Chanda and Tandra

Dramatis personae

[The first edition of the play Chanda and Tandra presented no dramatis personæ and no stage directions. Also, character lines were not preceded by character names.]

Scene 1

“Mother, brother Chanchal is not allowing me to sleep.”

“Sleep, day and night! Sleep, only sleep! If you complain once more, I shall pull you by the ear, Tandra.”

“Just try!”

“What will you do if I do it?” Chanchal asked.

“I shall make Mother punish you.”

“If you tell Mother, your life is in danger.”

“Yes, you make me feel that it will be as easy for you to strike me as it is for you to steal sweetmeats.”

“Shut up! When did you see me stealing?”

“I have seen it with my own eyes. I shall tell Mother. Just the other day I saw you eating sweetmeats from Uncle Narayan’s room without his knowledge.”

Is it called stealing if one takes sweetmeats from one’s own uncle? I do it quite often. Besides, he himself has told me to take them at my sweet will.”

“Another lie! When did he tell you?”

“I am a thief! I am a liar! You are a baby, but you have insulted me deeply.”

Saying this, Chanchal delivered a smart slap to his younger sister. Tandra immediately started screaming as if someone had attempted to stab her. Their mother, Bharati Devi, and their elder brothers and sisters rushed into the room. Their father, Brahmamoy, was meditating, but his trance came to an abrupt end.

Seeing danger, Chanchal took to his heels. Tandra’s screaming and crying would not come to an end, however. In many ways Bharati Devi tried to console her youngest child. She promised to punish Chanchal severely. But even then Tandra did not stop crying. Finally the mother lifted Tandra into her lap and put some sweetmeats into her mouth.

The eldest daughter, Sarala, was deeply concerned. She said, “Tandra, have you heard the latest news? Have you heard that Neta-ji (Subash Chandra Bose) is still alive? He is coming to Calcutta today by plane. Listen, I hear the sound of the airplane. It seems Neta-ji has arrived. We are leaving for the airport. Are you coming?”

Hearing Neta-ji’s name, Tandra immediately stopped crying. Had it been any other day she would have run to the airport herself, but today she just stretched out her arms towards her eldest sister. She knew perfectly well that her mother’s lap was more comfortable than her sister’s, but if she stayed with her mother she would not be able to go to see Neta-ji. Even a child of six has that much intelligence.

Tandra was about to leave for the airport with Sarala when, quite unexpectedly, her brother Bharat said, “Look, Mother. Tandra’s cheek is all red. Her face is swollen. Chanchal is so cruel. Day and night he strikes me, too.”

Hearing that her face was red and swollen, Tandra started crying and screaming again.

Sister Sarala became furious. “Bharat, you fool! You idiot!” she cried. “We found it so difficult to console her! God alone knows when you will be blessed with some intelligence!”

“Shut up! I am not a fool.”

“How dare you tell me to shut up? I am your eldest sister!” Saying this, Sarala boxed Bharat’s nose and said, “Do you think only boys can box?”

Bharat did not cry. Instead, he angrily pulled his sister’s hair so hard that some of it came out in his hand. Bharat realised his mistake and was about to run away, but his sister would not let him go. Holding him with one hand, she slapped him many times with the other.

Seeing that the situation was becoming grave, Tandra once more began screaming. Their mother was beside herself. Meanwhile, Sarala left for the airport. Brahmamoy took Tandra in his lap, something which he had never done before. Immediately she became silent, proud and happy that she was sitting in her father’s lap.

“Unbearable, unbearable!” Bharati Devi said to her husband. “All our children have gone to the dogs. Day and night they are quarrelling and fighting, screaming and shouting. How long can it go on? And you are determined not to pay any attention to their needs!”

“Don’t worry. These things are quite natural and normal. Everything will be all right in the course of time. In our childhood I am sure we behaved the same.”

“Never! In our time no one ever saw such unruly boys and girls.”

“Anyway, what is to be done now?”

“They must be sent to a good school.”

“I shall see about it.”

“Before you make any decision, I tell you, our children will kill one another.”

“No, no. Soon they will become calm, quiet, polite and obedient. We will have a most harmonious family.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Well, in that case I must say that whatever you teach them is what they learn.”

“Yes, I am teaching them how to strike and kill one another, how to live like hooligans!”

“I didn’t mean all that, but ...”

“I understand you perfectly well in everything else, but I never understand your ‘but ... ‘”

“My only cause of sorrow is that you women have never learned how to think.”

“Enough! For God’s sake, you don’t have to worry about us. The Supreme Goddess always thinks about us. We don’t need your concern.”

