Chanda and her mother came to Tandra’s house to spend the Christmas vacation. A new life had entered into Brahmamoy’s family. Everyone was happy and busy. Tandra was extremely delighted to see Chanda. She alone was making noise enough for five people.
Tandra was most pleased with the doll that Chanda had brought her. Tandra’s doll was able to speak. Sometimes it said that it wanted to eat; sometimes it said that it wanted to go out for a walk. Tandra had no rest. By listening to her doll’s commands she became extremely tired. If anyone said that he could not understand the language of the doll, then he put his life at stake. But Tandra was perplexed about one thing.
“Mother, do you know what my doll likes to eat?”
“Certainly I know. Whatever you like to eat, your doll also likes to eat.”
“I am so happy that you understand my doll’s language. How is it that you understand dolls so well? Do you have any dolls?”
“I used to have dolls when I was your age.” But then Vidyut said, “Look at this stupid girl. How can a doll talk?”
Bharati Devi did not want a fight to start between the two sisters, so she said, “Tandra, Vidyut knows nothing. Don’t pay any attention to her. You play with your doll. Let me go and talk to your Aunt Mukti. Where has Chanda gone? She is so shy. She just bowed to me, and now she has disappeared.”
“She is shy? Do you know that she knows how to ride on a bicycle? She has promised that she will teach me how,” Tandra said.
“No, Tandra. I don’t want you to learn how to ride a bicycle. You will break your arm or leg, like your eldest brother, and everybody will suffer.”
“Mother, do you mean that everybody who rides a bicycle breaks his arms or legs?”
“It is not that. But I want you to wait for a few years. You are too young.”
“Mother, don’t you see how big I am?”
Meanwhile, Brahmamoy and Mukti were engaged in serious conversation. Mukti had always been afraid of Brahmamoy, for he seemed continually moody. He paid no attention to social customs and etiquette. In a sense, he was not sociable at all. He did not know how to converse easily, so he spoke very little. Yet from his heart there flowed a river of compassion towards all human beings.
Naturally he had great love and compassion for Mukti, since she was his wife’s sister. He had tried his utmost to start this conversation on a most suitable subject. The moment Mukti bowed to him he said, “I am really fortunate to have before my eyes the vision of a goddess. Although your house is not very far from ours, you don’t come here very often.”
“When did I ever decline your invitation?”
“You are right. I have not invited you, but I am sure your sister has invited you many times.”
“Who is she to invite me? This is your house. I will come only when I am invited by you.”
“Who told you that this is my house? Since the day your sister stepped into this house it has been totally hers.”
“That means you pay her the rent regularly?”
“No, she is kind enough to let me live here free of charge. But I must say, if I do anything wrong, make even the slightest mistake, it is simply impossible for me to stay here.”
“Why do you speak ill of my sister? Don’t you know that I shall report it to her?”
“For twenty years I have lived with your sister, but I have not been able to understand and believe her. How can I dare to believe and understand you? For God’s sake, don’t tell her.”
“Why? What will happen if I tell her?”
“A great calamity will take place.”
“That means you are extremely afraid of my sister.”
“I have come to you to hear some sound advice about the spiritual life, and instead I am hearing only about family life.”
“In your sister’s domain, spirituality is forbidden.”
“I don’t approve of that. It is really an injustice on her part. Everybody should be free to act according to his will. Right from her childhood my sister has had a fiery temper.”
Just then Bharati Devi entered the room, overhearing Mukti’s final remark.
“So I have a fiery temper, Mukti? What more are you going to say about me? What more appreciation are you going to thrust upon me?”
Mukti became frightened and bowed to her sister, saying, “Forgive me, forgive me.”
“I know, Mukti, it is not your mistake. It is your brother-in-law who has instigated you to say this. But I don’t deny that my temper is of the quickest. How hard I try to control my anger, but in vain.”
Saying this, Bharati left them. She had wanted to tell them something, but she had totally forgotten.
