The room was aesthetically decorated. The window to the east made way to the bright moon light. Lamp seemed unnecessary as the delightful whitish light flooded every corner of the room. As Abhaya entered, she found Radha clearing the flower strings used for decoration. She went closer to help with the flowers. Apparently Radha used a lot of them. But then Vrindavan seemed to have no dearth of blooming creepers and shrubs in all seasons.
Radha smiled at Abhaya gratefully as the latter volunteered to clear the strings placed on a low shelf. Abhaya stopped suddenly as she saw the statue on the shelf lavished with the garlands of Tulasi, Parijatha and Vyjayanthi flowers. The statue had a graceful built and held a flute to its lips and wore a peacock feather in his modest crown. Instinctively Abhaya found it amusing that any artist would have this picture of Krishna Vaasudeva.
“You play flute beautifully. Who taught you?” Abhaya asked hoping to start a conversation. Her mind began to run on various threads of thought.
Am I jealous that she keeps her calm while the storm of separation rages in my heart? Am I wanting to know how she is able to do that? No I am just seeking a companion who shares my distress. But what do I do if the conversation only pains her rather than console me?
Abhaya suddenly wished she hadn’t started the conversation. Radha turned at her question and smiled.
“It put you to sleep. I thought I dint play well.”
What kind of simplicity is this? Abhaya instinctively felt her heart beat race. “It didn’t put me to sleep. It took me to him. Rather it brought him to me.”
“Did he trouble you? He can be really mischievous at times.”
This is not simplicity. It is madness. “Mischievous? He is heartless.” Abhaya found herself heaving with suppressed anger.
Radha stared at her for a moment and quietly proceeded to clear all the flowers including the ones in Abhaya’s arms.
“Be seated princess. Don’t give way to unreasonable anger.” She forcibly held Abhaya by arms and seated her over a mattress. “Is this mattress soft enough for you? I heard you princesses are used to softer beds….”
“Do I look like I have the mind to care about the softness of this mattress?” Abhaya wondered why she was turning uncontrollably indignant. She brought her palms to her face and let out a deep sigh. “Forgive me, I did not mean to be rude… can I call you sister?”
“You can.” Smiled Radha. “Now little sister, tell me what did he do to make you so angry.”
“Angry? Who am I to be angry at him? What am I at all to him?” Abhaya was close to breaking down and swallowed hard.
“I asked you about what he did to you.” Radha coolly prodded.
“He pulled me out from a moat of crocodiles.”
“Why should that make you angry? Oh.. Princess, you were not clothed properly at that time?”
Abhaya looked up startled, indignant and exasperated. “Sister, I was well clothed. In fact was fighting a brute of a prince who desired me and sought to capture me so that he could use me against my father. He, that prince of Avanthi held me dangerously over the edge of my own fort, threatening my commander to surrender. I did not want my soldiers to surrender because of me. I jumped off the fort, not caring about the moat and those wretched reptiles in it. He, your cloud hued, flute holder, pulled me out. He saved my life.”
“And what did that other man do, that bad prince?”
“He ran away. Coward!.”
“Just like Shankhachooda.” Radha laughed. She looked at Abhaya’s curious eyes. “Let him wait. You tell me your story.”
“Son of Vasudeva, he and his select Yadava leaders stayed to guard my fort. He supervised the crucial repair of the fort. He attended to a lot many things as if they were his tasks. My father returned and was overwhelmed with gratitude and offered me as a bride.” Abhaya could not continue.
Can I accept a woman who is being offered as a token of gratitude? His words rung in her ears.
“Then?” Radha asked looking completely fascinated.
Abhaya turned away, staring down, her hands crumpling the skirt she wore. “I can’t live any more if I recalled his words, sister. The memory of those moments is enough to kill me, worse make a hell of this life to me. I was left staring at his retreating figure. How I wish those crocodiles gobbled me before he even reached me.”
“Did he know that you loved him so much?” was Radha’s unaffected question.
“Didn’t he know? Did I have to go to him and tell him that I loved him? Would I otherwise go to him ten times a day under some or the other pretext?”
“Didn’t you tell him, little sister?” Radha’s tone flowed with pity.
Abhaya still stared at the ground and lightly shook her head. She felt Radha’s hand gently brush her hairs. It was difficult to hold back tears. They would drop down if she batted her eyelids. She closed her eyes letting them flow. Radha lifted her face gently.
“Did you hold back your tears too?” Radha comfortingly put her arms round Abhaya.
“Would it have helped to weep my heart out in front of him? But I don’t have the luxury being a Kshatrani.” Abhaya sighed and composed herself quickly. She then looked at Radha. “Elder sister, you would have told him your heart. He still left you. Didn’t he?”
“You, like most, think he left me. But he never did. He cannot leave me Abhaya. It is beyond him.” Radha spoke meditatively.
You, Radha seem possess the skill of hallucinating at will and see him. Abhaya controlled her bitterness. “Yes, my thinking is limited to what I can see and hear.”
“You said you met him at the banks of Yamuna, yourself.” Radha replied in a tone as if to explain to a small child.
“I dreamt of him, sister. You yourself said I fell asleep.” Abhaya retorted in a toner milder than her natural self.
“Next time you ‘dream’ of him, tell him you love him.” Radha laughed.
“Of course! He would marry me in the dream itself. But what if misfortune decides to prolong my life beyond the sleep of that dream. I can’t live after that.”
“Then you should tell him where you meet him in real. After all you are going to meet him.” Radha reasoned.
“Would he accept me?”
“He would always think of your wellbeing first. If your good lies in his accepting you, he would or else…”
“else, there is no life! And well being is for live creatures not corpses!” Abhaya almost shouted.
Radha attempted to pacify her, squeezing her palms. “You are young. You are blinded in love. But you can’t understand him in this craze, little sister.”
Abhaya felt deep inside that Radha knew Vaasudeva better than anyone. She instinctively brought her palms together. “Then tell me what you understood of him, Radha.”