A love of youth Chapter 13
Door Desh wasn’t located on any map of the world I had difficulties to find by a bookseller I found on my road when we left the old town of Delhi to go to a temple. Joseph affirmed he had already heard about an old Sadhu who lived in a monastery beyond a hill and knew every nook and cranny of India as he had travelled back and forth since his childhood. His father was a fervent disciple of Ramakrishna and he had acquired a deep knowledge of his religion while staying among the disciples and listening to them preach the religion. Prakash was happy to leave these busy and tumultuous places to enter into quiet and restful trails. We avoided by the hair’s breadth the bicycles ridden by imprudent teenagers. Sometimes a flock of ewes led by a shepherd without experience made us lose lots of time. I amused a lot in front of this disorganized life. I had no choice even though I keenly wanted to find Devika. We reached the temple in a short time. Joseph jumped down and climbed the stairs four by four before disappearing in the sanctuary. The region was quiet and few people were regrouped in the shade of the gigantic trees. The sun was high in the sky and the heat was stuffing. I waited for long for Joseph. I decided to climb slowly the stairs. At the top, I discovered a vast room. Some bells were suspended above the head but a hand could touch them. In the middle, enormous pillars were sustaining the vast dome. Prakash had joined me. In the bottom, the God Hanouman attracted my attention. I was impressed by his monkey face and his long tail. Prakash presented him to me, saying to me that he was the God who helps people in trouble.
Joseph joined us long after to inform us that Door Desh was the name given to a faraway village. It was the region that was always attacked by thieves. A long time ago, a big pundit who was travelling around India to preach the religion and share with people his deep knowledge in Sanskrit spoke of the vision that he had had while he was in Door Desh. This vision informed him that all Gods of the earth and heaven met there to speak about the problems of men and earth. This news spread across the country. No one had the right to commit the least sin while staying in Door Desh. Those who were sick recovered miraculously while reaching Door Desh if their heart was pure. The impure badly affected experienced atrocious sufferings. They had to leave the region as quickly as possible.
People hunted from their house by thieves took refuge in Door Desh. The thieves hid in the mountains and attacked the villages, terrorized the inhabitants, killed men, kidnaped and raped women and girls. The justice was not able to fight them. They sent spies into several areas to inquire about the dangers that threatened them. They often spread the rumor that they were going to attack a village and when the police and a whole garrison arrived to ambush them, they were in another region to rob the rich. They kidnapped children and ask for ransoms. Thus the Dakhus succeeded in surviving. Sometimes the presence of a beautiful young woman captured from a big Seth broke the harmony among men. To make the rights respected and honors protected, the commander in chief had to be uncompromising with them and punish them severely. Those hurt always ended up betraying his friends one day out of revenge. The den was surrounded and the gang hunted. A great number of these bandits were killed, others surrendered or escaped miraculously. A decimated gang could hardly regroup. A lot of people wanted by the justice changed identity, integrated in the society with another identity. But they hardly could lead an honest life. They continued their bad life exploiting the weaknesses of the others. They became richer at the expenditure of the public misery. They became powerful and bought for rupees the key people in politics and administration.
Why Devika asked me to return to Door Desh. Why? She certainly had her reasons. I was informed that some religious chiefs organized excursions to Door Desh. The persons interested had to register and wait for the moment of the departure. The distance being long and the journey grueling, I imagined that I could never reach them as I knew that I would not do it. We regrouped one evening to examine in details how to reach Door Desh as quickly as possible. To avoid the bus that was very slow, we decided to look for a more appropriate means of transportation. Our goal was to reach the Ganges valley before pursuing our road on the backs of elephants.
Prakash was not part of the expedition. His presence was useless for us. Before separating, I gave him a large sum of money for his services and thanked him. I went to my hotel to rest. In the evening I wore a beautiful dress and went on the terrace to have dinner. I spent a marvelous evening watching until late the women dancing ballet accompanied by the beautiful music of Ravi Shankar.
Our departure was scheduled in two days. I wanted to go where Devika lived in with doctor Ajay. I would find someone to inform me of what had happened. Joseph disagreed. He wished me to rest to prepare for the long journey. I was preoccupied and could not allow me such fantasy.
I asked Joseph to pick me in the beginning of the afternoon. I prepared a bath and spent a good moment in the tub. After a good meal, I stood next to the window to write two letters of which one to my son in France and the other to my father in Reunion. I went to the post office to send them. I didn't know that at this time of the day people queued in front of the counter. It was impossible for me to mix with this crowd. Some bystanders who sidled among people proposed me some stamps for which they asked twice the price. I paid and leave the place with relief. When I told it to Joseph, he was not happy at all. I could have entrusted him this task instead of venturing among people who could attack me. I had not assessed the risks I would run. If making my own way, I would regret it one day. It was not good to encourage the black market. Joseph blamed me for that and warned me not to commit the mistakes that could cost me much. “A lot of imprudent tourists”, he said, “are dispossessed by swindlers and are obliged to go to their embassy to leave the country as quickly as possible. They lost their traveler's checks, jewelry and passport.
