all this into words, sir," I went on, "it sounds
like some bald-headed injunction, but when we realize even a
little of it we find it to be __amrita__ - which the gods have
drunk and become immortal. We cannot see Beauty till we let go
our hold of it. It was Buddha who conquered the world, not
Alexander - this is untrue when stated in dry prose - oh when shall
we be able to sing it? When shall all these most intimate truths
of the universe overflow the pages of printed books and leap out
in a sacred stream like the Ganges from the Gangotrie?"
I was suddenly reminded of my master's absence during the last
few days and of my ignorance as to its reason. I felt somewhat
foolish as I asked him: "And where have you been all this while,
"Staying with Panchu," he replied.
"Indeed!" I exclaimed. "Have you been there all these days?"
"Yes. I wanted to come to an understanding with the woman who
calls herself his aunt. She could hardly be induced to believe
that there could be such an odd character among the gentlefolk as
the one who sought their hospitality. When she found I really
meant to stay on, she began to feel rather ashamed of herself.
'Mother,' said I, 'you are not going to get rid of me, even if
you abuse me! And so long as I stay, Panchu stays also. For you
see, do you not, that I cannot stand by and see his motherless
little ones sent out into the streets?'
"She listened to my talks in this strain for a couple of days
without saying yes or no. This morning I found her tying up her
bundles. 'We are going back to Brindaban,' she said. 'Let us
have our expenses for the journey.' I knew she was not going to
Brindaban, and also that the cost of her journey would be
substantial. So I have come to you."
"The required cost shall be paid," I said.
"The old woman is not a bad sort," my master went on musingly.
"Panchu was not sure of her caste, and would not let her touch
the water-jar, or anything at all of his. So they were
continually bickering. When she found I had no objection to her
touch, she looked after me devotedly. She is a splendid cook!
"But all remnants of Panchu's respect for me vanished! To the
last he had thought that I was at least a simple sort of person.
But here was I, risking my caste without a qualm to win over the
old woman for my purpose. Had I tried to steal a march on her by
tutoring a witness for the trial, that would have been a
different matter. Tactics must be met by tactics. But stratagem
at the expense of orthodoxy is more than he can tolerate!
"Anyhow, I must stay on a few days at Panchu's even after the
woman leaves, for Harish Kundu may be up to any kind of devilry.
He has been telling his satellites that he was content to have
furnished Panchu with an aunt, but I have gone the length of
supplying him with a father. He would like to see, now, how many
fathers of his can save him!"
"We may or may not be able to save him," I said; "but if we
should perish in the attempt to save the country from the
thousand-and-one snares - of religion, custom and selfishness -
which these people are busy spreading, we shall at least die
Who could have thought that so much would happen in this one
life? I feel as if I have passed through a whole series of
births, time has been flying so fast, I did not feel it move at
all, till the shock came the other day.
I knew there would be words between us when I made up my mind to
ask my husband to banish foreign goods from our market. But it
was my firm belief that I had no need to meet argument by
argument, for there was magic in the very air about me. Had not
so tremendous a man as Sandip fallen helplessly at my feet, like
a wave of the mighty sea breaking on the shore? Had I called
him? No, it was the summons of that magic spell of mine. And
Amulya, poor dear boy, when he first came to me - how the current
of his life flushed with colour, like the river at dawn! Truly
have I realized how a goddess feels when she looks upon the
radiant face of her devotee.
With the confidence begotten of these proofs of my power, I was
ready to meet my husband like a lightning-charged cloud. But
what was it that happened? Never in all these nine years have I
seen such a far-away, distraught look in his eyes - like the
desert sky - with no merciful moisture of its own, no colour
reflected, even, from what it looked upon. I should have been so
relieved if his anger had flashed out! But I could find nothing
in him which I could touch. I felt as unreal as a dream - a dream
which would leave only the blackness of night when it was over.
In the old days I used to be jealous of my sister-in-law for her
beauty. Then I used to feel that Providence had given me no
power of my own, that my whole strength lay in the love which my
husband had bestowed on me. Now that I had drained to the dregs
the cup of power and could not do without its intoxication, I
suddenly found it dashed to pieces at my feet, leaving me nothing
to live for.
How feverishly I had sat to do my hair that day. Oh, shame,
shame on me, the utter shame of it! My sister-in-law, when
passing by, had exclaimed: "Aha, Chota Rani! Your hair seems
ready to jump off. Don't let it carry your head with it."
And then, the other day in the garden, how easy my husband found
it to tell me that he set me free! But can freedom - empty
freedom - be given and taken so easily as all that? It is like
setting a fish free in the sky - for how can I move or live
outside the atmosphere of loving care which has always sustained
When I came to my room today, I saw only furniture - only the
bedstead, only the looking-glass, only the clothes-rack - not the
all-pervading heart which used to be there, over all. Instead of
it there was freedom, only freedom, mere emptiness! A dried-up
watercourse with all its rocks and pebbles laid bare. No
feeling, only furniture!
