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The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore

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it. "Not had your dinner yet? What nonsense! It's fearfully
late." With this the Bara Rani took Bimal away with her.

I could divine that there was some connection between the taking
out of this six thousand and the robbing of the other. But I
have no curiosity to learn the nature of it. I shall never ask.

Providence leaves our life moulded in the rough--its object being
that we ourselves should put the finishing touches, shaping it
into its final form to our taste. There has always been the
hankering within me to express some great idea in the process of
giving shape to my life on the lines suggested by the Creator.
In this endeavour I have spent all my days. How severely I have
curbed my desires, repressed myself at every step, only the
Searcher of the Heart knows.

But the difficulty is, that one's life is not solely one's own.
He who would create it must do so with the help of his
surroundings, or he will fail. So it was my constant dream to
draw Bimal to join me in this work of creating myself. I loved
her with all my soul; on the strength of that, I could not but
succeed in winning her to my purpose--that was my firm belief.

Then I discovered that those who could simply and naturally draw
their environment into the process of their self-creation
belonged to one species of the genus "man",--and I to another. I
had received the vital spark, but could not impart it. Those to
whom I have surrendered my all have taken my all, but not myself
with it.

My trial is hard indeed. Just when I want a helpmate most, I am
thrown back on myself alone. Nevertheless, I record my vow that
even in this trial I shall win through. Alone, then, shall I
tread my thorny path to the end of this life's journey ...

I have begun to suspect that there has all along been a vein of
tyranny in me. There was a despotism in my desire to mould my
relations with Bimala in a hard, clear-cut, perfect form. But
man's life was not meant to be cast in a mould. And if we try to
shape the good, as so much mere material, it takes a terrible
revenge by losing its life.

I did not realize all this while that it must have been this
unconscious tyranny of mine which made us gradually drift apart.
Bimala's life, not finding its true level by reason of my
pressure from above, has had to find an outlet by undermining its
banks at the bottom. She has had to steal this six thousand
rupees because she could not be open with me, because she felt
that, in certain things, I despotically differed from her.

Men, such as I, possessed with one idea, are indeed at one with
those who can manage to agree with us; but those who do not, can
only get on with us by cheating us. It is our unyielding
obstinacy, which drives even the simplest to tortuous ways. In
trying to manufacture a helpmate, we spoil a wife.

Could I not go back to the beginning? Then, indeed, I should
follow the path of the simple. I should not try to fetter my
life's companion with my ideas, but play the joyous pipes of my
love and say: "Do you love me? Then may you grow true to
yourself in the light of your love. Let my suggestions be
suppressed, let God's design, which is in you, triumph, and my
ideas retire abashed."

But can even Nature's nursing heal the open wound, into which our
accumulated differences have broken out? The covering veil,
beneath the privacy of which Nature's silent forces alone can
work, has been torn asunder. Wounds must be bandaged--can we not
bandage our wound with our love, so that the day may come when
its scar will no longer be visible? It is not too late? So much
time has been lost in misunderstanding; it has taken right up to
now to come to an understanding; how much more time will it take
for the correcting? What if the wound does eventually heal?--can
the devastation it has wrought ever be made good?

There was a slight sound near the door. As I turned over I saw
Bimala's retreating figure through the open doorway. She must
have been waiting by the door, hesitating whether to come in or
not, and at last have decided to go back. I jumped up and
bounded to the door, calling: "Bimal."

She stopped on her way. She had her back to me. I went and took
her by the hand and led her into our room. She threw herself
face downwards on a pillow, and sobbed and sobbed. I said
nothing, but held her hand as I sat by her head.

When her storm of grief had abated she sat up. I tried to draw
her to my breast, but she pushed my arms away and knelt at my
feet, touching them repeatedly with her head, in obeisance. I
hastily drew my feet back, but she clasped them in her arms,
saying in a choking voice: "No, no, no, you must not take away
your feet. Let me do my worship."

I kept still. Who was I to stop her? Was I the god of her
worship that I should have any qualms?

Bimala's Story


Come, come! Now is the time to set sail towards that great
confluence, where the river of love meets the sea of worship. In
that pure blue all the weight of its muddiness sinks and

I now fear nothing--neither myself, nor anybody else. I have
passed through fire. What was inflammable has been burnt to
ashes; what is left is deathless. I have dedicated myself to the
feet of him, who has received all my sin into the depths of his
own pain.

Tonight we go to Calcutta. My inward troubles have so long
prevented my looking after my things. Now let me arrange and
pack them.

After a while I found my husband had come in and was taking a
hand in the packing.

"This won't do," I said. "Did you not promise me you would have
a sleep?"

"I might have made the promise," he replied, "but my sleep did
not, and it was nowhere to be found."

"No, no," I repeated, "this will never do. Lie down for a while,
at least."

"But how can you get through all this alone?"

"Of course I can."

"Well, you may boast of being able to do without me. But frankly
I can't do without you. Even sleep refused to come to me, alone,
in that room." Then he set to work again.

But there was an interruption, in the shape of a servant, who
came and said that Sandip Babu had called and had asked to be
announced. I did not dare to ask whom he wanted. The light of
the sky seemed suddenly to be shut down, like the leaves of a
sensitive plant.

"Come, Bimal," said my husband. "Let us go and hear what Sandip
has to tell us. Since he has come back again, after taking his
leave, he must have something special to say."

I went, simply because it would have been still more embarrassing
to stay. Sandip was staring at a picture on the wall. As we
entered he said: "You must be wondering why the fellow has
returned. But you know the ghost is never laid till all the
rites are complete." With these words he brought out of his
pocket something tied in his handkerchief, and laying it on the
table, undid the knot. It was those sovereigns.