It was almost three hours when Joseph hailed a taxi. We drove half an hour in the main streets of New-Delhi, passing next to the Central Cottage Industries, the Bankura restaurant, the Imperial hotel and the Krafts Museum. The taxi dropped us off at 146 Ramprasad Road in front of a beautiful colonial house. It was the address I had indicated to the driver. The street was large and crowded. I was fascinated by the beauty of the building. The portal was closed by a big chain. I could see inside and the herbs were long. A thick layer of leaves covered the lawn. It was not possible, I thought. It was there that Devika lived with doctor Ajay. What had happened? I stopped a man who passed by there to ask him for information on the house. He made out that I was a stranger and to satisfy my curiosity he accepted to tell me the sad history of the family Chowdurry. He was informed thanks to the newspapers when the scandal exploded. He had been living for a short period in the area and knew absolutely nothing about this family. But the newspapers had mentioned a woman came to upset the existence of the Chowdurries who were living before in the tranquility. Doctor Ajay was found poisoned in his room. What had happened? No one knew. The headlines mentioned a crime of passion, the suicide of a physician bewitched by the love of a western girl, a murderer who came from far away. When the man told me that the doctor's wife was in jail, I was frightened to hear it. No one could tell me where Devika was imprisoned. It was probable that as it is often the case, she was forgotten in a cell and that she was known by her registration number.
I returned to the hotel with an immense sadness. I didn’t want to have dinner that evening. I went to bed early. I made some nightmares during the whole night. I woke up early a little bit tired because of the agitated night. I got ready for departure. I decided not to lose a second. I thought the situation was much more complicated than I knew. I had to act as quickly as possible if I wanted to save Devika before it is too late. I wanted to hurry the things as if my instinct warned me that the time was playing against me and that if I didn't succeed to solve this mystery on time, my steps would only be a failure. In the meantime, Joseph had searched on the card the paths that we should take to reach Door Desh. He explained me in detail how we intended to do this journey and the risks that we could run along the way. He attached a lot of importance to inform me of the main obstacles we could meet.
I met Seth Gopalsingh the day before our departure. Joseph had spoken to him of our journey and he could find a guide for us. Seth Gopalsingh was from Bengal. Before, he earned his life travelling around the country with snakes in a basket and a flute. He settled in populous areas and began to charm snakes from the morning until the evening. The tourists, who went through, threw him coins. He won a lot of money and also provoked the anger of his rivals. Once, he almost died as he was bitten by a poisonous snake hidden under his seat. His wife quickly called for help and the neighbors ran to save him. He understood this day how much he was despised. He had saved enough money to buy a land and build his house. He had several jobs before launching his own moving company, of excursion and trips organized. He made me visit his warehouse constructed behind his house and in which I could see shovels, pickaxes, billhooks, sickles and a great deal of agricultural tools well arranged. Our guide who was introduced to us the same day was called Dheeraj and his assistant Jay.
We met early in the room of my hotel on the morning of our departure. We wanted to check a last time together the way we intended to do the expedition. When all the questions were fixed and that nothing had been forgotten we jumped an old pickup whose boot was cluttered with the luggage and all the paraphernalia necessary for the journey. As going across some villages, we were delayed by crowds and chaos in the streets. The Muslims and the Hindus fought for the offenses of religious matter caused to some by others. We should have avoided the cities to continue our way to the valley of Gange. I was especially dazzled by the beauty of the landscapes I saw. I did not want to take my eyes off the landscapes that exercise on me a strange fascination. I noticed some old monasteries in ruins and tried to imagine the history that had reduced them to this state. We drove three days on cliff roads and slept, me on the bench in the bottom of the pickup, and others on the side of the road in sleeping bags. Then we went through vast plains by carriage and dusty paths. I badly supported the bumps. After five days, when reaching the beaches of Gange, we were obliged to park the pickup in a corner and to continue our road by foot and on the back of an elephant. During the night we lit a fire on the bivouac to hunt mosquitos and frighten animals. I feared snakes and scorpions. At the top of a hill where we stopped to rest, one afternoon, I looked at the maneuvers of a man in the fields below. He had a strange way to move and didn't seem to hurry to go back home despite the night begins to fall. His figure remained in my memory. His history was a tragedy that was related to me as I was looking at this farm. Years before, a man who had drunk too much were driving too fast under the bad weather with his truck overloaded of goods. He struck full force a peasant who came back from work and killed him instantaneously. A woman and ten children suffered a bereaved while his judgment went to court. He was condemned to work until his death to feed this family. He didn't have the right to move away from his workplace where he was considered like a prisoner. Some inspectors controlled him regularly to assure that he was in the fields. The children called him "hostile uncle" and, escaping their mother's vigilance, joined him in the fields. This history intrigued me a lot. I tried to imagine the sense that the life he led could have.
