After 14 years of serving his brother, Laksmana is finally back to Ayodhya. He didn't meet his wife since he is back and it has been more than a week. The longing mixed with guilt is what he was suffering until one day when Urmila comes and confronts him."
I have been raised by a Queen and have been taught every single thing that a princess should do to keep my family happy. Even though I was the daughter of King Janak and Queen Sunaina, preference was always given to my elder sister Sita. Please don't get me wrong I love my sister. And I know that even she loves me back. But, for instance, she got to choose her groom, but I wasn't. My parents came to me and announced that they have already chosen a man for me and that I was supposed to get married on the same day as my sister. Just like an obedient daughter, I agreed upon their choice. The very day I married Laksman, one of the twin sons of Queen Sumitra and King Dasharath of Ayodhya. I wasn't even given an opportunity to see him properly before marriage. At least sister Sita saw Raghuvanshi Ram before the swayambar took place. I saw him beside his brother Ram in the swayambar. He was tall and well built and had a very strong aura radiating through him. His protective eyes scanned the entire Rajya Shabha for any kind of danger. Once satisfied, he took the seat next to his brother Ram. While his eyes racked over everyone in the Sabha, it held mine for a fraction of a second before Sage Vishwamitra introduced them to my father, King Janaka.
While we rejoiced the garlanding ceremony of our sister Sita in our private room, my mother came to congratulate her. She also said that King Dasharath wants his other sons to get married to three daughters of Mithila and that they have chosen sister Mandvi for his second born Bharat, Suthakirti for Shatrughna and me for Lakshman. I wish even I had an opportunity to choose my groom just like my sister. However, I was delighted with the choice.
Look at my destiny; even though I was married to a prince, I didn't get to live a happy married life. Looks like I was born to sacrifice.
"Probably the darkness of my life will never subside, my mind told me in my dream as I lay on the palatial bed. It has been a regular occurrence now. A dark cloud loomed over my sleeping form. However, today I saw them parting and sun rays washing over me. From a distance, I could hear millions of people rejoicing. "Raghupati Ramachandra Ki Jai...Siya pati Ramchandra ki Jai, the voices were slowly coming closer. I could hear the voices of my cousins trying to wake me up. It has been a while since I have heard their voices.
They both were chanting the same words. "Urmi, wake up sister. Your beloved husband is back. They chanted these words like mantra softly against my ears. This cannot be true I thought. Probably they are trying to wake me up. My husband is long gone. He will take fourteen years to return. I wanted to dive deeper into my sleep. The depressing thought kept nagging me whenever I tried to wake up. My sisters can never understand my pain. No matter how much they sympathise with me. My husband chose his brother over his wife just like my parents chose my sister over me. He is answerable to me when he is back. He has not only punished me but, his mother as well. Her son was not there to support her during the demise of her husband, former King of Ayodhya. As a daughter-in-law, I couldn't take care of her due to the boon given my Nidra Devi. My husband is answerable each an every pain that we had to endure due to his decision.
"Urmi, wake-up my child. It's time to celebrate and not sleep." her feeble voice was like a piece of music to my ears. I was slowing coming out of the sleep. Her pleas and cries were making me fidgety. I had promised my husband that I will not cry until he is back on his demand and that I will take care of his parents during his absence. There was another woman who kept that promise and that Mata Sumitra. She must have heard his son, which is why when he left she came to me and held my hand. Unable to sympathise she promised me that she will divide the pain.
Why is she crying then? Did something bad happen to my husband in exile? That thought jolted me awake. Feeling disoriented I looked everywhere in the room. The moment my vision got cleared I saw my cousins, Madvi and Suthakriti sitting right beside talking to each other stating how happy they are that I am now awake. Mata Sumitra was in tears caressing my sleep-woken face. Few Dasi's hurried to get me water and fruits. I wasn't hungry I wanted to tell them trying to hide my panic. I couldn't form a single word as I was feeling choked. I wanted to ask them whether my husband's safety but, nothing came out.
"You are awake my child. Finally, you are awake," she hugged me while sniffling. "I have waited for this moment my child for such a long time," she cried sweetly. I hugged her back seeking for her comfort. I might be sleeping, but I know she used to come to my room and sat beside me for hours whispering sweet nothings just to make sure that I don't feel alone while my husband was gone. Her comforting fingers took away all the fear that I had for my husband not coming back ever.
"Mata, how long have I been sleeping?" I questioned her after breaking the embrace. My dasi, Ahalya gave me a glass of honey water. The sweetness of the liquid soothed my sore throat.
"It has been fourteen years, Urmi. We all were really concerned for you. What happened to you, my child? We thought you would never wake up." I wanted to tell him about Nidra Devi, how one night while I was deeply thinking about my husband, she came to me and said that my husband has sent her to me. She told me that he wishes to stay awake to serve his brother and my sister every night for the next fourteen years and refused to sleep. Since it is against the law of mankind, she then asked him to name someone who would want to take his share of sleep for the next fourteen years. My husband took my name and asked Nidra Devi to pay a visit to me. At least he thought about me. I asked Nidra Devi to fulfil my husband's wish. Since then, I have been sleeping probably.
As if everybody was in a hurry. Mata Sumitra ordered my dasis to arrange my dress that has been specially chosen by my mother-in-law, handcrafted by young widows of Ayodha. She also instructed my cousin Mandvi to get the ornaments that she has specially selected for me. I wanted to tell her that I don't want to get dressed and wear these ornaments. I wanted to remind her that my happiness left me along with my husband's departure. And it isn't returning anytime soon.
