Rama was looking at the direction of Ayodhya. Seated on a rock, near a stream, his eyes were moist. It was only a couple of days, after Bharat had announced that his father had passed away. Half-dozen scenes raced through his mind, scenes that featured the King of Ayodhya; as victor, ruler, avenger, warrior, husband, lover, father. A sparrow landed next to him distracting his thought stream. The sparrow looked at him, while making sharp head turns. “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me,” Rama told himself.
He had spent many days by himself and Sita mindful of his need to be alone, allowed him to grieve. Sita was saddened by the look on Rama’s face, when he reached their dwelling. Rama’s body was bathed in perspiration from the long walk from the brook, as well as the heat of the late afternoon. He had been there for some hours. At the sight of Rama’s sweat-wreathed face, Lakshman began to untie his ang-vastra, but Sita waved him away. She gently used the corner of her saree to wipe the sweat off Rama’s chest and shoulders. When she had finished, she gave him water. He drank mechanically, but spilled some on his chest. After that he sat silently for a long time. His eyes were gazing at some distant horizon within the landscape of his memory, some place she could neither visit nor visualise. Sita waited patiently until she could take Rama’s silence no more.
“It’s time to move on Rama,” she said “it is several weeks now.”
Rama pulled himself from his deep thought, and looked at her with distant eyes.
He nodded in agreement, and moved slowly to sit near the steps next to the door. He seemed to grow more remote.
“I still remember how Bharat mentioned of my father’s last words.” “Rama I am sorry”. Sita was equally shaken when she had heard those words. She had hated her father-in-law for forcing them to the forest, over a promise he had given to his lover.
“My father had suffered from the pain of attachment, memory, and guilt”, he sighed and buried his face in his hands. “I have always been pained at leaving my mother for Kaikeyi ma, but he had always been a great father and a mentor. Sometimes it seems to me, that the only end of men is a sad and tragic end. Guilt, regret, resentment, pain…are these the only rewards that lie ahead of us?”
Sita had never seen Rama speak like this before. The words shocked and frightened her. “Of course not,” she said with more vehemence than she intended. “Well it is very sad and disturbing, what happened to your father. Are you not forgetting what he has got us into? For no fault of us? I strongly believe that life is a celebration and death is part of the journey. It is men who want a tomb-stone with their achievements written on it after death. We are happy, sad, afraid, elated and one day we die. Please don’t generalize Rama.”
“Yes, yes,” Rama said. “You are right, of course. I know these as well as you do. It just seems, so cruel. Must the Gods make us suffer even after we repent? Is there no forgiveness, no heed paid to good intentions?”
“You know there is Rama. You have yourself said it many times. Why do you speak so morosely today? Why do you lose hope all of a sudden?” she was concerned.
He looked up to her, “my faith is not shaken, Sita. I miss him and the times that I have been around him. His affection, care and love for me and everyone whom he cared. I only speak these thoughts aloud to help me understand the way of things. Sometimes the minds of Gods are difficult to fathom. I am only a man. Forgive me if I falter from time to time or show a moment of weakness.”
She caressed his arm. “There is nothing to forgive my love. I can truly empathise with your grief. Whatever has happened to us, he might have been careless, but he would have never desired even in his wildest dreams. You are now going through an emotional upheaval Rama, but please share it with me. You will definitely feel better. I never doubt that you will find your way to your rightful place, Rama.”
He smiled and kissed her hand. “With you beside me, even in my darkest hour, your presence lights up my world.”
That evening, they sat quietly, comfortable in one another’s silence. The sounds of the jungle began to vary with the passing of every day.
“Yes, my love?”
“I wish to have children.”
“We will definitely have them.”
“I wish to have them as soon as possible.”
“Very well, my jaan.”
“But not here, not in the jungle. I want our children to be born in Ayodhya, in the comfort they deserve.”
“It shall be as you say.”
“They shall be princes. Or princesses. I do not mind either. Do you?”
“They are our children and I will love them dearly.”
“And someday, we shall tell them of years in the forest.”
“And whatever happens, we shall never let them suffer the same fate. Our children will never be exiled like us, live like hermits, searching for food, battling demons and wearing torn cloths.”
Rama was silent.
“Promise me, Rama.”
“Promise me that our children will never be exiled as we were.”
He looked at her surprised, “do you think I would let that ever happen?”
She averted his eyes. “No. But even your father never dreamt of sending his much loved son to the forest. Yet he did so of a promise that he had made to Kaikeyi.”
He smiled. “Do I have to be worried about what promises that I should be making later after this? I hear that the princess of Nagas is a beauty and the King wants me to marry her.” He laughed with a roar.
“If you ever dare to even contemplate such a thing, I would put her eyes out and you will have to do with a blind second wife.” She ignored his laughter. “I want you to promise me that you will never do anything that will subject our children to our fate.”
He controlled his laughter with some difficulty. “So be it.”
“What do you promise?”
“That I will not banish my own children to the forest or would subject them to any hardship or suffering. Or you happy now?”
“No matter what?”
“No matter what.”
She kissed him on his cheek and sighed in relief. He wrapped her around him, while both of them looked at the dark bluish sky, eagerly waiting for the dawn.
This story is part of the series titled, “Stories from far and near” that includes adaptations from Indian folktales, classical poetry and mythology. Copyright © 2012 Sriram V. Ayer. This story may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.