I had written thus far, and was about to rise to go off bedwards
when, through the window before me, I saw the heavy pall of July
cloud suddenly part a little, and a big star shine through. It
seemed to say to me: "Dreamland ties are made, and dreamland ties
are broken, but I am here for ever - the everlasting lamp of the
All at once my heart was full with the thought that my Eternal
Love was steadfastly waiting for me through the ages, behind the
veil of material things. Through many a life, in many a mirror,
have I seen her image - broken mirrors, crooked mirrors, dusty
mirrors. Whenever I have sought to make the mirror my very own,
and shut it up within my box, I have lost sight of the image.
But what of that. What have I to do with the mirror, or even the
My beloved, your smile shall never fade, and every dawn there
shall appear fresh for me the vermilion mark on your forehead!
"What childish cajolery of self-deception," mocks some devil from
his dark corner - "silly prattle to make children quiet!"
That may be. But millions and millions of children, with their
million cries, have to be kept quiet. Can it be that all this
multitude is quieted with only a lie? No, my Eternal Love cannot
deceive me, for she is true!
She is true; that is why I have seen her and shall see her so
often, even in my mistakes, even through the thickest mist of
tears. I have seen her and lost her in the crowd of life's
market-place, and found her again; and I shall find her once more
when I have escaped through the loophole of death.
Ah, cruel one, play with me no longer! If I have failed to track
you by the marks of your footsteps on the way, by the scent of
your tresses lingering in the air, make me not weep for that for
ever. The unveiled star tells me not to fear. That which is
eternal must always be there.
Now let me go and see my Bimala. She must have spread her tired
limbs on the bed, limp after her struggles, and be asleep. I
will leave a kiss on her forehead without waking her - that shall
be the flower-offering of my worship. I believe I could forget
everything after death - all my mistakes, all my sufferings - but
some vibration of the memory of that kiss would remain; for the
wreath which is being woven out of the kisses of many a
successive birth is to crown the Eternal Beloved.
As the gong of the watch rang out, sounding the hour of two, my
sister-in-law came into the room. "Whatever are you doing,
brother dear?"  she cried. "For pity's sake go to bed and
stop worrying so. I cannot bear to look on that awful shadow of
pain on your face." Tears welled up in her eyes and overflowed
as she entreated me thus.
I could not utter a word, but took the dust of her feet, as I
went off to bed.
- - -
16. When a relationship is established by marriage, or by mutual
understanding arising out of special friendship or affection, the
persons so related call each other in terms of such relationship,
and not by name. [Trans.].
At first I suspected nothing, feared nothing; I simply felt
dedicated to my country. What a stupendous joy there was in this
unquestioning surrender. Verily had I realized how, in
thoroughness of self-destruction, man can find supreme bliss.
For aught I know, this frenzy of mine might have come to a
gradual, natural end. But Sandip Babu would not have it so, he
would insist on revealing himself. The tone of his voice became
as intimate as a touch, every look flung itself on its knees in
beggary. And, through it all, there burned a passion which in
its violence made as though it would tear me up by the roots, and
drag me along by the hair.
I will not shirk the truth. This cataclysmal desire drew me by
day and by night. It seemed desperately alluring - this making
havoc of myself. What a shame it seemed, how terrible, and yet
how sweet! Then there was my overpowering curiosity, to which
there seemed no limit. He of whom I knew but little, who never
could assuredly be mine, whose youth flared so vigorously in a
hundred points of flame - oh, the mystery of his seething
passions, so immense, so tumultuous!
I began with a feeling of worship, but that soon passed away. I
ceased even to respect Sandip; on the contrary, I began to look
down upon him. Nevertheless this flesh-and-blood lute of mine,
fashioned with my feeling and fancy, found in him a master-
player. What though I shrank from his touch, and even came to
loathe the lute itself; its music was conjured up all the same.
I must confess there was something in me which ... what shall I
say? ... which makes me wish I could have died!
Chandranath Babu, when he finds leisure, comes to me. He has the
power to lift my mind up to an eminence from where I can see in a
moment the boundary of my life extended on all sides and so
realize that the lines, which I took from my bounds, were merely
But what is the use of it all? Do I really desire emancipation?
