by Cain Pinto
‘When honey was smeared on the snout of the wild, mad mongrel,
He ate whatsoever he met.
Likewise, when the guru bestowed precepts on the luckless’ pate,
His soul’s appetite was lost.
But the fortunate, who grasped the pregnancy of what was immanent,
Thereby bludgeoned commonplaces.
They became like virulent elephants, swords fastened on trunks,
Demolishing all strange strongholds.
It was the semi-glorious 1800’s! But, then as now, for me, India remained the jewel in an unbeholden crown. What industrious and able young man couldn’t make use of modest means to hone his skill in practical affairs? But, the parsimony of my parents, in the manner of a proverb, paved the way to my hellish financial incontinence. It was also, perhaps, this forced mendicancy that shaped the ever growing grandeurs of daydreamt excesses. The teeming harem of a robust imagination blossomed into something so pathetic and superlative in my spirit that it arose in my estimation to inexplicable, and unfortunate, ecstasy. Even something spiritual, or at the very least magical. But, by magic I do not mean to invoke merely the supernaturalia and affects that I gleaned from associating with those who had an interest in the occult and a general predisposition for joblessness. But, paraphernalia of a thousand kinds and the scent of selcouth incenses, essential oils malaxed for anointing initiates, or the well-rehearsed solipsisms of ritual conjurations do not magic make. Instead, I speak of the deeper recesses of man alone within himself. Consider, the uniqueness of the Indian gymnosophist, the Hebrew cabalist, the Coptic trismegistus, the Persian magus, the druidic Gaul, the Latin wise man, and the Greek sophist, for instance, and that it is not tarnished by the fact that they were one and all partakers of a secret. What is enduringly unique about them, and unsearchable as to its reason, is that each one of them claimed for themselves a secret that—fortuitously—the others did not. So, I too find myself rehearsing the unspeakable revelations of my being in the strange tongues of my kindred.
I could subsist on my meagre provisions, without compromising some hobbies, only by offering my services as handyman around the university campus. I wrote essays for classmates, did laundry for a cross-dressing professor of philosophy, played the occasional cricket match against hoodlums for a wager, serviced the odd radio set, and offered my own person to willing buyers in the night. The wages of [venial] sin paid my way and I learned the dignity of labour from the strongmen of need. There was a minor stroke of good fortune, however, that worked to quicken the feet of my future. Through a recommendation letter from the professor, whose dirty laundry I had done well to withhold, I was offered an apprenticeship with a local seer, who needed a man such as I for certain mystical ends. It was this man who led me to green pastures, and under the spell of his serene instruction I came to flower like the thousandth petal on the white lotus of enlightenment. The Nasadiya Sukta warns of the impertinence of inquiries into the ultimate: ‘Who really knows? Who will here proclaim it? Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation? The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe. Who then knows whence it has arisen?’ But my master had known these perplexities. A strange man, a holy fool some would say, as if that were in itself an insult. “As the subject of devotion, itself, I praised the thumb-sized puruśa” he said, echoing the Brahamaloka whose many luminous threads are considered unworthy of scholarly untying. He spoke of “Singing nectars of sugar cane, one with honey and with milk, and the sugars of fertile fruit, one with flesh and with soul, sweetness insatiable!” paraphrasing the mighty Ramalingar whom no man could singularly fathom. But I would have loved him still without his erudition. All the vices I had picked up during my old life style fell by the way side as master instructed me in the mysteries of sexual magic, astral travel, mind reading, and alchemy. It was from him I learned that the lustful man is secretly impotent, and that his virility is merely a symptom of the fact, and that those who wander may actually be lost, and that thoughts were but the being of Brahman in his leisure, and that money was the fruitful soil that nourished the very roots of evil.
Nevertheless, life in its full bloom is altogether vanity, and the fullness of life is but a lexical mass. The many incredible powers which befell me in my overeager novitiate were the very mechanisms whereby I did myself more harm than I could ever desire be undone. It so happened that my family came to dire straits, and demanded that I make myself of use to the creditors whom were tasked with harassing them daily. My little sister was pregnant out of wedlock, carrying the child of an English sahib, and my younger brother had dropped out of school to work as a labourer at a local sweetmeat shop. Father’s condition had worsened, and the dismal weather oppressed the antiquity of my mother’s bones. Hesitant to react foolishly in deference to these people who had very nearly abandoned me to the service of infamies I consulted master. But he would hear none of it. “It is said in the scriptures”, he said “a son in his infancy is as a prince, and in his adolescence must be as a slave”, continuing agonisingly, he carried on “he must be a support in his youth, and in his middle age be a friend to his parents”. There was no pleading against the will of the gods. Even the will of the gods who ruled over a people too timorous to resist exploitation by a handful of firangs and too vile to resist visiting worse exploitation on their own offspring for the grave fault of their inopportune coexistence.
