The contingent* reached the banks of Yamuna and camped on a green pasture situated closeby.
“The blue waters of Yamuna and the green lands are separated by these hilly dark green woods. I envy the birds who can catch such a picturesque view.” Subhadra commented. Abhaya cheered up by the change in the terrain as well as Subhadra’s conversations nodded.
“Abhaya, do you know about the Noble leader Nanda? I think You should know about his community before we visit them. Nanda and his wife Yashoda were the foster parents of brother Krishna when my evil uncle Kamsa had persecuted mother and father.”
“Oh, I have heard tales about them. I have heard about the scores of mercenaries who came to kill Vaasudeva. I heard that Kamsa himself invited your brothers and that he finally slew Kamsa.”
“Lord Nanda and Yashoda have brought up brother Krishna with immeasurable amounts of love. Mother told me that his separation from them pained him a lot. That blessed couple even today survives on the memories of his childhood. Mother was just concerned if our visit would only increase their pain.” Subhadra expressed her concern.
Abhaya sympathetically listened. She found herself connecting to Nanda and Yashoda. Ten days of Krishna’s company had raised her to the highest of the skies and at his departure, she felt she was drowning in her own tears. How could the couple who witnessed his childhood withstand the separation from him?
“The night when my brother was left with Nanda, he gave his new born daughter to father in my brother’s place. Mother told me that the tyrant Kamsa tried to kill that girl. But she in turn disappeared laughing at his failure. But that was only seen by my parents. Yashoda was not spared of her daughter. This makes mother overcome with guilt. But I am more worried about Radha.”
Subhadra lowered her voice into a whisper. “She loved my brother. He loved her too. But they had to part.”
Abhaya sighed in reply. Then I am not alone.
The joy of your company is immeasurable like the sky.
The pain of the separation is limitless like the ocean.
Memories of you keep me afloat and looking up.
But neither can I reach the sky nor can I drown and die.
As soon as Yashoda was informed that Devaki had come to Vrindavan, she personally came to welcome the woman who had given her the son who defined joy in her life. It was a hearty and tearful reunion. Yashoda took Subhadra to her bosom and showered the infant Abhimanyu with choicest blessings. She insisted that the Yadava women be hosted in her house and not in the camp. Devaki felt thankful for at Yashoda’s hospitality and introduced Abhaya. She also explained Jayanthi’s predicament which had even worsened.
Yashoda arranged for the four women to stay in her house till the next day and hurried her maids to send for the Vaidya. Abhaya’s worry was mounting at Jayanthi’s condition. She sat by Jayanthi’s side squeezing her wrist.
“Mahadeva, Narayana, Anagheshwari! She is all I have of my people. Her child should bring a new hope. Protect them both.”
Her hope lifted with the Vaidya entering the room. Yashoda and another gopi woman looking in her thirties followed him. He examined Jayanthi and explained something to Yashoda that Abhaya could not hear. Yashoda told the other woman to take Abhaya out of the room.
“Why don’t you both offer worship and pray for the well being of the mother and the child to be born. Radha, take the princess of Anagha to the temple of Goddess Ambika. Show her the Vrindavan too.”
“Radha?” Abhaya remembered Subhadra’s introduction of Radha and stared at her. Thoughts of Jayanthi poured in the next moment.
“But, but What about Jayanthi?” protested Abhaya. She had no intention of leaving Jayanthi’s side.
Yashoda gently stroked her hairs. “Princess, your sister in law might be delivering the child pre maturely. There is not much that a maiden like you can do. I have other experienced mothers to assist me in taking care of her. You should go to the temple. Radha would keep you company.”
Devaki and Subhadra who came to know about it also strongly felt that Abhaya stay away from Jayanthi.
Abhaya mutely followed her words and followed Radha out of the house.
Is she the one Vaasudeva loved? Can she be so calm and serene after they parted? Why did they part? How are they able to lead their respective lives after parting thus? Why am I wondering about them while Jayanthi is struggling in pain?
Noting her increased restlessness, Radha held her by hand and gently led her away from the settlement towards the woods. They reached the temple of Ambika after a long walk in the woods. The breeze cooled by the waters of Yamuna would have been quite enjoyable had Abhaya not been torn between her concern for Jayanthi and curiosity about Radha.
