Why should I be responsible?

Dramatis personæ

NARADA (A SAGE)

RATNAKAR (A ROBBER AND MURDERER)

FATHER OF RATNAKAR

MOTHER OF RATNAKAR

WIFE OF RATNAKAR

SON OF RATNAKAR

Scene 1

(A forest. The sage Narada is walking through, singing the praises of Lord Vishnu. The notorious robber and murderer, Ratnakar, suddenly attacks him.)

NARADA: Ratnakar, what are you doing? Don’t you see that I am singing to the Lord Vishnu? I am invoking him. I am chanting his name.

RATNAKAR: Vishnu? Who is Vishnu? There is only one person on earth and that is I, Ratnakar. I have killed hundreds of people, and I have cut off one thumb from each person. When I have one thousand thumbs, I shall make a garland of them and wear it around my neck. Nobody can save you from me.

NARADA: No? Don’t you know that I have spiritual power, occult power? I can easily free myself from you. So don’t threaten me.

RATNAKAR: Ha! Spiritual power, occult power! I shall kill you right now! (He is about to stab Narada with his dagger.)

NARADA: Wait a minute! What do you want? Do you want money?

RATNAKAR: Yes.

NARADA: How much do you want?

RATNAKAR: Whatever you have.

NARADA: I can give you whatever I have, and again, with my occult power I can give you double what I have. Look, I have a hundred-rupee coin. Can you see?

RATNAKAR: Yes.

NARADA: Now search me. Search all my garments. There is no money.

(Ratnakar searches him thoroughly.)

NARADA: Now just close your eyes.

(Ratnakar closes his eyes. From nowhere Narada takes another hundred rupees.)

NARADA: Look, Ratnakar, what I can give you.

RATNAKAR (amazed): Where did this money come from? I searched you thoroughly.

NARADA: Ratnakar, Ratnakar, no matter what amount you want I will be able to give it to you, and I will give you. But before that I want to ask you something.

RATNAKAR: What?

NARADA: You know that what you are doing is absolutely wrong. You are acting like an animal, killing people and taking away their money. Now don’t you think that you will be held responsible for all this in your life after death? Don’t you know that you will be condemned to hell and punished severely? Why do you do this kind of thing? You alone, you and nobody else, will suffer for all these horrible deeds.

RATNAKAR: What do you mean, I alone? I do it because I still have a sense of responsibility. I have two old parents; I have a wife, a beautiful wife, and a beautiful son, I have to think of all of them. I am responsible for my parents, for they are invalids. I am responsible for my wife, who is helpless without me. And my son is only a little boy, so I have to think of him. It is for all of them that I do it.

NARADA: And do you think that they will also take responsibility for you when you get punishment in your after-life? When you die, you will be the one to be punished for this karma in the other world, Ratnakar.

RATNAKAR: If I am punished I am sure they will share my karma with me, since I am doing all this for them. I have no other way to make money. This is the only way I can support my family.

NARADA: All right, this may be the only way, but I tell you, these people will never take responsibility for you.

RATNAKAR: Why not? They should! It is only fair, if I am doing it for them. Today, if anything happens to me, my parents will perish. My wife and son will probably die, too. I am sure they will all be willing to share my punishment in the after-life since it is I who am maintaining them in this life.

NARADA: All right, Ratnakar. Let us see. You feel that your parents, your wife and your son will take responsibility for your undivine actions because you are feeding them, you are clothing them, you are taking care of them by doing all this. Go home and ask them. If they agree, then I shall give you any amount of money you want, and double the amount. I tell you, Ratnakar, they have a claim on your earnings but have nothing to do with your sins. This hard fact will give you a rude shock and then you will take to holy living. I want you to go home and see. I will wait here.

RATNAKAR: You are a holy man. You won’t break your promise?

NARADA: I won’t break my promise. I am doing this out of my compassion for you. I can easily leave this place with my occult force — as easily as I brought the money I showed you. Right now I can use my occult power and chase you away from here with my light.

RATNAKAR: Oh yes? Show me, show me!

(Narada opens his third eye, and immediately Ratnakar starts trembling.)

RATNAKAR: Stop, stop! The volcanic fire from your third eye is burning me to ashes. I am going. I am going to see my family and I will bring you the news. They will take responsibility for me.

NARADA: Go and see.

Scene 2

(Ratnakar’s home.)

RATNAKAR (to his parents): Mother, Father, I have been working hard for you.

