Chandra Shekhar/Part 1/Chapter 5
chandra shekhar's return
"Why, sir?" inquired the officer in surprise.
"Everything cannot be ascertained by astrological calculations", replied Chandra Shekhar. "If that was possible, man would have been omniscient. Besides, I am not an expert in Astrology."
"Is it so, or a prudent man does not give out a thing, unpleasant to the king?" observed the officer shrewdly. "However that may be, I shall report to the Nawab just what you have said."
Chandra Shekhar left for home. The Nawab's officer did not dare to offer him his travelling expenses. Chandra Shekhar was both a Brahmin and a Pandit but not a Brahmin-Pandit, as the saying goes. He would never accept any offer of money.
While returning home, Chandra Shekhar saw his house from a distance. The moment he saw it, his heart was filled with joy.
Chandra Shekhar was a metaphysician, and he was naturally very inquisitive. He said within himself, "How is it that while returning from a distant country, one's heart leaps up with joy at the very sight of his home? Did I in any way suffer, these days, for food and rest? When I shall reach home, what will make me happier there than what I have been while abroad? No doubt, at this advanced age, I have fallen into the inextricable snare of this world. My dear wife lives in that yonder house. Does that account for my joy? In this universe everything has emanated from the same God. If that be so, why do we love some and despise others? Every one has come from the same universal stock! How is it that I do not at all wish to look back at the man who is following me with my bundle, but eagerly desire to behold the smiling lily-like face of that fair one? I do not disregard the commandments of God, but I feel I am getting entangled in the intricate net-work of this World. Then again, I never wish to come out of the snare—if I live through eternity,I shall eagerly desire to remain buried in the illusion of this charm through endless time. O, When shall I see Shaibalini again!"
All on a sudden, a fear came into Chandra Shekhar's mind. He thought, "If on my return I do not find Shaibalini! Why should I not? If she is ill! every one gets ill some time or other—she will be all right again. Why do I feel so uneasy at the very thought of her illness? Who does not get ill at times? If Shaibalini has been attacked with a serious illness!" Chandra Shekhar began to walk faster. He again thought, "If Shaibalini is ill, God will bring her round—I will propitiate the stars with the help of the sastras. If she does not recover!" Tears came into Chandra Shekhar's eyes. He asked within himself, "Will God deprive me of the jewel, he has been pleased to give me at this advanced stage of my life? It may not be impossible—am I so much in His grace that He will confer upon me weal only and never woe? It might be that some great misery is in store for me. If on my return home, I see that Shaibalini is not there—if I hear that Shaibalini has succumbed to a serious illness! Oh, that will kill me." Chandra Shekhar now began to walk still faster. Reaching the village, he marked that his neighbours were looking at his face very gravely—he could not understand what those looks meant. The boys laughed in their sleeves at the very sight of him—some followed him from at a distance. The old men of the village turned their backs, as they saw him coming. All these astonished Chandra Shekhar—frightened him and made Shaibalini the sole object of his thought. He looked to no side and came up straight to the gate of his house. The doors were closed. The servant opened the entrance of the outer apartment of the house when it was knocked from outside. He burst into a scream when he saw Chandra Shekhar. Chandra Shekhar anxiously enquired, "What is the matter?" The servant gave no answer and left the place, crying loudly as he passed. Chandra Shekhar took the name of the God of his adoration. He saw that the courtyard had not been cleansed for a long time—there were filth and dirt in the sacred apartments of the household Gods. Here and there, he saw burnt torches and broken doors. Chandra Shekhar entered into the female quarters and found that the doors of all the rooms were closed from without. He noticed that the maid-servant walked out in silence when she saw him, and began to cry aloud from outside. After this, Chandra Shekhar, standing in the courtyard, called out in a shrill unnatural voide,
No one responded to the call. So unnatural was Chandra Shekhar's voice that even the weeping maid-servant became quiet in painful surprise.
Chandra Shekhar cried out again. His voice resounded in the house, but no one responded.
By that time the red ensign of the English on Shaibalini's green boat was waving in the gentle breeze of the Ganges—the boatmen were singing in chorus.
Chandra Shekhar came to know every thing. He then removed from his house the idol Shalgram, which he had installed there with great devotion, as his household God, and placed it at Sundari's father's house. He next called in his poor neighbours and distributed among them his clothes, utensils, and other household articles. In the evening he gathered together the books, he had read and was to read, and which were to him as dear as his life-blood. He next brought them all in the courtyard one by one, and while doing so, he occasionally opened this or that book, but closed every one of them without reading a line. When all the books were arranged in a heap, he set fire to it.
The fire blazed forth. It gradually touched mythology, history, poetry, rhetoric, and grammar. Laws and codes of Manu, Jajnavalka and Parasar, philosophy of the schools of Nyaya, Vedanta, Shankhya and others, Kalpasutra, Arannyak and Upanishad, all took fire one by one. The priceless treasure of old books, which had been collected with great pains, became reduced to ashes. The books were all burnt down by the first part of the night, when Chandra Shekhar left his house with only a simple sheet on his body. Whither he left for, no one came to know and no one enquired about it.