When I had arrived at a state of utter bewilderment, wondering
whether anything true was left in my life, and whereabouts it
could be, I happened to meet Sandip again. Then life struck
against life, and the sparks flew in the same old way. Here was
truth - impetuous truth - which rushed in and overflowed all
bounds, truth which was a thousand times truer than the Bara Rani
with her maid, Thako and her silly songs, and all the rest of
them who talked and laughed and wandered about ...
"Fifty thousand!" Sandip had demanded.
"What is fifty thousand?" cried my intoxicated heart. "You
shall have it!"
How to get it, where to get it, were minor points not worth
troubling over. Look at me. Had I not risen, all in one moment,
from my nothingness to a height above everything? So shall all
things come at my beck and call. I shall get it, get it, get it
- there cannot be any doubt.
Thus had I come away from Sandip the other day. Then as I looked
about me, where was it - the tree of plenty? Oh, why does this
outer world insult the heart so?
And yet get it I must; how, I do not care; for sin there cannot
be. Sin taints only the weak; I with my __Shakti__ am beyond
its reach. Only a commoner can be a thief, the king conquers and
takes his rightful spoil ... I must find out where the treasury
is; who takes the money in; who guards it.
I spent half the night standing in the outer verandah peering at
the row of office buildings. But how to get that fifty thousand
rupees out of the clutches of those iron bars? If by some
__mantram__ I could have made all those guards fall dead in
their places, I would not have hesitated - so pitiless did I feel!
But while a whole gang of robbers seemed dancing a war-dance
within the whirling brain of its Rani, the great house of the
Rajas slept in peace. The gong of the watch sounded hour after
hour, and the sky overhead placidly looked on.
At last I sent for Amulya.
"Money is wanted for the Cause," I told him. "Can you not get it
out of the treasury?"
"Why not?" said he, with his chest thrown out.
Alas! had I not said "Why not?" to Sandip just in the same way?
The poor lad's confidence could rouse no hopes in my mind.
"How will you do it?" I asked.
The wild plans he began to unfold would hardly bear repetition
outside the pages of a penny dreadful.
"No, Amulya," I said severely, "you must not be childish."
"Very well, then," he said, "let me bribe those watchmen."
"Where is the money to come from?"
"I can loot the bazar," he burst out, without blenching.
"Leave all that alone. I have my ornaments, they will serve.
"But," said Amulya, "it strikes me that the cashier cannot be
bribed. Never mind, there is another and simpler way."
"What is that?"
"Why need you hear it? It is quite simple."
"Still, I should like to know."
Amulya fumbled in the pocket of his tunic and pulled out, first a
small edition of the __Gita__, which he placed on the table -
and then a little pistol, which he showed me, but said nothing
Horror! It did not take him a moment to make up his mind to kill
our good old cashier!  To look at his frank, open face one
would not have thought him capable of hurting a fly, but how
different were the words which came from his mouth. It was clear
that the cashier's place in the world meant nothing real to him;
it was a mere vacancy, lifeless, feelingless, with only stock
phrases from the __Gita - Who kills the body kills naught! __
"Whatever do you mean, Amulya?" I exclaimed at length. "Don't
you know that the dear old man has got a wife and children and
that he is ..."
"Where are we to find men who have no wives and children?" he
interrupted. "Look here, Maharani, the thing we call pity is, at
bottom, only pity for ourselves. We cannot bear to wound our own
tender instincts, and so we do not strike at all - pity indeed!
The height of cowardice!"
To hear Sandip's phrases in the mouth of this mere boy staggered
me. So delightfully, lovably immature was he - of that age when
the good may still be believed in as good, of that age when one
really lives and grows. The Mother in me awoke.
For myself there was no longer good or bad - only death, beautiful
alluring death. But to hear this stripling calmly talk of
murdering an inoffensive old man as the right thing to do, made
me shudder all over. The more clearly I saw that there was no
sin in his heart, the more horrible appeared to me the sin of his
words. I seemed to see the sin of the parents visited on the
The sight of his great big eyes shining with faith and enthusiasm
touched me to the quick. He was going, in his fascination,
straight to the jaws of the python, from which, once in, there
was no return. How was he to be saved? Why does not my country
become, for once, a real Mother - clasp him to her bosom and cry
out: "Oh, my child, my child, what profits it that you should
save me, if so it be that I should fail to save you?"
I know, I know, that all Power on earth waxes great under compact
with Satan. But the Mother is there, alone though she be, to
contemn and stand against this devil's progress. The Mother
cares not for mere success, however great - she wants to give
life, to save life. My very soul, today, stretches out its hands
in yearning to save this child.
A while ago I suggested robbery to him. Whatever I may now say
against it will be put down to a woman's weakness. They only
love our weakness when it drags the world in its toils!
"You need do nothing at all, Amulya, I will see to the money," I
told him finally. When he had almost reached the door, I called
"Amulya," said I, "I am your elder sister. Today is not the
Brothers' Day  according to the calendar, but all the days in