“Mukti, just because of you, this time I am saved. At times I want to accept sannyasa and become a sannyasi like your brother. There is nothing in this world except suffering, frustration and misery.”
“You too want to become a sannyasi? You want to renounce everything? You want to be a real renouncer?”
“Don’t call me a renouncer. What have I that I can renounce? My children don’t listen to me, not to speak of your sister. I have no one to claim as my own. Everyone in the family thinks that he would be better off without me. Everyone wants freedom from all restraint, and nothing else.”
“Tell me then, Brahmamoy, what makes you stay with your family?”
“Nothing special. I stay with my family as others do, for no particular reason. I know perfectly well that the achievements of this world are absolutely meaningless and useless, yet I am unable to give up this earthly life. Attachment within and without is all I see. Never can I escape from ‘I’-ness. I really want to withdraw from this world.”
“If everybody wants to withdraw from the world, then why was the world created?”
“I am sure God has a special purpose for it. But I certainly don’t know what it is.”
“The Indians call the world an illusion; therefore India is lagging far behind on the material plane.”
“Illusion is illusion. How can you call it otherwise? Here on earth I cannot claim anything as my own. Name, fame, knowledge, even my own body, leave me without my approval. I really do not know what I am going to do with my life.”
“Everything you say is true, but you have some duty to perform on earth. If you do not perform this duty, you will remain like inert matter.”
“I know all that. Let me continue with my philosophy. In the process of evolution, from the mineral life there came into existence the plant life; from the plant life, the animal life came into existence; from the animal life, the human life has come into existence. Now we notice that there is a yawning gulf between the animal life and the human life. Man is far superior to the animals; nevertheless man is not fully satisfied with his present situation. On the one hand, we human beings are so helpless; on the other hand, we have the promise of becoming divine men. A tiny plant grows into a banyan tree. This tree lives for hundreds of years, but it remains a tree. It does not change into something else. But man has the possibility of change. When man is transformed, divinised, he becomes like Krishna, Buddha and Christ. Krishna, Buddha and Christ have far transcended humanity’s ordinary level.”
“If we can become like Krishna and Buddha, how is it that we don’t become so?”
“We are too lazy, too attached, too ignorant. To become transformed and divinised we have to work very hard. We have to practise Yoga. We have to concentrate and meditate.”
“I wish that you would try.”
“No, Mukti, you try. The pressure of the family is simply too much for me. Your brother is a sannyasi. He has renounced the world. You have remained unmarried. I shall be very glad if you take to the spiritual life and inject some spirituality into your sister.”
“What would you do if my sister renounced the world, leaving all the children with you?”
“She simply could not do it.”
“In that case, you also can’t do it.”
“Let us not think of renunciation right now. I am not yet ready for it.”
Suddenly Bharati entered again.
“Stop your philosophy now. You have talked long enough. Come and eat.”
Mukti was startled. In a low voice she said to her brother-in-law, “Come with me. As long as you are with me there is no fear.”
But Bharati overheard.
“Oh, I see. My husband has been telling you that I am a monster. He is scared to death whenever he sees me.”
“No, Sister, he didn’t say a word against you.”
“What were you talking about, then?”
“We were just discussing ...”
“I understand. Both of you were speaking ill of me. I am sure you are looking for a medicine to cure my anger.”
“Sister, have I ever told you a lie?”
“Then why can’t you tell me what you were discussing?”
“You won’t understand it, Sister.”
“Am I a fool? All right, never mind. I don’t care.”
“No, Sister, you are not a fool. But you have no time to hear all about our philosophy. You are always busy with your children. You have great responsibilities. To bring up six children is not a task to be undertaken lightly. I am sure there are not many women who would be happy to undertake such a task. But on the other hand, when these children grow up and bring you name, fame and glory, you will be very happy and proud.”
“Mukti, who will sympathise with my suffering? I have no one to confide in. I thought when you came here you would give me some comfort and peace of mind. Please stay with me for a few days.”
