"Whose orders?" asked Nikhil.
"How am I to know?" exclaimed Bee impatiently, her eyes brimming
over with mortification.
Nikhil sent for the man and questioned him. "It was not my
fault," Nanku repeated sullenly. "I had my orders."
"Who gave you the order?"
"The Bara Rani Mother."
We were all silent for a while. After the man had left, Bee
said: "Nanku must go!"
Nikhil remained silent. I could see that his sense of justice
would not allow this. There was no end to his qualms. But this
time he was up against a tough problem. Bee was not the woman to
take things lying down. She would have to get even with her
sister-in-law by punishing this fellow. And as Nikhil remained
silent, her eyes flashed fire. She knew not how to pour her
scorn upon her husband's feebleness of spirit. Nikhil left the
room after a while without another word.
The next day Nanku was not to be seen. On inquiry, I learnt that
he had been sent off to some other part of the estates, and that
his wages had not suffered by such transfer.
I could catch glimpses of the ravages of the storm raging over
this, behind the scenes. All I can say is, that Nikhil is a
curious creature, quite out of the common.
The upshot was, that after this Bee began to send for me to the
sitting-room, for a chat, without any contrivance, or pretence of
its being an accident. Thus from bare suggestion we came to
broad hint: the implied came to be expressed. The daughter-in-
law of a princely house lives in a starry region so remote from
the ordinary outsider that there is not even a regular road for
his approach. What a triumphal progress of Truth was this which,
gradually but persistently, thrust aside veil after veil of
obscuring custom, till at length Nature herself was laid bare.
Truth? Of course it was the truth! The attraction of man and
woman for each other is fundamental. The whole world of matter,
from the speck of dust upwards, is ranged on its side. And yet
men would keep it hidden away out of sight, behind a tissue of
words; and with home-made sanctions and prohibitions make of it a
domestic utensil. Why, it's as absurd as melting down the solar
system to make a watch-chain for one's son-in-law! 
When, in spite of all, reality awakes at the call of what is but
naked truth, what a gnashing of teeth and beating of breasts is
there! But can one carry on a quarrel with a storm? It never
takes the trouble to reply, it only gives a shaking.
I am enjoying the sight of this truth, as it gradually reveals
itself. These tremblings of steps, these turnings of the face,
are sweet to me: and sweet are the deceptions which deceive not
only others, but also Bee herself. When Reality has to meet the
unreal, deception is its principal weapon; for its enemies always
try to shame Reality by calling it gross, and so it needs must
hide itself, or else put on some disguise. The circumstances are
such that it dare not frankly avow: "Yes, I am gross, because I
am true. I am flesh. I am passion. I am hunger, unashamed and
All is now clear to me. The curtain flaps, and through it I can
see the preparations for the catastrophe. The little red ribbon,
which peeps through the luxuriant masses of her hair, with its
flush of secret longing, it is the lolling tongue of the red
storm cloud. I feel the warmth of each turn of her __sari__,
each suggestion of her raiment, of which even the wearer may not
be fully conscious.
Bee was not conscious, because she was ashamed of the reality; to
which men have given a bad name, calling it Satan; and so it has
to steal into the garden of paradise in the guise of a snake, and
whisper secrets into the ears of man's chosen consort and make
her rebellious; then farewell to all ease; and after that comes
My poor little Queen Bee is living in a dream. She knows not
which way she is treading. It would not be safe to awaken her
before the time. It is best for me to pretend to be equally
The other day, at dinner, she was gazing at me in a curious sort
of way, little realizing what such glances mean! As my eyes met
hers, she turned away with a flush. "You are surprised at my
appetite," I remarked. "I can hide everything, except that I am
greedy! Anyhow, why trouble to blush for me, since I am
This only made her colour more furiously, as she stammered: "No,
no, I was only..."
"I know," I interrupted. "Women have a weakness for greedy men;
for it is this greed of ours which gives them the upper hand.
The indulgence which I have always received at their hands has
made me all the more shameless. I do not mind your watching the
good things disappear, not one bit. I mean to enjoy every one of
The other day I was reading an English book in which sex-problems
were treated in an audaciously realistic manner. I had left it
lying in the sitting-room. As I went there the next afternoon,
for something or other, I found Bee seated with this book in her
hand. When she heard my footsteps she hurriedly put it down and
placed another book over it - a volume of Mrs Hemans's poems.