“It is not enough if the Supreme Goddess alone thinks of you people. What can she do all by herself? You must also use your brains.”

“You always ridicule me. I can’t stand it anymore.”

At this point Tandra intervened. “Father, how is it that you have such a long beard?”

“Tandra, it is quite natural for a grown-up to have a long beard,” Brahmamoy replied.

“You mean Mother is not grown up?”

“True, your mother is grown up, but women don’t have beards.”

“Why?”

“God has not blessed them with beards.”

“Why? That is not fair. Everyone should get the same thing.”

“But what can poor God do? Women would not be pleased to have beards.”

“I tell you, Father, I clearly see that God is partial to men. Even my own mother is partial to my brothers. She loves them much more than she loves me and my sisters.”

“But I love my daughters more than I love my sons,” Brahmamoy said.

“That is true. Tell me another thing, Father. Why are your hair and beard all red? Other men do not have hair that colour.”

“That is a long story.”

“Never mind. I am falling asleep. I don’t want to hear the whole story. But tell me, Father, what was your father’s name?”

“My father’s name was Ananta.”

“What was your mother’s name?”

“My mother’s name was Sima.”

“I like your father’s name, but not your mother’s name. Now Father, what is your name?”

“Brahmamoy.”

“Father, please shorten your name. I find it too hard to say.”

“Why? Just say Brahma.”

“Baimo.”

“Don’t worry. My grandmother also used to pronounce my name that way.”

“Father, to tell you the truth, I am not interested in your father and mother and grandmother. But tell me one thing. Why does brother Chanchal tell me that it is a great sin to sleep during the day? He also says that if one sleeps during the day, then he will definitely be bitten by a snake!”

“That is nonsense! But you must know that it is not good to sleep much during the day.”

“Mother always says, ‘Go and sleep,’ whenever she sees me during the day. However, Brother says I must not sleep during the day at all. It seems that you are taking Brother’s side. Now I do not know whom to listen to.”

“You should always listen to your mother.”

After a while, Tandra fell asleep beside her father. Bharat had also fallen asleep, weeping, after having been beaten by his sister and struck by his mother for causing more problems. Nobody there had showed him any affection. Sarala had gone out after her argument with Bharat, and Chanchal had not yet returned home. It was getting dark.

Bharati Devi, who had not eaten anything all day, kept looking around to see if Chanchal had come back. She felt miserable about the whole situation. Her anger had now shifted to Tandra. Why had she called Chanchal a thief? Tandra deserved the punishment she had got from her brother, she thought.

“What is Tandra doing? It seems that she has decided to sleep the whole day. Unbearable! Unbearable! Is there anybody else on earth who is as unhappy as I am?”

Brahmamoy gave her a smile. “What is wrong with you?” he asked.

“You stay with your family. I cannot bear it any longer. The children are not at home. The whole day they have eaten nothing. Calamity after calamity has taken place. I am fed up with this kind of life.”

“Why are you cowed so easily? Don’t you know that in this world nobody is as happy as you are?”

“Certainly not! My younger sister is really happy. She has no children.”

“Go and ask her. She will tell you that you are really lucky because you are blessed not only with one, but with six children.”

Tandra awoke then and Brahmamoy said to her, “Chanchal has not eaten anything today. Will you go and look for him?”

“Certainly, Father. Mother, please give me some sweetmeats. I shall eat some, and the rest I shall give to brother Chanchal. I know where he is. He is at his student club. If he does not want to come back I shall tempt him with the sweets. You know that he is a greedy boy.”

“Again you are insulting your brother. This time he will literally kill you.”

“Mother, I am sure that by this time he has become calm and quiet. All his anger has gone away. He will carry me back on his shoulders. I shall not call him greedy, but I will tell him that he is far better than our eldest brother. Every time I tell him this, he places me right on his head and starts dancing.”

“Look at the intelligence of this little girl!” said Brahmamoy.

All of a sudden Vidyut ran in screaming, “Our eldest brother has broken his arm. Chanchal-da and a few other boys have taken him to the hospital!”

At this Bharati Devi became completely hysterical. “My Prashanta has brokeh his arm! When am I going to die?” she moaned.

When he had calmed his wife a little, Brahmamoy immediately left for the hospital, taking her and Tandra with him. Bharati did not forget to bring some food for Chanchal.

Meanwhile, Vidyut went out to play again.

Scene 2

“Chanda!”

“Coming, Mother.”

“Come quickly. Let me do your hair.”

“No, Mother. I don’t want it to be done today.”

“Chanda, I have to comb your hair. It looks like a jungle.”

