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The 4th widow of Ayodhya-Part 2 of 8

From: M K Sudarshan (sudarsan_at_batelco.com.bh)
Date: Wed Apr 30 1997 - 05:16:55 PDT

                      THE FOURTH WIDOW OF AYODHYA (continued)
                      ---------------------------

>From under the ragged cover of a quilt hewn from "marichA's" hide, Lord Rama
watched, with half-shut eyes, his brother brood over a blazing camp-fire.

He looked at Lakshmana's huddled body and suppressed a sharp pang of
nameless pain. 

Rama realized the young Prince of Ayodhya was unforgiving towards himself;
he was inflicting on himself a punishment much harsher than any that Rama
could've handed out to his brother for the fatal lapse of duty back in the
Chitrakoota-woods where Sita'd been abducted.

For many months now Rama had taken pains to explain that it wasn't all
Lakshmana's fault that things had come to such a sorry pass. And yet, he
knew, his brother would never accept any commiseration; nor would Lakshmana
believe, or be consoled by, any circumstance that could be shown to have
extenuated the stark fact that, in the final analysis, it'd been his very
own dereliction of duty in those fateful moments in Chitrakoota; and after
which, one tragedy after another had continued to befall the royal pair of
IkshvAku scions.

Rama saw his brother's spirit being consumed in a private hell of the
latter's own making. In a merciless world of silent self-flaggelation, where
one is one's own prosecutor, jury, judge and hangman as well, even the
highest laws of the land could hardly grant special pardon or absolution
from the severe sentence of guilt one passed on oneself.

Rama peered closely again through half-closed eyes at his brother sitting by
the camp-fire.

The great big shoulders of Lakshmana, sagging abjectly about him, caught
Rama's attention. 

How handsome they looked, Rama said to himself, even though they now seemed
a little like two majestic boats floundering in a pool of muddy water: so
weighed down did they seem carrying, as they did, the oppressive burden of
Lakshmana's bitter and unending self-reproach.

And yet .... Rama remembered.... those were the same shapely shoulders the
seductress Tataka had lusted for.... And the same diligent ones which'd,
too, lovingly built, for him and his dearest Sita, a pretty cottage on the
Chitrakoota hillock.... They were the same mighty shoulders that'd let loose
from a single bow a barrage of arrows ....raining like thick swarms of
deadly locusts on Khara's doomed troops ....which'd all fallen like
harvested grain-stalks in a farmer's  tilled fields ....and they were the
same humble shoulders, too, that'd helped Rama in carrying out all of guru
ViswAmitra's bidding in the forests many years ago .....

Suddenly tears began to gush from Rama's half-closed eyes ..... eyes which
couldn't bear witnessing anymore those magnificent shoulders now slumped so
desolately --- like those of an unyoked beast-of-burden collapsing pitiably
in the stables at the end of another cruel working day --- simply unable to
bear the crushing load of Lakshmana's guilt.....

Rama closed his eyes tightly, gritted his teeth.... and bit back hot,
abundant tears ....and pretended to sleep ever more soundly.

The camp-fire burned brightly in the middle of the dark forest; the bitter
cold of the "dhanur"-month enveloped everything; the jungle was quieter than
a grave-yard; and the not-so-distant Godavari rushed through a forest-gorge,
her waters whispering elegies for all the lost and unhappy souls of the
forest .....        
With eyes tightly closed, like sluice-gates slamming down swiftly on a
flash-flood of sad, rushing tears, Lord Rama saw another vision of those
robust shoulders of Lakshmana. This time the vision was from a past even
more distant than Chitrakoota or the killing-fields where Khara had met his
end with fourteen thousand of his kith and kin ..... the vision was from the
happy, carefree days of youth many, many years ago in good old AyodhyA.....

In the vision both Rama and Lakshmana go back in time ... mere boys of 10 or
11 years of age. They are both laughing aloud and splashing in water....
It's a cold wintry morning again in a "dhanur"-month.... the sun has still
not arisen.... They are both swimming merrily..... in the swirling currents
of the Sarayu! They splash into the icy waters .... thrash about
gleefully.... and scream in boyish delight and abandon.... Then Rama
challenges Lakshmana to race him the whole length of the Sarayu straight
across to the other bank.... the lad accepts the taunt sportingly.... and
then both begin swimming across the expanse of the cold, crystal-clear
waters of the hissing Sarayu....Both are strong, excellent swimmers and both
want to win .... but half-way down the length Rama suddenly gives up the
race, falls behind and lets Lakshmana race ahead ..... Rama simply floats
along slowly .... watching those graceful strokes of Lakshmana .... He
watches those mighty shoulders paddle by .... pummeling through the waters
like some mighty fish cutting through tides with sharp, glinting and awesome
fins and gills ....He simply can't take his eyes off those splendid
shoulders....

How much Rama had, indeed, loved to watch his brother swimming .... it was a
sight for the gods!..... those powerful shoulders swam and they swam
powerfully ..... and once in water it was difficult to tell, even for Rama,
if those shoulders were a piece of poetic sculpture or .... or, some
sculpted Spirit of Grace pirouetting through a sequence of choreographs on
the boiling waters of the Sarayu!

In a vision of a distant past in Ayodhya.... in a vision that arose before
his mind one cold morning in the month of "dhanur, as he lay on the bare
grass in a little clearing in the middle of the wild woods of Dandakaranya
..... in such a rare vision Lord Rama remembered how much he'd loved the
grand sight of his little brother swim .... and watch in mute admiration
those magnificent young shoulders conquering the rebellious waters of the
great river gliding past the Palace of Dasaratha, his beloved father .....     
                       ------------------------------------

(to be continued)

sudarshan