"I have never been able to make out," I began, "why women are so
shy about being caught reading poetry. We men - lawyers,
mechanics, or what not - may well feel ashamed. If we must read
poetry, it should be at dead of night, within closed doors. But
you women are so akin to poesy. The Creator Himself is a lyric
poet, and Jayadeva  must have practised the divine art seated
at His feet."
Bee made no reply, but only blushed uncomfortably. She made as
if she would leave the room. Whereupon I protested: "No, no,
pray read on. I will just take a book I left here, and run
away." With which I took up my book from the table. "Lucky you
did not think of glancing over its pages," I continued, "or you
would have wanted to chastise me."
"Indeed! Why?" asked Bee.
"Because it is not poetry," said I. "Only blunt things, bluntly
put, without any finicking niceness. I wish Nikhil would read
Bee frowned a little as she murmured: "What makes you wish that?"
"He is a man, you see, one of us. My only quarrel with him is
that he delights in a misty vision of this world. Have you not
observed how this trait of his makes him look on __Swadeshi__
as if it was some poem of which the metre must be kept correct at
every step? We, with the clubs of our prose, are the iconoclasts
"What has your book to do with __Swadeshi__?"
"You would know if you only read it. Nikhil wants to go by made-
up maxims, in __Swadeshi__ as in everything else; so he knocks
up against human nature at every turn, and then falls to abusing
it. He never will realize that human nature was created long
before phrases were, and will survive them too."
Bee was silent for a while and then gravely said: "Is it not a
part of human nature to try and rise superior to itself?"
I smiled inwardly. "These are not your words", I thought to
myself. "You have learnt them from Nikhil. You are a healthy
human being. Your flesh and blood have responded to the call of
reality. You are burning in every vein with life-fire - do I not
know it? How long should they keep you cool with the wet towel
of moral precepts?"
"The weak are in the majority," I said aloud. "They are
continually poisoning the ears of men by repeating these
shibboleths. Nature has denied them strength - it is thus that
they try to enfeeble others."
"We women are weak," replied Bimala. "So I suppose we must join
in the conspiracy of the weak."
"Women weak!" I exclaimed with a laugh. "Men belaud you as
delicate and fragile, so as to delude you into thinking
yourselves weak. But it is you women who are strong. Men make a
great outward show of their so-called freedom, but those who know
their inner minds are aware of their bondage. They have
manufactured scriptures with their own hands to bind themselves;
with their very idealism they have made golden fetters of women
to wind round their body and mind. If men had not that
extraordinary faculty of entangling themselves in meshes of their
own contriving, nothing could have kept them bound. But as for
you women, you have desired to conceive reality with body and
soul. You have given birth to reality. You have suckled reality
at your breasts."
Bee was well read for a woman, and would not easily give in to my
arguments. "If that were true," she objected, "men would not
have found women attractive."
"Women realize the danger," I replied. "They know that men love
delusions, so they give them full measure by borrowing their own
phrases. They know that man, the drunkard, values intoxication
more than food, and so they try to pass themselves off as an
intoxicant. As a matter of fact, but for the sake of man, woman
has no need for any make-believe."
"Why, then, are you troubling to destroy the illusion?"
"For freedom. I want the country to be free. I want human
relations to be free."
- - -
13. According to the Hindu calendar [Trans.].
14. The son-in-law is the pet of a Hindu household.
15. A Vaishnava poet (Sanskrit) whose lyrics of the adoration of
the Divinity serve as well to express all shades of human passion
I was aware that it is unsafe suddenly to awake a sleep-walker.
But I am so impetuous by nature, a halting gait does not suit me.
I knew I was overbold that day. I knew that the first shock of
such ideas is apt to be almost intolerable. But with women it is
always audacity that wins.
Just as we were getting on nicely, who should walk in but
Nikhil's old tutor Chandranath Babu. The world would have been
not half a bad place to live in but for these schoolmasters, who
make one want to quit in disgust. The Nikhil type wants to keep
the world always a school. This incarnation of a school turned
up that afternoon at the psychological moment.