I had to plead with the lawyer who wanted to attach our ancestral piece of land, its thatched hut, and its dung walled stable where our two old and infertile cows wasted away, immiserated by perspicacious flies. Being that we had no recourse to any money from our holdings of old it was decided that I’d be given an apprenticeship with the East India Company’s armoury in Meerut. Here, Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs and Sindhis, all Indian men, slaved alike to polish the sword which daily flayed them, honing the cruelty of pale and humourless gentlemen given to their devout impulse for clothing the native in imported decencies. The air abroad was charged with gunpowder, and armaments, manufactured and assembled in the Colony. What the leaders could not do was delegated to those who could be led. While some were led into battle as bait for gunshot and cannon fire from enemy charges the more fortunate among them followed behind with the length of their Enfield pattern 1853’s preceding them, securing in their long-handedness the better end of w anton but unavoidable bayonet fights. William Pritchet’s wicked innovation, circa 1850, the 530 grain Pritchett had thrust the white man’s unappeasable animus in all foreign sovereignties it met, or so it seemed. Like the brisance of the seminal word, the logos spermatikos, but in reverse, or like the third eye of Shiva, the Pritchett’s 1250 yards uttered havoc in the Crimea, and India, for the British throne. In the time it took to travel from Crimea’s excesses in 1853 to Indian martial deployment in 1856, the Enfield had grown crueller and went by the rather curt nom de guerre “p53”. The news of the cruelty of the sahibs, because it was at every level supressed in its descent to common knowledge, gained in alacrity and inevitably became infused with rumours of unpardonable sacrilege. The paper cartridges of the Enfield p53 were coated in pork lard and beef tallow, it was said. The Hindus cried foul for the love of their bovine maternal deity, and the Muslims shouted curses at the pig which their religion has named, forever, anathema.
In vain did I plead that all beasts were alike, as were men. In vain I recounted the many perplexities of life as having their sting and insult in our wilful surrender to the long memorised jeremiads of the dead. Lo, I said to myself and to anyone who would hear, the white man plants trees so he may eat of its strange fruit, and plants rumours so we may bite the hands that kept us well even long before this land, these forests, and their produce were estranged from us. I recounted the indefatigable mortifications of our inspired gymnosophists, feeding on rotting carcasses of animals the Brahmins would dare not acknowledge though they be repulsed by its smell before them. Tantriks taking possession of corpses, which animated by their vile charisms make attack upon the disk of sun, where in their fiery apotheosis at the hands of raśmi [the rays of the sun] they are admixed once and for all with Brahman. The world but an ocean of transitory vellities, foaming at the mouth where Shiva’s blow smites unyielding matter, and refines it. The noxious vapours that rise are but the shallow breath of Shiva victorious, ennobled by the cerulean stigmata of his willing valour. But all in vain. The Hindu and the Muslim cried hoarse of their offence at having partaken of theologically unsound espirit de corps, and I said to myself in surrender to their will: I am but your brother. Then they implored me to fight with them. I shuddered, but there was nothing to be done. A mutiny whose time is come is as the thunder, and who presumes to stop it in its tracks?
Refusing to bite the bullet, so to speak, the Indian soldiers I had worked with had become radicalised by an invincible act of God. It dawned on me, despite my misgivings, that the inevitable was but the face of God. I wrote to master. He responded by telling me that he remembered me every day, and was certain that I did so too. And if this was the case, he said, we need not write each other. “Do what has to be done” he sent his blessings. All my anxiety keeled over. I dedicated myself to the Mutiny of 1857, and its then uncertain fate, armed if not with genuine outrage then with new found solidarity with the preoccupations of my brethren. The outcome of this mutiny, of course, is a matter of the record, and in vain will I recount the countless exaltations we actors in that cosmic play did enjoy being ascribed to our persons. I will die, and my knowledge will die with me. The secrets of the astral realms are secure in their place, but the land of the living is charged with care of other inscrutable exigencies: who is it that must fight injustice? If it were not for God my courage had fled into the clouds of another world, a world where the news reports of English sahibs questioning their impieties did not move a hot blooded Indian to pride and melancholy. As for me, I am convinced, that for the man of wisdom and war alike, there is but one satisfaction and that is the one secret he must keep for himself safe against all others’ claims to it. And, the satisfaction I speak of is that of my desire, the minute man’s, upon the breath of my enemy: “If, still further, having thus enthralled you, they confiscated every acre of your own land; if, having thus confiscated it, they made you pay a rental for what had been your own freehold farms; if they then burdened those farms with such taxation, that the produce could not realise one-half of the amount; if, you being unable to pay, they seized your cattle, your farm implements, your very seed corn; if, having thus stopped your means of production, they next year demanded the same rental and the same tax; if, because you could not pay it, they hung you with your heads downwards in the burning sun, lashed you, tortured you, tied scorpions to the breasts of your women, committed every atrocity and crime—what, we repeat, would you say and do? You would rise—rise in the holy right of insurrection, and cry to Europe and the world, to Heaven and earth, to bear witness to the justice of your cause. Fellow-countrymen! Thus have the Hindus been treated at the hands of England; this is the cause of their insurrection, and every honest man throughout the world can pass but one judgement on the facts, and breathe but one aspiration for the issue”. But, in this I do not gloat, though there is a vain satisfaction in that too. I do not gloat for the revolution is not willed by men-as-generalities, who live and die and are reborn eternally under the unchanging sun and the endless will of the gods to be thus entertained in a never ending cycle of praises and apostasy. A lone offended man carries his secret burden, and his soul does rest, too, in the summary of his borrowed, broken words alone.
In his nimbus of dishevelled tasselled hair
Atrous with hisses of serpents and thunderclap
With the turgid wine of the never-drying Ganges,
Flashes fulgurance from his cyclopean-eye.
As moonshine pouring from his diadem
His garlands gleam of campaka flowers.
That Śiva rules!
Lambent as a parade of swans it spread across the face
Of one dressed in pachydermous hide.
Then, momentarily eclipsed by the topaz of his nape
It is set ablaze in an instant,
The luminescence of moon parting a cloud
May Śiva’s smile bring you good fortune!
Cain Pinto is a freelance writer from, Mumbai, India. He holds a Master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Mumbai, and is currently pursuing an M.Phil., in Philosophy, from the University of Pune. He is passionate about philosophy, literature, and music. He blogs sporadically on the intersections of philosophy, logic, semantics, and other sundry things at http://thesehaeccities.blogspot.in/