Bhai Vir Singh (1872-1957) was once asked by an admirer, of the thousand or so tracts he had written, which one, in his opinion, was the best.
In an instant he replied, “Rana Bhabor.”
And I am not surprised. For the personality of Rana Uday Singh is similar to that of Bhai Vir Singh’s. Rana Bhabor is part of his book, Kalgidhar Chamatkar, but this story has also been published separately.
Rana Bhabor is a story of a small hill chieftain who came in contact with Guru Gobind Singh Sahib during the days of his struggle with the Hill Rajas. Although the story relates to the great love the Rana and his Rani had for the Guru, the way Bhai Vir Singh has shaped the personality of the Rana and the beauty of the dialogue between the Rana and his Rani is quite astounding.
The story in a nutshell: The Rana cherishes a deep love for the Guru. But does not want to reveal it to anyone, especially not his wife. On the other hand, the Rani has been praying from the early years of their marriage for her husband to become a devotee of the Guru. The Rana remains silent and indifferent to her pleas. When the Rani accidentally discovers that her husband is also a secret admirer of the Guru, she is overjoyed. On the other hand, the Rana is saddened. For, the love he had tried his utmost to keep hidden within himself, has been revealed.
The Rani wants his love for the Guru to be proclaimed from rooftops, but the Rana is anxious to keep it hidden within.
The dialogue that transpires between the Rana and the Rani is an exquisite piece of literature. I have read it numerous times and keep coming back to it. There is much to absorb. Maybe I identify with the Rani’s open and unapologetic love for the Guru. Or maybe the quiet sage-like Rana has naïvely captured my heart. Whatever it is, it is. Through the passionate pen of Bhai Vir Singh, I get to experience an enduring, enticing, inspiring and breathing love.
The Dialogue of the Love-Spark
Rani: Maharaj ji (great king)! I have just heard that Guru ji’s lotus-feet have graced and purified our State.
Rana: Who have you heard this from?
Rani: From Nikko, the cowherd’s wife.
The Rana goes silent. His face shows no emotion.
Rani: I know about your love. Has this happy news not created a longing in your heart?
Rana: Let the workings of the inner world remain within.
Rani: Maharaj, there is no stranger sitting with us. Open your heart a little. Feel the joy of your inner emotions.
Rana: Some are nightingales, some are moths. How can a moth become a nightingale?
Rani: But I think you are concealing your feelings.
Rana: It is good to keep emotions hidden. They are like demons. The minute you free them, they overpower you.
Rani: Don’t say that.
Rana: If the love-spark is within, then hold on to it tightly. Speaking lessens its glow. Expressing shatters the glow. Let the love within mingle and melt you. Don’t let your eyes, lips, forehead or even the pores of your body know about this love. Let the right hand give charity, without the left hand knowing about it. Love deeply with your heart that it reaches your spirit within. Why should this love reveal itself through the outside senses?
Rani: O’ How unworthy am I? And, how deep you are. But are you not longing, pinning, agonizing for Guru’s sight?
Rana: Agonizing, yes! Please, let’s stop this talk.
Rani: Apologies for the disrespect, but if the agony is there, how will this longing be fulfilled if we keep quiet?
Rana: This body, mind, spirit, birth, power, kingdom, and even you my Dearest, I got without asking. The Giver also listens to the ones who cannot speak.
Rani (crying): Let’s go to Basali to see Guru ji.
Rana: Have the trees and plants ever walked up to the gardener? The gardener himself waters and nurtures every plant and every tree. Rani ji! Plants never run after the gardener.
Rani: Then should no Sikh, no seeker for the divine, go searching for a pir (spiritual guide), fakir (guru, sadhu, swami, yogi), sage or saint?
Rana: They should go, they should most definitely go. But sometimes the foolish, the materialistic, the lost and the oblivious also go. But they don’t know how to go. The plants cannot go to the gardener’s home because they don’t have the power or the strength to go. Maybe if they had feet, they would go running, but the poor things have no feet. I am like them… I lack the strength to go after the Gardener.
Rani: So, then shall we invite Guru ji like the Raja of Basali has done. Guru ji is compassionate and will certainly come.
Rana: This is a love-path. The lover waits and cannot impose. In my opinion, inviting Guru ji would be disrespectful.
Rani: Then all those who invite pious beings to their homes, are they being disrespectful?
Rana: No. But, the plants have no tongues to call out for the gardener.
As soon as the Rana uttered “to call out,” his eyes brimmed and it looked like tears would spill, but he then blinked and the tears that were in his eyes stayed within his eyes.
Rani: Then how will our desire be fulfilled?
Rana: The Gardener knows the “silent voice” of the plants. He is aware of their helplessness and their inability to walk.
Rani: What if someone were to inform the Gardener?
Rana: This Gardener is all-knowing and has come from the Origin.
Rani: You are large-hearted, but if the entire world followed your way, would the burden on the Gardener not increase?
Rana: The Gardener has come to lighten the burden. But why should the whole world follow my way? This is why I am silent, because the path I am on, I don’t want anyone to follow.
