Durgesa Nandini/Book 1/Chapter 7

 

CHAPTER VII.

CARELESSNESS.


Sitting at a window of a chamber belonging to that part of the castle by the base of which, the river Amodara flowed past, murmuring, Tilottama was listlessly gazing at an eddy of the stream. It was evening; and those clouds that had been painted in gold in the western sky by the mellow rays of the setting sun, were dancing under the ever-flowing water. The lofty buildings and the tall trees on the opposite bank were painted on the clear canvass of heaven. Within the castle the peacock, the Indian crane and various other birds were crying in sweet confusion—sometimes, a bird busy in quest of its nest at the approach of night, was so silently winging its airy way beneath the firmament. After gently waving the mangoe-grove and touching the waters of the Amodara, the cool, grateful summer breeze was playing with the ringlets of Tilottama's hair, or with the cloth which fell so gracefully over her shoulders. Tilottama was a beauty, and how do I wish to hold up to the gaze of the gentle reader her matchless perfections! But O vain wish! Courteous reader, have you ever in your 'young days' seen, with a lover's eye, the fresh-budding loveliness of a calm, gentle, soft maiden, whose dear image has stamped itself indelibly on your memory and imagination—whose sylph-like form keeps aye gliding in and out as if in a dream—in your youth, manhood and old age; in your busy moments and in your repose; alike when you sleep and when you wake; yet which for all this, leaves not a tinge of impurity behind it—have you, gentle reader, seen such a maiden? If you have, then only you will be able to conceive what Tilottama was like. That form which illuminates our mental darkness, through the profusion of its radiant charms—that form which through the perfection of its arch playfulness plants its poisonous tooth into our heart, our heroine had not. Hers was that form which through its deliciously soft graces, instills the dew of gladness into the mind—that form which keeps so gently waving in the imagination like a shrub lightly stirred by the breath of the vernal evening breeze.

Tilottama was sixteen; her body had not yet therefore received the full development of grown women; nay, there was still visible a tinge of girlishness in her form and features. The well-arched forehead, not narrow, yet not too expansive either, was like a moonlit stream, expressive of perfect quiescence. The raven-black ringlets fell on her eyebrows, cheeks, neck, shoulders and breast; while the dark hairs behind were gathered up by an elegant pearl chain. The superb arch of her eyebrows looked like the work of the painter; a shade thicker, and they would have been absolutely faultless. Reader, do you love playful eyes? If so, Tilottama must despair of victory over you; her eyes were gentle; they could not dart glances like the lightning flash. The two dear eyes were very expansive; exquisitely graceful and mild-gleaming. In colour, they resembled delicious blue which appears on the face of the heavens at the "sweet hour of prime." When the damsel gazed with those large clear eyes, not a shadow of guile lurked in them. She had not learnt to look obliquely—her look was all openness and sincerity—-an infallible index to the sincerity of her soul. But when any one happened to look at her in the face, she cast her eyes down. Tilottama's acquiline nose never knew the pain of bearing the burthen of the nasal ring.[1] The two sweet lips were rosy and swam in genial humors; they were small, a little curved, and their habitual expression was a gentle smile. Ah! if your eyes were but once blessed with a sight of a smile on those lips, then be you an ascetic or a sage, young or old, you could never forget it in this life—yet there was nothing in it except sincerity and girlishness.

Although well-made, Tilottama's limbs had not yet attained their full proportions; yet whether owing to her youth or to its natural make, not a tinge of corpulency was perceptible in her beautiful person. Yet all the members of her slender frame were well rounded and delicate—on the well-rounded wrist, the Marwari bracelet; on the well-rounded arm, the diamond-studded tar;[2] on the well-rounded finger, the ring; on the well-rounded loins, the zone; over the well-rounded shoulders the golden chain; on the well-rounded neck the jewelled necklace;—the make of all the parts was exquisitely beautiful.

What is Tilottama about, sitting alone at the window of her chamber? Is she surveying the splendour of the evening sky? Why then are her eyes fixed on the ground? Is she enjoying the fragrant breeze blowing from the banks of the river? Why then minute drops of perspiration stand on her forehead? The breeze can only touch one side of her face. Is she then watching at the cattle grazing in the fields? Not even that; for the 'lowing herd' are by this time 'winding' to their fold. Is she listening to the kokila's song? If so, why does she look so pensive? No. Tilottama is seeing nothing, hearing nothing;—she is chewing the food of sweet and bitter fancy.

At this girlish ago, what contemplation can possibly have absorbed all her faculties? Has her bosom been warmed by the witching influence of the first breath of love? Perhaps.

A maid-servant brought in a lamp. Leaving off thinking, Tilottama took up a book and sat down by the light. She knew to read, she had learnt Sanskrit from Abhiram Swami. What is she reading? Kadamvari. The book did not please her, and she put it down after reading a little. She then took up Vasavadatta by Subandhu. She read a while and then was plunged in abstraction; she read again, and was again lost in thought;— Vasavadatta too failed to please. She next tried Gitagovinda. The book pleased for a time, but on coming to the following verse,

“मुखरमधीरं त्यज मञ्जीरं रिपुमिव केलिषु लोलं।”

[Thy sounding bangles, wench, resign,
    Lest they the tell-tales play.
Thy foes they are, sweet lady mine;
    For dal'ance restless they.]

she blushed from shame and threw it down. Then for a while, she sat still on the bed. At hand were a pen and inkstand. She now began absently to write this and that, “क,” “स,” “म,” room, door, tree, man &c. By degrees, one entire side of the couch became filled with marks. When there was no further room left, she was awakened to a sense of what she was about. She smiled at her work, and began to read what she had written. What has she written? “वासवदत्ता,” “महाश्वेता,” “क,” “ई,” “इ,” “प,” a tree, a Senjuti[3] Siva, “गीतगोविन्द,” “विमला,” shrubs, leaves, scrawls, a fort. Confusion! What more has she written!

“कुमार जगत् सिंह”
(Prince Jagat Singha.)

Tilottama's face crimsoned with shame. Foolish girl! Who's there in the room that thou shouldst blush so. “कुमार जगत् सिंह.” Tilottama read the words once—twice—thrice, many times; she looked at the door and read, and looked and read;—like a thief in the very act of stealing.

She had not courage enough to read it for a long while, lest any one should come in and catch her in the act. Hurriedly she fetched water, and, washed off the writing; but could not depend upon the result. She then wiped the spot clean with her cloth; and then examined whether any writing was legible any longer. Not a mark was there, yet it seemed to her as if the writing was still to be seen; she again washed the place and once more wiped it;—still, still it seemed as if there was writ,

“कुमार जगत् सिंह.”

 

 

  1. Hindu women wear a ring of golden wire, to which a pearl is strung. It is passed through the left nostril, and comes down to the nether lip of the fair ones.
  2. A circular jewelled ornament, resembling the bracelet, worn tight just above the joint of the arm.
  3. Senjuti is a certain religious ceremony in which Hindu maids worship Siva—whose likeness is painted in water stained in ground rice.