Chandrashekhar (Mullick)/Part6/Chapter 8
IN THE BATTLE-FIELD.
WHEN Chandrashekhar came out of the tent with Shaibalini, he found Ramananda Swami waiting. “ Chandrashekhar, what do you propose to do now? ” asked the Swami.
“How to save Shaibalini, is the question now,” said Chandrashekhar. “Cannon-balls are raining all around, the smoke has covered up all space; where to go is the problem now.”
“Don’t be uneasy,” said the Swami. “Do you mark the way the Mussalmans are flying. Where there is flight before battle, the chances of victory can be well imagined. These English are extremely fortunate, I ﬁnd them powerful and full of stratagem. In all likelihood they will one day possess the whole of India. Come let us follow the ﬂying Mussalmans. You need not be anxious for me, but I am very much concerned about the safety of this girl.”
The three followed together in the wake of the ﬂying Mussalmans. Suddenly they saw in front a body of well-accoutred and armed Hindu soldiers ﬁling impetuously out of a hard rocky defile eager to meet the English. In the centre was their leader on horseback. They all knew him at once to be Protap. Atthe sight of Protap, Chandrashekhar became agitated, and soon after with a throbbing heart he said, “Protap, why do I find you in this hopeless fight? Go back.”
“I was coming in search of you,” said Protap. “Come, let me lead you to a place of safety.”
With these words Protap placed the trio in the centre of his small band and marched back. He was perfectly acquainted with all the defiles in that hill-range. Soon he took them far away from the scene of battle. On the way he heard from Chandrashekhar all that had transpired at the Durbar including the details At the end Chandrashekhar said, “All honour to thee; Protap! I know every thing.”
Protap was astonished and kept staring at him. “I now know,” continued Chandrashekhar with a voice choking with rheum “that this girl is pure. If I am required to undergo any expiatory ceremony for the sake of society, I will do it and then take her back; but I can never be happy any more.”
“Why, has not the Swami’s medicine done her any good?” asked Protap.
“No, not yet,” replied Chandrashekhar.
Protap saddened and tears started in his eyes. Shaibalini saw everything through her veil. She moved aside a little and beckoned to him with her finger. Protap dismounted and went to her. “Will you listen to a word of mine?” she said in a whisper. “I am not going to propose anything wrong.”
“Is your madness a sham?” asked Protap in astonishment.
“It is so for the time being,” replied Shaibalini. “Since I left my bed in the morning things are getting clear. Have I been really mad all this while?”
Protap’s face brightened up. Shaibalini divined what was passing in his mind and said, “Bush! don’t say anything now. I will tell them everything myself. It all depends on your advice.”
“Why my advice?"
“If my husband takes me back, do you think it will be right for me to conceal from him my sinful thoughts and allow him to bestow his unsuspecting love on me?”
"What do you propose?”
“I want to tell him all about the past and ask his forgiveness.”
Protap reflected for a while and said, “Yes, do tell him. I bless you—may you be happy henceforth!” and he shed silent tears.
“I cannot be happy,” said Shaibalini, “there is no happiness for me so long you are in this world.”
“How is that, Shaibalini?” asked Protap.
“You shouldn't see me again so long you are alive,” said Shaibalini. “A woman’s mind is rotten to the very core; how long it will stand ﬁrm I do not know. You should never see me again in this life.”
Protap did not reply. He laid the whip on his horse and set out at a brisk pace for the battlefield. His soldiers ran after him.
“Where do you go?” called out Chandrashekhar after him as he went.
“To the battle,” answered back Protap.
In a loud voice Chandrashekhar eagerly called out to him, “Don’t go, don’t go. It is certain death to fight the English.”
“Foster is yet alive,” said Protap, “and I am going for his destruction.”
Chandrashekhar ran up to him and catching hold of the bridle said :
“Brother, what is the good of killing Foster? God will deal with the wicked. Who are you or I to usurp His oﬁice? The base and ignoble revenge on their enemy, the noble and rnagnanimous forgive.”
Protap was struck with admiration and was charmed. He had never heard anyone utter such noble language before. Alighting from his horse he reverentially touched Chandrashekhafs feet with his hand to scrape off the dust and putting the dust on his head he said, “Thou art a prince of men, I give you my word, I will not harm Foster in any way.”
With these words Protap remounted his steed and pursued his way towards the battle.
“For what else do you go to the battle-field Protap?" asked Chandrashekhar. Protap faced round and smiling a soft and sweet smile said, “I have got some business there” With these words he whipped his horse and quickly disappeared.
Ramananda Swami felt very much perturbed at that smile. Addressing Chandrashekhar he said, “Take your wife home with you. I will start for a bath in the Ganges. After a day or two I will meet you again.”
“My mind is very much troubled for Protap,” remarked Chandrashekhar. “I will soon follow with his news,” said Ramananda Swami.