Rani: The entire Sikh congregation, the seekers, the lovers of Nam (Divine Identification) go to get a glimpse of the Guru.
Rana: The Creator has gifted them with the desire and the strength to walk. But, I am not chiseled like that. My nature has been crafted like this and this is what I am. I admire and respect the people who walk towards the Guru. What is within me is not worth emulating. But, what I am, I am. I cannot become different. Dearest, I wish your curiosity had not uncovered my secret. One needs to learn a lot, but sometimes, certain things are best left unlearned. By prying into my secret that was hardly worth uncovering, you have caused distress to yourself and have caused me many anxious moments. What I am telling you, I am not happy about, but you are not convinced. So, I have to tell you because you have uncovered my secret and therefore you are asking. Your and my pain is one. Our joys and sorrows are one. This is a love-relationship. How can I not tell you? If you had not uncovered my secret, there would have been no need for questions and no need for convincing answers.
Rani: My Love, today is the first day that you have acknowledged that our relationship is based on love. I made a mistake, but it was done in the stream of love. You graced me, overlooked my faults, and explained your thinking. However, I still cannot understand, why do you hide your love?
Rana: I do not hide it! But things that live in the darkness should remain in the darkness. That is my nature. Roots thrive in darkness, trees relish the light.
Rani: After many long years, I have realized that your dry and stern exterior has a soft, loving, and sympathetic heart inside. Your sternness is a measure of your love. But, who in this world will know and how can one become your friend? And if one becomes your friend, how will this friendship be maintained?
Rana: This is my misfortune. Perhaps I have been denied the gift of friendship of many. Some have the ability to love many, some have the ability to love one or two. This is an individual trait. There is nothing good or bad about it. Whatever is the internal condition that becomes one’s characteristic. The path between my tongue and heart is narrow. When love enters that lane, it moves with great difficulty. I struggle with the thought, if I am being arrogant?
Rani: Alright, my dearest husband! You deal with the world as you wish. However, don’t you want to go where you have given your heart? You don’t want to meet? You don’t want to write? You don’t want to receive their news? My very being is ridden with anxiety. I am restless.
Rana: If you forget the secret that you have uncovered, your restlessness will go away. Or, then leave me to my own disposition and let the events unfold as they will.
Rani: My restlessness is because of my love for you. I feel, our Narain (Water-Dweller) has come to our home. The Ganga has left the Himalayas and has come to our town. Should we still be deprived? You will get your heart’s desire and I will experience the bliss of sitting at Guru’s feet.
Rana: I will not stop you from going to Basali or inviting Guru here. Do as you wish. Listen to your heart’s desire, but don’t ask me to do what is not within me to do. I don’t have the strength to walk to nor is it my place or right to invite the Guru. The love within me is a blessing, but it is not mine. I have to keep it tightly clasped so that I don’t let it slip from me in a moment of weakness.
Rani: What would happen if Guru ji returns to Anandpur?
Rana: What would happen if my heart stops beating today?
Rani (crying and with hands folded): Please, please stop! I am sorry. Please don’t utter these words.
Rana: I am asking this question to myself: What would happen? And my reply is: If the heart stops, the love will not leave. The love-spark that is within should not leave. This is the only wealth of this miser. Let the love-spark that I have not leave. The Owner of this love-spark is all-knowing, the Master of the ethers, whatever he does, will be right.
Rani: May I suggest a diplomatic way? You have never joined any wars that were fought against Guru ji. For this reason, the Hill Rajas are unhappy with you. They are all vindictive. If you stand your ground with them, they will seek revenge. On the other hand, you have not shown any love for the Sikhs. When and if war starts, you will not get any assistance from them. Would it not be good to have their assistance if war breaks out?
Rana: Now you have come to the core of the situation. Diplomacy and love are two things that do not go together. If I take your suggestion further, then it is not love. Even if this love was within, my mind would say it is false. This is not diplomatic thinking. This is putting love in false thinking. By not meeting, this love-spark is clear. By meeting, the dark shadows of diplomacy will mar it. O! May my tiny, tiny, tiny love-spark remain clear. Let it remain clear, in the way I am walking. And then there is the kingdom. I made no effort to get it. It was given to me. I will draw my sword to keep it. If it stays because of my sword, I welcome that. If I lose it because of my sword, I welcome that as well. I will not leave it, nor will I give it away. If I have to give my life then I will do so, but if it goes I will not mourn its loss. I only wish to preserve the love-spark that is within me.
Rani: I am sorry. Today, I have troubled my beloved husband a lot. You are good. You are wise. I am impatient. You walk the way that keeps you happy. May your love-string never break. May your love-spark never diminish. May your love-glow never end. Do whatever it takes to keep it protected. Forgive me for finding out your secret and for involving you in this lengthy discussion.
Rana: What was Willed from the Origin happened. What the Creator wanted happened. Now don’t think about it, but allow me to follow the path that the Giver has shown me.