If you want to understand how to become better allies to people with disabilities, then join us at Embracing All Abilities: Including People with Disabilities at Work.

And Then Janaki Decided, That She Would Accept The Proverbial Trial By Fire No More!

Janki lay on the cold dark floor protectively clutching her abdomen and staring at the blurring night lamp, as her tears refused to stay contained. What could she do to prove her innocence?

The chariot set in motion with Lakshman cracking his whip, and I turned around to look at the monarchal palace I had painstakingly restored to its former glory. Why did the sense of foreboding fail to loosen its hold on my heart? I missed meeting my beloved Ram for he was long gone when I woke up; some statesmanship trouble at the borders. But I knew it was all a façade. He had been sullen for the past few days. Was everything alright? I had never seen him like that before….

I was on my way to revered Rishi Valmiki’s Ashram. Fourteen years of exile amidst the enchanting flora and fauna made me miss the forest’s spellbinding freedom. Despite having worldly opulence and the love and respect of my family and the people of Ayodhya and beyond, I felt a perennial lacuna in my heart. I yearned for my elixir…

**

Janki touched up her makeup for the umpteenth time. The swollen eyelids failed to get camouflaged. Even now last night’s events sprung up those tears she had thought had dried up after her crying bout throughout the night.

Vishnu hadn’t been himself for the past month or so and last night when she had innocently enquired, he had been upset. What followed was the largest argument over an agonizing hour. Married for five years they had their differences but this was the first time they had fought to the extent of Vishnu leaving for work in a huff that morning as if he couldn’t wait to get away from their house… from her. What was wrong? She wished she could tell. Was there someone else in his life?

Janki shuddered at the very thought. She was unable to focus on work today. Just then her closest friend and colleague Vijaya walked into their swanky corporate restroom.

“Penny for your thoughts, Janu…” One look at Janki’s tear-streamed face and Vijaya’s frolicky demeanor changed. “…Oh goodness… what’s it Janu? What’s wrong?”

“I… I don’t know Viji, but I think my marriage is breaking.” She surrendered to the emotional onslaught, adding to the piled-up tissue papers on the basin stand.

Never miss real stories from India's women.

Register Now

“Janu, stop crying dear, and tell me everything in detail.” Vijaya tried to calm her down.

Janki related the events of the past month including the showdown last night.

“I feel so empty right now, Viji. Totally spent and my heart is empty.” Janki cried.

**

The chariot wiggled along the forest’s gravelly thresholds. I was enamored by the lush greenery as my old avian pals sang their welcome, the bushes showed off their flowers like their prized ornaments. The wilderness canoodled me and a gentle calmness seeped its way into my torn soul.

However, the sense of untowardness returned with a vengeance. Did I disregard the premonitions?

Did I fail to comprehend Hanuman’s fathomless deep eyes as he bid adieu? Or when Sage Vashishtha frowned on the coronation day regardless of blessing Ram amidst the cacophonic roar of applause?

Was it the vision of Lord Shiva with his matted locks, beautiful blue throat, and arm raised in benediction, telling me to keep Him in my mind in the darkest hour?

** 

“I missed the signs, Viji” Janki suddenly lamented.

“What signs?”

“I missed the appalling stench of beer on his breath, almost every night when he returned late from work in the past month, or the redolence of a woman’s perfume brand a couple of times. I missed the way he avoided eye contact when I mentioned my promotion a couple of weeks ago. There was a time he would have taken me out for dinner to celebrate. He didn’t even congratulate me. I missed that he didn’t praise me for my hairstyles or dressing sense anymore… I missed that he forgot our wedding anniversary yesterday…Wait… Viji, is it because we don’t have children?”

“Oh come on Janu, it was your mutual decision, wasn’t it? As for the others, you have been so busy working your ass off after that office trip last month…”

“…THAT’S IT…” Janki cried out. “… It’s that trip to Kuala Lumpur. Vishnu changed after that”

“But why?” Vijaya appeared confused.

“It was my first international trip and I was alone with Raj sir. My pictures with after-hours parties were all over Sir’s social media. Do you think… Vishnu saw all that and misunderstood?”

“Give me a break dear. Vishnu knows your job profile. He didn’t have a problem when your job funded his MBA or provided the down payment for your house and paid the EMIs or funded his mother’s cancer treatment for years…”

“I have to clear this mess, Viji. I am losing sleep over this…”

**

As we neared the Yamuna river close to the hermitage, I wanted to freshen. I smiled, watching a group of ashram boys bathing the buffaloes. The petrichor redolence held me in its grip. My womb somersaulted as the twins decided to play right then. My heart soared, watching those boys glittering engulfed in the gigantic water sprays as they drenched the buffaloes. My anxious mind began to get back into its rhythm.