Let suffering come to our house; let the best in me shrivel up
and become black; but let this infatuation not leave me - such
seems to be my prayer.
When, before my marriage, I used to see a brother-in-law of mine,
now dead, mad with drink - beating his wife in his frenzy, and
then sobbing and howling in maudlin repentance, vowing never to
touch liquor again, and yet, the very same evening, sitting down
to drink and drink - it would fill me with disgust. But my
intoxication today is still more fearful. The stuff has not to
be procured or poured out: it springs within my veins, and I know
not how to resist it.
Must this continue to the end of my days? Now and again I start
and look upon myself, and think my life to be a nightmare which
will vanish all of a sudden with all its untruth. It has become
so frightfully incongruous. It has no connection with its past.
What it is, how it could have come to this pass, I cannot
One day my sister-in-law remarked with a cutting laugh: "What a
wonderfully hospitable Chota Rani we have! Her guest absolutely
will not budge. In our time there used to be guests, too; but
they had not such lavish looking after - we were so absurdly taken
up with our husbands. Poor brother Nikhil is paying the penalty
of being born too modern. He should have come as a guest if he
wanted to stay on. Now it looks as if it were time for him to
quit ... O you little demon, do your glances never fall, by
chance, on his agonized face?"
This sarcasm did not touch me; for I knew that these women had it
not in them to understand the nature of the cause of my devotion.
I was then wrapped in the protecting armour of the exaltation of
sacrifice, through which such shafts were powerless to reach and
For some time all talk of the country's cause has been dropped.
Our conversation nowadays has become full of modern sex-problems,
and various other matters, with a sprinkling of poetry, both old
Vaishnava and modern English, accompanied by a running undertone
of melody, low down in the bass, such as I have never in my life
heard before, which seems to me to sound the true manly note, the
note of power.
The day had come when all cover was gone. There was no longer
even the pretence of a reason why Sandip Babu should linger on,
or why I should have confidential talks with him every now and
then. I felt thoroughly vexed with myself, with my sister-in-
law, with the ways of the world, and I vowed I would never again
go to the outer apartments, not if I were to die for it.
For two whole days I did not stir out. Then, for the first time,
I discovered how far I had travelled. My life felt utterly
tasteless. Whatever I touched I wanted to thrust away. I felt
myself waiting - from the crown of my head to the tips of my toes
- waiting for something, somebody; my blood kept tingling with
I tried busying myself with extra work. The bedroom floor was
clean enough but I insisted on its being scrubbed over again
under my eyes. Things were arranged in the cabinets in one kind
of order; I pulled them all out and rearranged them in a
different way. I found no time that afternoon even to do up my
hair; I hurriedly tied it into a loose knot, and went and worried
everybody, fussing about the store-room. The stores seemed
short, and pilfering must have been going on of late, but I could
not muster up the courage to take any particular person to task -
for might not the thought have crossed somebody's mind: "Where
were your eyes all these days!"
In short, I behaved that day as one possessed. The next day I
tried to do some reading. What I read I have no idea, but after
a spell of absentmindedness I found I had wandered away, book in
hand, along the passage leading towards the outer apartments, and
was standing by a window looking out upon the verandah running
along the row of rooms on the opposite side of the quadrangle.
One of these rooms, I felt, had crossed over to another shore,
and the ferry had ceased to ply. I felt like the ghost of myself
of two days ago, doomed to remain where I was, and yet not really
there, blankly looking out for ever.
As I stood there, I saw Sandip come out of his room into the
verandah, a newspaper in his hand. I could see that he looked
extraordinarily disturbed. The courtyard, the railings, in
front, seemed to rouse his wrath. He flung away his newspaper
with a gesture which seemed to want to rend the space before him.
I felt I could no longer keep my vow. I was about to move on
towards the sitting-room, when I found my sister-in-law behind
me. "O Lord, this beats everything!" she ejaculated, as she
glided away. I could not proceed to the outer apartments.