The priest was yet to reach the temple for the evening worship. Radha invited Abhaya to wait by the banks of Yamuna.
“Tell me more about yourself princess.” Radha affectionately asked. Abhaya smiled weakly and spoke about her father and a little more about Anagha. Her eyes searched Radha for answers for countless questions. She was not sure of asking back anything about Vaasudeva.
“Where is your sister in law from? Where are her parents?” A sense of guilt overcame Abhaya as she remembered the incident around six years ago where Sudatta, Jayanti’s father and her father’s charioteer died in the process of saving his King. Jayanthi’s mother had passed away recently.
“She lost her parents.” Was the reply she could manage. She prayed that Radha would not ask her about her parents. Her mind went back to Dharmasena and the attack that was planned by Vidarbha and Avanthi. She brushed her characteristic fears aside and looked back towards the temple.
“It would take a few more ghatikas for the priest to come, princess.” Radha explained. “Anyways, mother only wanted you to be away from the house till the new prince arrives in this world.”
“Let us please go back. I cant stay away from her while she is in pain.” Abhaya pleaded.
“Take heart, princess. Your sister in law would be fine. Leave it to mother and other women of our village. Your presence there in fact would be more of a concern.”
“My presence is a concern everywhere.” The words escaped Abhaya before she could think better than to retort. She looked up startled to check if Radha had heard her. “No, I dint mean anything of that sort. I am just tired of the long journey.” She said hopping the excuse would work.
“Then let my Vrindavan soothe your weariness. Princess, have you seen a peacock opening its plume and dancing?”
Abhaya smiled, feeling grateful at the change of topic. She had vague memories of dancing peacocks. She remembered the fluttering peacock feather on the crown of Vaasudeva when he first pulled her out of the moat. He did not wear it the subsequent day. Her heart missed a beat at the memory. She looked away at the gentle waves on the surface of Yamuna. The waters reflected the crimson colors of the setting sun. She turned to her back shifting her gaze to the waters and shook her head.
Flute notes greeted her ears. Apparently Radha was a master on the flute. The seamless notes were in sync with the wind, with the grass with the waters and with the sky. But Abhaya found her heart racing. With a sigh, she rested her head against a rock and closed her eyes.
The notes stopped. Abhaya opened her eyes and turned around.
“Vaasudeva? Am I dreaming?” her eyes grew wide and she sat rooted to the spot. No, he sat just where Radha was seated. The flute was in his hands.
“I am dreaming! It’s an illusion! Nothing else!”
The voice echoed around. It echoed inside her. A part of her wanted to shout at him but no words came. A part wanted to walk away but her legs would not cooperate.
Why did you reject me Vaasudeva? What is my fault? Why did you save me at all from the crocodiles? After rejecting me why do you care for me? Why do you haunt me thus?
“A lot of questions!”
How does he know when I spoke not a single word?
He smiled in reply. “How did you even think that I rejected you because of any fault of yours?”
“Can I accept a woman who is being offered as a token of gratitude?”
Token of gratitude? You saved my life! I would have been dead if not for you! I shall be dead soon if not for you!
“Saving you was my Dharma, princess. You offer yourself out of gratitude. But I cannot accept that.”
Abhaya turned away hiding her tears.
Am I offering myself to you out of gratitude? Don’t you see my love?
There was no reply. She looked up for the answer.
“Vaasudeva?” But where was he? He had disappeared like a dream.
“Vaasudeva! Where are you?” Abhaya looked around shaken at being alone. She felt a hand on her shoulder startling her.
“Princess, are you alright?” Radha stood with a basket of flowers. She had finished worshipping Goddess Ambika.
“Radha?” Abhaya got up, suddenly wondering why the world grew so dark. It looked long past sunset. “What happened?” She asked still looking around for Krishna. Had she dreamt all that?
“You had fallen asleep. I dint want to disturb you. So I went ahead to the temple. Are you fine?”
“I saw him. And I am sure it was not a dream!” Abhaya almost whispered.
Radha smiled in reply. “He is here. But now we should head home. Aren’t you excited about your new born nephew?”