FATHER: Yes, my son, you are working very hard and we are pleased with you.

RATNAKAR: They say that killing people is bad, robbing is bad. I have been killing, robbing, doing many, many things, only to support you and the rest of my family. Now, O Father, O Mother, tell me. I am your dearest son. Will you not take responsibility for my actions when I die, when I am punished by the law of karma in the other world?

BOTH PARENTS: Son, why should we accept the responsibility? When you were a young boy we brought you up, we fed you. We looked after you and we did not ask you to take responsibility for our actions. At that time it was our duty. Now you are grown up, mature, and now it is your duty to feed us, to take responsibility for us.

(Ratnakar is taken aback. He goes to his wife.)

RATNAKAR: Now, darling, will you not accept responsibility for me? You say that I am dearer to you than your life. I have done so many wrong things. Every day I harass people, I torture people, I kill people and take their money. What for? Only to feed you and to feed my family. I am sure you will take some of the responsibilities in my next life, in the other world, when I am punished. I am sure you will also share the burden.

WIFE: Me? Why should I be held responsible? I am your wife, but it is your responsibility. Did you ever hear of a wife going out to make money for her husband? It is the duty of the husband to make money and feed the wife. Are you a fool? I thought you had some sense. People will laugh at you if you ever say that I have to take the responsibility for supporting myself. It is your duty to support me. So why should I be held responsible when it is your duty?

(Sadly Ratnakar goes to his son.)

RATNAKAR: My child, will you not take responsibility for what I am doing? I am torturing people, strangling people and killing people. What for? Only to support you, your mother and my parents.

SON: Father, I am only a child. I do not know how to work. I am unable to support myself. You take care of me. For that I am grateful. But how can I be responsible for what you are doing? I am not doing a thing; I am helpless. When I grow up I will be responsible for you — to feed you and support you. I will take care of my grandparents and my mother. But now, Father, I cannot be responsible for you. It is you who have to take responsibility.

RATNAKAR (giving a smart slap to his son): You ungrateful creature! (He kicks his wife.) You ungrateful creature! (He strikes his parents.) You ungrateful parents! I have nothing on earth to hold on to.

Scene 3

(In the forest again. Ratnakar has returned to Narada.)

NARADA: So, you have come here to take your money? Take as much as you want. Why are you so sad? Tell me, what is the news? What is your news?

RATNAKAR: My news is that I have given up my family. I will not be responsible for them since they do not feel responsible for me. They are a bunch of ungrateful creatures: my son, my wife, my parents. I do not want them. I do not need them. Right here, tell me what I should do. I will listen to you.

NARADA: My only advice to you is this: repeat only one name — Rama, Rama, Rama. He will forgive you. He will give you salvation. And it is you who will immortalise him on earth. He will take human incarnation and you will write his biography. Long, long before he is born, before he comes into this earthly existence, you will write his biography. You will tell about his immortal life, his life of dedication, his life of glory, his life of fulfilment. All this you will write down in his biography, From now on repeat his name: Rama, Rama, Rama. Just repeat it and let me hear.

RATNAKAR: Mara, Mara, Mara.

NARADA: Can’t you say his name?

RATNAKAR: I can’t.

NARADA: Rama, Rama. See what you have done? You cannot repeat his sacred name because you have done thousands of terrible things. Thousands of times you have acted like an animal. You are so impure, you are so mercilessly caught by the hostile forces that you have become like a real asura. Now you cannot even repeat Rama’s name. You can only say Mara, which is “Rama” said the other way around. All right, then, say Mara. Repeat Mara and in a few years’ time you will be able to say Rama properly. Rama is the heart. Even if you cannot properly pronounce his name, he won’t mind. With a soulful heart if you pray every day, repeating the name Mara, Rama will come to your rescue. He will forgive you, he will liberate you. It is to you that he will give the glory of immortalising him here on earth. You will write his biography, you will reveal him and manifest him. You will be the harbinger of his coming. When he comes down into the world and operates on the physical plane, you will see that the biography which you have written about him will immortalise you. He has chosen you to immortalise him, Ratnakar. And the day you start writing his biography, Lord Rama will enter into you and change your name. When you start writing his biography your new name will be Valmiki the Sage. Valmiki will be your real name. “When the power of love replaces the love of power, man will have a new name: God.” With your love of power you wanted to destroy the world, but with your power of love you will liberate the world. You will be a messenger of truth, a messenger of fulfilment.

