FEATURED WRITER : Vaaruni by Naga Lakshmi Bhagavatula
“Subhasya Seeghram” uttered Ravana to Lakshmana who was sitting in padmasana (lotus position) at his feet on the battle ground. Ravana was nearing his death with the “Rama Banam” (arrow) sent into his heart. Lakshmana was soaking in the knowledge from the great scholar Ravana on the advice of Rama. Just before Ravana took his last breath, his eyes were smiling with devout and paused one final time looking at Rama sitting under the tree 5 feet away, with Hanuman and the Vanara Sena. Rama walked towards Ravana, closed his eye lids and said “Good bye my friend”. The Vanarasena then declared it as the end of the Ravana rule.
Hanuman who was standing at the tree, was not so happy with Rama calling Ravana his friend. Nevertheless he wanted to rush to Sita in the Ashoka Vanam to deliver the news himself. He finally wished to see Sita in her eyes to witness the tears of joy of getting free from Ravana’s captivity and also her tears of happiness to see her Rama again after many years. Until then he vowed not to ever see Sita in her eye.
He picked up the blood fed Gada that was leaning to the tree and flew towards Lanka. When he reached Ashoka Vanam he heard a powerful melodious voice coming from under one of the countless mango trees in the garden. He recognized the voice but was unsure as he never heard Vedas in that voice. Sita was teaching Vedas to the children of the Rakshasis (demons) and Sakhis (helper) who Ravana appointed to guard Sita. As Hanuman was leaping from one tree to the other, the children started making noise and Sita noticed him. When Hanuman delivered the news to Sita, she immediately stood up and said “I need to meet Mandodari. Right away” and requested Payanakshi, a middle aged helper guard to show her the way to the queen’s place. Sita never visited the palace before though she met Mandodari. Hanuman was surprised by Sita’s reaction to the news but said nothing further. He stayed back at Ashoka Vanam as per Sita’s orders.
When Sita started walking towards Mandodari’s palace, she felt something behind her and it was not Payanakshi. It neither looked like her walking shadow. More importantly it was winters nearing Deepavali where there wasn’t enough sun to see a shadow. The walking shadow felt like a stream of water flowing downhill. Sita thought it may be a magical reflection of a walking cloud and was a prank like the golden deer. As Sita walked further, the shadow more seemed like a stolid woman clad in a blue saree. She walked like a swelling wave of an ocean. In a few minutes, she was almost walking next to Sita and in no time stepped ahead of Sita.
“Stop. Who are you?” asked Sita.
The shadow woman stopped and started walking towards Sita like a wave leaving the land and introduced herself as “Vaaruni”, niece of Varuna (God of Rain) and a God-daughter of Ganga, the personification of water in the purest form of a river. Vaaruni’s earthy brown wavy was tied up in a bun and her skin was as clear as water. As she walked near, Sita could sense the chilly smell of a sea in the middle of a forest. Sita noticed that there wasn’t a smile on the chapped pink lips of Vaaruni.
“Vaaruni.. But how did you come here? Why are you following me?” asked Sita.
“Sitamma… My God-mother, Ganga sent me to be with you.”
“How did Mother Ganga know, I was here?”
“I will tell you. While the world thinks of Ganga living in the water bodies on the earth, she also lives in every human as their tear drop. The woman in my Gangamma empathizes with the tear drop when it speaks the language of the heart. When Ravana abducted you from the forest, your tear dropped on the ground and your mother Bhoodevi understood you are in need of help. She immediately requested my Godmother Mahaveli Ganga who flows through Lanka to help you. The power of sisterhood came into play. And I am here fulfilling Gangamma’s orders giving you solace and emotional strength with every tear you dropped during your captivity”
“That is very kind of Mother Ganga and you.” Said Sita in a grateful but a disinterested voice.
“You don’t seem to like meeting me. May I know why?” asked Vaaruni.
“Please don’t get me wrong, Vaaruni. But I am tired of shedding tears in all the years I spent here in Ashoka Vanam. I wondered if I deserved to go through all this pain and if so is the end worth it. I hate tears now if any are left in me. It is only making me weak”
Before Vaaruni responded, Payanakshi couldn’t control her words and blabbered “isn’t your Rama the winner today which makes the end worth”. “No Payanakshi, this end is not worth the thousands of lives lost today and it was either me or Mandodari that would have become a widow today”. Payanakshi had no other words.
Meanwhile, Vaaruni pulled her long saree pallu of the sea blue saree together and walked close enough to Sita that she could see the big green bindi on Vaaruni’s forehead. It looked like the lush greens living the life in water.
“Sitamma”, what you have gone through has no justification but all I can tell you is that tears are the most powerful form of water and are underrated. I am afraid mankind will continue to do so. Especially woman’s tears may be perceived as her weakness but they don’t reflect her strength either. Tears are the heart’s way to cope up with what is happening around and self soothe. For we have other heavy lifting to do” explained Vaaruni.
Sita looked convinced and asked “Why are you coming with me now, Vaaruni? I am liberated and don’t see any other reason to shed tears though I don’t feel all that great”
“For the same reason you are going to Mandodari”, Vaaruni said immediately.
“Despite her husband rendering you captive, the woman in you wanted to comfort Mandodari during this painful time for her. I want to be with her as she grieves for her lost husband who she loved wholeheartedly. I can only imagine her tears streaming down her face. I want to be with her and solace her. To me every teardrop is equal. After all I am water and I fit into anything and I take the shape of anything you fit me into.”
Sita and Vaaruni along with Payanakshi continued to walk towards Mandodari’s palace as if they were the water needed to extinguish the fire in Mandodari’s heart.
About the Writer :
This piece was written as Lakshmi's final assignment for a six-week Creative Fiction writing workshop.