By MASTI VENKATESA IYENGAR
(Rendered from the Kannada)
Nagoji Dikshit had made his home in holy Benares
And was engaged in writing out a gloss
To make clear the meaning of the Sutras and in doing this, had forgotten
Fatigue and penury, hunger and thirst.
It happened at this time that the Peshwa came on pilgrimage
With his mother to the sacred place:
I am not sure if it was the mother or someone else
But that is not of consequence in my story.
Learning of the scholar who came from his part of the country
The Peshwa wished to see him to show him regard.
In one so very highly placed and so very well-to-do
This much of consideration is a great matter.
Early one morning the Dikshit was sitting in his room
Unweaving a tangle in the text
And dictating his elucidation,
When the Peshwa came to his door.
It was the Dikshit’s instruction to his wife
That when he was engrossed in his work,
No one should be allowed to go into his room;
And the lady most courteously told the Peshwa of this.
“Please say that the King of the Deccan has come;
It is possible that he will agree to see me,”
Said the Peshwa. The lady went into the study
And brought back word to the Peshwa: “Come in.”
The great man entered the room, and folded his palms,
And took the seat to a side that was shown him.
The Dikshit, seated as before, acknowledged the greeting,
Seeming unaware of the eminence of his visitor.
A moment later he said: “Yourself, your Kingdom, your family
All, I trust, are well.” Very courteously
Even as the Peshwa answered ‘Yes’ in reply
The Dikshit was back in his thought again.
This man of learning lived in utter indigence:
Yet his fervid indifference to money
Was some thing one could not understand. He seemed to raise
The banner of poverty aloft and cry ‘Victory’.
If only the Dikshit would make the request,
The Peshwa would have been glad to give him a pension.
He feared to wake the offer himself
Lest it should seem improper.
But where was any question of the Dikshit making a request?
His mind was not there at all.
His eyes rested on the Peshwa, but his being
Was in pursuit of the sense of a particle Nanu in his text.
Centuries ago, a mind which worked on this earth
Had put into that Nanu a train of its thought;
And today the Dikshit was struggling with the help of that particle
To recover that thought, living, warm.
Like the Prince in the fairy tale who conjures up the beauty
Of his unseen love from a hair from her tresses,
Or the hunter who pictures a tiger from his pugmark,
The Dikshit was turning his Nanu into mind.
And looked like an ant in doubt at the junction of many ways.
The Peshwa thought: “Perhaps he hesitates to ask.
It may be better if I make the offer.”
So he spoke to the Dikshit himself.
“If you have any difficulty and would let me know,
I shall feel it an honour indeed
To give what help I can.” The speech brought the Dikshit
Back to the outer world of men.
“Help in trouble!” The Dikshit lifted the manuscript
That lay before him and placed it in front of the Peshwa
And said: “Pray consider and tell me why this Nanu here.”
The great man was shocked and could utter no word.