On the high plateau, the weather was overcast and menacing. At any time it could begin to rain. The thunder already roared when we decided to shelter us in an old castle in ruins. The walls were covered with the climbing plants and lichens. We sheltered in a vast room before the rain started. The wind blew so strong that I had the impression that the castle was going to collapse. The flames of the torches suspended on the walls flickered all night long. The following day I woke up early. I wanted to visit every corner of the castle to discover the hidden mysteries and secrets. I went up the stairs in stone and entered in vast and dusty rooms. Centuries before, a doughty Mongolian conqueror invades the region and undertook the construction of this fortress. He conquered the lands around with the help of his powerful army. He pushed back several attacks of enemies who wanted to hunt him of his territory. This Mongol was a terrible warrior. On the battlefields, he persecuted his enemies with such fury that his soldiers had a great respect for him. He was appreciated and feared by his men who were devoted to him. His desire was to prepare his only son to succeed him whereas he was already an adult. His son accompanied him on the battlefield and fought by his side. The conquered lands were plowed and cultivated and the harvests allowed to feed all his soldiers and to improve the accounts. The feasts embellished this person's life. After the rough works of the fields, the men had good foods and women. In the evenings, there were often spectacles, dances executed by beautiful, intelligent and graceful women. The great Mongol was interested in the well-being of his family. The presence of a young dancer, whose extraordinary beauty had conquered the heart of the young Mongol prince, disturbed the calm mind of the old Mongol. Some jealous people made him suspicious. He supervised himself his son and had the confirmation of what he knew. This made his life difficult. He could not accept the idea of seeing his son having an intimate relationship with a dancer. But the flame in the heart of the young Mongol could hardly be extinguished by the anger and the pride of the old lion. The dancer was locked in a jail and the prince was prohibited from seeing her. Indignant at the disrespect of his father who didn't want to approve his desire to marry this woman, the son left the castle and formed his own army to declare war to his father. His intention was to go to deliver her lover. The father and the son fought on the battlefield. The son died. The father was sad forever. While returning to the castle, he had a tomb built where he buried the woman who was responsible for this tragedy attached to a post. The old Mongol also died also of a broken heart. My looks flew a long time over this kingdom reduced forever to silence.
When the sun appeared in the middle of the day, we were back on the road. After two days of an exhausting way, we approached a small abandoned village. Beyond this village, we saw a house in ruins. We decided to settle there to spend the night. I slept very badly in the evening. I made the nightmares that frightened me. The following day, whereas we continued our road in the plain, Dheerajs told me the history of the home in which we were spending the night. If I had known it before, I would never have accepted to stay inside a minute. According to the Hindu, history is constantly repeating itself. The souls return to earth under another shape, and in another body. Suraj was the son of a rich trader of Bombay. He had some strange visions when he was very young and affirmed to his parents that he remembered his previous life of which some pictures came back to his memory. He made the exact descriptions of the places he had frequented and also remembered the relationship he had with a girl of his village and the problems he had to cope because of this love. He told that in this other life he had the conviction his parents who were from a superior caste didn't want him to marry the daughter of a poor peasant. He fled with her and took refuge in the mountain. His father made him searched for by his. He had no possibility to escape and knew that his lover would be beaten to death. He decided to die. But before throwing from the top of a cliff, his lover and he promised to meet in their next birth in this small village. He did everything possible to go there. Shanti had been waiting for a long time for him in the house where I had just spent the night. She was old. He came too late. When she died, Suraj became mad and terrorized the village. He died shortly after and people pretended that his soul haunted the regions. Some had even heard plaintive voices in the woods; others had seen the ghost of Suraj flew far away and disappeared in the fog.
We reached Door Desh two days later at the beginning of the afternoon. It was a small quiet village situated at the bottom of a hill. People had grouped outside to watch us going through. Our arrival was expected and before we asked the people of the house where we should go, a delegation arrived led by an old woman who should be Dadima. Devika had often spoken to me of her in her letters. She called me by my name and kissed me on the cheeks. She shed a tear while looking at me. I understood that she should feel big pains. She took me to her cabin to take care of me, help me to relax and begin to tell me the history in which the history of Devika was also related.