Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Abandoned Queen

"Narayana, Narayana," our very own friendly neighbourhood Narada entered Vaikuntha. His eyes twinkled, and mentally, he rubbed his hands in glee. He expected a storm would have disrupted the peace of his Lord's domestic bliss, and was surprised by the evident calm, contrary to his expectations.

In fact, the Lord and His Consort welcomed him with twinkling eyes. "You seem disappointed to see us, Narada?" Narayana teased him.


"No, no... Not disappointed to see you... I thought..." he looked at Lakshmi pointedly as She gazed back at him placidly. He fumbled, "I thought... You..." Then, unable to control it any longer, he burst out, "Aren't you angry with Him!?"

She smiled, a reassured, confident smile. "About what?"

"He suspected you, after all that you went through!"

The couple exchanged a look. "And you think I didn't get angry? I didn't get upset?"

"But you offered to jump into the fire, instead of..." he looked furtively at Narayana and said softly, "pushing Him in..."

Lakshmi laughed happily. "I would have done it willingly. But as I was born of Agni, I was simply returning home. Why would I send him there?" she asked scornfully. Seeing the puzzled expression on Narada's face, She explained, "I, as Vedavati, jumped into the pyre and was born as Sita..." Seeing realisation dawn, She continued, "But as a father, Agni spoke to my husband and sent me home with him... We did live happily..." She teased Narada.

"But, that was only for a few years. He abandoned you again, that too in a forest, when you were pregnant!"

"Shocking, isn't it?" Lakshmi asked in a soft, melancholic voice, laced with pain. "A wife above reproach, abandoned... At the behest of a citizen who knew nothing... My husband did not even have the courage to meet my eyes and tell me like a man..."

Narayana put His arms on Her shoulders. She clutched His hand and looked at Him.

"And, he didn't stop with that, did he?" She asked, Her eyes on His.

"No! When He asked you to return, He wanted you to prove your innocence again!" Narada spoke up indignantly, also looking at the Lord accusingly.

"What did I do, Narada?" She asked, leaning forward, Her voice filled with cold anger.

"You... You..." Narada stuttered in bafflement. "You gave up your life."

"I chose to return to mother," Lakshmi corrected him. "Once I had seen to the safety of my sons, I left rather than accept the indignity of having to prove my virtuousness again..." Lakshmi drew Herself up and said, "If he is Parama Purusha, I am Sati, a virtuous woman..." She paused as if to assess Narada's capability to understand what She meant. "Who is virtuous, Narada? The one who mutely accepts all injustices or who stands up against it?"

"The one who stands up against it..." he said nervously.

"That's what I did. And that's why I am Sati. I walked with my husband when I thought he was right. And I walked away when I thought he was wrong..."

Narada sucked in his breath in shock.

"Rama the Virtuous stood by his principles, his Dharma, his duties and I stood by mine. When he put his role as the king before that of a husband, when our thoughts did not match and the differences became irreconcilable, we parted ways..."

"But why abandon the wife you knew to be above blemish... It only got Rama a bad name..." Narada frowned.

"It made people feel for Sita, realise what a woman experiences, shed tears for her..." Narayana pointed out.

Narada felt mellow, all his glee having vanished. But he was not convinced. "Why make the hero the villain in the end, O Narayana?" he asked humbly.

"Because only then will it have an impact! If Ravana had abandoned Mandodari, would it have created any ripple?" Narayana asked gently. "Rama was at crossroads - his role as a king versus as a husband. He chose the former and served the people. For this he was judged by the people as a good king. Whether he made a good husband, only Sita has the right to judge... And in the end, she did."

Lakshmi smiled at Narada, seeing that he still looked doubtful.

"A woman can be soft, not weak. A woman can bend, not break. A woman can trust, not blindly... Sita was a wise woman who was willing to live by the rules of her times, and break them when needed... Respect that, understand that, glorify that. Don't let her story be forgotten, don't be blinded by tears of sympathy. Clean your eyes and admire her for who she is."

As Ramayana unfolded in his mind's eye, Narada saw the little Sita, moving the formidable Siva Dhanush. He saw her put forth her arguments with clarity as she insisted on accompanying Rama to the forest. He saw her caution Rama against involving himself in the fight between the sages and the rakshasas. Her first mistake - the golden deer... A pardonable mistake, a temptation she could not resist. And in a life of sacrifices, the only thing she sought. But again, as Ravana stood promising her the world, her incisive thinking in rejecting them... When Rama doubted her chastity, her love and yet again her ability to question him incisively...

Not one or two, but evidence piled up as he realised that he had also foolishly thought her a frail and weak woman needing protection simply because she had been carried away by caprice and brute force, that she had suffered in loneliness and separation, that she had shed tears watching her sons grow up without knowing who their father was...

Tears flowed down his eyes, not just for Sita but millions of women whose voices went unheard, whose courage went unnoticed, whose silence was mistaken for complicity...  

4 comments:

  1. What an interesting and relevant take!

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  2. I personally think this is not amazing I think this is the only perspective that has been put in the appropriate sense.There have been many interpretations and this one my favourite one. Having said that the job of assimilating and then giving the narrative in a lucid fashion is a beautiful piece of work hats off.keep the good work on.....keep walking.

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