(Narada blesses Ratnakar and departs.)

Dasharatha promises and Rama executes

Dramatis personæ

MANTHARA (MAIDSERVANT OF QUEEN KAIKEYI)

QUEEN KAIKEYI, QUEEN KAUSALYA, QUEEN SUMITRA (WIVES OF KING DASHARATHA)

RAMA (SON OF KAUSALYA AND DASHARATHA)

KING DASHARATHA (KING OF AYODHYA)

LAKSHMANA (FIRST SON OF SUMITRA AND DASHARATHA)

SITA (WIFE OF RAMA)

BHARATA (SON OF KAIKEYI AND DASHARATHA)

SHATRUGHNA (SECOND SON OF SUMITRA AND DASHARATHA)

VASHISHTHA (A SAGE)

OFFICERS IN BHARATA’S ARMY

Scene 1

(Queen Kaikeyi and her maidservant Manthara.)

MANTHARA: O Queen, do you know? Do you know what will happen tomorrow?

KAIKEYI: No, I do not know. Please tell me.

MANTHARA: Tomorrow Rama is going to be the yubaraj. He is going to become the crown prince.

KAIKEYI: Oh! How delighted I am to hear that! You are the first person to give me that happy news. Take this necklace from me. (She hands the necklace to her maidservant.)

MANTHARA (throws away the necklace): O Queen I never thought that you were such a fool. I thought that God had given you some real wisdom. Don’t you realise that when Rama becomes the ruler he will be all devotion to his own mother, Kausalya, and not to you? You will have no place here then. Your own son Bharata, will be like a servant. Now he and Rama are like two friends, two brothers. But the day Rama becomes King, Bharata will be nowhere.

KAIKEYI: No, don’t say such things. My Bharata and Kausalya’s Rama are inseparable brothers. I am so happy that my Rama, who loves me more than he loves his own mother, who serves me more than he serves his own mother, is going to be the ruler of this vast kingdom. O Manthara, the news that you have given me has made my life extremely happy. You don’t know how much joy I am getting now. My Rama, my own Rama will become the King.

MANTHARA: O Queen, just wait and see. Kausalya’s life of joy and victory will begin tomorrow. Your life of frustration and destruction will begin tomorrow.

KAIKEYI: Manthara, stop! Enough of your evil tongue. I am the Queen. I know what is best for me, best for my life. King Dasharatha has three Queens: Kausalya, Sumitra and I. But you know Dasharatha loves me most. He would not do anything which would eventually make me sad.

MANTHARA: Yes, I know he loves you most. But when Rama becomes the crown prince, instead of your son, your suffering will know no bounds. This is not my curse; it is just a bare fact. Rama will banish your son from the kingdom and he will treat you as you are treating me, your maidservant. Today you are the Queen, the most beloved Queen of Dasharatha; tomorrow you will become a maidservant like me in the service of Rama.

KAIKEYI: My love for my Rama is boundless. He is the embodiment of Truth and Light. In him I see the message of Divine Perfection. To be his maidservant is to be the great instrument of God. I am prepared to be his maidservant or whatever he wants me to be when he becomes the ruler of Ayodhya.

MANTHARA: O Queen, still there is time. Don’t act like a fool. You are still the most beloved wife of Dasharatha. Have you forgotten that he once promised you that he would fulfil your desires, no matter what they were? When he was ill, you served him, you nursed him and you cured him. Because of your dedicated service he offered you two divine boons. You told him that when the time came you would ask him. Now the time has come. Do you remember how many times you have been unkind to Kausalya? When she becomes the mother of King Rama, don’t you think she will pay you back?

KAIKEYI: That is true. I scolded her and insulted her many times, just because I knew I was the favourite wife of King Dasharatha. But Kausalya’s heart is big. She is full of love and compassion. When her son becomes King she will not pay me back in my own coin. She will forgive me. As a matter of fact, she has already forgiven me.

MANTHARA: Wait, just wait. It is only a matter of a few hours until tomorrow, and then your sorrow begins, your suffering begins. The night of excruciating pangs begins for you, O Queen!

KAIKEYI: I am fully prepared. Whatever is going to happen will happen for my own good. My Rama will not do anything wrong to me. Kausalya will never do anything to humiliate me. Both of them are great in heart and soul.