The next morning when my maid came calling, "Rani Mother, it is
getting late for giving out the stores," I flung the keys to her,
saying, "Tell Harimati to see to it," and went on with some
embroidery of English pattern on which I was engaged, seated near
Then came a servant with a letter. "From Sandip Babu," said he.
What unbounded boldness! What must the messenger have thought?
There was a tremor within my breast as I opened the envelope.
There was no address on the letter, only the words: __An urgent
matter - touching the Cause. Sandip__.
I flung aside the embroidery. I was up on my feet in a moment,
giving a touch or two to my hair by the mirror. I kept the
__sari__ I had on, changing only my jacket - for one of my
jackets had its associations.
I had to pass through one of the verandahs, where my sister-in-
law used to sit in the morning slicing betel-nut. I refused to
feel awkward. "Whither away, Chota Rani?" she cried.
"To the sitting-room outside."
"So early! A matinee, eh?"
And, as I passed on without further reply, she hummed after me a
When I was about to enter the sitting-room, I saw Sandip immersed
in an illustrated catalogue of British Academy pictures, with his
back to the door. He has a great notion of himself as an expert
in matters of Art.
One day my husband said to him: "If the artists ever want a
teacher, they need never lack for one so long as you are there."
It had not been my husband's habit to speak cuttingly, but
latterly there has been a change and he never spares Sandip.
"What makes you suppose that artists need no teachers?" Sandip
"Art is a creation," my husband replied. "So we should humbly be
content to receive our lessons about Art from the work of the
Sandip laughed at this modesty, saying: "You think that meekness
is a kind of capital which increases your wealth the more you use
it. It is my conviction that those who lack pride only float
about like water reeds which have no roots in the soil."
My mind used to be full of contradictions when they talked thus.
On the one hand I was eager that my husband should win in
argument and that Sandip's pride should be shamed. Yet, on the
other, it was Sandip's unabashed pride which attracted me so. It
shone like a precious diamond, which knows no diffidence, and
sparkles in the face of the sun itself.
I entered the room. I knew Sandip could hear my footsteps as I
went forward, but he pretended not to, and kept his eyes on the
I dreaded his Art talks, for I could not overcome my delicacy
about the pictures he talked of, and the things he said, and had
much ado in putting on an air of overdone insensibility to hide
my qualms. So, I was almost on the point of retracing my steps,
when, with a deep sigh, Sandip raised his eyes, and affected to
be startled at the sight of me. "Ah, you have come!" he said.
In his words, in his tone, in his eyes, there was a world of
suppressed reproach, as if the claims he had acquired over me
made my absence, even for these two or three days, a grievous
wrong. I knew this attitude was an insult to me, but, alas, I
had not the power to resent it.
I made no reply, but though I was looking another way, I could
not help feeling that Sandip's plaintive gaze had planted itself
right on my face, and would take no denial. I did so wish he
would say something, so that I could shelter myself behind his
words. I cannot tell how long this went on, but at last I could
stand it no longer. "What is this matter," I asked, "you are
wanting to tell me about?"
Sandip again affected surprise as he said: "Must there always be
some matter? Is friendship by itself a crime? Oh, Queen Bee, to
think that you should make so light of the greatest thing on
earth! Is the heart's worship to be shut out like a stray cur?"
There was again that tremor within me. I could feel the crisis
coming, too importunate to be put off. Joy and fear struggled
for the mastery. Would my shoulders, I wondered, be broad enough
to stand its shock, or would it not leave me overthrown, with my
face in the dust?
I was trembling all over. Steadying myself with an effort I
repeated: "You summoned me for something touching the Cause, so I
have left my household duties to attend to it."
"That is just what I was trying to explain," he said, with a dry
laugh. "Do you not know that I come to worship? Have I not told
you that, in you, I visualize the __Shakti__ of our country?
The Geography of a country is not the whole truth. No one can
give up his life for a map! When I see you before me, then only
do I realize how lovely my country is. When you have anointed me
with your own hands, then shall I know I have the sanction of my
country; and if, with that in my heart, I fall fighting, it shall
not be on the dust of some map-made land, but on a lovingly
spread skirt - do you know what kind of skirt? - like that of the
earthen-red __sari__ you wore the other day, with a broad
blood-red border. Can I ever forget it? Such are the visions
which give vigour to life, and joy to death!"
