Zealous family – who knows who is your own

Like the shade of a tree,

Like a reflection in water, everything is an illusion –

World is in a fantasising spree.

Janardandev dreamt of fulfilling his duty of a father towards his foster daughter. Getting her married to Raghupati brought him the most desired satisfaction in life. Raghupati became Saryu’s dream of life since she met him five years back. She is happy that her long wait has been fruitful. She found bliss in life in company of her man. She lost herself in the tide of love.

For Raghupati, dreams became reality. Recovering his lost reputation and establishing himself as an aristocrat was not an easy task. The goddess of fortune helped him. Moreover he has won the loyalty and trust of his desired women. Life could be blissful for him too if he did not meet Balwantrao someday in distant past. Was her sister destined to marry the man who didn’t have any love for her? Since he came back from the riverside, his mind went restless. Raghupati was not being able to justify the fate he and his sister met. He started mourning – still not able to tell the delicate Saryu anything about it. An uneasy thought overwhelmed him that sharing own stories might shatter her innocent faith in him. Saryu worships her as a hero – how would she accept the fallen hero in her life? –  Worries became his companion day and night.

Couple of days passed. Saryu guessed her husband is in trouble – none expects a newly married young man lost in own world. Till two days back, she was enjoying every aspect of her married life – new home, the much awaited attention of a loving husband, role of the mistress of a home. Sudden change in Raghupati’s temper now made her feel uncomfortable. There is no elderly woman at home who could support her. She stated her anxiety to her maids – they suggested her to be more polite and nice to her husband. They suspected some fault in her behaviour might have angered her man. She tried to behave as submissive as possible. Her husband didn’t pay an attention. Yesterday her maids suggested her to present herself to her husband in more attractive attire assuming that a wife’s not looking voluptuous could be another reason for a young man’s ignoring her. But that trick too failed. Raghupati remains absent minded even today. Her large compassionate eyes gaze at him trying to understand what could have been the reason her husband loses himself time to time. Saryu knows her man is a trusted person of the leader – there is less chance of his facing exhausting trouble in the royal court. While serving dinner she asks, “Did I do commit some mistake that makes you angry?”

Raghupati’s string of thought tears; he replies, “But who told you I am angry? What makes you worried?”

Saryu was grown up as a single child of her father; doesn’t know how to express the anxious emotions deep rooted in her heart. She says, “You look different these days – your face always serious – as if you are always lost somewhere else. You are not even telling me if you liked food today.”

Raghupati feels irritated – why do women try to intrude so much in personal matters of their men? He realises he is being constantly watched. He doesn’t like that. But he doesn’t express his irritation; smiles instead, “I like every item prepared in your kitchen. Do you remember the day you first served me food at your father’s place in the fort of Toran? I fell in love with your culinary skill since then. But you don’t need to take too much trouble here – take help of maids.” He stops as he couldn’t find any more word to comfort her. Saryu looks at his face helplessly; knowing neither her words, nor her helplessness is able to create a ripple in the stone-hard heart of this man. Was it the same man she was attracted to? Unnoticed she slips in her bed-chamber – pillows in a bed is softer than a man’s heart. They listen to her pains – she drenches them with tears rolling down aimlessly.

After long. Seeing her still awake he says, “I should have visited Jyoti after the accidental demise of her husband. I will go to her place tomorrow.”

Saryu didn’t know anything about Balwantrao’s death. Even rumours didn’t penetrate the protective walls of her husband’s home. The dread of the news shocked her – now she realises what might have made her husband absent minded since last few days; says, “He – passed away? But how? I too want to meet her. Can’t we go today?”

She doesn’t receive a reply. She knows the futility of repeating. Her husband must be in deep pain. A soothing wave of sympathy appeases her anxiety. She does not want to annoy her dutiful husband – feels little embarrassed remembering her own suspicion about her husband’s behaviour – falls asleep after some time.

Raghupati knows kind Shivaji Maharaj would not let him down; none would know who killed Balwantrao in the serene riverside camp. Everyone knows by now that the hot-tempered Jumladar Balwantrao had committed suicide. Shivaji didn’t attach his property; directed Raghupati to manage the property as well as take care of his sister. He looks at his wife’s face again and again, ponders whether he should tell her every single story of his past, but cannot gather the courage to wake her up and tell.

He spends another sleepless night, wondering whether he should disclose everything to Jyotibai. His sister is not revengeful, but how would he explain the reason behind the fatal altercation? Burden of his past becomes heavier every passing minute – he doesn’t know how to get rid of that.

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Next morning, Raghupati enters the premises of late Balwantrao to meet his sister. He came here before; knows almost all servants and guards of the home. The guards at the house open the door seeing him. Their silent welcome reveals the graveness of the atmosphere of the home. He enters the courtyard, gets down from his horse. One servant takes the horse to one side of the large courtyard. The deserted look of the home hurts him. He imagines how Jyoti could have rolled beside the lifeless body of her husband dishevelled. Did she faint seeing his badly injured body? Did she wail inconsolably? Raghupati knows how a Hindu woman’s life sinks into unfathomable darkness with the demise of her husband.  The light of his eyes extinguished – he steps inside like a puppet pulled by a string.

Daylight doesn’t reach inside the mansion. The interior is unusually silent as if none has ever stayed there. At the end of the long corridor that goes to the ladies apartments, he sees couple of maids standing. He tells them to inform his sister about his arrival. They look at him afraid, tell, “She is not there, Sir.”

Raghupati, “Where is she then?”

Maids, “Mistress told everyone to leave the ladies apartments and let her leave alone.  We came back afternoons – she is not inside.”

Simultaneous pain, sorrow and frustration made him scream terribly: “Where is she? You stupid! – She cannot evaporate!” Madly he rushes into the ladies zone without waiting for their reply or where he was heading to. But no – all rooms in this part were empty like a deserted island. He reached the end of the quarter. One narrow path from here goes straight to a well. A row of large trees a little away from there blocks the vision from reaching far. He stands there for few seconds perplexed – If Jyotibai found her way to piece through this plush green of nature, does he have any right to stop her?

He comes back – sends people to look for Jyotibai in every possible location, they tried to trace if she has performed self-immolation following the tradition of  young Rajput widows; but no, none found a trace of her.

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Raghupati will work under Shivaji keeping integrity and reputation intact thirteen years after this. Shivaji’s death in 1680 will break his heart inconsolably. In their old age, he and Saryu will go back to Rajasthan and spend the rest of life there.