Bharathi didn't open either of the painting books. That was going to be her first initiation in to painting. She put it off therefore to some auspicious hour of some particularly lucky day. Saptharishi told her that Wednesday between 7 and 8 A.M. would be the most suitable hour, It was just two days hence. Today was Monday. She wondered if she could wait that long. She was consumed by curiosity. She was impatient to open the pages. And then she would open her eyes on the pictures. She persuaded herself to wait. All would go well if she took the first peep into the pages at a moment when the planets were ranged in her favor. She assured herself that she would achieve signal success in her pursuit. She already gave herself the airs of an accomplished painter. What remained of Monday and the intervening Tuesday were too trying. She held herself with an effort. In the meantime she wanted to make the Swamiji talk more of painting. Whether she understood or not it was interesting the way he spoke.

Next morning just about daybreak they took their walk as usual. There was no rain. But the sky was heavily overcast, and the weather was thick with a possible drizzle. Jitendra wanted to make an exhaustive study of the tree he proposed to paint. The tree apart as well as in its relation to the surrounding terrain held inexhaustible potential for a painter. Jitendra and Bharathi had already covered a far enough distance. Now they made a detour from the rough gravel road and went into the heath carefully picking their way through the shrubs beyond which the tree stood. They now stood facing the tree, but sufficiently away from it.

"We shall go and stand beside the tree, Swamiji, ", Bharathi said.

"No, Bharathi, we get a better view of it from here. I mean esthetically. I should observe and study the lie of the land and the posture of the surrounding objects of Nature. We must treat all of them as a related whole. It is true the tree stands alone, but this aloneness could be emphasized and movingly brought out on the canvas so as to make it touch our feelings only if we bring into focus whatever rests around it. If the tree stands alone, it stands alone from "What". It is that `What' which gives life to the whole picture. Either positively or negatively things have a related existence. Finally it is that "Aloneness" That is going to be the central fact in the picture. We must impart to it a poetic beauty, a mystic content, and we must secure for it the whole sympathy of every one who believes in humaneness.

"There is another reason, Bharathi, why I want to stand at a distance. I should treat the entire place like a temple if I were to achieve sufficient inspiration for the work. It is just a reverence for the object you are going to paint. Nothing comes to you unless you love it and pay it respect. Look at any object with more Bhakthi, it gives more of it to you. And it speaks to you more understandingly. If you love it more and more you will automatically come to understand its language. Its language is mute. It speaks in absolute silence. By the by know that the language of the immortals is always Silence. Silence is a language. That was why our ancient Rishis never wanted to speak, but always sat in Mona, that is Silence. That way they could understand the mystery of the universe and all of what they meant by God. The more you talk the more you lose. The more you are silent, the more you gain, the more your spirit grows. There is power in silence, Bharathi. All the omnipotence of God consists only in silence. Make your whole being a Temple of Silence, you will soon see that God shines there. You will sense His presence most unmistakably. He will let you know that He is there. If a work of Art is to turn out well, it is the will of God that is the prime factor. It works very mysteriously. For that you must invoke His help. Knock at His door it will open. Whatever your talent, unless your mind gets the light, your work will become a ridiculous fiasco. Paint on your canvas just a barren rock, a rock that you have always considered as just nothing more than an eyesore. If you have the light of God shining in you, then the rock will turn out to be the most beautiful thing. It will talk like a sage, and give you astounding truths. It will have a lyrical sensitivity and deposits upon deposits of poetic stuff. Have you heard of Lord Dakshina Moorthy, Lord Shiva in the form of Gu ru. He teaches his disciples only through Silence, nothing but Silence. He never speaks, never utters a syllable. He is simply Silence. And nothing else. "

He continued:

"Are you in the habit of chanting Gayatri Mantra, Bharathi?"

"No, Swamiji, it is, I think, meant for men only."