Sandip's eyes took fire as he went on, but whether it was the
fire of worship, or of passion, I could not tell. I was reminded
of the day on which I first heard him speak, when I could not be
sure whether he was a person, or just a living flame.
I had not the power to utter a word. You cannot take shelter
behind the walls of decorum when in a moment the fire leaps up
and, with the flash of its sword and the roar of its laughter,
destroys all the miser's stores. I was in terror lest he should
forget himself and take me by the hand. For he shook like a
quivering tongue of fire; his eyes showered scorching sparks on
"Are you for ever determined," he cried after a pause, "to make
gods of your petty household duties - you who have it in you to
send us to life or to death? Is this power of yours to be kept
veiled in a zenana? Cast away all false shame, I pray you; snap
your fingers at the whispering around. Take your plunge today
into the freedom of the outer world."
When, in Sandip's appeals, his worship of the country gets to be
subtly interwoven with his worship of me, then does my blood
dance, indeed, and the barriers of my hesitation totter. His
talks about Art and Sex, his distinctions between Real and
Unreal, had but clogged my attempts at response with some
revolting nastiness. This, however, now burst again into a glow
before which my repugnance faded away. I felt that my
resplendent womanhood made me indeed a goddess. Why should not
its glory flash from my forehead with visible brilliance? Why
does not my voice find a word, some audible cry, which would be
like a sacred spell to my country for its fire initiation?
All of a sudden my maid Khema rushed into the room, dishevelled.
"Give me my wages and let me go," she screamed. "Never in all my
life have I been so ..." The rest of her speech was drowned in
"What is the matter?"
Thako, the Bara Rani's maid, it appeared, had for no rhyme or
reason reviled her in unmeasured terms. She was in such a state,
it was no manner of use trying to pacify her by saying I would
look into the matter afterwards.
The slime of domestic life that lay beneath the lotus bank of
womanhood came to the surface. Rather than allow Sandip a
prolonged vision of it, I had to hurry back within.
My sister-in-law was absorbed in her betel-nuts, the suspicion of
a smile playing about her lips, as if nothing untoward had
happened. She was still humming the same song.
"Why has your Thako been calling poor Khema names?" I burst out.
"Indeed? The wretch! I will have her broomed out of the house.
What a shame to spoil your morning out like this! As for Khema,
where are the hussy's manners to go and disturb you when you are
engaged? Anyhow, Chota Rani, don't you worry yourself with these
domestic squabbles. Leave them to me, and return to your
How suddenly the wind in the sails of our mind veers round! This
going to meet Sandip outside seemed, in the light of the zenana
code, such an extraordinarily out-of-the-way thing to do that I
went off to my own room, at a loss for a reply. I knew this was
my sister-in-law's doing and that she had egged her maid on to
contrive this scene. But I had brought myself to such an
unstable poise that I dared not have my fling.
Why, it was only the other day that I found I could not keep up
to the last the unbending hauteur with which I had demanded from
my husband the dismissal of the man Nanku. I felt suddenly
abashed when the Bara Rani came up and said: "It is really all my
fault, brother dear. We are old-fashioned folk, and I did not
quite like the ways of your Sandip Babu, so I only told the guard
... but how was I to know that our Chota Rani would take this as
an insult? - I thought it would be the other way about! Just my
The thing which seems so glorious when viewed from the heights of
the country's cause, looks so muddy when seen from the bottom.
One begins by getting angry, and then feels disgusted.
I shut myself into my room, sitting by the window, thinking how
easy life would be if only one could keep in harmony with one's
surroundings. How simply the senior Rani sits in her verandah
with her betel-nuts and how inaccessible to me has become my
natural seat beside my daily duties! Where will it all end, I
asked myself? Shall I ever recover, as from a delirium, and
forget it all; or am I to be dragged to depths from which there
can be no escape in this life? How on earth did I manage to let
my good fortune escape me, and spoil my life so? Every wall of
this bedroom of mine, which I first entered nine years ago as a
bride, stares at me in dismay.
