Radha withdrew her hands and spread out another mattress. “You might not have known. I was betrothed to another man, a soldier of that Kamsa.”
“Does not matter. But my heart was not in the marriage. The betrothal took place when I was very small and did not know what is is to be promised to someone. After that, Father Nanda migrated with his Gopa tribe to Virndavan. He, my Kanha came here as a child of eight. I was thirteen. My heart wound around him. I could not make that it was love. I wanted to see him every moment. I would purposely go to Yamuna on the pretext of getting water at the same time when he would be taking his cattle on the other side. As he played into his flute, my heart used to dance with joy and I never knew how the day used to fade away.”
Radha continued as Abhaya heard without batting an eyelid, “I would spend sleepless nights cursing the moon and darkness. All I wanted was that the day to break so that I could go to see him again. Years of bliss passed like moments. That flow of nectar into my life was suddenly arrested one day when that soldier returned to claim me.”
“Did your people force you?” Abhaya asked
“They tried their best. But I was adamant. I trusted that Kanha would never let go of me. But that soldier was determined to take me with him. I continued to resist his entreaties. Even Mother and Father tried to reason with Kanha to forget me. He did not.”
“Then?” Abhaya felt her own heart racing.
“One day I went to the banks of Yamuna as usual. I wanted to tell Kanha to take me with him, away from everyone bent upon separating us. That day, I did not find him on the banks. I wondered if he was angry with me for not meeting him. But what could I do? My people had restrained my movements. I decided I won’t go home without meeting him.”
“It was dark, I still did not return home. Then a sturdy hand closed over my mouth. I was alarmed to see a giant like brute in a ghostly complexion. He lifted me over his shoulder. I kicked and resisted. At the earliest opportunity I began to scream. But my cries were lost in the woods. I was not sure if anyone heard me. This creature lusted for my body. I would not give in. In the darkness, he threw me on to his cart and drove away. I still did not stop screaming I shouted out to Kanha. I shouted out that only he could rescue me or find me dead.”
Abhaya’s eyes grew wider and wider at the description. Radha continued.
“The brute said his name was Shankachooda and that he was a highly placed officer in one of the eastern kingdoms. I was least interested and tried to jump off his cart. He held me painfully tight. I could remember the way. He took me behind the Goverdhan mountain and threatened me to yield to his wishes. I swore at him and cursed him. He then moved a boulder which opened up a cave and threatened me to leave me buried inside and that no one would ever find me. I heard none of his threats. He threw me to the ground and came dangerously close to me. My voice went hoarse with continuous screaming. Then I found that Shankachooda suddenly turn in pain as if hit by a club. My Kanha had come! He heard my cries through the thick woods! As he stood defying that giant, my heart stopped beating. I wished I dint call him at all, I would not live if he was harmed. But My Kanha is so agile and quick. He successfully overpowered the demon with his sheer wit and Shankachooda ran for his life leaving his car and his horses behind. Kanha came closer to me and knelt beside me as I lifted myself to a sitting position in relief. We saw that the one to whom I was pledged, that soldier came towards us. That moment I shunned his very presence.”
Abhaya sighed at that point, realizing she had held her breathe all the while and lied down in exhaustion much to Radha’s amusement and delight.
“What happened then? Did he also challenge Vaasudeva openly?”
“Apparently this person went to Kanha and told him to give me up. Kanha looked at me and smiled. He asked me if I was pledged to that soldier. I knew that this was the moment I had to forego all the restraint. I threw my arms around Kanha and told him again and again that If I was pledged in my heart to someone it was only Kanha. I told him I dint have anything to do with what my elders did in past without my knowledge. Any man other than Kanha was a total stranger to me. I clung to him for all I was worth and pleaded with him to save me. Needless to say, Kanha enveloped me in his arms and the soldier had to leave. He left in a huff cursing my parents, my lineage and my character. But did I care? All I wanted was Kanha and nothing else. Reputation, status and marital family, all these meant nothing to me.”
“You were.. You are his first love. Why did you part ways?” Abhaya asked as fresh tears sprung into her eyes.
“I belong to him. But he belongs to everyone. Everyone of those in distress who call out to him, those in love who pine for him and those who do greater things seeking him out.”
“Would he belong to me too?” Abhaya asked to only to be greeted by suppressed laughter.
“If you belonged to him how can he escape?” Radha asked as if it was obvious.
“How could I belong to him? He refused my hand in marriage. I feel orphaned. I feel that my life has lost its purpose.”
“Do I look like a fool to believe that he is so heartless?” Radha retorted. “But trust me, he cares for you. Something made him believe otherwise. He refused your hand for a reason.”
“What reason?” Abhaya burst out this time without restraining her tears. “I am lost. My heart can accept none else. I shall die pining for him.”
“The land is full of blood thirsty and power thirsty kings. It is because of one of them that Kanha left Vrindavan. Routing them was his purpose. Perhaps he felt you might be harmed.”
“I don’t care for any kind of harm. Sister, I shall never become a weakness if he thinks so. I shall court death rather than give in to the games of those selfish kings you mention. I hate each one of them.” Abhaya protested.
“But he won’t endanger your safety.”
“How am I safe now? My father awaits the war which probably won’t leave him alive. My brother might…” Abhaya swallowed hard and continued. “Jayanthi still has her infant to live for. What do I live for? Does my life have any meaning without him?”
She lowered her tone. Her tears dried up. “Elder sister, whenever I remember the moment when he left Anagha, I don’t weep. I can only weep when I lose something dear to me. Can I weep when I lose my self? My heart went behind him, begging him to accept it. I did not experience life any longer. Tears came back to me only when he sent the message to my father to send me to Indraprastha. My heart raced again. Part of me was angry. Another part of me felt helpless. There is still a part which jumps at another opportunity to see him again. Elder sister, you were at least married to him and live as his wife, experiencing him all around you. But who am I?”
“Doesn’t his calling you to Indraprastha prove that you sre something to him? “Radha asked intently.
Abhaya did not have an answer and dearly hoped Radha was right. “But am I an object of sympathy? Is that all?”
“You can’t help being a Kshatrani. Can you?” Radha asked in part pity. “Alright if this satisfies you, find for yourself a purpose. It should be such a purpose which shall make you cross his path again and again. Live for for purpose that will unite you with him. Live for him.”