On the way to palace
Am I, the esteemed King Dusmanta running away like a mouse? In the morning I told my hunting force to decamp, told to dress my horse and now I am speeding away from the forest. Am I trying to escape from her as well? Those couple of days in the hermitage with her seemed moments of heavenly bliss. Am I trying to abscond from heaven? Sakuntala spent her childhood happily roaming in the greenery of the forest in the hilly terrain, on the bank of a flowing river; I in the grandeur of royal palace learning etiquettes that would make me suitable heir of the throne of illustrious Chandras. I had companions in tens and twenties, but no friend except that loquacious Botu; she had two closest friends Anasuya and Priyamvada among some others, hermitage girls learning lessons of running modest family homes. She was simply clad in her tree-bark garment that does not add anything to her beauty while I learnt selecting the variety, colour and texture of my silks. She never had used to anything but forest flowers for ornaments while I learnt the use of gold of gemstones to add majestic shine to my attractive body. Our sole similarity is that she grew up to be a intriguing beautiful young lady radiating elegance along with youthful charm while I, a captivating handsome man of pride and luxurious means revealing the splendor of my royal lineage. But does that make enough ground for two people to become lifelong companions? Her sweet voice gives an impression of a docile nature but in reality, she is as strong as my other queens raised in their royal paternal homes. Same like them, my sudden absence will hurt her but she is not going to kill herself not seeing me around. I guess Botu could be more upset by my leaving without taking her permission. Did my royal family allow him to become my committed companion because they expected him to give me moral lessons every now and then? I think so! Whatever would be Botu’s opinion, the sweet and sober lotus will still emit her fragrance staying in the midst of marshland.
Peggy went to her usual dormant state. I did not hear her voice since several days. Previous experience says she might come back all on a sudden to drench me with her moral preaching. She is another lady I am occasionally keen to communicate with, despite of her incomprehensible approach to life. Probably her company could bring me some peace during my homeward journey this time. She brings me an idea of future, the unknown which I cannot imagine. How far does that future exist? How many generations will my illustrious lineage will have to cross before reaching there? – Or shall we continue living in this world till that period far ahead of us? What will happen if I cannot produce a son? No, I will definitely arrange Putrakamesti Yagna before dying without leaving an heir for my throne. I am not barren but some of the gods might be angry with me for some reason.
My thoughts are striking me faster than my horse. I want to reach my palace as soon as possible. I know I cannot get rid of my forest lady’s thought till I unite with my own people in the palace. At this moment, I want to free myself from her thought. I know how deceptive I look this moment. The graceful maiden trusted my words. She believed in our being husband and wife through that Gandharva ritual without as idea that for a Kshtriya King, this is only a ritual that allows him to bring ladies from different social stature to the palace, not necessarily staying with them like a modest householder. I feel pity for her. Grown up in the forest, she did not develop idea of the life of people other than modest householders – royal way of life she cannot imagine. She believed me saying, “I shall send for you, my lady of sweet smiles, to escort you to our palace!” I told her we shall thrive by letting go of our fear and envy tomorrow when sunshine will be brighter; she trusted without understanding the obscurity lying in that tomorrow. She does not know how her naivety proves her ineligible for a royal status – how incongruous she would appear in the complex royal surroundings even if I send for her. How much her inarticulacy would set her is contrast with my eloquent ladies in the palace. No, I do not want to take her there in the jungle of luxury and anonymity. Perhaps, if gods want, I will return to this forest, to her heaven, which gifted me couple of blissful days.
But what will the illustrious sage Kanva say knowing about our affair? Driven by her honest intellectual lucidity, the girl herself will tell him the truth if not anyone else in the hermitage does. I am anxious; not because I anticipate him to be angry with me. Even if he is angry, I am sure the kind sage will not curse me – he cannot curse the king of the land for falling in love with an abandoned girl he had fostered. But more I am nearing my capital, more I realise the uncertainly of meeting my celestial beauty again in near future. I won’t be able to establish my logic against bringing her to the royal palace neither before her, nor before them, the simplistic hermitage people. The moisture in my eyes made the road before me invisible. I let my horse to carry me.
An unprecedented gloominess covers me as I enter my kingdom’s capital.
To be cont.