"But you could know the meaning. It is a worship of the Light. The Light that guides our mind, senses and our soul. Believe in that Light. It will take you to success. If you ever to become a good painter, remember all that I have now spoken to you. Nobody is going to find fault with you if you keep repeating that Mantra in your mind and try to get your soul soaked in it, you will then see a wonder. Without your knowing it, you will be growing, achieving more and more success and there will be continuous enlightenment. You might not know where it all came from. From some mysterious source, everything will arrange itself to your advantage. This Mantra is the Summom Bonum of all the Vedas. Keep thinking of it with utmost Bhakthi, all the knowledge of the Vedas will start gradually breaking out in you. When you come to paint a fragment of that knowledge, you realize in your work God the Supreme. You will see Him in the Abstract, it will shine through your work as a piece of rare understanding. Those who have the eyes to see it will see it. Those who are pure in thought, word and deed will grasp it and be stunned by the beauty of it. It will reveal itself as an outburst of redeeming, elevating power, an unspeakably sublime thought, an absorbing movement of a super-terrestrial feeling, the presence of some grace that stares you lovingly in the face and befriends you and from which you do not want to get away even for a moment, some sudden glimmering and clarifying excellence with which your spirit identifies itself and quivers with a joy and thrill. And you seem to grow out of it and it seems to grow out of you.

"When you paint a subject, whatever it is, any subject either animate or inanimate, the subject is realized in you and you are realized in the subject. That way you discover the common identity of both at the spiritual level. Ultimately every creation is made up of the same spiritual substance and is born of that which we call Brahman. I don't know, Bharathi, why I am talking so much. Perhaps the Bharathi that now stands beside me is really not Bharathi but some mighty spiritual presence that has crashed into me and make me spill honey all over, for I seem to love what I talk. Otherwise why should I talk so much. I don't know what my presence makes of you Bharathi, but your presence inundates all the levels of my being with a power. I don't know if I am your Guru or you are my Guru."

Bharathi could not speak. It was as if all speech had been extinguished in her and in the place of speech there was a silence as large as the universe, a God-permeated silence, the Silence of silences, the mightiest of silence that belonged only to God. She had become a point in which earth and heaven kept blending into revelation after revelation. Without their knowing Jitendra and Bharathi had drawn closer and were now standing shoulder to shoulder. Jitendra was surprised that she was almost his height, perhaps an inch less or a little more. He was tempted to peer into her face. It had the brilliance of a thousand full moons, as in Sarat Ruthu, and shone dazzlingly and he caught it in the infinite depth of his soul. He was already a mass of spiritual upsurge, and her face shone in it as in the blue waves a cosmic sea. She stared at him and as if borne down by a spell could not move her eyes out of him. His saffron-robe was all fire and was burning away all impurities wherever they happened to be. She was caught by that fire and burnt with it in an urge that had no form or name or even a recognizable origin, an urge of a mighty, exalting intensity. She was spiritually blending into her Guru. It was akin to coital ecstasy. But certainly it was not that. It was an infinitely superior one.

Now they thought they could return. There was no drizzle yet, but there was a strong hint of it in the air. A wet wind blew foreboding heavy showers. They made haste. It took them time, off and on, to get clear of the encumbering bushes. As they were making for the road, Bharathi suddenly stopped on a weedy spot where stood a few forlorn trees, sapless and perishing, like all the rest of the moribund vegetation in that rock- studded tract.

"Do you remember, Swamiji, it was exactly on this spot that you gave me the other day that heavenly kiss?"

"Oh, I see, I have already asked your pardon for that rash foolery, Bharathi ".

"Give me one more of it, Swamiji".

Jitendra was taken aback. He was puzzled.

"No, Bharathi. It wont be proper".

"I don't understand you, Swamiji, there is nothing improper in it. It is in fact the other way about. It is the properest thing between a Guru and disciple. There should be frequent such kisses. Only then the bond between the Guru and the disciple grows and becomes true and authentic".

