Part I — Stories translated from BengaliTRN 1-2. The first two stories in this volume were initially printed, along with other stories, in a pamphlet entitled Silence Liberates published circa 1971.
Transfiguration1A beggar man and a beggar woman. The woman was ugliness incarnate; the man stoneblind from his very birth. One day they chanced to meet on the outskirts of the town.
"Oh," she cried, "you are a blind beggar, and I have no one to call my own. I shall clasp your hand and lead you from door to door. And thus both of us shall be benefitted." She could not express her actual feeling.
"I shall derive much benefit from your kindness, no doubt," said the beggar man, "but what about your good self? I shall be nothing but a burden to you."
"A human being cannot live without having such a burden," she replied.
So from that day on, they went out begging together. She held him by the hand and led him from door to door as he asked for alms. The blind man felt indebted to her and prayed to God to shower blessings on her.
One day they went out far beyond the town and returned home very late. The sun had been unbearably hot and their feet were scorched. As they made their way home, the blind beggar said to his comrade, "Am I not a trouble to you?"
"My life became unbearable," she said, "simply because I had no such trouble."
The blind beggar could only remain silent.
One day it began to rain heavily while they were on their way to beg. The violent downpour was accompanied by tremendous thunderbolts. The two beggars ran and took shelter under a huge banyan tree nearby. Even there, the relentless shower made its way through the space between the leaves, soaking them to the skin. The fury of the wind and the lashing rain set them shivering in their scanty rags. Suddenly, in a voice choked with emotion, the blind beggar said, "Ah! What suffering you are put to! But for me, you could have been free!"
"Suffering? No doubt it is suffering. But suffering of this kind alone has made my life worth living."
Silence reigned upon the lips of the blind beggar.
In this wise, days ran into weeks and weeks into months.
The intimacy of the blind man and the ugly woman grew deeper through touch than through words. She held him by the hand and led him from village to village. Her touch was to him no less than a garland of fragrant flowers laid upon him. That touch, day by day, penetrated his nerves and blood and assuaged a deep-rooted pang of his heart. An utmost, inseparable intimacy grew between them.
One day the blind man burst out, "I am consumed with the desire to see you. How I wish to be blessed with sight even for a day!" At this the woman was simply stunned. For she was convinced that she had got him precisely because he had no sight.
Presently the beggar asked her, "What has come over you? What makes you so upset?"
The beggar woman caught hold of his hand and gave it a gentle shake. "Who? Why? Nothing is the matter." But the eyes of the beggar woman were now brimming with tears.
The beggar man himself became deeply moved. He asked her why she had begun to weep.
"Are you a magician? You have no sight. How do you know that my eyes are swimming in tears?"
After some moments of silence, he answered,
"Well, I myself do not know how I have known it."
Silence fell upon the two souls.
One day the woman confided, "You know, I shall lose you the moment your eyes start functioning."
"Why? How do you mean?" he demanded.
"Well, you know, I… I… I am the most uglylooking woman upon the earth."
A subtle smile played upon his lips. "You are ugly? Do not lie to me. To your eyes you are ugly because you have not been able to see your true self. But my blind eyes have seen it. You are the embodiment of beauty. Full of compassion are your eyes. A divine affection courses across your lips. A full-bloomed lotus is in your hand. The blush of a red lotus shines upon your cheeks."
At this, a silent smile hung upon her quivering mouth. That smile was, as it were, laden with the sorrow of the whole world.
"Yet, I pine to see you with my eyes open," said the blind beggar man.
For two days a storm had been raging in all its fury within the heart of the beggar woman. She had a dream that the beggar would gain the power of sight. If this did happen, what then? The Goddess of Beauty had been hostile to her all along. There was no shadow of a doubt in her heart that the beggar would desert her as soon as he saw her. Again she would have to go her way. And who, but the blind beggar, could have fallen deeply in love with her, ugliness itself?
After a long battle, the selflessness of the woman came successfully to the fore and she decided to tell him of her dream.
"Do you know something?" she said.
"What is it?"
"Soon your eyes will obey your command. You will be able to see at your will."
An overwhelming delight stilled the power of his speech.
"You will be blessed with the power of sight," she continued, "when you stand chestdeep in Devi Lake and when the blessing-flower of the Mahalakshmi Temple is put to your eyes at the very moment of sunrise."
"Is it so?" His heart gave a jump and a thump in ecstasy.
"Mahalakshmi herself has promised me so in my dream."
Light, hope and delight shone on the beggar's face.
There was a minute's silence. A few drops of tears stole into her eyes.
Impatience tortured him. "But when, my dear, when?"
"In two days, the day of the sun's entrance into Capricorn."
On the appointed day, both beggar man and beggar woman stood chest-deep in Devi Lake. A fragrant blessing-flower from the Mahalakshmi Temple was in the hand of the beggar man. The beggar woman was trembling with expectation to see the sunrise.
The golden disk was now appearing on the horizon. The beggar woman touched the blind eyes of her beloved with the flower. Lo, the miracle!
The man was blind no more. His bright eyes were now flooded with sight and delight. They reflected the devotion welling up from the depths of his heart. He seized her by the hand and looked eagerly into her face. With a voice full of gratitude, he cried out, "Oh! You… you… you beautiful beggar woman!"
She blushed and her heart gave a throb of ecstasy. She cast a glance at her own reflection in the water. There, in the silvery freshness of the dawn, mirrored in the calm lake, her face, transfigured into the Goddess of Beauty, incarnate.
TRN 1. This story was written by Suresh Chandra Chakravarty. It was translated by Sri Chinmoy from the original Bengali.↩