“Is there someone else in his life now, Maa?”
The Earth shivered as Sita asked this awful question in the dead of the night.
The old leaves from the Ashoka tree rained on Sita, as the tree shivered along with the Earth.
Sita was laying down under the tree where she was always stationed like the gate guards at her father’s palace. Her lady guards were snoozing now. She could hear their loud snores which pierced the cold winter air like Ram’s arrows did when he used to practice in front of the their humble hut in the woods. The roses in this beautiful melancholic garden smelled sweet and it reminded Sita of those winter evenings spent with Ram walking in the woods. There was not a single moment that they spent away from each other.
“Is that a no? Or are you too scared to answer?” Sita asked again, looking down at the Earth where her long dark hair piled up on the ground like a sleeping serpent. The Earth shivered again.
Sita let out a heavy sigh of exasperation. She had never thought like this before. Till that night she had always had only one question in mind – “Is my Ram alive? I hope he is! How would I live without him?!”
But that night, she had a weird dream, that she didn’t remember now, but that dream had startled her. She had sat up suddenly and had scared the little rabbit snoozing by her feet. It had scampered away into the flowering bushes. Her heart was racing the same way it did when she was abducted. Her hands were sweating on a winter night and it was so damned hard for her to breathe! The night had gotten darker, which meant, the dawn is closer than you would think. An early morning dream! The superstition that those ones always came true scared her to her core. But, something inside her felt like a small smoldering fire, reassuring her that Ram was alive! With that thought, a new fear crept slowly into her mind, who was the woman she saw in the dream and why can’t she remember anything else? She tried to sleep again but couldn’t and then she ended up asking her sole friend in this foreign country – the Earth, for she was never foreign. Dharitri always remained the same. She was everybody’s mother, never foreign. Her father had found her half-buried in a farmer’s land, hadn’t he? So, she asked this fateful question about an unfaithful husband to Maa. Maa seemed to be distraught with her for this and shivered with anger. She was angry with herself too.
“Chhi Sita! How could you think so? He promised to be only yours, even if he was allowed to have more wives! How could you think so about such a kind man!”, she told to herself, thinking that Maa was trying to tell the same through her shivers.
It is a long distance for him to come sooner, she thought, practically it is not possible. And they are only two men, how will they travel so far without any idea where she was! Ah, Sita, how naive of you, she thought to herself, slapped herself for this dirty thought and tried to sleep with Ram’s beautiful face in her mind. The woman’s figure kept creeping in though, and she kept fighting it. The anxiety slowly subsided as the dawn seeped in, one stretch of cherry red light in the sky at a time.
Little did she know, an year later, she would be sitting inside a burning pyre to prove to Ram, and his army, her “purity”, that she had not slept with another man besides her own husband while she stayed away from him in a man’s forceful captivity.
“Ah, naive Sita,” she would think to herself again, as her face would be red with hot shame and anger, inside that fateful pyre to prove herself faithful.
The Earth too would shiver again thinking how this naïve Sita misunderstood her shivers that winter night.