I turned to Lakshman to proceed on our sojourn, but to my horror, he wept.

“What… what is it, Lakshman?” I asked, my auspice bearing heavily on my heart.

“I am sorry, sister-in-law; I am helpless… I am following  Ram’s directive.”

“I don’t understand….”

“I am to leave you in this viridescent locale… forever. Ram has banished you from Ayodhya….and…”

I didn’t hear the rest. My pregnant heart broke into a zillion pieces. I thought my trial had ended once I gave myself to the holy fire. What did I do wrong?

I had been tormented by the Mayavi Surpanaka and yet no one believed me, not even Ram.  

My subdued sense of outrage overcame my astuteness, and a strident wail escaped my now parched lips….

**

Determined Janki waited that evening for Vishnu to return home, revising several scenarios and dialogues. She had to share a pertinent detail with him. The home test kit with the two pink lines lay hidden in her bag’s cheat pocket for the past week,

That would still wait. Tonight she had the sole aim to clear the misunderstanding she assumed Vishnu had. Vishnu walked in past midnight and reeked of booze. With bloodshot eyes, he glared at her.

“Vishnu, why do you drink so much? What is troubling you? We can discuss it…”

“…Shhhut up…” He tilted towards a side and she rushed to support him but he held up his hands. “…Ssstop the act… I knowww… whaaat you dddo in that Of…office of yours… Yyyou waaaant to enjoy with him? Then gggoo ahead…Sssstay out offff my lllife” He slurred hurtfully.

“Vishnu, it’s all a misunderstanding. I was only accompanying Raj Sir. It was a business meet and my other foreign colleagues were present too…”

“Ggget lost… I know whaaat conspires in these parties… so… how waaas the ex..experience in the sack…?”

“VISHNU…” she screamed. She was panting as anxiety and anger competed in surging ahead within her breaking heart. “…Vishnu, did I ever suspect you when you didn’t return home at times from the office due to work or went out on official tours with your female colleagues.”

“Ssstop bitch… stop compaaa… comparing your treachery with me… ddddon’t blame it aaall on me.”

“Vishnu… but… please…Ok listen… I am pregnant” Tears streamed down uncontrollably as she crumpled in a heap before him. this wasn’t how she had planned to reveal it to him.

Vishnu looked stunned for a moment.

“Whoooose is that bastard? Nottt mine…noooo? I… don’t wwwant to ssstay married anymore…Leave tthis hhouse as ssssoon as possible!” Vishnu declared stumbling away towards the bedroom.

Janki lay on the cold dark floor protectively clutching her abdomen and staring at the blurring night lamp, as her tears refused to stay contained. What could she do to prove her innocence?

***

I rushed barefoot, frenziedly through the coppice, the heartache more excruciating than the pricking thorns. I was served a punishment with no chance to defend myself. My husband was a Maryadapurushottam and he had to lead by example.

Prejudice reigned for I was a woman…

I brushed my tears as I left Lakshman and the royal life in its entirety. I would have it no more….

** 

Janki stood before the Goddess hands folded. It was the first day of Navratri and the idol looked stunning with the floral ornaments and the sequined saree adorning it. The beautiful kohl-laden eyes spoke to her, infusing energy into her numbed soul. The world around her stopped momentarily.

As the hymns resonated around her, she wanted to be the woman who awakened courage within her… she was Durga. It was time she awakened the Shiva within her and become Shakti

She wouldn’t subject herself to the proverbial trial by fire. Instead, she would transform herself into an embodiment of Goddess Kali.

Yet another agonizing fortnight of the cold treatment and snares from Vishnu followed. She received no respite from her inlaws or even her parents who in turn questioned her chastity. She had enough and made her decision. She served Vishnu divorce papers.

“I can’t get back the lost time, Vishnu. But this child is mine and mine alone. I will take what belongs to me. Including this house. So, it’s you who will take your sorry ass out within the next 24 hours…” She declared as she stood in an erect stance her eyes glazing with reinvigorated confidence.

Vishnu could only stare at her in disbelief.

Finally, she was no longer living in an illusionary citadel.

Image source: Unsplash

Liked this post?

Register at Women's Web to get our weekly mailer and never miss out on our events, contests & best reads - you can also start sharing your own ideas and experiences with thousands of other women here!

Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views. Individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times. If you have a complementary or differing point of view, sign up and start sharing your views too!

Comments

About the Author

Priya Gole

A pediatric speech-language pathologist by profession and a writer by passion! read more...

4 Posts | 1,331 Views

Stay updated with our Weekly Newsletter or Daily Summary - or both!

Women Leaders in Communications Discuss The Responsible 5G Revolution We Need

""
All Categories