29    

Ama and Vinayaka



Night on the battlefield: Ama meets her father Vinayaka.

 

AMA।

Father!

 

VINAYAKA।

Shameless wanton, you call me 'Father'! you who did not shrink from a Mussulman husband!

 

AMA।

Though you have treacherously killed my husband, yet you are my father; and I hold back a widow's tears, lest they bring God's curse on you. Since we have met on this battlefield after years of separation, let me bow to your feet and take my last leave!

 

VINAYAKA।

Where will you go, Ama? The tree on which you built your impious nest is hewn down. Where will you take shelter?

 

AMA।

I have my son.

 

VINAYAKA।

Leave him! Cast never a fond look back on the result of a sin expiated with blood! Think where to go.

 

AMA।

Death's open gates are wider than a father's love!

 

VINAYAKA।

Death indeed swallows sins as the sea swallows the mud of rivers. But you are to die neither to-night nor here. Seek some solitary shrine of holy Shiva far from shamed kindred and all neighbours; bathe three times a day in sacred Ganges, and, while reciting God's name, listen to the last bell of evening worship, that Death may look tenderly upon you, as a father on his sleeping child whose eyes are still wet with tears. Let him gently carry you into his own great silence, as the Ganges carries a fallen flower on its stream, washing every stain away to render it, a fit offering to the sea.

 

AMA।

But my son-

 

VINAYAKA।

Again I bid you not to speak of him. Lay yourself once more in a father's arms, my child, like a babe fresh from the womb of Oblivion, your second mother.

 

AMA।

To me the world has become a shadow. Your words I hear, but cannot take to heart. Leave me, father, leave me alone! Do not try to bind me with your love, for its bands are red with my husband's blood.

 

VINAYAKA।

Alas! no flower ever returns to the parent branch it dropped from. How can you call him husband who forcibly snatched you from Jivaji to whom you had been sacredly affianced? I shall never forget that night! In the wedding hall we sat anxiously expecting the bridegroom, for the auspicious hour was dwindling away. Then in the distance appeared the glare of torches, and bridal strains came floating up the air. We shouted for joy: women blew their conch-shells. A procession of palanquins entered the courtyard: but while we were asking, 'Where is Jivaji?' armed men burst out of the litters like a storm, and bore you off before we knew what

 

had happened. Shortly after, Jivaji came to tell us he had been waylaid and captured by a Mussulman noble of the Vijapur court. That night Jivaji and I touched the nuptial fire and swore bloody death to this villain. After waiting long, we have been freed from our solemn pledge to-night; and the spirit of Jivaji, who lost his life in this battle, lawfully claims you for wife.

 

AMA।

Father, it may be that I have disgraced the rites of your house, but my honour is unsullied; I loved him to whom I bore a son. I remember the night when I received two secret messages, one from you, one from my mother; yours said: I send you the knife; kill him!' My mother's: I send you the poison; end your life!' Had unholy force dishonoured me, your double bidding had been obeyed. But my body was yielded only after love had given me-love all the greater, all the purer, in that it overcame the hereditary recoil of our blood from the Mussulman.

 

Enter Rama, Ama's mother

 

AMA।

Mother mine, I had not hoped to see you again. Let me take dust from your feet.

 

RAMA।

Touch me not with impure hands!

 

AMA।

I am as pure as yourself.

 

RAMA।

To whom have you surrendered your honour?

 

RAMA।

Husband? A Mussulman the husband of a Brahmin woman?

 

AMA।

I do not merit contempt: I am proud to say I never despised my husband though a Mussulman. If Paradise will reward your devotion to your husband then the same Paradise waits for your daughter, who has been as true a wife.

 

RAMA।

Are you indeed a true wife?

 

AMA।

Yes.

 

RAMA।

Did you know how to die without flinching?

 

AMA।

I do.

 

RAMA।

Then let the funeral fire be lighted for you! See, there lies the body of your husband.

 

AMA।

Jivaji?

 

RAMA।

Yes, Jivaji. He was your husband by plighted troth. The baffled fire of the nuptial God has raged into the hungry fire of death, and the interrupted wedding shall be completed now.

 

VINAYAKA।

Do not listen, my child. Go back to your son, to your own nest darkened with sorrow. My duty has been performed to its extremecruel end, and nothing now remains for you to do.-Wife, your grief is fruitless. Were the branch dead which was violently snapped from our tree, I should give it to the fire. But it has sent living roots into a new soil and is bearing flowers and fruits. Allow her, without regret, to obey the laws of those among whom she has loved. Come, wife, it is time we cut all worldly ties and spent our remainder lives in the seclusion of some peaceful pilgrim shrine.

 

RAMA।

I am ready: but first must tread into dust every sprout of sin and shame that has sprung from the soil of our life. A daughter's infamy stains her mother's honour. That black shame shall feed glowing fire to-night, and raise a true wife's memorial over the ashes of my daughter.

 

AMA।

Mother, if by force you unite me in death with one who was not my

 

husband, then will you bring a curse upon yourself for desecrating the shrine of the Eternal Lord of Death.

 

RAMA।

Soldiers, light the fire; surround the woman!

 

AMA।

Father!

 

VINAYAKA।

Do not fear. Alas, my child, that you should ever have to call your father to save you from your mother's hands!

 

AMA।

Father!

 

VINAYAKA।

Come to me, my darling child! Mere vanity are these man-made laws

 

splashing like spray against the rock of heaven's ordinance. Bring your son to me, and we will live together, my daughter. A father's love, like God's rain, does not judge but is poured forth from an abounding source.

 

RAMA।

Where would you go? Turn back!-Soldiers, stand firm in your loyalty to your master Jivaji! do your last sacred duty by him!

 

AMA।

Father!

 

VINAYAKA।

Free her, soldiers! She is my daughter.

 

SOLDIERS।

She is the widow of our master.

 

VINAYAKA।

Her husband, though a Mussulman, was staunch in his own faith.

 

RAMA।

Soldiers, keep this old man under control!

 

AMA।

I defy you, mother!-You, soldiers, I defy!-for through death and love I win to freedom