After bidding them farewell, Ramananda Swami started for the battle-ﬁeld. In that terrible ﬁeld of slaughter, horrid with the wail of the wounded, amidst a cloud of smoke and a rain of ﬁre Ramananda Swami moved about in search of Protap. Heaps of the slain lay piled upon one another, some altogether dead, some half dead, some with mutilated bodies, some pierced in the breast and some plaintively crying out, “Water, water, Oh, for a drop of water!” Some were calling out by name on their parents, brothers, friends and other dear ones in doleful lamentation. Among these Ramananda Swami searched for Protap, but could not ﬁnd him. He saw riders with gory limbs fling their weapons down and fly on the back of their bleeding horses trampling to death the hapless wounded who chanced to fall under the hoofs. In this crowd also, Ramananda Swami looked for Protap, but with equal success. He also saw many of the infantry bathed in blood and with empty hands running away in precipitate ﬂight. Among these again, he looked for Protap, but with no better success.
Tired with the search Ramananda. Swami sat down at the foot of a tree; a sepoy ran past him. Accosting the latter he said, “I see everyone of you running away, who has done the ﬁghting then?”
“No one,” answered the sepoy, “Only a Hindu has fought very bravely.”
“Where is he?” inquired the Swami. “You will ﬁnd him near the trenches,” said the sepoy as he ﬂed.
Ramananda Swami went in the direction suggested. He saw no ﬁghting there; the dead bodies of a few Englishmen and Hindus were lying together in a heap. The Swami began to search for Protap among these. From some one among the fallen Hindus a deep groan was heard Ramananda Swami pulled him out and found he was Protap-—Protap wounded, dying, but not dead.
He fetched some water and sprinkled his face. Protap recognised him and tried to lift his arm in salutation but failed.
“I bless you even without the salutation and wish you a speedy cure,” said the Swami.
“Cure!” groaned Protap. “That is not very far off. Will you kindly put the dust of your feet on my head?
“We all dissuaded you,” said Ramananda Swami. “Why did you come to this impossible battle? Did Shaibalini put you up to it?”
“You should not say so,” remonstrated Protap.
“While you were talking with Shaibalini,” said Ramananda Swami, “from her gestures and movements I could gather that she was no longer mad, and it further seemed to me that she had not altogether forgotten you.”
“Shaibalini told me,” said Protap, “that I should not meet her again in this world. I was certain that so long I was alive, there could be no happiness for her and Chandrashekhar. I decided that my life should not stand as a thorn in the side of those who are extremely dear to me and who are my greatest benefactors. Therefore, in spite of your injunctions I came to this battle-ﬁeld to lay down my life. If I were to live, there was yet a chance of Shaibalini’s mind being unsettled some time or other. Hence I take my leave.”
Ramananda Swami was melted into tears. No one else had ever seen that generous flow in Ramananda’s eyes before. “You are a true philanthropist in this world,” said Ramananda Swami, “we are mere sham. In the life to come yours is certain heaven—heaven eternal and without diminution.’
After a short silence Ramanada Swami continued, ‘Listen my son, I have penetrated your heart. The conquest of the world itself cannot compare with the conquest of your passions. Did you love Shaibalini?”
The sleeping lion was roused. The corpse-like Protap suddenly grew strong and electriﬁed, and roared out in a frenzied vehemence. “What canst thou understand, thou ascetic! Who is there in this world that can comprehend this love of mine? Who can appreciate how passionately I have loved Shaibalini or the last sixteen years! My attachment is not of the flesh-——it is another name for a yearning for self-sacriﬁce. In my veins, in my blcod, in my very bones, this love has circulated day and night. Man did never know of it, and never could. Oh, why did you introduce this subject in my parting moments! I know that this love is destined only to bring forth evil, therefore I resign my being. My mind is tainted. Who can say Shaibalini’s mind will not fail again! ‘There is no remedy for it except my death; hence I surrender my life. You are now in possession of this hidden secret——you are wise, you are familiar with the Shastras, tell me what is the atonement for my sin. Am I guilty in the eye of God ? If so, can my present atonement wipe of my guilt?”
“I do not know,” replied Ramananda Swami. “Human intelligence is powerless here; the Shastras are mute; it is only the Lord of that sphere where you are going, who can answer this question. But this much I can tell you, that if there is any merit in the subjugation of the senses, then eternal heaven is yours. If there is any virtue in the control of feelings, then even the gods are not virtuous like you. If there is heaven in self-abnegation, then your right to it is even greater than that of Dadhichi May I be as successful in the subjugation of the senses in my life to come, is my earnest prayer ! ”
Ramananda Swami ceased. Slowly Protap’s life ebbed out. On a grassy bed lay the golden tree of spotless brilliancy.
Adieu, adieu to thee, O Protap! Go to the eternal home; go, where there is no trouble in the subjugation of the senses; where there is no glamour in beauty; where there is no sin in love; where beauty is infinite, love boundless, happiness inexhaustible, and in that happiness endless virtue. Go there, where one feels for another; where one’s duties are performed by another; where one sings the praise of another; where one is not made to suffer for another. Go to that abode of supreme glory; a hundred thousand Shaibalinis at the end of your feet will not tempt you to a woman’s love again.
- This is a mode of showing one's veneration for another, and the dust is supposed to carry a blessing.
- Once on a time, so says the Mahabharata, the gods were hard pressed by the demons. The former then went to Brarnha, the creator, for advice and redress Bramha told them to go to a holy sage by name Dadhichi and ask for his bones, by which they would be able to make thunderbolts for the destruction of the demons. On the gods approaching Dadhichi and representing to him the sore straits in which they had been placed by the demons, he gladly yielded up his breath, The gods then took his bones, made thunderbolts out of them and drove the demons away.