新华时评:反家暴是家庭文明的底线

By the roadside came two figures tottering along, and then, turning to look at me, showed me the horror of their shrivelled bodies, their dimmed eyesall that seemed alive in those drawn faces of skin and bonethe jaw stiffened in a skull-like grimace; victims of the famine, who had come from the Central Provinces where there had been no rain for two years, and where everything was dying. This couple were making their way to a poorhouse hard by. They had come from a village in Bundelkund, whence all the inhabitants had fledthemselves the sole survivors of a family of eighteen souls. First the children died, then the very old folks. These two had kept themselves alive on what had been given them on the way, but immigrants soon were too many in the districts unvisited by famine, and ere long they could get nothing; then they fed on roots, on what they[Pg 191] could steal from fields or garden-plots, or found left to rot, scorned even by the beasts. The dinner-table was covered with flowersMarchal Niel and Gloire de Dijon rosesbut enormous, as big as saucers, and of such a texture, such a colour! a tissue of frost and light; and round the table, which was loaded with silver plate, were grey and red uniforms. Strains of music were wafted in through the open windows from the regimental band playing slow waltz-tunes a little way off.

Tazulmulook arrives in the same town, and is on the point of ringing at Dilbar's door when he is hindered by his father's vizier, who tells him how many times this dangerous woman has been the ruin of kings' sons. But Tazulmulook, in a discourse on valour addressed to the audience, who stamped applause, rejects the counsels of prudence and rings at the dancer's door. Tazulmulook wins the game with Dilbar, and compels her to release his brothers, but only after branding each on the back of his neck.

The maiden was placed on a very high pile of saplings and dry crackling boughs. Her father fetched the sacred fire, and then, with the same ceremonials and prayers, set light to the wood, which flashed up in a golden glow with a sweet odour. The flame rose clear against the sky for a long time before the smell of her burnt flesh mingled with that of the poor woman, whose limbs, under the action of the heat, seemed to stretch to an inordinate length. One arm, sticking out from the fire, seemed to clench its fist, which was bright yellow, as if it would clutch at something; and then all was consumedthe wood pile fell in, the skull cracking with a dull snap, and nothing was left but a heap of embers, into which the attendants raked the cinders that rolled down the sloping bank.

At our feet were the two walls, the outer wall enclosing the palace, the gardens, the arena, where fights were given between elephants and tigers; the inner wall, ten metres high, built round the zenanathe women's palaceof which even the foundations have almost disappeared under the overwhelming vegetation.

DOMEL "A doctor? I cannot say," replied Abibulla, "but the sahib knows many things." The woman's eyes entreated me. Would I not come? it would comfort the sick man, and help him, perhaps, to die easily if the gods would not spare him.

Through the half-open doors in the courtyards bones were bleaching, almost buried under the fine powder that lies on everything. And from this dust, as we trod it, rose a sharp smell of pepper and smoke. Twisted branches drooped forlorn from the skeletons of a few trees that were left standing. Parasitic creepers had woven a flowing robe of tangle over a statue of Kali, left unbroken in front of a small temple in ruins; and all over the withered[Pg 198] and faded growth the fine white dust had settled in irregular patterns, a graceful embroidery rather thicker in the folds.

The doors were shut; all was silencethe stillness of the star-lit night.

In the street were bayadres, and women at every window, the pretty faces brightly illuminated, the plainer in a skilfully subdued light. The sound of tom-toms and pipes could be heard, and the guttural, quavering song of a dancing beauty performing for some amateur; quite young boys were wandering about the street, almost children, all in white. Where the roads met, a mosque was illuminated in honour of this month of Ramadan, and the believers were trooping out in a crowd.

The cathedral, embowered in shrubs and tall banyans, stands on a square, where a pedestal awaits the bust of Dupleix.