"Don't you mistake me, Nikhil," he said. "You must not imagine
that the contagion of your company has suddenly turned me honest;
I am not the man to come back in slobbering repentance to return
ill-gotten money. But..."

He left his speech unfinished. After a pause he turned towards
Nikhil, but said to me: "After all these days, Queen Bee, the
ghost of compunction has found an entry into my hitherto
untroubled conscience. As I have to wrestle with it every night,
after my first sleep is over, I cannot call it a phantom of my
imagination. There is no escape even for me till its debt is
paid. Into the hands of that spirit, therefore, let me make
restitution. Goddess! From you, alone, of all the world, I
shall not be able to take away anything. I shall not be rid of
you till I am destitute. Take these back!"

He took out at the same time the jewel-casket from under his
tunic and put it down, and then left us with hasty steps.

"Listen to me, Sandip," my husband called after him.

"I have not the time, Nikhil," said Sandip as he paused near the
door. "The Mussulmans, I am told, have taken me for an
invaluable gem, and are conspiring to loot me and hide me away in
their graveyard. But I feel that it is necessary that I should
live. I have just twenty-five minutes to catch the North-bound
train. So, for the present, I must be gone. We shall have our
talk out at the next convenient opportunity. If you take my
advice, don't you delay in getting away either. I salute you,
Queen Bee, Queen of the bleeding hearts, Queen of desolation!"

Sandip then left almost at a run. I stood stock-still; I had
never realized in such a manner before, how trivial, how paltry,
this gold and these jewels were. Only a short while ago I was so
busy thinking what I should take with me, and how I should pack
it. Now I felt that there was no need to take anything at all.
To set out and go forth was the important thing.

My husband left his seat and came up and took me by the hand.
"It is getting late," he said. "There is not much time left to
complete our preparations for the journey."

At this point Chandranath Babu suddenly came in. Finding us both
together, he fell back for a moment. Then he said, "Forgive me,
my little mother, if I intrude. Nikhil, the Mussulmans are out
of hand. They are looting Harish Kundu's treasury. That does
not so much matter. But what is intolerable is the violence that
is being done to the women of their house."

"I am off," said my husband.

"What can you do there?" I pleaded, as I held him by the hand.
"Oh, sir," I appealed to his master. "Will you not tell him not
to go?"

"My little mother," he replied, "there is no time to do anything

"Don't be alarmed, Bimal," said my husband, as he left us.

When I went to the window I saw my husband galloping away on
horseback, with not a weapon in his hands.

In another minute the Bara Rani came running in. "What have you
done, Chotie darling," she cried. "How could you let him go?"

"Call the Dewan at once," she said, turning to a servant.

The Ranis never appeared before the Dewan, but the Bara Rani had
no thought that day for appearances.

"Send a mounted man to bring back the Maharaja at once," she
said, as soon as the Dewan came up.

"We have all entreated him to stay, Rani Mother," said the Dewan,
"but he refused to turn back."

"Send word to him that the Bara Rani is ill, that she is on her
death-bed," cried my sister-in-law wildly.

When the Dewan had left she turned on me with a furious outburst.
"Oh, you witch, you ogress, you could not die yourself, but needs
must send him to his death! ..."

The light of the day began to fade. The sun set behind the
feathery foliage of the blossoming __Sajna__ tree. I can see
every different shade of that sunset even today. Two masses of
cloud on either side of the sinking orb made it look like a great
bird with fiery-feathered wings outspread. It seemed to me that
this fateful day was taking its flight, to cross the ocean of

It became darker and darker. Like the flames of a distant
village on fire, leaping up every now and then above the horizon,
a distant din swelled up in recurring waves into the darkness.

The bells of the evening worship rang out from our temple. I
knew the Bara Rani was sitting there, with palms joined in silent
prayer. But I could not move a step from the window.

The roads, the village beyond, and the still more distant fringe
of trees, grew more and more vague. The lake in our grounds
looked up into the sky with a dull lustre, like a blind man's
eye. On the left the tower seemed to be craning its neck to
catch sight of something that was happening.

The sounds of night take on all manner of disguises. A twig
snaps, and one thinks that somebody is running for his life. A
door slams, and one feels it to be the sudden heart-thump of a
startled world.

Lights would suddenly flicker under the shade of the distant
trees, and then go out again. Horses' hoofs would clatter, now
and again, only to turn out to be riders leaving the palace

I continually had the feeling that, if only I could die, all this
turmoil would come to an end. So long as I was alive my sins
would remain rampant, scattering destruction on every side. I
remembered the pistol in my box. But my feet refused to leave
the window in quest of it. Was I not awaiting my fate?

The gong of the watch solemnly struck ten. A little later,
groups of lights appeared in the distance and a great crowd wound
its way, like some great serpent, along the roads in the
darkness, towards the palace gates.

The Dewan rushed to the gate at the sound. Just then a rider
came galloping in. "What's the news, Jata?" asked the Dewan.

"Not good," was the reply.

I could hear these words distinctly from my window. But
something was next whispered which I could not catch.

Then came a palanquin, followed by a litter. The doctor was
walking alongside the palanquin.

"What do you think, doctor?" asked the Dewan.

"Can't say yet," the doctor replied. "The wound in the head is a
serious one."

"And Amulya Babu?"

"He has a bullet through the heart. He is done for."

The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore.
Translated [from Bengali to English] by Surendranath Tagore.

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