Kamala


ON SEPTEMBER 4th, 1935, I WAS SUDDENLY RELEASED FROM THE mountain jail of Almora, for news had come that my wife was in a critical condition. She was far away in a sanatorium at Badenweiler in the Black Forest of Germany. I hurried by automobile and train to Allahabad, reaching there the next day, and the same afternoon I started on the air journey to Europe. The air liner took me to Karachi and Baghdad and Cairo, and from Alexandria a seaplane carried me to Brindisi. From Brindisi I went by train to Basle in Switzerland. I reached Badenweiler on the evening of September 9th, four days after I had left Allahabad and five days after my release from Almora jail.

There was the same old brave smile on Kamala’s face when I saw her, but she was too weak and too much in the grip of pain to say much. Perhaps my arrival made a difference, for she was a little better the next day and for some days after. But the crisis continued and slowly drained the life out of her. Unable to accustom myself to the thought of her death, I imagined that she was improving and that if she could only survive that crisis she might get well. The doctors, as is their way, gave me hope. The immediate crisis seemed to pass and she held her ground. She was never well enough for a long conversation. We talked briefly and I would stop as soon as I noticed that she was getting tired. Sometimes I read to her. One of the books I remember reading out to her in this way was Pearl Buck’s ‘The Good Earth’. She liked my doing this, but our progress was slow.

Morning and afternoon I trudged from my ptnsiort in the little town to the sanatorium and spent a few hours with her. I was full of the many things I wanted to tell her and yet I had to restrain myself. Sometimes we talked a little of old times, old memories, of common friends in India; sometimes, a little wistfully, of the future and what we would do then. In spite of her serious condition she clung to the future. Her eyes were bright and vital, her face usually cheerful. Odd friends who came to visit her were pleasantly surprised to find her looking better than they had imagined. They were misled by those bright eyes and that smiling face.

In the long autumn evenings I sat by myself in my room in the pen fion, where I was staying, or sometimes went out for a walk across the fields or through the forest. A hundred pictures of Kamala succeeded each other in my mind, a hundred aspects of her rich and deep personality. We had been married for nearly twenty years, and yet how many times she had surprised me by something new in her mental or spiritual makeup. I had known her in so many ways and, in later years, I had tried my utmost to understand her. That understanding had not been denied to me, but I often wondered if I really knew her or understood her. There was something elusive about her, something fay-like, real but unsubstantial, difficult to grasp. Sometimes, looking into her eyes, I would find a stranger peeping out at me.

Except for a little schooling, she had no formal education; her mind had not gone through the educational process. She came to us as an unsophisticated girl, apparently with hardly any of the complexes which are said to be so common now. She never entirely lost that girlish look, but as she grew into a woman her eyes acquired a depth and a fire, giving the impression of still pools behind which storms raged. She was not the type of modern girl, with the modern girl’s habits and lack of poise; yet she took easily enough to modern ways. But essentially she was an Indian girl and, more particularly, a Kashmiri girl, sensitive and proud, childlike and grownup, foolish and wise. She was reserved to those she did not know or did not like, but bubbling over with gaiety and frankness before those she knew and liked. She was quick in her judgment and not always fair or right, but she stuck to her instinctive likes and dislikes. There was no guile in her. If she disliked a person, it was obvious, and she made no attempt to hide the fact. Even if she had tried to do so, she would probably not have succeeded. I have come across few persons who have produced such an impression of sincerity upon me as she did.

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The Discovery Of India – Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru

Bharat Ek Khoj – Doordarshan

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