MANTHARA: You must know that it is not for my sake that I am asking you to ask the King for the boons. My only interest in life is your joy. My life on earth is only to please you, only to make you happy. Now here is my humble suggestion. Go to the King and ask him for your two boons. Then, when he agrees to give them, ask first that Rama be exiled for fourteen years. And for the second boon, ask that your son, Bharata, be made the crown prince.

KAIKEYI (shocked): I? I should ask Dasharatha for these boons?

MANTHARA: Yes, Rama has to go into the forest for fourteen years and your son Bharata has to be installed on the throne. Only then will you be happy, I tell you.

KAIKEYI: Shame, shame, unutterable shame on you, Manthara! Your advice is poison, nothing else! Leave this place immediately, before I kick you out!

MANTHARA (leaving): O Queen, tomorrow you will see!

(Exit Manthara. Kaikeyi sits down and rests her chin on her hands. She is thinking.)

KAIKEYI (to herself): Perhaps she is right...

Scene 2

(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!

(Enter 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.

Scene 3

(Kaikeyi, Bharata and Shatrughna. Bharata is weeping bitterly.)

BHARATA: Shatrughna, brother, go and bring that filthy animal Manthara. Bring that hunchbacked creature here. I shall set it all right. Bring her here.

(Shatrughna goes out and returns dragging Manthara. Bharata violently and ferociously grabs her by the ear, pulls her hair and gives her a violent kick.)

BHARATA: You, you are the culprit! You are the one who inspired my mother, who instigated my mother to send Rama into exile for fourteen years. My dearest Rama, the light of my heart!

(Manthara falls to the ground unconscious.)

BHARATA (turning to Kaikeyi, nearly in tears): Mother, are you a human being? Have I to call you Mother? You have acted like an animal. Do you think that you have made me happy? I shall treat you ruthlessly. Every day I will make your life miserable! (Pauses.) No, no. You are forgiven. Rama’s heart of forgiveness, his heart of compassion has forgiven you. He will be sorry if I treat you this way. But I tell you, I am Rama’s brother Bharata, and not your son! My mother is Kausalya, and not you, you ingrate, you impostor! I am leaving for the forest. I will bring my brother back. It is he who will rule the kingdom. I am not only his brother, I am his devoted slave. I will not come back unless and until I have brought the brother of my heart and soul, Rama, back to Ayodhya, to his kingdom.

(Exit Bharata.)

Scene 4

(Lakshmana, Sita and Rama in the forest of Chitrakut. Rama has started his spiritual life.)

LAKSHMANA: Look! Look, Rama! Brother Bharata’s army! Bharata is invading us. Perhaps he thinks that when you go back after fourteen years you may create trouble for him. He wants to prevent any future trouble. Look at that ungrateful creature! Like mother, like son. It is his mother, Kaikeyi, who has sent you here to this life of hardship and humiliation. Now her son is coming to destroy you with his army. What else can you expect from your Bharata? After all, he is the son of Kaikeyi.

RAMA: Lakshmana, my brother, don’t be so rash. How do you know that he is coming to kill me? He may be coming to take me back to the kingdom.

LAKSHMANA (laughing): Brother, you are not only the embodiment of truth but also the embodiment of innocence. If he wanted to take you back he would come alone. Why has he to bring his huge army? O Brother, sometimes your innocence amazes me.

(Enter Bharata followed by officers. He prostrates himself before Rama and weeps bitterly.)

BHARATA: Brother, I am here at your feet. This army is yours. Come back! The kingdom awaits your arrival. I have not accepted my mother’s foul offering to me. I have not fulfilled her foul wish. We have lost our father. Your physical absence has sent him into the other world.

(Lakshmana, Sita and Rama burst into tears.)

LAKSHMANA: Father is no more?

BHARATA: No more. He is in the world beyond. My mother Kaikeyi has ruined us all. Only your presence, Brother Rama, can bring happiness back to my life, and to our kingdom.

RAMA: Brother Bharata, it is you who have to rule the kingdom. That was Father’s wish.

BHARATA: No, never! It was the wish of my cruel, brutal mother, Kaikeyi. I won’t listen to you, Brother. You must come back with me. I will be your perfect slave. You are the legitimate ruler of Ayodhya, not I. Lord, come back with me, or let me stay with you here to serve you. I shall also lead an ascetic life.

RAMA: Beloved Brother Bharata, I have embraced asceticism to obey my father and my mother Kaikeyi.

BHARATA: Kaikeyi is inhuman! She is not your mother. She is God’s worst mistake; she is man’s worst curse. Never will I call her Mother. She has ruined our family. She has done something terribly wrong to you. I do not approve of our father’s action.

