(Dasharatha and Rama are together. Both are happy. Enter Kaikeyi.)
KAIKEYI: Rama, my darling, I have something important to discuss with your father. Will you leave us for a moment? I shall call you back when our discussion is over.
RAMA: Certainly, Mother, certainly.
(Exit Rama. Kaikeyi’s expression immediately changes to one of bitter distress.)
DASHARATHA: Kaikeyi, why is it that you are so distressed all of a sudden? Please tell me what is wrong with you. Are you feeling unwell? All the physicians of the world are at my disposal. Has anybody done anything wrong to you? If so, I assure you that he will be put to death. I have never seen you unhappy. Your sorrow is piercing the very depths of my soul.
KAIKEYI: My King, it is easy for you to talk about your love for me, but I know you are not sincere. You try to please me daily with empty flattery and falsehoods. But do you have even an iota of love for me? No, it is all deception.
DASHARATHA (shocked): Kaikeyi! I can’t believe my ears! Is this really you? Tell me when I have ever deceived you.
KAIKEYI: You have never deceived me?
DASHARATHA: Never! Never have I deceived you and never will I deceive you. You are my favourite Queen. I am all love, all sacrifice for you.
KAIKEYI: Then prove it.
DASHARATHA: I am at your disposal.
KAIKEYI: Send Rama into exile in the forest for fourteen years and make my son Bharata the crown prince tomorrow.
DASHARATHA (collapses, stunned): Ohhh. Kaikeyi, to hear this from you! Tomorrow was to have been the happiest day of my life, and today you are giving me such a cruel blow. In one blow you have taken away all my joy, all my happiness, the very life from my heart.
KAIKEYI: I have only made a legitimate claim. Don’t forget that you made a promise to me once. You granted me two boons. When you were practically dying, I nursed you back to health. You were so pleased with me that you granted me two boons, and I told you that when the time came I would ask for them. Now the time has come. Keep your promise if you are a man of truth. If not, the world will soon have a different opinion of you.
DASHARATHA: Kaikeyi, I am more dead than alive. You ruined my kingdom, you have killed me. I shall keep my promise, but do me at least one favour.
KAIKEYI: What do you want me to do?
DASHARATHA: Very simple. On my behalf you tell Rama that he has to go into the forest. On my behalf you tell your son Bharata that he will be the crown prince tomorrow. That’s easy enough. (He faints.)
KAIKEYI (calls aloud): Rama! Rama!
RAMA: Mother, is anything wrong with you?
KAIKEYI: Nothing is wrong, Rama. This very day you have to retire into the forest for fourteen years of exile. My son Bharata will be the King, and not you. Your father has promised.
(Seeing that his father is lying unconscious, Rama runs out and returns with Lakshmana, Kausalya, Sumitra and Sita.)
RAMA (to Kaikeyi): Mother, I shall obey your command. You want me to go into the forest for fourteen years. You want my dearest brother, Bharata, to be the ruler. I am fully prepared to keep my father’s promise to you. I am glad it is I who will have the opportunity to prove to the world that my father knows how to keep his promise.
(Lakshmana, Kausalya, Sumitra and Sita burst into tears.)
LAKSHMANA: Impossible! Brother, you cannot go into the forest! You cannot leave us!
SITA: My Lord, you cannot go! The world wants /you,/ and not Bharata.
KAUSALYA: Rama, my darling son, don’t go!
RAMA: I know, Mother, that you will miss me. I shall also miss you, I shall miss my wife Sita and I shall miss my brother Lakshmana. I shall also miss my brother Bharata and my brother Shatrughna. I shall miss all my family. But Mother, my suffering and your suffering have no meaning in my life. Only the fulfilment of my father’s promise has real value for me. The world must know that my father Dasharatha has kept his promise. There is nothing so great as to keep one’s promise. I want the world to be proud of my father’s promise, my father’s sacrifice. Mother, Sita, Lakshmana, Mother Kaikeyi, Mother Sumitra — I am leaving. It is only a matter of fourteen fleeting years. Then I shall be back with you again. Now my joy is in fulfilling my father’s promise. Fourteen years from now my joy will be in living with my dear ones.
SITA: Lord, you cannot go without me.
LAKSHMANA: Rama, you cannot go without me.
RAMA: Sita, do you want to go with me into the forest? You will suffer much. How can I bear your suffering? A woman like you, who has been brought up with such care, love, affection and adoration, and all the comforts of wealth, cannot live in the forest. You must not think of going with me,
SITA: My Lord, without you my life has no meaning. To live with you in hell would give me greater joy than to live without you in Heaven. To be with you is to be in the highest plane of Delight. Wherever you are, I must be with you. I cannot remain without you. To be at your feet is my constant and eternal goal.
LAKSHMANA: Brother, to live without you is to live in ignorance, bondage and hell. I am not such a fool. This brother of yours will be your eternally devoted and dedicated slave. You are fulfilling Father’s promise. Now you must also fulfil my wish and Sita’s wish.
KAUSALYA: Rama, my son, take them with you. I shall remain here to look after your father. I love you more than I love my own life, but your aged father now needs my care. I do not know whether he will recover from this shock or not. But for the remaining days, the remaining hours, I want to serve him.
RAMA: Mother, you are doing absolutely the right thing. Father needs your care. He needs you badly. After fourteen years we three will come back. Mother Kaikeyi, please tell Bharata that I give him all my love, all my joy and all my blessings. Let him rule the kingdom in his own way. I am sure he will rule well. And Mother Kaikeyi, my only request to you, my last request to you, is that you will treat my mother Kausalya well.
SUMITRA: Rama, my son, you are the embodiment of truth, light and forgiveness. My heart breaks into pieces to see you and my Lakshmana leaving. But my other son, Shatrughna, is with Bharata now at his maternal uncle’s home. Shatrughna will remain here. He is fond of Bharata, he is all for Bharata as Lakshmana is all for you. I shall stay here and look after your mother. I am also a Queen, but from today she will be my dearest sister. In every way I shall try to make her happy. That is my promise. That is my promise to you, my son Rama.
KAIKEYI: Rama, I know that from today the world will hate me. I will be an object of contempt.
RAMA: No, Mother, the world will not hate you. But even if the world hates you I will love you. You have given me the opportunity to keep my father’s promise, and my mother Kausalya has given me the capacity to keep his promise. Her sacrificing heart-power has given me the capacity to keep my father’s promise. Your demanding vital-power has given me the opportunity to fulfil my father’s promise. I am equally grateful to you both.