All were eating except Prashanta and Chanchal.
“Where are Prashanta and Chanchal? Where have they disappeared to?” Mukti asked.
Bharati replied, “Don’t speak of them. They have made me mad. They are nothing but my enemies, yet I cannot take my mind off them.”
“Why do you have to take your mind off them? You are really lucky to have six children.”
“Yes, it is easy for you to say this kind of thing. You have no idea how difficult it is to bring up children.”
“How can you say I don’t know about it? Who is bringing up Chanda?”
“Chanda is an exception. She is most obedient. All my children are unruly, disobedient and worse than useless.”
“Will you give me the responsibility for your children? I shall be happy to look after them.”
“With deepest joy and gratitude I am ready to give you all my children.”
“Then from now on you don’t have to worry about them at all. I shall worry about them.”
“Let them go to the dogs. I shall never think of them again. I shall have nothing more to do with them.”
All this time Brahmamoy had been silent. With a smile, Mukti resumed her conversation on a different subject.
“Sister, your fish curry has turned out very well.”
“Has it? I am now an old lady. I have forgotten all about cooking.”
“Do you remember that our grandmother used to call you Anna Purna, the Goddess of Food?”
“She also used to call me something else. Do you remember it?”
“Yes, she used to call you Lakshmi as well. You know, Sister, I am still jealous of you. How I wish to be able to cook like you.”
“Cooking is the work of a maidservant. How I wish to be learned like you.”
Suddenly Prashanta came in with a letter.
“Aunt, here is a letter for you.”
Mukti took the letter eagerly and started reading.
Brahmamoy asked, “Whose letter is it?”
“It is from my brother. Here is a piece of news which gives me tremendous joy. My brother wants Chanda and me to come to his ashram.”
“Your brother has written to you? It is very strange that a world-renouncer has such attachment for the family.”
Bharati said angrily, “Yes, everyone should be like you! Don’t dare to compare yourself with my brother! My brother is a real jewel, not only to his family, but to all mankind! Mukti, tell him that I am coming with you.”
Tandra said, “Aunt, I shall also go with you.”
“Certainly you may. But not this time, please. Tomorrow Chanda and I shall leave for his ashram. Bharati, Brother writes in his letter that he has discovered a supreme Truth. He says that he will tell me personally. I am most curious and anxious to hear about it.”
“You may go, then, but I shall not allow Chanda to go with you. She is a little girl. She won’t be able to go through the austerities of ashram life.”
“All right. You can keep her with you.”
“So it is settled that Chanda will stay with us.”
Chanda was silent, but Tandra spoke on her behalf.
“Mother, why don’t all of us go and visit my uncle’s ashram?”
“That is what we want, dearest Tandra. But we need his permission. I will write to him. Satya really and truly loved me.”
“Oh, my uncle’s name is Satya?”
That night Chanda had no sleep. She was full of fear. She thought that her mother would not take her to see her father, and she had good reason for her apprehension.
The following morning her Aunt Bharati refused to let her go with her mother.
Mukti tried to persuade Bharati to change her mind.
“I think it will look odd if I don’t take Chanda with me. What will her father think of me? She has been eager to see him for a long time.”
“I understand all that. I will take her with me when I go to visit Satya with the rest of the family.”
Tandra was extremely happy that Chanda was not going. She would be able to learn how to ride a bicycle from her cousin. Mukti was about to depart, and everybody was saying farewell to her.
Brahmamoy said, “Don’t forget us, please.”
“Impossible! How could I?”
But Chanda was missing. Where had she gone? Mukti was terribly worried and upset. At the last moment all her plans were disrupted. Where had the child disappeared to? Without saying farewell to Chanda, how could Mukti think of leaving?
Everyone was searching high and low for Chanda, but Chanda had made herself comfortable in the car. She would not be deprived of the earliest possible visit to her father. Impatient to begin the journey, she honked the horn. Mukti’s tears of anxiety were transformed into tears of joy, and mother and daughter set off together happily.