RAMA: Who are you to approve or disapprove of our father? It is my bounden duty to obey him.

BHARATA: If it is your bounden duty to listen to our father, then it is my bounden duty to serve you here. I am not going back. I will not go back to the kingdom. (Speaking to officers and to everyone present.) My brother Rama shows no pity for me; he gives no consideration to my prayer. I shall lie down and fast unto death.

RAMA: Brother Bharata, this is not the way you should behave. You are a King, and you must face the world. You have to face the present situation with your manliness. It is I who am asking you to go back and rule the kingdom. If you wish to serve me, then you can serve me best in this way. The ocean may dry up, the sun may lose all its brilliance, but I will not be false to my father’s divine promise. I shall remain in exile for fourteen years.

BHARATA: Nor can I be false to my promise. I am going to stay with you.

RAMA: Then you are disobeying me, your elder brother.

BHARATA: I am not disobeying you. I cannot live without you, that’s all. You are my Lord; you are my God. I can’t live without my Lord and God.

(Enter Vashistha.)

VASHISTHA: With my occult vision I have come to know what is happening here. O Rama, O Bharata, I can solve your problem.

RAMA AND BHARATA: Please, please, O Sage Vashistha, solve our problem.

VASHISTHA: Bharata, do not sit on Rama’s throne. But go and be his agent. You rule on his behalf.

BHARATA: O Sage, that will not satisfy me. If he will allow me to keep his wooden sandals to represent him on the throne, then I shall go back. But I shall not go back to Ayodhya. No, I shall live in the village of Nandini which is on the outskirts of Ayodhya. From there I shall carry out Rama’s orders. Brother Rama, every day I shall place your sandals on my head and on my heart before I speak to anyone. It is your sandals that will represent you on the throne and give me my authority. You are the King. I am your deputy. I shall look after your kingdom as your deputy. If you should fail to return to Ayodhya on the first day of the fifteenth year, the appointed day, you will not see your brother Bharata alive. I shall consign this body to flames, while uttering your sacred name.

RAMA (embraces his brother): Brother, I assure you of my return. I shall keep my promise. I make one last request to you. Do not torture our mother Kaikeyi. Ignorance has covered her life. Let us both forgive her. Through our forgiveness her inner illumination will take place.

(Rama gives Bharata the wooden sandals from his feet.)

BHARATA (places the pair of wooden sandals on his heart): This is the symbol of my loyalty to you, Rama, my brother, my father, my All. (Embraces Lakshmana and touches the feet of Sita.) Mother Sita, I shall do everything for you and for my brothers Rama and Lakshmana. As an anxious mother waits for her son’s arrival after a long journey, as a dying man cries for a new life, I shall wait for your arrival and cry for your return.

The golden deer

Dramatis personæ

RAMA

SITA (WIFE OF RAMA)

LAKSHMANA (HALF-BROTHER OF RAMA)

MARICHA (THE DEER)

RAVANA (KING OF THE DEMONS)

Scene 1

(Rama, Sita and Lakshmana are in the forest early in the morning. Sita is plucking flowers.)

RAMA: Sita, they say that flowers are beautiful, but I wish to say that you are infinitely more beautiful than any flower. The beauty of all the flowers put together is no match for your beauty.

SITA: Do you really think so, Rama? It is so kind of you to say it.

RAMA: They say that flowers have fragrance, but I wish to say that the fragrance of all the flowers put together cannot equal the fragrance of your heart.

SITA: O Lord, you are seeing me with your eye of unconditional appreciation, and not with the eye of a critic.

RAMA: My life should be at least a life of appreciation for you. Your life is a life of constant sacrifice for me. But my sincerity speaks, Sita. You are infinitely more beautiful, infinitely more fragrant than all the flowers of the world put together.

SITA: If I have a heart of gratitude, then that heart is for you, only for you, my Lord. Oh, look! Look at that beautiful deer! I have never seen such a beautiful deer! Never! It is so strikingly beautiful!

RAMA: Yes, it is extremely beautiful.

SITA: Look how charming it is, nibbling the grass. How soulfully it gambols and frisks. Look! It is multicoloured, and it has lustrous spots. I need this deer, Rama. I want it to be my deer.

RAMA: Is there anything that I will not do to please you, my Sita? I shall bring you the deer.