When my husband came home, after his M.A. examination, he
brought for me this orchid belonging to some far-away land beyond
the seas. From beneath these few little leaves sprang such a
cascade of blossoms, it looked as if they were pouring forth from
some overturned urn of Beauty. We decided, together, to hang it
here, over this window. It flowered only that once, but we have
always been in hope of its doing so once more. Curiously enough
I have kept on watering it these days, from force of habit, and
it is still green.
It is now four years since I framed a photograph of my husband in
ivory and put it in the niche over there. If I happen to look
that way I have to lower my eyes. Up to last week I used
regularly to put there the flowers of my worship, every morning
after my bath. My husband has often chided me over this.
"It shames me to see you place me on a height to which I do not
belong," he said one day.
"I am not only ashamed, but also jealous!"
"Just hear him! Jealous of whom, pray?"
"Of that false me. It only shows that I am too petty for you,
that you want some extraordinary man who can overpower you with
his superiority, and so you needs must take refuge in making for
yourself another 'me'."
"This kind of talk only makes me angry," said I.
"What is the use of being angry with me?" he replied. "Blame
your fate which allowed you no choice, but made you take me
blindfold. This keeps you trying to retrieve its blunder by
making me out a paragon."
I felt so hurt at the bare idea that tears started to my eyes
that day. And whenever I think of that now, I cannot raise my
eyes to the niche.
For now there is another photograph in my jewel case. The other
day, when arranging the sitting-room, I brought away that double
photo frame, the one in which Sandip's portrait was next to my
husband's. To this portrait I have no flowers of worship to
offer, but it remains hidden away under my gems. It has all the
greater fascination because kept secret. I look at it now and
then with doors closed. At night I turn up the lamp, and sit
with it in my hand, gazing and gazing. And every night I think
of burning it in the flame of the lamp, to be done with it for
ever; but every night I heave a sigh and smother it again in my
pearls and diamonds.
Ah, wretched woman! What a wealth of love was twined round each
one of those jewels! Oh, why am I not dead?
Sandip had impressed it on me that hesitation is not in the
nature of woman. For her, neither right nor left has any
existence - she only moves forward. When the women of our country
wake up, he repeatedly insisted, their voice will be unmistakably
confident in its utterance of the cry: "I want."
"I want!" Sandip went on one day - this was the primal word at
the root of all creation. It had no maxim to guide it, but it
became fire and wrought itself into suns and stars. Its
partiality is terrible. Because it had a desire for man, it
ruthlessly sacrificed millions of beasts for millions of years to
achieve that desire. That terrible word "I want" has taken flesh
in woman, and therefore men, who are cowards, try with all their
might to keep back this primeval flood With their earthen dykes.
They are afraid lest, laughing and dancing as it goes, it should
wash away all the hedges and props of their pumpkin field. Men,
in every age, flatter themselves that they have secured this
force within the bounds of their convenience, but it gathers and
grows. Now it is calm and deep like a lake, but gradually its
pressure will increase, the dykes will give way, and the force
which has so long been dumb will rush forward with the roar: "I
These words of Sandip echo in my heart-beats like a war-drum.
They shame into silence all my conflicts with myself. What do I
care what people may think of me? Of what value are that orchid
and that niche in my bedroom? What power have they to belittle
me, to put me to shame? The primal fire of creation burns in me.
I felt a strong desire to snatch down the orchid and fling it out
of the window, to denude the niche of its picture, to lay bare
and naked the unashamed spirit of destruction that raged within
me. My arm was raised to do it, but a sudden pang passed through
my breast, tears started to my eyes. I threw myself down and
sobbed: "What is the end of all this, what is the end?"
When I read these pages of the story of my life I seriously
question myself: Is this Sandip? Am I made of words? Am I
merely a book with a covering of flesh and blood?
The earth is not a dead thing like the moon. She breathes. Her
rivers and oceans send up vapours in which she is clothed. She
is covered with a mantle of her own dust which flies about the
air. The onlooker, gazing upon the earth from the outside, can
see only the light reflected from this vapour and this dust. The
tracks of the mighty continents are not distinctly visible.