Jitendra tried his best to dodge it off by employing ail the art in him of sweet persuasion. But she would not hear.

"I want it, Swamiji, I want it, I want it". She insisted with a fury and almost begged.

"It was all right Bharathi, that day. It was an emotional moment. I had a devilish impulse. Before I was aware of it, it had taken hold of me, and I was through with the kiss. Now I have neither that urge nor that emotion. Even the devil that was here the other day to push me into the act doesn't seem to be anywhere about. It had gone on some other expedition perhaps".

She laughed. She was not willing to accept what he said. She again insisted. "It was not the, devil. Swamiji, it was God. Yes, God. God in his infinite mercy. With that kiss the other day, Swamiji, I felt the Wildest expansion of my spirit. All through that night I felt God burst in every cell of my being. That kiss was a divine potion. I had never thought I was beautiful. If I had ever been, I was never conscious of it. But that night I felt I was a marvelous beauty. I felt that Beauty growing in me a hundredfold. I felt I was being recast in the image of that Brindhavan goddess. I was all power and brimming with an impact. I became an epic to myself. I seemed to absorb into myself the whole mass of eloquence that rises so majestically in every page of the Bhagavad Gita. And therefore, Swamiji, I want that kiss again".

"All right, I will give you a kiss, Bharathi, provided you promise me that you will never again ask for ‘one more’ ".

"Yes, Swamiji, let it be so". She giggled.

"What do you mean, Bharathi, by this 'Let it be so'?

"I mean, Swamiji, what I say. I promise". She laughed.

Then Jitendra took her face in his hands and let his lips brush past her cheek.

"No, Swamiji, that is no kiss, no kiss at all. I want it hard. It should be a true, genuine and willing kiss. This is no kiss, but a pretense. Give me a kiss with all your soul in it. I would feel reborn, remade".

The hapless Jitendra had no means of escape. He gave her the kiss she wanted, a lusty and affectionate one.

They had now reached their lodgings.

Jitendra found a telegram waiting for him. It was from the Ashram sent by Madhusudhan, one of his disciple-secretaries. He had reminded the Swamiji that his projected foreign tours were to commence in the next fifteen days. There were many enquiries from abroad seeking confirmation of the dates tentatively notified earlier. Was the Swamiji sticking to the dates or changing them? He wanted an urgent reply. Jitendra sent a reply that the dates would have to be changed, but that it could wait till he returned to the Ashram.

And so Bharathi had one more kiss to treasure up. She had never known a kiss in all her life after her parents had died. They had showered her with kisses all day. She had always had a surfeit of it. But that kind of fondness had died with them. There could be none equal to it on earth or heaven. Then she became an orphan. Her relations took her one after another, not to bring her up but to extract work from her as from a beast of burden. At that small age she drudged like a dozen slaves. One of her relations, a heartless shrew, once came down on her like a tornado and was about to strangle her when luckily a bystander intervened and saved her. Of course her maternal uncle and aunt who lived in Tiruvarur were quite kind and gave her their love and looked after her well. But it was mainly kind-hearted charity. But she would be ever grateful to them. But they had never kissed her. One couldn't expect that much, that would be unnatural. Moreover she was then grown in years. Besides kisses were the products of excessive emotion or overriding fondness. And that would be rare, very rare. Only parents could give such pure kisses. Her dead parents could never come back from their graves and kiss her. By the time she was adopted by Saptharishi and his wife she had fairly come of age, and kisses would have been out of place. They of course loved her enormously but they were not the kissing kind. The Swamiji's kisses therefore were wealth to her, something priceless and worth kingdoms. They almost made her parents come alive in her blood and bone. That was precisely the magic of that kiss. In that kiss, she saw her parents multiplied to a million.