“In that case you have to tell me a story.”

“I am not in the mood to tell a story today.”

“Why not, Mother? You know thousands of stories. Just tell me one.”

“I find it difficult today to get in a cheerful enough frame of mind.”

“What is wrong with your mind?”

“Ten years ago ...”

“What happened ten years ago that you cannot forget even now?”

“I shall not be able to forget it ever in this life.”

“Then you have to tell me that story.”

“No, I won’t ever be able to tell you.”

“All right. I don’t really want to hear it. Just tell me any excellent story.”

“No, I really can’t do it today. Chanda, do you know that today is the Kali Puja?”

“Mother, let us go to the Kali Ghat.”

“Not today. Some other day.”

“Mother, are you really mentally upset today?”

“Not exactly.”

“Well, since you cannot tell me a story, I shall tell you about a funny incident that took place at our school.”

“Tell me.”

“An old teacher came to teach us. I do not know his name. His hair and beard are all as white as milk, even his eyebrows. He is a staunch follower of Gandhi. He was wearing a Gandhi cap and homespun clothes.”

“What did he teach you?”

“He didn’t teach us. He asked us a question right at the very beginning.”

“What was the question?”

“Guess, Mother.”

“I can’t guess. I am not feeling well.”

“Mother, if I knew a mantra, I would cure your mental disease right away.”

“Tell me, for Heaven’s sake, what did the teacher ask you?”

“Oh, it is a common question. He asked us what we would like to be when we grow up. Gayatri said that she would need some time to answer this question. Snigda was sitting beside her, and she immediately said that she would like to be a doctor. Do you know what Tapati said? She said that she would like to participate in the next Olympics. This year no Indian girls went to Europe to compete, and the European girls joked that poor India is not blessed with any women.”

“What did Badal say?”

“Mother, this is a serious injustice on your part. You always prefer boys to girls. You didn’t even ask me what I said.”

“I like that boy very much.”

“I shall tell you his answer last. Now I will tell you a funny answer. Bhola pinched Gita and Gita was about to give him a good slap. But Gita’s movement caught the teacher’s attention and he got furious. He said, ‘Stand up on the bench.’ Poor Gita had to stand up on the bench and give her answer. She was beside herself with anger, and she said she would like to be the goddess Kali and stand on Bholanath’s chest. The teacher was satisfied with her answer and he let her sit down. Durga was sitting beside me. I asked her if she would like to be the goddess Durga and fight against the undivine forces while riding on a lion. Durga said, ‘I laugh at that kind of fighting. I would like to be involved in modern warfare — flying planes and dropping atom bombs.’ Gopal said that he would like be a pure devotee of Mahatma Gandhi. He is ready to give his life in offering good wishes to the Muslims.”

“Was there no admirer of Lenin in your class?”

“You mean a communist? We are all communists. Do you know, Mother, why I am angry with your Badal? He stole my grand ideas. I do not know how he did it. All that I wanted to say he told the teacher before I got my chance, so I was compelled to say something quite insignificant.”

“What did you say?”

“Well, I was going to say that I would like to be a poet, an artist, an ideal member of society. But Badal said all that before me. What could I do? I just prayed to God inwardly and told the teacher that I would be searching for a special power by which I could put an end to untold suffering and death. I said I wanted to be the dearest daughter of the divine Mother. The teacher just gave me a smile, but made no remark. But the boys and girls in the class were about to kill me, as if I had committed a serious crime. Right to my face, one of them said, ‘You have learned all this nonsense from your aunt.’ I didn’t understand what he meant. Mother, is it true that you are actually my aunt?”

“What is wrong if an aunt becomes a mother?”

“There is nothing wrong, but why do you have to be my aunt and not my real mother? I always took you for my real mother.”

“Ten years ago I became your mother.”

“But Mother, I am eleven years old.”

“True. Your mother left you with me ten years ago.”

“That means I have another mother.”

“You did have. Your mother and I used to study together. We were most intimate friends.”

“Is it true that my father was a great doctor?”

“Yes, he was. But at the time of your mother’s passing, your father, who is my dearest brother, took to sannyasa. To my wide surprise, your father left the country telling me exactly what you said to your teacher today. Now you see, Badal stole your ideas, and you have stolen your father’s ideas.”

“Mother, I am so delighted that I have inherited my father’s sublime ideals. In that case, I don’t blame Badal at all. I see that two persons can easily think alike.”

“Certainly. It is quite possible.”

“Mother, please tell me where Father is.”

“I do not know where he is. He has accepted the life of a religious mendicant. Only once a year he writes to me. His letter begins and ends with this pithy message: ‘On this Kali Puja day.’”