"Urmila, you shouldn't waste anytime further. They can arrive at any moment. You should get ready soon. Mandvi and Suthakriti are going to take care of your Shringaar. You should look like a bride today. After all, you are going to meet your husband after fourteen years.
Hearing about my husband arrival feels surreal. I wasn't hallucinating when I heard thousands of people chanting. It is more prominent now that I am awake which also means they are not far away from entering the palace.
Mata Sumitra nodded in approval when my dasi told her the bath was ready. I felt like a bride but this time like a deserving one. Mandvi took me to the palatial bath. The vessel was filled with mild and rose petals. Other dasis took off my clothes and wrapped me around with bath cloth. They made me sit on the small throne and started poring fragmented oils on my body. I closed my eyes and tried to calm my jumping nerves. As excited as I was, I was even more excited thinking what will be his reaction when he would see me for the first time after ages. They took time and massaged every part of my body than help me to get inside the huge vessel.
"Today, I am going to make sure that you look so beautiful that your husband will regret leaving you here and not taking you along." cousin Mandvi chirped. I might have blushed because my dasi's were whispering about how beautiful I looked. She took some turmeric past and started applying on my skin. The coldness of the paste sends goosebumps all over my body. It was followed by sandalwood pack, which was then washed with rose water. I felt rejuvenated.
My hair was washed and dried with fragmented smoke and was left open. Sister Mandvi stuck some gold strings and pearl drops on it. My dasi's draped the blue silk dress. I loved the intricate gold and stonework on it. The blue colour reminded me of my husband. Suthakriti made me wear all those ornaments sent by Mata Sumitra, and I absolutely loved how Mata Sumitra took time to find the right ones. It suited my dress and the occasion. Finally, my sringaar was completed with the crown that was a gift from my husband on my wedding night. I looked at myself in the mirror and blushed furiously. As my sister Mandvi said, it would be difficult for my husband to take his eyes off me. I still cannot believe that he is back in the kingdom and to me.
"You are looking so pretty," Mata Sumitra's voice cracked as emotions started to overwhelm her. She took a pinch of vermillion and applied in my partition. "Now you look complete," she smiled.
I glanced in the mirror one last time before taking a deep breath. My eyes started to prick due to the rush of emotions. No, I refused to cry. I wanted him to see that I kept his promise. Not a single drop of tear came out from my eyes while he was gone. Only then I am free to cry as much as I want to.
Mata Sumitra ordered Sister Mandvi and Suthakirti to accompany me to the Raj Sabha and make sure to be by my side all the while. I touched her feet and took her permission. "Saubhagyawatibhawa," with that I took the first step towards my new life. The wait is finally over.
As we approached towards the Sabha, I could hear a huge commotion. Thousands of people were fitting with each other to see Shree Ram, Devi Sita and brother Lakshman. We took the private lobby to reach the private balcony dedicated to the Queen and the Princess of the Raghu Vansha.
The Raj Sabha was filled with Prajas and well-wishers. Brother Bharat eagerly waited for brother Ram's arrival. He was still holding the pair of wooden sandals that belonged to brother Ram. Finally, his wait will be over. His dream and his wish will come true. His brother will be soon crowned as the King of Ayodhya.
Slowly the crowd parted. Someone named Hanuman entered the room Sabha. One of my cousins explained who he was and said that Hanuman was the most devoted Bhakt of brother Ram. His contribution is immense in bringing back sister Sita from Lanka.
Hearing about my sister's sacrifice brought new emotions and sadness inside me. How like a selfish sister I was thinking that I was the only person who has sacrificed. My sister's sacrifice was much greater. She fought alone with all the Rakshasha Clan. Never losing her dignity. This is what love is, I realised then. She stood strong against all odds and proved her Satitwya in front of the entire world. I felt anger towards my brother-in-law who insulted my sister by asking for Agni Pariksha. How could he not trust his own wife?
I was fighting with my own thoughts when they entered making me freeze. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion after that. Brother ram and sister Sita entered first. The whole Rajsabha erupted with their Jai Jai Kaar. Hanuman guided them towards brother Bharat. When the hall started chanting my husband's name, he came in the view. He was right beside his brother as he was supposed to be. I wanted to break the rules and go running towards him not caring about what people might think about me. However, I refrained myself from doing so. Brother Ram demanded to meet Mata Kaikeyi first. Mata Sita and my husband accompanied him. He met Mata Kaushalya and Mata Sumitra in their private rooms. After meeting his mother he came and joined Bharat. We witnessed a very emotional scene in front of our eyes.
Gradually the crowd departed. Suthakriti held my veil as I made my way towards my husband. The whole time my eyes were on him but, somehow he refused to acknowledge it. My heart sank at the very thought. Why would he ignore me like? Still, I held myself strongly determined not to crumble. My sister Sita met me half way. I could hardly make out what she was trying to tell me. She whispered how sorry she was. She also whispered that its now time to meet my husband and be with him forever and that she will make sure that nothing of this sort happens in future. I could see brother Ram was asking his younger brother to go and meet his wife. However, his younger brother still refused to meet my eyes. And then it broke me apart. I collapsed on the floor touching his feet. He didn't move or react. When I looked up, he moved away crushing my heart into pieces.
"Arya? (Husband)" I called him in my shaky voice, but my plea was futile.
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