Everyday Jitendra went to the temple around ten in the morning. He would go by the private alley that opened on from the rear of his lodgings into the temple. It was usually a lean hour and there wouldn't be much of crowd. If there was, it would surround him, show him reverence and fall at his feet and take his blessings. He would stand before the deities in meditation for a long while. Bharathi would invariably accompany him. Today Jitendra wanted to go alone. He had asked Saptharishi to clear all the crowds and close all the doors. He didn't want even Saptharishi to be present. He wanted to sit before the image of Rama and meditate all alone. He wanted to pray for Bharathi. She was causing him day by day a fear by clinging to him more and more. She had mistaken him for something infinitely larger than what he really was, a humble ordinary man of common clay. It seemed she wouldn't be able to live without his company. He did wrong to himself and to her by accepting the Marthandam program. His presence had become her sole sustenance, and she lived body and soul on that and that alone. What was to become of her when he left the village which was probably in three weeks at the latest? She might start withering fast. He prayed to God to wean her away from him even from now on so that when he took his farewell, she should not feel deprived or lost. He didn't know what means he should adopt to achieve this end. He cursed the day when he was goaded by a fatal satanic impulse to plant a kiss on her face. From his point of view, it was that which had done her the worst damage. It might have given her emotions a steep lift, but precisely it was that which was going to work her destruction. He wept out all his tears before Lord Rama and fell at his feet with his body trembling and his face contorted in helplessness. It took long for the storm in his heart to blow over. God, save this ch ild, save her by all means, she is the most innocent of your creations, she is an ignorant fledgling that wouldn't survive except by your grace, God, I beg you again and again, save her, save her", He cried. "May your grace be on her, ever stand beside her and protect her. Give her a most loving husband and a happy home, give her lovely children and let her spread her wings over them and protect them like a motherbird. Oh, Sri Ram, Ram, Ram, speak my Lord, speak.". He raved again and again. That night he couldn't have a wink of sleep. He kept changing over from side to side on bed till he woke up in the morning with bloodshot eyes and high fever.

It was Wednesday, the day Bharathi was to open the painting books. The time was 6-45 A. M. The day had broken. She was in her Puja room. Through the window an orange sun streaked in. She meditated on Shri Rama of Pattabhiram temple, then on her Guru Swami Jitendra and then on her departed parents. She left the Puja room at 7-30. In great exultation, she directed her steps to the room in the Guest House where she had kept the two painting books in a wooden almirah. There was a bed and a complete sofa set. It was one of the guest rooms which was habitually her retreat. She took out the two books and sat on the sofa. She closed her eyes and thought of God and then of her Guru. Then she picked up one of the books at random without opening her eyes. It was the book with the caption, "Paint Your Own Masterpiece". She thought she would again close her eyes, open some page at random, and then start from that page the reading of the book. Closing her eyes she opened the book, then she opened her eyes and looked at the page that lay before her. She was shocked. Her heart beat fast, missing now and then a beat or two. She felt as if it would stop.

What hit her eyes was neither a man, nor a building, nor an animal, nor a tree, but a Nude. A girl absolutely naked, yes absolutely, absolutely naked from head to foot, standing on the brink of some water-course, holding an inverted pot on her shoulder from which the water poured in a stream. She was a water-bearer with well-marked crotch and fairly well- formed breasts. The picture was captioned, "La Source". The name of the painter who made the picture was inscribed as Jean Dominique Ingress. He was a French man. She didn't know what this wretched inauspicious beginning meant. It seemed to presage catastrophe. She wanted to try her luck again. She again closed her eyes and opened at another page well after the middle. The former one was well before the middle. This time again there was a shock. What hit her eyes again was equally atrocious. There was another naked woman, a physically more developed beauty, with not a stitch of cloth on her person, recumbent on her bed against a pile of cushions. The painter's name was mentioned as Edouard Manet, and the picture was entitled, "Olympia". That was obviously her name. It was from Louvre Museum, Paris. This was called one of the greatest masterpieces. But this too put her out of breath as the former. Her head reeled once more. Terribly upsetting. They caused an injury to her carefully nurtured sense of morals.