“Why does he write only that?”

“Because on this Kali Puja day ten years ago your mother left the body.”

“Why did my mother die on that particular day?”

“Who can answer this question, my child?”

“Mother, quite a few times I have dreamt of a world in which I see no suffering, no poverty, no death, but only joy, pure joy, endless joy. Very often I visit that place in my dreams.”

“Do you think of me when you are in that world?”

“I do think of you, but I do not see you there.”

“Is there any way that one can transform this ordinary world into your dream world?”

“I am sure one can, but I do not know how, Mother. You were telling me about my mother. Please tell me her name.”

“Your mother, who was my sister-in-law, had the name Uma. From now on I am your Aunt Mukti.”

“No, that can’t be. You will always remain my mother. If Uma was my mother, why did she leave me?”

“She did not leave you of her own accord. She was compelled to go.”

“Who compelled her?”

“Death!”

“I shall put up a brave fight against death. The other day you told me the story of Satyavan and Savitri. You told me how Savitri brought back her husband from death. I shall not allow death to enter into this world any more.”

“Nobody has been able to do that so far.”

“That doesn’t mean that nobody will ever be able to do it. I shall do it. In my dreamland there is no death. There is only Peace, Light and Delight.”

“If your father knew about your dreams he would be exceedingly glad. This time when I receive a letter from him I shall show it to you. It is my most earnest desire that someday you will see your father.”

“I am sure that Father will not be able to recognise me. But I shall be able to recognise him, because you will let me know beforehand. Will it not be real fun, Mother?”

“On the eve of his departure, your father told me that he might come to see you in twelve years if such was the Will of God.”

“Why should it be God’s Will in twelve years? Why can’t it be now? How long have I to wait?”

“Only two years.”

“Mother, let us go and see him before he comes here.”

“I do not know where he is, Chanda. Yesterday I received a letter from my eldest sister’s husband. He has invited us to come and visit the family. He says that Tandra always speaks about you with great admiration. Do you want to go?”

“Certainly, Mother. I love Tandra very much. Tandra calls me Phuli, which means flower. Nobody shows me any respect except Tandra. I am really fond of her.”

“It seems that you like to be respected and admired as happens when you become the elder sister.”

“It is not exactly that. But when somebody admires me and loves me, I want to give everything away to that person. Besides, I don’t have any younger brothers or sisters. I am the only child in my family.”

“Who told you so? You have a number of younger brothers and sisters. The young children in the neighbourhood are all your sisters and brothers. I have no younger sister or brother. I am the youngest in my family, but look how many children call me Didi [elder sister] with such love and admiration.”

“Mother, just because you teach at the college your students call you Didi. What do you teach?”

“I teach history.”

“I have already completed the history book. How is it that those big boys and girls have not yet completed their history? Are they all fools? Have they no brains?”

“My child, your history book and their history book are not the same.”

“Mother, I shall teach history in college when I grow up. Everybody will love me and respect me as they do you. Will it not be fun, Mother?”

“By the way, did you know that Prashanta has broken his arm? He is getting better, though.”

“Prashanta-da has broken his arm! He loves me so dearly. He loves me even more than he loves his youngest sister, Tandra. Also, he tells me that I have more intelligence than Vidyut.”

“Don’t call her Vidyut. You must call her Vidyut-di. She is much older than you. If you don’t show her respect, how do you expect the young ones to respect you?”

“Mother, when shall we go to Tandra’s?”

“During the Christmas vacation.”

“I must take some beautiful gifts for Tandra.”

“By the way, do you want to see a picture of your mother and father?”

“Oh, yes!”

Mukti went to get the picture.

“Look how beautiful they are. Bow down to them.”

“Mother, what is the use of bowing down to a picture?”

“Who told you that it is just a picture? With what care and love I have preserved it. Today is the Kali Puja. Therefore I have placed flowers before the picture to offer them my love and respect.”

“Mother, today I shall not go out to play. Like you, I shall worship Mother Kali today.”

“What boon will you ask her to grant you?”

“Why, a very simple boon. I shall pray to her to return my parents.”

“When your mother comes back, will you not forget me totally? I am sure you will not call me Mother then. Shall I not feel miserable?”

“No, never! I shall call you my mother and I shall call her my mother. Everyone else has one mother, but I shall have two mothers. I shall really and truly be happy then.”

“Then don’t forget to tell Mother Kali all this, and also don’t forget to tell her about your dream.”

Scene 3

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.”

“Absolutely!”

“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?”

“Yes.”

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.