Tripti retells the Ramayana from Sita’s point of view. Here’s Sita’s agony that was perhaps never told in a patriarchal epic, as the special feature on International Women’s Day, exclusively for Different Truths.
The flickering diyas (oil lamps) reminded her of her wandering hopes. She glanced at him. He was looking serene as he watched the lights that threatened to engulf them. She desperately searched for the love that had once kindled in his eyes. A strange wariness now was all that looked back at her. An illogical fear, that she had never felt before gripped her. She longed for the darkness that had consumed her for so many years. The darkness that absolved all her fears that soothed her tortured thoughts, that dulled her senses into sleep. She desperately wanted the darkness to be back.
She touched a burning diya and a piercing pain shot through her. She winced and he turned towards her with concern. She laughed. She had walked through a pyre to prove her truth! If only he had felt her pain then! And was he pious too? In all the years that they lived in a jungle, she had never once doubted him. A jungle that was not bound by rules, a jungle visited by the shrupnakhas in disguise, a jungle where he had gone sacrificing everything even his wife! She had trusted him. She had waited for him.
Did he not know that she had lifted the Shiva’s dhanush (bow) just out of mere curiosity? She could have come back on her own. But a ‘wife’ weakened her. The prince had to appease his guilt. He had failed to protect his wife! His pride had to be mended. The prince of Ayodhya had to rise victorious, and not his wife, not even Hanuman, who could have easily taken her back.
She had waited so long to be reunited with him. The dreaded loneliness was on the verge to disappear. But he had stood at a distance even as she rushed towards him in anticipation. She had looked searchingly at his face. The unfeeling eyes of a stranger had jolted her. She couldn’t recognise him and it chilled her. An uneasy apprehension darker than the nights she had spent holding the withering branch in the ‘Ashok Vatika’, spread through her entire being.
His lips moved. She strained to hear the voice she had longed to hear.
‘I have freed you. You can go wherever you want to now.’
Her resolve that had been strong enough till now threatened to desert her. The doubt in his eyes destroyed her. It was not his love that brought him here but the duty of a prince who had raged a war. And an angry prince now rejected her. He wanted to set her free. Where was she supposed to go?
To Ravan, who professed undying love for her, who had slowly and steadily not only sacrificed his kingdom but his dear family, one by one just for her? He promised to make her his chief Queen. Even Mandodri, who never liked her, had begged her to accept him as she didn’t want her whole family killed. But she had not wavered, for she loved Ram. She was his obsession, yet Ravan had sacrificed his whole family, his kingdom for her. And Ram! He was ready to sacrifice her, their love, their future for his kingdom? A kingdom he had easily left behind for his father. If only she had a husband to take care of her, not a prince.
She had not dreaded the pyre. The scorching flames had testified her but how would she cool her burning soul. She burned and walked on fire from the cold apathy that had greeted her since then. She had suffered the humiliation. Thankfully they were strangers who had witnessed her plight.
A thousand diyas now welcomed her return. No, it was the return of their beloved prince they rejoiced for. However, it was an aloof prince who stood beside her now. The thousand diyas had not enlightened his soul neither had they illuminated her life. The flames wavered. The fire could not burn her plagued past. It would rise to haunt her again.
Even in the blazing light she could not find him anymore. Blindly she turned and touched his hands but they felt cold and a stranger looked at her sadly. A bleak future lay buried in his eyes. An untamed jungle, the demons still walked there.
The light was gone. She closed her eyes. A frozen darkness engulfed her once more. Soon she would be back there….
Photos from the internet.
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