Scene 5

(The family is wandering along a crowded street.)

SHAIVYA: The month is over today. I am sure the sage will not forget us.

HARISH CHANDRA: I am sure he will not forgive us.

(Vishwamitra comes rushing in.)

VISHWAMITRA: Harish Chandra, today ends the month. Where is your dakshina, where?

SHAIVYA: We know it, O great sage. But the day is not yet over. It will be at least four hours before the sun goes to sleep.

HARISH CHANDRA: O sage, just before the day comes to its close please bless us with your divine presence. I shall, without fail, offer you my dakshina.

VISHWAMITRA: Remember, Harish Chandra, remember your promise!

(Exit Vishwamitra.)

SHAIVYA: My Lord, look, there is a market. Let us go over there and see our fate.

(They enter the market. Here they see slaves being bought and sold.)

HARISH CHANDRA: Ah, at long last I have found the place. I am more than willing to be anybody’s slave. I shall sell myself. (He approaches a rich man and with folded hands begs the man to buy him.) Please, please buy me. I badly need money. I urgently need money.

RICH MAN: Sorry, I can’t buy you. I see no strength in your body. You will be a useless slave. Sorry, I won’t have you. But I will buy your wife. She can help my wife in the kitchen.

(Shaivya, overjoyed, with folded hands speaks to the kind customer.)

SHAIVYA: Be pleased to feel my heart’s gratitude. I want to help my husband. You are our saviour.

(Harish Chandra sinks his head into his palms.)

HARISH CHANDRA: O merciful Lord, have I to sell my own wife, my most precious treasure here on earth and there in Heaven? No, I simply can’t. My wife is infinitely dearer than my life itself.

SHAIVYA: You must not swerve from the path of truth. The preservation of truth is infinitely more important than the prestige of any human being. You cannot make a cowardly escape from reality. This is the hour when the divine courage must enfold you with its celestial wings. Who else will or can uphold the truth if not you, my beloved? You have to keep to your divine promise.

HARISH CHANDRA: Yes, Shaivya, I remember my promise to the sage. But to sell you, my own, my very own?

SHAIVYA: Fear not, my Lord, this heart of mine shall remain eternally yours.

RICH MAN: I can’t waste any more time. (Looking at Harish Chandra.) Either sell your wife immediately or leave me alone. Take this sum of five hundred gold coins.

(Harish Chandra accepts the money with his head hanging in utter shame.)

RICH MAN (turning toward Shaivya): You follow me.

(Rohitashwa starts crying and screaming.)

ROHITASHWA: Mother, Mother, where are you going? I can’t stay without you, Mother.

RICH MAN: All right. Let me give to the father two hundred and fifty gold coins for the son. Come along, you little fellow.

A VILLAGE BRAHMIN: Shame, shame! Look at this fellow. He has sold his wife and son. How can one sell one’s own wife and son? O God, did You not give a heart to this low creature when You gave him a human birth? O God, You alone know what more unthinkable things I shall have to see in Your creation. O God, take me to the other world. This world is simply unbearable!

(The master, Shaivya and Rohitashwa start walking towards their destination while Harish Chandra walks along the street distressed and disheartened, with no destination at all. Vishwamitra appears.)

VISHWAMITRA: Harish Chandra, the time is up. Give me your dakshina.

HARISH CHANDRA: Be pleased to accept this humble dakshina.

(He hands seven hundred and fifty gold coins to the sage.)

VISHWAMITRA: Shame! Shame! That’s not enough. Once upon a time you were a great King. Such a small dakshina is beneath your dignity. You must give me at least two hundred and fifty more gold coins. It is imperatively necessary. If not…

HARISH CHANDRA: O venerable sage! By your grace, by God’s Grace, one hour is still at my disposal. Please come to me before the last fateful hour fades. In the meantime I shall get the money.

VISHWAMITRA: Remember, remember your promise!

(Exit Vishwamitra.)

HARISH CHANDRA: O Lord Supreme, my beloved wife I have lost, and my only son I have lost. All, all I have lost except this wretched Harish Chandra. Let me go to the market again and see if I can sell my most unlucky body. If I fail to sell myself, then my boat shall sink right near the shore.

(Harish Chandra enters into the market.)

HARISH CHANDRA: O! Is there no kind-hearted man to buy me? I have come to sell myself, my body and my soul.

(A chandala [an undertaker] signals Harish Chandra. In his hands there is a stick and a skull.)

CHANDALA: Come here! Follow me! How much money do you want?

HARISH CHANDRA: Only two hundred and fifty gold coins.

CHANDALA: That’s all? There you are. (He hands two hundred and fifty gold coins to Harish Chandra.) Now follow me. Your duty is to wait on dead bodies. You have to demand from the members of the deceased’s family rice, cloth and money before you cremate the corpse.

HARISH CHANDRA: Indeed, I shall do that.

Sri Chinmoy, Supreme sacrifice, Sky Publishers, New York, 1973