Chandrashekhar (Mullick)/Part1/Chapter 5


CHANDRASHEKHAR had calculated the future. He said to the Nawab’s officer, “Sir, you will be pleased to inform the Nawab, that I have not been successful in my calculation.”

“Why Sir?” asked the officer.

"Everything,” replied Chandrashekhar, “cannot be ascertained by astrology; if that were so, man would be omniscient; moreover, I am not very clever in that science.” “Or rather it is,” said the officer, “that sensible men do not tell things unpleasant to the sovereign. However that may be, I will lay before the Nawab what you have said.”

Chandrashekhar took his leave. The Nawab’s officer did not venture to offer him his travelling expenses. Chandrashekhar was a Brahmin, a learned Brahmin, and not a common Brahmin.

He was not in the habit of receiving any gratuitous benefits, nor did he accept any gift from anybody. On his way back Chandrashekhar descried his house from a distance. The very sight of it infused a joy into his mind. Chandrashekhar was a philosopher and a seeker of truth. He asked himself :——Why this influx of joy into the mind of a man when he returns home from a strange country? Have I suffered from privations of hunger and sleep all the while? What greater happiness can I expect at home than abroad? That I have fallen into the deep meshes of illusion at this time of my life, there is no doubt. In yonder house, lives my darling wife; is it for that I feel so joyous? This universe is identical with the Spirit of God. If that is so, then why this abundunce of love for some and aversion for others? If everything in this world is identical with that Immutable, Omniscient, All-blissful God, then how is it that not even for once do I feel the least inclination to turrr my face on the man who is carrying my luggage; on the other hand, why am I so very anxious to see that blooming lotus-like face of my wife? It is not that I make light of the Lord’s word, but I am certainly getting involved in the inexhorable tangles of illusion, nor do I feel inclined to break through them. If I were to live up to eternity, yet up to that eternity I would desire to remain enveloped in this illusion. When shall I see Shaibalini again?

Suddenly a great fear crept into his mind. What if I should miss Shaibalini on reaching home? Why should I miss her? If she is ill? Everyone is liable to illness, she will get cured. Chandrashekhar meditated and asked himself—Why do I feel so much uneasiness at the mere idea of her illness? Who is above it? But then if she is seriously ill? Chandrashekhar quickened his pace. If she is ill, God will cure her; I will make propitiatory offerings for her cure. But if she be not cured? Tears started into Chandrashekhar’s eyes. He thought——would God deprive me of this jewel at this time of my life after having once given it to me? Nothing is strange in that! Am I so much favoured of Him that He will dispense nothing but happiness for my lot? May be, there is a great sorrow in store for me, who knows? If on my return, I do not find Shaibalini, if I hear that in severe illness she has departed this life?—then surely I will not live. Chandrashekhar set himself to a brisk pace. On entering the village he observed the folk very gravely looking at his face,—he could not understand the meaning of that look. Seeing him, the boys quietly smiled. Some followed him at a distance, the elderly people turned round at his sight. Chandrashekhar was astonished; he was frightened, became abstracted, and without glancing on any side reached the door of his house.

The door was closed. On hearing his knock outside, the servant opened the door. At the sight of Chandrashekhar he set up a weeping. “What is the matter?” anxiously enquired the former.

The servant without making any reply went away weeping.

Chandrashekhar inwardly offered up prayers to the god of his worship. He found the yard unswept, the hall-of-worship full of dust, burnt torches were lying about, and here and there were broken doors. He entered the inner house and found all the doors fastened from outside. The serving-woman slunk away on his appearance. He heard her loud cries of weeping, coming from beyond the house. Then he took his stand in the centre of the courtyard, and with a loud distorted voice called out “Shaibalini.”

No one answered, Chandrashekhar’s distorted voice quieted the weeping maid-servant.

He again called out. The sound of his voice was echoed back from the rooms; no one answered.

By that time over Shaibalini’s painted boat, the red English flag was fluttering in a current of gentle breeze, which came skimming over the waters of the Ganges; the oarsmen were singing their own peculiar boat song.

Chandrashekhar heard everything. Thereupon, he carefully carried the stone family-idol in his house to Sundari’s father and left it with him. He then called his poor neighbours together and distributed the crockery, clothes and other household articles to them. Upto dusk he remained busy in this way. At night-fall he brought out one by one and collected together all the books, both studied and unstudied and dear as his life-blood. One by one he began to pile them up in the yard; now and again he would open a book and instantly tie it up unread, and ultimately collected them all in a heap. When the pile was made up he set fire to it.

The fire blazed up. The Puranas, History, Poetry, Rhetoric, Grammar, everything gradually took fire; the laws of Manu, Jagnavalka, and Parasara, the Darsanas, the Philosophy of Naya, Vedanta, Sankhya, etc., the Kalpa —Sutras, Arannyakas and the Upanishads,[1] one by one, all caught the flame and blazed up. Nothing but ashes was left of that mass of invaluable books collected with infinite pains and studied over a length of time. By nine o'clock at night when the burning had been done with only a single scarf to wrap his body with, Chandrashekhar left his ancestral roof-tree. No one knew whither he went nor did any one enquire.

  1. All these form part of the sacred literature of the Hindus.