We all remain schoolboys in some corner of our hearts, and I,
even I, felt somewhat pulled up. As for poor Bee, she at once
took her place solemnly, like the topmost girl of the class on
the front bench. All of a sudden she seemed to remember that she
had to face her examination.
Some people are so like eternal pointsmen lying in wait by the
line, to shunt one's train of thought from one rail to another.
Chandranath Babu had no sooner come in than he cast about for
some excuse to retire, mumbling: "I beg your pardon, I..."
Before he could finish, Bee went up to him and made a profound
obeisance, saying: "Pray do not leave us, sir. Will you not take
a seat?" She looked like a drowning person clutching at him for
support - the little coward!
But possibly I was mistaken. It is quite likely that there was a
touch of womanly wile in it. She wanted, perhaps, to raise her
value in my eyes. She might have been pointedly saying to me:
"Please don't imagine for a moment that I am entirely overcome by
you. My respect for Chandranath Babu is even greater."
Well, indulge in your respect by all means! Schoolmasters thrive
on it. But not being one of them, I have no use for that empty
Chandranath Babu began to talk about __Swadeshi__. I thought
I would let him go on with his monologues. There is nothing like
letting an old man talk himself out. It makes him feel that he
is winding up the world, forgetting all the while how far away
the real world is from his wagging tongue.
But even my worst enemy would not accuse me of patience. And
when Chandranath Babu went on to say: "If we expect to gather
fruit where we have sown no seed, then we ..." I had to
"Who wants fruit?" I cried. "We go by the Author of the Gita
who says that we are concerned only with the doing, not with the
fruit of our deeds."
"What is it then that you do want?" asked Chandranath Babu.
"Thorns!" I exclaimed, "which cost nothing to plant."
"Thorns do not obstruct others only," he replied. "They have a
way of hurting one's own feet."
"That is all right for a copy-book," I retorted. "But the real
thing is that we have this burning at heart. Now we have only to
cultivate thorns for other's soles; afterwards when they hurt us
we shall find leisure to repent. But why be frightened even of
that? When at last we have to die it will be time enough to get
cold. While we are on fire let us seethe and boil."
Chandranath Babu smiled. "Seethe by all means," he said, "but do
not mistake it for work, or heroism. Nations which have got on
in the world have done so by action, not by ebullition. Those
who have always lain in dread of work, when with a start they
awake to their sorry plight, they look to short-cuts and scamping
for their deliverance."
I was girding up my loins to deliver a crushing reply, when
Nikhil came back. Chandranath Babu rose, and looking towards
Bee, said: "Let me go now, my little mother, I have some work to
As he left, I showed Nikhil the book in my hand. "I was telling
Queen Bee about this book," I said.
Ninety-nine per cent of people have to be deluded with lies, but
it is easier to delude this perpetual pupil of the schoolmaster
with the truth. He is best cheated openly. So, in playing with
him, the simplest course was to lay my cards on the table.
Nikhil read the title on the cover, but said nothing. "These
writers," I continued, "are busy with their brooms, sweeping away
the dust of epithets with which men have covered up this world of
ours. So, as I was saying, I wish you would read it."
"I have read it," said Nikhil.
"Well, what do you say?"
"It is all very well for those who really care to think, but
poison for those who shirk thought."
"What do you mean?"
"Those who preach 'Equal Rights of Property' should not be
thieves. For, if they are, they would be preaching lies. When
passion is in the ascendant, this kind of book is not rightly
"Passion," I replied, "is the street lamp which guides us. To
call it untrue is as hopeless as to expect to see better by
plucking out our natural eyes."
Nikhil was visibly growing excited. "I accept the truth of
passion," he said, "only when I recognize the truth of restraint.
By pressing what we want to see right into our eyes we only
injure them: we do not see. So does the violence of passion,
which would leave no space between the mind and its object,
defeat its purpose."
"It is simply your intellectual foppery," I replied, "which makes
you indulge in moral delicacy, ignoring the savage side of truth.
This merely helps you to mystify things, and so you fail to do
your work with any degree of strength."
