Queen Of Hearts

“From ashes, we come, and to ashes, we go

Through the fire, we must all bore.

For, within its dancing flame, it holds,

the mysteries of the universe galore.”

***

Sita and Ram look out of the window. It has been a year since they returned to Ayodhya after vanquishing Ravana. People appear happy and content since their return. But something stirs within Ram.

“Is the worst over, my queen?” he asks. His voice mirrors the anxiety of his disturbed mind.

“What troubles you, my lord?” she asks, her outstretched fingers wrap around Ram’s arms.

 “I worry about my people’s future. Will they lead a prosperous life for years to come?”

Sita smiles at his question, and her eyes twinkle.

“I know exactly how we can get answers to that.”

She pulls Ram and points at the burning wood. The yellow flames flicker and dance off the remains of the wood.

“Tomorrow, we shall ask sage Vasishta to invoke the lord of fire and open the passage to the future. I will travel through the swirling lights and get answers for you.”

“I can’t let you go through it, my lady! The pain will pulverize your body. It will peel your skin off. I cannot see you go through that. I need you right here beside me to rule with honor.”

“Don’t worry, my King. I am the daughter of the earth, and fire burns deep within me. These flames are not hot enough to smolder me like I am some piece of timber. Rest assured, my lord, this is for the greater good.”

***

Sita steps into the raging fire. The hot ribbons of light swirl around her and envelope her in. For a brief second, she feels the scorching heat around her; then, the welcoming warmth blankets her. A moment later, time shifts and the smoke disappears. Sita stands amidst the ashes, on an earth that is entirely oblivious to her presence. 

There are bigger things at play now.

 A woman is being dragged by her hair through the halls of a prosperous kingdom. Men stand tongue-tied and frozen. Her screams reverberate through the palace, but not a soul stir.

Songs of Ramayan resound far away as Kings compare their misery to Ram-Sita’s life.

The fire engulfs her again, and the time shifts.

A woman looks out the window, tear stricken as she renounces everything. Her husband just left her alone in search of enlightenment. Does enlightenment seek the grief of devoted women? Her painful thoughts pulsate through Sita’s blood, and an impression of her sister Urmila conjures in the back of her head.

And then the time shifts again.

Dark ages reign as men fight men in apocalyptic battles for power. Screams of women and children shroud the place in a canopy of gloom.

A new melody of Ramayana float through—songs of Ram and Ravana—stories of only men and their battles while Sita lays forgotten just like all the women of this era who walk silently, their face hidden away from the world.

And then the time shifts again.

A widowed wife stands in the center of utter chaos. More wars and battles greet Sita’s watery eyes. Mothers kill their unborn daughters in their womb in the name of Gods, and the whole city is plagued with sufferings and drought.

The streets of Ayodhya that once thronged with life witnesses fights over religion. Somber hues of Ramayana echo silently, almost like a dying breath.

And then the time shifts again.

The horrors of a woman’s cry break the stillness of the place even before Sita steps out of the fire. Sita trembles at the thought of the pain that could bring out a scream as horrific as that. 

She notices a flickering silhouette of a woman staring at the river. The woman is looking away from the mutilated body that lies next to her. The agony of her pain shocks Sita as she realizes it is the woman’s soul staring at the horizon. Life was long forced out of that woman, and the passing soul’s trauma crushes Sita from deep within. 

Ramayana has become a myth now. They have caged it within the walls of patriarchy and misogyny.

Sita steps back into the fire. Before time can shift again, she whispers.

“Oh, Lord… I have seen enough. Take me back.” The world around her collapses into a rubble of shadow, violence, and torture. She drops to her knees, and tears gush out of her eyes like a waterfall.

And that’s when she realizes… everything that would ever be spoken about this mythical land would be a lie! History would be rewritten with the blood of the vanquished…glorifying villains at the cost of true heroes. Villains would continue to distort facts every century, to make people believe in things they want them to believe. Facts will become fiction, and fiction will turn into myths, and the true legacy of Sita-Ram would get lost forever.

***

“When our reign is over, let me go back into the realms of mother Earth, my lord.” Sita breathes.
Sorrow within her had grown profound with each passing year. Since her return, she has not been the same again. 

“The future of the world torments both of us. But renouncing everything – What good will that do, my lady?” Ram asks in a melancholy tone.

“A seed sown into the soil has all the possibilities of growth. I want to give that possibility to every creation and nurture them like a mother. I will protect the world in whatever ways I can. I will be the ground that swallows their pain, my lord.”

Ram wipes a tear from his eye as he gleams at Sita’s words of wisdom and plans of sacrifice. He always knew that she was the true guardian.

“And this too, the world will never know?” Ram asks solemnly.

“We don’t reign to build legacies, my King… We reign to protect our people.”

**This story won first prize in the HBB Prompt based contest.

Published by suduhita

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta. Yes! I love travelling and I love penning down my experience as I travel. I am more like a passionate traveler…who travels at leisure! Ever since I was little...I loved the adventure that came with travelling. There was something enigmatic about discovering something alluring! The excitement of travelling kicked in me the spontaneity to pen down my experiences. Travel for me doesn't always mean a destination...Most of the times I love to notice the intricate things about the city I live in and explore its beauty in my own ways. But now I realized what's the point of accumulating my experiences if I can't share it with the world?!! So here are my escapades propped with loads of photographs to help you plan your next travel!!

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