The next day

Subhadra and Devaki left at dawn with the Yadava retinue. Yashoda continued to care for Jayanthi and Sthambha. Abhaya was enthusiastic to care for the infant and remained with Jayanthi the whole morning. Yashoda and Radha refused to let her help them out in chores. When Sthambha went to sleep, the activity of churning butter fascinated Abhaya the most. She stood watching Radha as the latter went about churning. Radha’s hands moved back and forth in a perfect rhythm and the many bangles she wore produced a sweet clanging sound.

Did you see him, the dark hued one

Did you see him, the Lotus eyed one

The one from whom the grace and beauty flow

The one on whom the plumes of peacock glow

Smile bewitching, never leaves his face

To his call of flute, our hearts race

O thick and dark bushes of Vrindavan, Speak well

Is that one hiding among you? Do tell

Hearing the notes and words, Abhaya’s thoughts drifted to her own memories of Krishna Vaasudeva. His presence at Anagha had filled her with limitless hope in the trying times. His words could soothe her anxiety making it disappear like the fog at sunrise. How could she not fall for him?  But he had refused her hand. Abhaya convinced herself that Vaasudeva must have had strong reasons for doing so. What could be the reason? It was unfair to accuse him of marrying princesses of vast kingdoms or only his own cousins. But what were they capable of that she was not? Did he see for those capabilities only? Whatever made him refuse her hand, she had to know of it.

Radha’s words induced a new gleam of hope in her mind. Vaasudeva’s advice to her father to send her to Indraprastha meant something. She hoped hard that she meant something to him as Radha told her. She had to now find that purpose which would make her path cross with his. Then what was his purpose? Which other purpose would bring her closer to him?

She remembered Vaasudeva’s words when she accompanied him to the temple of Anagheshwari. He spoke of Arya Dharma. He spoke of it as a circle of universal well being. Abhaya looked at Radha who was still churning, lost in her own world. She was full of him who she called as Kanha. Smile never left her lips as her hands continued to move back and forth. She was the one he loved. The Vaasudeva who had embraced Vajrabahu like his own close kin, the vaasudeva who took all interest in the well being of Anagha those ten days, the one whose presence enveloped Abhaya and the rest with optimism had certainly stolen her heart like he stole the hearts of those in Vrindavan.

This Radha was the one who was loved by such a man in his younger years. Abhaya tried to fathom the intensity of his love. It should have been the love which transcends all levels of human thought and understanding. But he had to part with Radha. He had to part with his love for that circle of universal well being which he called Arya Dharma. Abhaya’s thoughts were temporarily interrupted as a wave of butter suddenly came up the pot which Radha was churning.

“So much, all at a time?” Abhaya gasped.

“Well all at a time after an hour or more of continuous churning.” Radha replied, pulling aside the rod and pressing her right hand with her left with relief.

Abhaya felt guilty of not offering to help. “Were you tired? I could have at least tried to…”

“No, princess” Radha smiled. “The sight of butter floating is a reward that makes one forget all the pain at a go. But it could be frustrating to those new to the activity. Not something to try on the very second day after an arduous travel, little sister.”

Abhaya smiled back trying to fathom a deeper meaning in those words. Churning butter was not an easy task. It required one to be at the task not caring for the initial pain that appears to tear the muscles.

Radha found Abhaya’s eyes twinkle with new realization.

“Elder sister, is there really nothing in which I can help?”

“Well, Father would return tomorrow. You might help him with the accounts of butter and yoghurt sold at Indraprastha. You help your father in the same at your place right? This should be a child’s play for you.”

“So for the whole of today, would you pamper me endlessly, elder sister?” Abhaya remarked.

Their attention was shifted as footsteps with faint tinkle of anklets hurried towards the door.

“Aunt Radha! Come with us to the Yamuna!” Two twelve year olds ran towards Radha, dressed in colorful skirts and gaudily embroidered cholis around their heads.

“Viraja and Vrinda, meet our guest, the princess of Anagha.”

“Princess!!!”, the girls exclaimed eyeing at Abhaya with new found awe and curiosity. “Do we call Your Majesty or Your Ladyship?” Viraja asked. “It is Your Highness” Vrinda suggested.

“Both are wrong, you call me, elder sister.” Abhaya spoke, quite drawn to their innocent smiles and eyes wide with enthusiasm. She drew them closer to herself involuntarily. Vrindavan was extremely endearing to her. People opened their hearts and warmed to her.

“Both of you girls, you should go to Yamuna by yourself today. Your Aunt has a lot of work.” Radha gently told them.

“We want to listen to your flute!” Vrinda protested.

“Now be a good girl, Vrinda. Why don’t you take the princess, instead? Show her around the flowery creepers in the woods. Offer worship to Goddess Ambika and return before dusk.” Radha suggested.

“Your Highness, would you come with us? “ Viraja asked, excited.

“What did you call me? I wont come if you call me so.” Abhaya teased.

“Elder sister” the girls managed to say after some hesitation. “Would you come?”

“Good girls, lead the way.” Abhaya waved at Radha to inform Jayanthi and Yashoda.

The End

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