Chandrashekhar (Mullick)/Part6/Chapter 5
IN VEDAGRAM AGAIN.
WITH great difficulty Chandrashekhar had brought Shaibalini home.
After a long absence he again entered his house. He found it more frightful than a forest. Hardly any straw was left on the thatch—most of it had been blown off by the wind. In some places the thatch had given way, in others, cattle had eaten off the straw, and the neighbours had helped themselves to the bamboo framework for their fuel. The yard was overgrown with a thick jungly growth, reptiles fearlessly glided about, and the door leaves had been all taken away hy thieves. In the open rooms not a single article of furniture could be found; some had been stolen, and the rest Sundari had removed to her own house. Rain had found admission into the rooms and rendered them damp; here the rot had settled, there the mould had fastened. Rats, cockroaches, bats, roamed about in shoals. With a heavy sigh, Chandrashekhar entered the house taking Shaibalini by the hand.
He viewed the spot where he had once stood and watched his mass of books gradually reduce themselves into ashes. Chandrashekhar cried “Shaibalini!”
Shaibalini did not answer. Seated at the door of a room, she gazed at the sweet—oleander, as if seen in some past dream. She did not reply to a single word of what Chandrashekhar said and began to look round with wide-open eyes. Now and again a faint smile ﬂickered on her mouth and for once it seemed she pointed her ﬁnger at some imaginary object with a distinct smile.
The village was now alive with the news of Chandrashekhar’s return home with Shaibalini. People ﬂocked to see them ; Sundari came first.
Sundari knew nothing of Shaibalini’s insanity. She ﬁrst of all made her obeisance to Chandrashekhar whom she found in an ascetic garb. Then directing her eyes to Shaibalini she said, “You have done well in bringing her back. Everything will be made straight by going through an expiation.”
But Sundari was astonished that although Chandrashekhar was present, Shaibalini would neither move away not draw her veil; on the other hand, she bent her eyes on Sundari and began to giggle. “Perhaps this is the English way,” thought Sundari. “Shaibalini must have picked it up in the Englishman’s company.” Then Sundari went close to her and yet far enough to keep her dress from coming in contact with Shaihalini and sat down. “La, Shaibalini, do you recognise me?” said Sundari smiling.
“Certainly I do, you are Parvati," answered Shaibalini.
“A plague upon you! you have forgotten me so soon,” said Sundari.
“Why should I forget you? Don’t you remember how I smashed you to atoms when you touched my rice-pot? Sister Parvati, do sing a song please.” Instantly she herself began to sing :—
“And that’s my secret, love, and that alone,
From Krishna’s side loved Radha fair is gone.
From the lap of the cloud smiles not the moon,
Vainly have I laid the love-trap so soon.”
I am looking out for somebody, hut I know not whom."
Sundari was amazed and looked inquiringly at Chandrashekhar. He motioned her to him. “She has gone mad,” whispered Chandrashekhar in her eat when she approached him.
Then everything became clear to her. She remained silent for some time. At ﬁrst her eyes glistened, then a moisture gathered under the lids and lastly drops of tear began to trickle down. Sundari wept. Woman-hood is the very jewel of this earth. Another day this very Sundari had devoutly prayed that Shaibalini might find a watery grave along with her boat, but to-day no one felt more keenly for Shaibalini than she.
Wiping her tears Sundari slowly went to Shaibalini and sat close to her. Softly she spoke and gently she reminded her of past events. Nothing came back to Shaibalini; her memory was not altogether gone—else how could Parvati’s name occur to her?-but the real facts went out of her grasp, they were twisted out of shape and came back in a confused juxtaposition with the wrong ones. She remembered Sundari but could not recognise her.
First of all Sundari sent Chandrashekhar to her house for his bath and meal. Then she busied herself in ﬁtting up the shattered habitation for Shaibalini. Gradually the female neighbours came in one after another and lent a hand; the necessary articles ﬂowed in.
In the meantime Protap returned home from Monghyr after disposing the clubmen in their proper position. On his arrival he heard that Chandrashekhar had returned. He lost no time in visiting Chandrashekhar at Vedagram.
On the same day Ramananda Swami had put in an appearance there before him. With a joyful heart Sundari heard that Chandrashekhar would administer medicine to Shaibalini according to Ramananda Swami’s iinstructions. An auspicious hour had heen ﬁxed upon for the purpose.
- It is a custom with Hindu women to appear before their husbands with their veil on in the presence of all persons excepting their own children and certain other relations.
- Contact with Shaibalini meant defilement, as she had left her home with a Christian.