"The intrusion of strength," said Nikhil impatiently, "where
strength is out of place, does not help you in your work ... But
why are we arguing about these things? Vain arguments only brush
off the fresh bloom of truth."
I wanted Bee to join in the discussion, but she had not said a
word up to now. Could I have given her too rude a shock, leaving
her assailed with doubts and wanting to learn her lesson afresh
from the schoolmaster? Still, a thorough shaking-up is
essential. One must begin by realizing that things supposed to
be unshakeable can be shaken.
"I am glad I had this talk with you," I said to Nikhil, "for I
was on the point of lending this book to Queen Bee to read."
"What harm?" said Nikhil. "If I could read the book, why not
Bimala too? All I want to say is, that in Europe people look at
everything from the viewpoint of science. But man is neither
mere physiology, nor biology, nor psychology, nor even sociology.
For God's sake don't forget that. Man is infinitely more than
the natural science of himself. You laugh at me, calling me the
schoolmaster's pupil, but that is what you are, not I. You want
to find the truth of man from your science teachers, and not from
your own inner being."
"But why all this excitement?" I mocked.
"Because I see you are bent on insulting man and making him
"Where on earth do you see all that?"
"In the air, in my outraged feelings. You would go on wounding
the great, the unselfish, the beautiful in man."
"What mad idea is this of yours?"
Nikhil suddenly stood up. "I tell you plainly, Sandip," he said,
"man may be wounded unto death, but he will not die. This is the
reason why I am ready to suffer all, knowing all, with eyes
With these words he hurriedly left the room.
I was staring blankly at his retreating figure, when the sound of
a book, falling from the table, made me turn to find Bee
following him with quick, nervous steps, making a detour to avoid
passing too near me.
A curious creature, that Nikhil! He feels the danger threatening
his home, and yet why does he not turn me out? I know, he is
waiting for Bimal to give him the cue. If Bimal tells him that
their mating has been a misfit, he will bow his head and admit
that it may have been a blunder! He has not the strength of mind
to understand that to acknowledge a mistake is the greatest of
all mistakes. He is a typical example of how ideas make for
weakness. I have not seen another like him - so whimsical a
product of nature! He would hardly do as a character in a novel
or drama, to say nothing of real life.
And Bee? I am afraid her dream-life is over from today. She has
at length understood the nature of the current which is bearing
her along. Now she must either advance or retreat, open-eyed.
The chances are she will now advance a step, and then retreat a
step. But that does not disturb me. When one is on fire, this
rushing to and fro makes the blaze all the fiercer. The fright
she has got will only fan her passion.
Perhaps I had better not say much to her, but simply select some
modern books for her to read. Let her gradually come to the
conviction that to acknowledge and respect passion as the supreme
reality, is to be modern - not to be ashamed of it, not to glorify
restraint. If she finds shelter in some such word as "modern",
she will find strength.
Be that as it may, I must see this out to the end of the Fifth
Act. I cannot, unfortunately, boast of being merely a spectator,
seated in the royal box, applauding now and again. There is a
wrench at my heart, a pang in every nerve. When I have put out
the light and am in my bed, little touches, little glances,
little words flit about and fill the darkness. When I get up in
the morning, I thrill with lively anticipations, my blood seems
to course through me to the strains of music ...
There was a double photo-frame on the table with Bee's photograph
by the side of Nikhil's. I had taken out hers. Yesterday I
showed Bee the empty side and said: "Theft becomes necessary only
because of miserliness, so its sin must be divided between the
miser and the thief. Do you not think so?"
"It was not a good one," observed Bee simply, with a little
"What is to be done?" said I. "A portrait cannot be better than
a portrait. I must be content with it, such as it is."
Bee took up a book and began to turn over the pages. "If you are
annoyed," I went on, "I must make a shift to fill up the
Today I have filled it up. This photograph of mine was taken in
my early youth. My face was then fresher, and so was my mind.
Then I still cherished some illusions about this world and the
next. Faith deceives men, but it has one great merit: it imparts
a radiance to the features.
My portrait now reposes next to Nikhil's, for are not the two of
us old friends?
