Girls in hermitage
I have been grown up in this hermitage along with this girl. While I the all-knowing Anasuya and our pretty Priyambada share similar fantasies, our serene Sakuntala remains beyond our grasp. I think this is obvious considering our different places of origin. Both I and Priyambada are daughters of poor Brahmins, who could belong to nowhere else but here. I lost my parents in childhood and Priyambada’s parents have left her here because of unsurpassable poverty. Hermitages raise many like us with parental care. From our early childhood, we know where we belong to and what to expect from life, who we should fall in love with and how will be our life’s course. As I reached my puberty few years back, I was not uncertain about my desire, my duties, which household activities I should learn, which form of service my future husband’s family will expect from me or which kind of a man I should fantasize. I shaped by daily activities accordingly preparing to embrace by predictable future. Priya is still too young to visualize that much, but it will be same for her. I know she too will not face difficulty in coping with life as our god of fate offered to us. The reason we share our stories comfortably with each other, touch each other’s bodies playfully to discover the blooming womenhood in us – discuss our future family environments with certainty.
But Sakuntala? She is grown up here with us, still not one of us. She came here as an orphan rejected by parents not because of poverty or ill-timed death. None in the world would be able to explain her father’s denial of her existence; her mother’s leaving her as newborn at the mercy of the beasts in the forest. She is the unwanted burden to her parents who was left to die but survived at the will of Mother Nature manifested in form of father Kanva and mother Gautami. Is it that inexplicable pain that made her so calm and composed? Hermitage is a place where children explore the truth of the world. Knowledge of truth prepares them to accept life with open arms. Sakuntala also learnt the truth about her origin in early childhood like all of us. But did the harsh truth behind her coming here give her mind a shape different from all of us?
Or is it the blood she is carrying in her veins makes her so distinct? Her father is the son of great Kshtriya King Gadhi but born with the qualities of the Brahmin due to the thoughtless self-appeasement of Gadhi’s Kshatriya wife. We do not know what kind of state of mind encouraged her to drink the conception-potion her Brahmin son-in-law Ruchika made for her daughter. We only know why the valorous King Biswamitra was so envious of the greatest Brahmin Basishtha’s spiritual power, why he attacked hermitage of the peaceful Brahmin hermits again and again. The power obtained by penances than mere physical might attracted him to such an extent that he renounced his kingdom to undertake fierce penances spending years of hardships in deserted mountains and dense forests in extreme weather. Attaining the identity of the super-human Brahmin free of greed and lust leaving his royal lineage became his life’s purpose. Yet he could not resist the human desire for exotic beauty when it exposed herself in form of a divine Apsara. He submitted himself before worldly longings, lost himself in the extravaganza of love and lust forgetting his spiritual purpose. And he could not forgive himself for own fall. He had to reject his love and responsibilities the moment he realized own fault. Desire to attain supreme spiritual power is far more powerful than material desires. Only that desire strips a man from all human emotions, and when a man driven by that desire – no relationship on earth seems worth anything to him. Hunger for supreme power drove him back to the deserted mountain from where he descended. Mortal Sakuntala could not stand in the comparison with immortal power. Does not Sakuntala carry the same leaning towards renunciation of the world?
Her youth started blossoming couple of years ago. Now she is a fully bloomed lotus. Why is the ecstasy of youth still absent in her appearance? She does not take interest in household works though never denies a responsibility assigned to her by mother Gautami. Unperturbed by any provocation, she loves to spend time with her plants and animals. Sometimes birds and our domestic animals seem to be her closer friends than us.
That day she was busy with feeding her flock of deer which took shelter in the hermitage few days back escaping the wrath of the King’s hunters. The ruler of the land paid a visit here. Within a few days we had another guest – the King’s friend named Botu. He came with a bodyguard, spent an entire day with us and had a talk with almost all of the hermitage-dwellers. King’s men do not have so much of free time. We all understood the reason behind their coming here often; yet did not notice any change in Sakuntala’s usual reluctant behavior. I was discussing about her with mother Gautami and Priya yesterday. Mother Gautami contradicted my reasoning behind her reluctance.
“She is not only the daughter of a King who had renounced the world, she is also the daughter of a king who had once ruled a kingdom. She is born to rule.” – Said she.
“But she never tries to dictate. I find her rather submissive.” – I argued.
“No, what you assume to be her submission is actually her assertiveness. She decides for herself.” That is true. I had to agree with the experienced lady.
Her insight lead her explain more – “Do not confuse her obedience with meekness. The most courageous is never vocal. Her low voice expresses politeness, not timidity. Do not be mistaken by the sleepiness of the lioness early in the morning. As the heat of the day rises, she shows her real nature.”
“And she is an elegant lioness glowing with both innocence and charm.” – commented Priya.
“Her charm is given by her mother. Do not forget her mother is the most beautiful and most articulate Apsara in Indra’s paradise who proves her excellence in intriguing people time and again. She is the manifestation of many different qualities inherited from both her parents. She is may seem fragile from outside but firm inside. A mysterious aura covers her radiant beauty like a thin veil of fog covers the flowing river in winter. But under the shimmering sunlight, she will sparkle like thousands of diamonds flowing towards its destiny.” – Mother Gautami seemed predicting her future. I felt a little discomfort remembering that mystifying lion-heart Apsara who left her newborn to die in the forest. I did not find any more word.
Priya said, “She is our full-bloomed lotus in the muddy pond of hermitage. Honey bees arrive only when sweet fragrance emanates from the flowers in bloom. I anticipate the most desirable honey-bee of the kingdom will arrive soon again.”
I found my words, “And the flower seems unaware of the honey-bee’s existence. Shall we not make her aware of that?”
Priya replied with an obscure smile, “We have to. We the hermitage dwellers will send the flower to the honey-bee’s place one day.”
To be cont.