LAKSHMANA: Brother, don’t go. That is the demon Maricha playing a trick. He can assume any form, and he has taken the form of this animal. He is deceiving us. That is not a real deer.

SITA: I don’t believe you, Lakshmana. That is a real deer. I can see its beauty. I can feel the innocence of the animal. Rama, my Lord, chase it and catch it alive. If you can do that I will be so grateful to you.

RAMA: Lakshmana, I am off. Look after Sita.

(Rama chases the deer.)

Scene 2

(Another part of the forest. Enter the deer, followed by Rama, panting.)

RAMA: Ah! One moment the deer is near, and the next moment it is quite far. This moment I am about to catch it, and the next moment it is beyond my reach. This is indeed a mysterious animal. I have been running after it for a long time. Now I am tired, exhausted. Sita wanted me to bring back this deer alive if possible. But I find it is not possible to catch it. Well, I shall shoot the deer with my bow, but I shall not kill it. I shall wound it and then take it home to Sita. She will nurse and cure the animal.

(Rama aims his unfailing arrow at the deer. The deer falls down.)

DEER (in Rama’s voice): Ah Sita, Ah Lakshmana! Ahhh Sita, Ahhh Lakshmana.

Scene 3

(Sita and Lakshmana, still at the same spot in the forest.)

SITA: Listen, Lakshmana! Your brother is in danger! He is crying, “Ah Sita, Ah Lakshmana.” He needs you! Go to him!

LAKSHMANA: Mother Sita, I cannot obey. My brother asked me to look after you. If I leave you alone here he will be extremely displeased with me. I assure you, my brother can never be in danger. There is nobody who can defeat him in fighting. He is all-powerful. I am sure that Maricha is playing a trick on us.

SITA (angrily): Lakshmana, you have come into the forest, and you are making everybody feel that you are my husband’s greatest friend, his dearest brother. But you are a rogue, a rogue. Rama is in terrible danger, I feel it. And you don’t want to leave me. Why? You have some immoral interest in me. If your brother dies, you are hoping to have me, you brute!

(Lakshmana covers his ears with his hands.)

LAKSHMANA: O Mother, be calm, please. Do not speak such awful words. Nobody in the world is like Rama. His life is quite safe. The voice that we have heard can never be the voice of my brother. It is a trick of that demon Maricha. Rama has posted me to look after you here. How can I disobey him?

SITA: Yes, Maricha is imitating Rama’s voice and you are imitating Rama’s character, his heart of wisdom and illumination. You rogue! You impostor! You fool! You have all darkness, all filth, all ignorance in your mind and in your heart! Leave me alone! You can’t obey me even when your brother is dying? I know, I know what your secret intention is. I tell you, your dark dream will never be fulfilled. Go! You have your wife, Urmila. Why did she not come with us? Then she could have been with her husband. Why are you bothering me? Who has asked you to come here? Before I let you touch me, I shall throw myself into the River Godavari.

LAKSHMANA: Mother, I shall have to disobey my brother, then, in order to obey you. I am disobeying my brother to please you. Please be alert. I am marking a ring for you. Please do not go outside the boundary of this ring. This ring is the ring of protection.

SITA: Protection? I do not need your protection. You go and protect your brother. He needs your protection. He is dying, and here you are wasting time, delaying, so when you go there you will see that he is no more. Well, no harm. If he is gone I shall join him in the other world. This life of mine is not to be with you. You brute, you unthinkable creature, deceiving the whole world by pretending to be devoted, faithful, unconditionally surrendered to your brother!

(Lakshmana, shedding tears, draws a ring.)

LAKSHMANA: Mother, I go.

(Exit Lakshmana.)

Scene 4

(Lakshmana is walking through another part of the forest in search of his brother.)

LAKSHMANA: O God, you know my heart. I adore Sita as my own mother. I have never even seen her face. I always keep my eyes on her feet, on the dust of her feet. Such adoration I have for her, such devotion! And she insults me. Is this my fate? The world is full of misunderstanding. Are all women of this type? No, it cannot be. My Urmila was shedding bitter tears when I left the palace with my brother. She wanted me to remain with her, but I came here to please my brother and myself. But who is pleasing her? O Urmila, the world will not know of your inner suffering, your divine sacrifice. But my heart of love will know. My heart of gratitude will know what you are doing in silence, through your tears, with your magnanimous heart. Eternally your Lakshmana will be grateful to you and proud of you. My outer life is not near you but my inner life is with you and for you.