Uddhar : Story by Rabindranath Tagore

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      Gouri was a beautiful girl from a traditionally wealthy family, brought up with extravagant love. Her husband, Paresh, had recently improved his impoverished lot a little with his own income. As long as he was in poverty, his in-laws, fearing their daughter's hardship, did not allow her to go and live with him. So Gouri had come to her husband's home when she was relatively grown up.

Perhaps because of this, Paresh never felt that his young beautiful wife fully belonged to him, and possibly, suspicion was a part of his mental condition. Paresh practised law in a small town in the north.

      Perhaps because of this, Paresh never felt that his young beautiful wife fully belonged to him, and possibly, suspicion was a part of his mental condition. Paresh practised law in a small town in the north. Since he had no close relatives at home, he was always concerned about his lonely wife. Some days he would return home from court at unexpected hours. At first Gouri was at a loss to understand why he would arrive suddenly.

      At times, Paresh would dismiss the servants one after another without any reason. None of them suited him for long anymore. In particular, if Gouri would express the desire to keep any of the servants fearing the inconvenience of losing him, Paresh would be sure to get rid of him immediately. The more the exuberant Gouri resented it, the more the husband's behaviour became impatient and strange.

      In the end, when Paresh, unable to control himself anymore, began to covertly interrogate the maid about his wife, asking her all kinds of dubious questions, it eventually reached Gouri's ears. A proud reserved woman, she became furious like a wounded lioness at these insults, and coming between them like a destroyer's sword, this mad suspicion tore the couple apart.

      Once his intense jealousy became apparent to Gouri, Paresh was no longer discreet about it, and he began to quarrel with his wife at every step, expressing his suspicions openly, and the more Gouri bruised him with her silent scorns and her oblique looks, the more his mistrust mounted.

      Thus deprived of conjugal bliss, the childless young woman turned her mind to religion. She sent for Paramananda Swami, the young unmarried priest from the nearby temple, and formally accepting him as her guru, began to take lessons on the Bhagavad Gita. All the wasted love and affection of her woman's heart morphing into devotion were bestowed at the feet of her spiritual teacher.

      No one had any doubts about the veracity of Paramananda's character. Everyone idolised him. But because Paresh could not openly express his misgivings about the priest, his jealousy continued to eat into his heart like a secret wound.

    One day the poison erupted because of a trifling reason. Condemning Paramananda to his wife as a 'wicked fraud, he asked, "Can you swear that you are not in love with that hypocritical priest?" Gouri sprang up like a snake that had been trampled on, and feigning arrogance to spite her husband, said in a choked voice, Yes I love him. Do what you can!' Paresh immediately bolted the doors, locked her inside, and left for the Court-house.

In an insufferable rage, Gouri opened the door somehow and instantly left the house.

      Paramananda was reciting the scripture in his lonely house in the silence of noon. All at once, like a streak of lightning out o a clear sky, Gouri broke in upon his reading What happened?", the Guru asked. Deliver me from the humiliations of domestic life, divine master, the devotee replied. I wish to dedicate my life to the sacred task of serving you.

      Paramananda sent Gouri back home with a stern scolding. But alas, Gurudev, the snapped thread of the readings of that day could not be picked up and restrung ever again! Paresh, finding the door open on his return home, asked, Who was here?

No one!, his wife replied. 'I went to visit the priest.' Daresh grew pale for a moment and then, turning crimson, asked, Why?

      Gouri answered, I wanted to'. From that day, Paresh detained his wite in the house with a guard at the door, and began to behave so absurdly that it soon became a scandal in town.

      The news of Gouri's dreadful humiliation and oppression drove away Paramananda's devotional thoughts. He felt it appropriate for him to leave the town at once. But he could not go away without taking the tormented woman along. Who but God knew how the poor saint spent his days and nights during that period!

      Finally one day, the imprisoned Gouri received a letter. 'My child', it read, 'on deliberation I have come to realise that many chaste, virtuous women had renounced society for the love of Sri Krishna. If the tyranny of family life distracts you from the worship of the lord, then, if you are willing and with God's help, I will make every effort to rescue his devotee and dedicate her at the feet of the holy master. Meet me by the pool in your garden on Wednesday, 26 Phalgoon, at 2 o'clock in the afternoon.

      Gouri hid the letter in the folds of her hair. On the appointed day, when she undid her hair at noon for bathing, she discovered that the letter was not there. She wondered if the letter had dropped onto the bed and got into her husband's hand. At first she felt ecstatic at the thought that it would trigger his jealousy and consume him, but then she could not bear to think that the letter, worn as a jewel in her crown was being defined by the touch of cruel hands. So she went to her husband's room at full speed.

      She found her husband on the floor groaning his mouth foaming, and his eyes rolled back. Grabbing the letter from his clenched right hand, she quickly sent for a doctor. The doctor came and said it was a case of apoplexy, The patient had died before his arrival. As it happened, Paresh was supposed to attend an urgent lawsuit at the countryside that day. Paramanada had stooped so low that he had found it out and had decided to meet Gouri accordingly.

      The moment the newly widowed Gouri caught sight of the saint stealing like a thief to the side of the pool from her window, she lowered her eyes as if suddenly dazzled by a flash of lightning. In the illumination of that flash, it became instantly obvious to her how vulgar her spiritual master had become compared to the time she first met him.

The Guru called, 'Gouri.'
Gouri replied, I am coming, Gurudev.

      When Paresh's friends heard the news of his death and came to help with the funeral rites, they found Gouri's dead body lying next to that of her husband. She had poisoned herself. Everyone was lost in praise of Gouri's rare wifely virtue and her example of suttee in this modern age.

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