Durgesa Nandini/Book 2/Chapter 6
I promised that one day I would unfold to you the history of my life. The time has now come for my doing so.
I hoped to narrate my personal history, when Tilottama should have ascended the throne of Abnir. That hope, alas! has been dashed to the ground. In a few days you will probably hear there is no Tilottama on earth—no Bimala. Our days are numbered.
It is for this reason that I am now writing you this note. I am a great sinner—I have committed many sins in my time. When I shall be no more, people will speak ill of me; what a load of uncharitable things they will heap on my memory! Who then will wipe out the stigma from my name? Who is such a friend?
There is a friend; but he will soon renounce the world and be engaged in austerities. My object will not be gained through Abhiramswami. Prince, for one day at least, I ventured to indulge in the hope of being reckoned among your kindred. Pray, do you, for one day, act like a relative. But to whom am I saying this? The fortunes of these wretched women are like flames; they have touched the friend who was near us. Be that as it may, do you, Sir, remember this petition of your humble servant. When people will say that Bimala was a harlot, that Bimala was a mistress in the guise of maid servant, pray, do you say that Bimala was low-born, Bimala was wretched, that solicited by strong sensual promptings, she committed a thousand wrongs, but Bimala was no harlot. He who is now in heaven, as my good luck would have it, married me in the proper form. My lord did not for a single day suspect me of infidelity.
This was not known so long; who will believe it now? Why, again, being a wife, did I behave like a maid-servant? Listen.
A certain Brahmin, named Sasi Sekhara Bhattacharya, lived in a village adjacent to Garmandaran. Sasi Sekhara was the son of a wealthy Brahmin. In his youth, he received a finished education; but his education could not remove the fault of his character. Although God had lavished upon him every virtue, yet He had implanted in him a certain strong passion: that passion is always strong in youth.
A woman then lived in Garmandaran, who pined for her absent husband, a follower of Jayadhara Singha. She was uncommonly beautiful. Her husband was a soldier in the army of the Emperor, and was long away from home. The woman fell in love with Sasi Shekhara; in a short time, she conceived.
Fire and sin cannot he hid long; the misdeed of Sasi Shekhara reached the ears of his father. With the view of removing the stain cast by his son on the race of another, the father of Sasi Sekhara wrote to the husband of the woman and hastily called him home. He reprimanded his backsliding son severely. Thus disgraced by his parent, Sasi Sekhara left his country.
He went to Benares. There, hearing of the fame of a dandi, who was extraordinarily learned, he began to receive lessons from him. Possessed of an acute intellect, he became proficient in the darsanas, and attained the highest excellence in astrology. The tutor taught him with the greatest delight.
Sasi Sekhara had put up at the house of a Sudra woman. She had a blooming daughter. From veneration for a Brahmin the young lady arranged things for his cooking, &c. It is the duty of the child to throw the veil over the shame of the parent. What more shall I say? The Sudra girl gave birth to this wretch of a woman.
On coming to know this, the teacher said to his pupil, "My boy, I don't teach wrong-doers. Don't show your face in Benares any more."
Sasi Sekhara left Benares for shame.
My grand-father turned my mother out of his house, as a fallen woman.
My poor mother came with me to a cottage; she maintained herself and me by bodily labor. None cared for the poor thing; neither could any news be got of father. Several years after, in winter, a wealthy Pathan was going to Delhi from Bengal. He was going through Benares. Arriving at the city late at night, he could not get lodgings. His wife and his babe were with him. Coming to our cottage, he begged permission to spend the night there. "None of the Hindus" said he, "consent to give me shelter. Where shall we go now with this infant? He cannot bear cold. I have not many persons with me, and there will be room enough for us in the cottage here. I will reward you handsomely." The Pathan was hastening to Delhi on some urgent business; he had only one servant with him. My mother was poor as well as kind-hearted; either from love of gold or from compassion for the infant, she allowed the Pathan a place in our cottage. He lay in a part lighted up by a lamp, with his wife and son. In the other, we lay. The populace of Benares were then full of apprehensions for boy-kidnappers. I was then six years old; I can't tell all that happened; I relate what I have learnt from mother.
The lamp was burning at midnight. A thief entered in through a breach, which he made in the wall, and was stealing away the boy of the Pathan. I had then awaked from sleep and saw it. I set up a loud cry, which awakened all.
The wife of the Pathan not finding her child beside her, at once shrieked. The thief was then going out with the boy. The Pathan rushed on the man, drew him by the hair and snatched the boy from him. As the culprit implored hard for mercy, the Pathan let him go after cutting off one of his ears."
Coming up to this point, Osman became plunged in thought. He then said to Bimala,
"Had you no other name before?"
"Yes, I had," replied Bimala. "That is a Musalman name, and father has therefore changed it."
"What's that name? Maharu?"
"How could you know it, Sir?" asked Bimala in surprise.
"I am that very boy," replied Osman.
Bimala was surprised; Osman again began to read.
"Next morning, when the Pathan was about to depart, he said to mother, 'Now I have no means to repay the obligation your daughter has laid me under; but let me know your wish. I am going to Delhi, wherefrom I will send you whatever you require. If you want money, I will send it.'
Mother said, 'I don't want money; I pass my days easily enough by bodily labor. But if you have any influence with the Emperor—'
'Yes, I have,' interposed the Pathan. 'I shall be able to serve you at court.'
Mother said, 'Then, will you kindly try to get news of this girl's father and send it me?'
The Pathan promised to do so. He offered gold to mother, which she declined. According to his promise, the Pathan employed some of the imperial officers to get news of my father; but to no purpose. Fourteen years after this, the men got tidings of my father, and information of it was communicated to mother. He was at Delhi; he had changed his name of Sasi Sekhara Bhattacharjya for Abhiramswami. When this intelligence reached us, mother departed this life. If heaven can be the portion of a woman who marries without 'sanctimonious and holy rites,' then mother sure has ascended heaven.
When I received tidings of my father, Benares could no more please me, now that mother was no more. There was none on earth to me save father, and when he was at Delhi, why should I be at Benares? Thinking thus, I set out alone for him. At first he was dissatisfied at seeing me; but as I wept bitterly, he allowed me to be engaged in tending him. He changed my former name of Maharu for Bimala. I employed myself in serving father with the greatest assiduity; my attentions were constant and ceaseless. All this was not prompted by any selfishness to secure his love, I really felt an inward delight in serving him. I knew that I had none save him, I thought I had no other happiness on earth save serving my father. Whether it was owing to my respectful attentions or to any other law of human nature, he began to feel an affection for me. Affection is like the flowing river: the more it flows, the more it attains strength. When my dear lord was about to suffer on the execution-ground, then I knew how deeper beyond 'plummet's sounding' was that love."
- A devotee worshipping Siva.
- Hindu Philosophical Systems.