A MOTHER'S GRIEF | RAMAYAN

 

21. A MOTHER'S GRIEF 


Sumantra and Guha stood watching the three figures as long as they could. When they disappeared from sight, they were plunged in sorrow and went back to Guha's town. After a while Sumantra returned to Ayodhya. 

As the charioteer approached the city, he found it desolate and devoid of the usual cheerful bustle of urban life. As soon as he crossed the fortress-gate and entered the city, his chariot was surrounded by a crowd eagerly asking: "Where did you leave Rama? How was he when you left him?" 

"Dear people of Ayodhya," said Sumantra, "Rama and Lakshmana have crossed the Ganga. Ordering me to return home, they entered the forest on foot." 

A great cry of grief rose from the multitude and many cursed themselves and attributed the catastrophe to their own sins. On both sides of the streets, women stood as the chariot passed and cried: "Look at the car which departed with the princes and Sita and has come back empty." 

Sumantra drove forward covering his face with the end of his upper garment, ashamed of himself. He stopped the chariot in front of Dasaratha's palace and alighted. 

There in front of the palace a great crowd had gathered. Women were saying, "How is Sumantra going to meet Kausalya and tell her that he left her son in the forest? How will she survive the report?" 

With increasing sorrow and confusion, Sumantra entered the Queen's apartment. There he saw the King more dead than alive. In low tones, he spoke of Rama's message to the King who heard it in heartbroken silence. 

Then Kausalya, unable to control her wrath, addressed the King: "Here stands your minister who has returned from the forest after leaving my child to fulfil your command. Why are you silent? It was easy and pleasant to give boons to Kaikeyi. Why are you ashamed of it now? Did you not know that this would be the result of what you did? You have honored your word. You may be happy over that. But who can share my sorrow with me? I have to bear it all. My grief cannot be reduced by your pain. No convention binds you to feel or appear to be grieved for what you have deliberately done. Why are you silent? You need not refrain from giving expression to sorrow for fear of offending Kaikeyi, for she is not here. Surely you should inquire of Sumantra about Rama. Have you no humanity? Why do you try to suppress even natural feelings?" 

Her grief and love for Rama blinded her to the state of her husband's body and mind. Instead of lightening, she aggravated his suffering. 

Dasaratha opened his eyes and Sumantra reported duly Rama's message in his own words. 

Sumantra tried his best to console Kausalya. But she went on repeating: "Take me and leave me where Rama is. Young Sita is there with him facing the hardships of the forest. I cannot bear this agony. Let me go to Dandaka and be with Sita." 

Sumantra answered: "Queen, be brave. Banish this grief. Rama spends his time even more happily in the forest than he did in Ayodhya. He feels no sorrow. Lakshmana finds joy in the supreme job of dutiful service to the brother he loves. He is very happy. As for Sita, there in the forest, as here in the palace, she lives for Rama with every breath and knows neither fear nor sorrow. She spends her time as though she was a sylvan goddess and is as happy there as she was here playing in the groves and gardens of Ayodhya. The beauty of her face is still like the rising moon's. Like a forest fawn she lives there with care-free grace, spending the, golden hours with Rama by her side. Every sight and sound is a new source of joy to her and the theme of talk with Rama and Lakshmana. Walking barefoot, her feet are red like the lotus, and need no painting with henna. She walks in the forest as if she were dancing. She only lacks the tinkling anklets to make it complete. All that I say is true. There is no need for you to grieve. The three of them are fulfilling their sacred duty and offering an object lesson to the world. They are making the King's word good. Their life will be remembered and praised forever. Why, then, should we grieve for them?" 

With such talk, Kausalya would be consoled for a while. But soon she would break down again and cry: "Alas, alas, Rama, my child." Her grief seemed redoubled when she saw Sumantra come back, leaving Rama in the forest.





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