I WAS never self-conscious. But nowadays I often try to take an
outside view - to see myself as Bimal sees me. What a dismally
solemn picture it makes, my habit of taking things too seriously!
Better, surely, to laugh away the world than flood it with tears.
That is, in fact, how the world gets on. We relish our food and
rest, only because we can dismiss, as so many empty shadows, the
sorrows scattered everywhere, both in the home and in the outer
world. If we took them as true, even for a moment, where would
be our appetite, our sleep?
But I cannot dismiss myself as one of these shadows, and so the
load of my sorrow lies eternally heavy on the heart of my world.
Why not stand out aloof in the highway of the universe, and feel
yourself to be part of the all? In the midst of the immense,
age-long concourse of humanity, what is Bimal to you? Your wife?
What is a wife? A bubble of a name blown big with your own
breath, so carefully guarded night and day, yet ready to burst at
any pin-prick from outside.
My wife - and so, forsooth, my very own! If she says: "No, I am
myself" - am I to reply: "How can that be? Are you not mine?"
"My wife" - Does that amount to an argument, much less the truth?
Can one imprison a whole personality within that name?
My wife! - Have I not cherished in this little world all that is
purest and sweetest in my life, never for a moment letting it
down from my bosom to the dust? What incense of worship, what
music of passion, what flowers of my spring and of my autumn,
have I not offered up at its shrine? If, like a toy paper-boat,
she be swept along into the muddy waters of the gutter - would I
not also... ?
There it is again, my incorrigible solemnity! Why "muddy"? What
"gutter" names, called in a fit of jealousy, do not change the
facts of the world. If Bimal is not mine, she is not; and no
fuming, or fretting, or arguing will serve to prove that she is.
If my heart is breaking - let it break! That will not make the
world bankrupt - nor even me; for man is so much greater than the
things he loses in this life. The very ocean of tears has its
other shore, else none would have ever wept.
But then there is Society to be considered ... which let Society
consider! If I weep it is for myself, not for Society. If Bimal
should say she is not mine, what care I where my Society wife may
Suffering there must be; but I must save myself, by any means in
my power, from one form of self-torture: I must never think that
my life loses its value because of any neglect it may suffer.
The full value of my life does not all go to buy my narrow
domestic world; its great commerce does not stand or fall with
some petty success or failure in the bartering of my personal
joys and sorrows.
The time has come when I must divest Bimala of all the ideal
decorations with which I decked her. It was owing to my own
weakness that I indulged in such idolatry. I was too greedy. I
created an angel of Bimala, in order to exaggerate my own
enjoyment. But Bimala is what she is. It is preposterous to
expect that she should assume the role of an angel for my
pleasure. The Creator is under no obligation to supply me with
angels, just because I have an avidity for imaginary perfection.
I must acknowledge that I have merely been an accident in
Bimala's life. Her nature, perhaps, can only find true union
with one like Sandip. At the same time, I must not, in false
modesty, accept my rejection as my desert. Sandip certainly has
attractive qualities, which had their sway also upon myself; but
yet, I feel sure, he is not a greater man than I. If the wreath
of victory falls to his lot today, and I am overlooked, then the
dispenser of the wreath will be called to judgement.
I say this in no spirit of boasting. Sheer necessity has driven
me to the pass, that to secure myself from utter desolation I
must recognize all the value that I truly possess. Therefore,
through the, terrible experience of suffering let there come upon
me the joy of deliverance - deliverance from self-distrust.
I have come to distinguish what is really in me from what I
foolishly imagined to be there. The profit and loss account has
been settled, and that which remains is myself - not a crippled
self, dressed in rags and tatters, not a sick self to be nursed
on invalid diet, but a spirit which has gone through the worst,
and has survived.
My master passed through my room a moment ago and said with his
hand on my shoulder. "Get away to bed, Nikhil, the night is far
The fact is, it has become so difficult for me to go to bed till
late - till Bimal is fast asleep. In the day-time we meet, and
even converse, but what am I to say when we are alone together,
in the silence of the night? - so ashamed do I feel in mind and
"How is it, sir, you have not yet retired?" I asked in my turn.
My master smiled a little, as he left me, saying: "My sleeping
days are over. I have now attained the waking age."