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The Second Year in Ayodhya

The private garden of Rama and Sita, the king and queen of Ayodhya, was awash with the scent of spring blossoms. The purple hued passion-flower, with its hairy, tendril-like petals hung heavily from creepers, casting a fragrance worthy of its name; the white petals of the night jasmine, flowering in thick bunches, cracked open slowly, as if rising from slumber, teasing with a sample of the heavy fragrance that would sally forth as night approached.  The evening sun cast soft, angular golden beams.

Sita, her head on Rama’s lap, lay on a swing that rocked back and forth, the squeak-squeak of the hinges punctuated by the chwoo-chwoo-gutur-gutur of bird calls.  A branch rustled aside, touching a beam of sunshine to her face.  Rama’s hand dashed to shield her from the harshness of the soft evening sun, but stopped.  Her translucent skin glowed golden at the touch of mellow sunlight. Unable to decide whether to shield her face or stare at it, he stroked her forehead gently.  Sita took his hand and kissed his fingers.  The touch of his rough fingers, callused by years of drawing the bowstring, on her soft lips sent a shiver of thrill down her spine.  Rama’s fingers stayed still.

“Is something bothering you?” she asked, gazing into his eyes.

“The cares of running a kingdom,” Rama sighed.

Sita twined her fingers around his, “do you long for the forest life?”

Rama nodded,  “it’s been more than a year.  But…”

Sita squeezed his hand, “the second anniversary is more important than the first.”

Rama looked at her, startled.

Sita continued, “the first year is heady, intoxicating, with the excitement of a new adventure.  But if we pull through the monotony of the second year, without taking each other for granted, our love will grow, unabated.”

Rama smiled, but a thin line of worry creased his brow. “Besides,” Sita said, placing his hand gently on her bulging belly, “a forest is no place for our son to grow up in.”

The worry on Rama’s forehead disappeared and he smiled, “or daughter,” he said.

“Or both,” Sita said and moved his hand to her chest. The unspoken assurance of his hand on her heart was comforting and her eyelids fluttered shut.

Rama gazed at her face a long time, his hand feeling the slow, steady rhythm of her heart.  He tucked a stray curl behind her ear and stroked her cheek. Sita smiled in her sleep.

The shadow around Rama’s eyes vanished.


Late that night, Rama sat in the little private council hall with his three brothers. Bhadra, the chief of spies, stood facing Rama.

“Speak freely,” Rama commanded. The steely determination in that command startled his brothers.

Bhadra spoke haltingly, “my Lord, it is as you suspected.  The vile gossip about the queen is not restricted to the dhobi ghat; the words are on the lips of half the men in the city.”

“And?” Rama prodded.

“F…forgive me, Lord,” Bhadra stammered joining his palms. “There is talk that you are lustful like your father, the late King Dasharatha, that just like him, your queen has you wrapped around her little finger, blinding you to her faults.”

Rama dismissed Bhadra.

Bharata looked stricken, “I must have done something wrong during my stewardship for the citizens to blaspheme thus…”

Shatrughna, quick to temper, cut in. “Anyone who casts aspersions on the queen’s character should have his tongue sliced off!” His right hand drew the dagger at his waist.

Rama’s face turned grim, and his jaw tightened. Lakshmana knew that look. It was the look that had pushed Sita into the fire, after the war in Lanka.  He grabbed Rama’s feet. “She has already walked through fire… please… I implore you… do not listen to wagging tongues…”

Rama’s face was set in granite. He pushed Lakshmana away and stood up.

Lakshmana grabbed Rama’s hand.  “Please brother… if you want… if you want… send Sita to a forest hermitage for a few days… but… but not what you are thinking…” Tears streamed down his face.

Rama freed his hand. “My decision is made,” he said and strode away.


The next morning, Rama summoned his brothers to the audience hall. Bharata, Lakshmana, Shatrughna, their sleepless eyes red, walked in with trepidation.  The hall was packed with commoners, lords, and merchants. The brothers approached the dais and their hearts sank.

Rama was seated on the throne and next to him was a golden idol of Sita! Murmurs of approval rose from the crowd. Lakshmana sank to the ground and sobbed.

Rama raised his hand and the hubbub died. “Everyone deserves a second chance,” he said.  “Even you!” he thundered, pointing at the assembled citizenry. “Look within you. Who do you see?”

Bards would later sing that every man looked within himself and saw a Ravana – cowardly, covetous, adulterous, sinful. Not a single man saw within himself a Rama – courageous, forgiving, faithful, righteous.

That day, every man hung his head in shame.  Silence hung heavy. A man dressed in common rags walked to the front of the crowd. A dhobi.

He joined his palms in front of Rama. “Forgive us, lord, we have erred. Like petulant children we raved and ranted. But instead of giving in to our foolish complaints, like a kind parent you showed us the error of our ways. Please…” he begged with tears in his eyes, “do not punish the queen for our wrongs. Please bring us our queen back.”

A servant from the inner quarters whispered into Rama’s ears. Rama smiled and stood up.  The queen is in safe in her quarters. She has just delivered twins, a boy, and a girl. We have named them Lava and Khushi… love and joy.”

A look of jubilation took over the dhobi’s face. “May you rule us like a father for a thousand years! May everyone get a second chance!”

“And a second anniversary,” Rama muttered under his breath.

Shouts of “Jai Ramachandra! Jai Sita Devi!” reverberated across the hall.


This Post Has 21 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Oh my, this is such a lovely take on the epic. I always had a bone to pick with the part of epic where Rama sends Sita away. You have aptly captured the anguish and given the story a fitting end. Lovely narration. Poised and smooth. If I have to nitpick, I wish there was more to the end. Or may be its me, wanting to read more.
    My rating : 8/10

  2. Avatar
    Amrita Sarkar

    I liked this retelling of such a controversial episode from Ramayana. Was Rama right in sending his queen away or was he being just by doing so? The question still bewilders me. Some of the paras, for instance, the opening one was breathtaking with the description of the flowers. However, though visually powerful, these lines came across as a little repetitive to me, “The purple hued passion-flower, with its hairy, tendril-like petals hung heavily from creepers, casting a fragrance worthy of its name; the white petals of the night jasmine, flowering in thick bunches, cracked open slowly, as if rising from slumber, teasing with a sample of the heavy fragrance that would sally forth as night approached.”
    I think that the first line itself highlights the fragrance. The second line about the night jasmine, though beautiful, sounds a little repetitive. The end of the story bewildered me. Was Rama happy or sad or both? Thank you for sharing.

    1. Avatar
      Amrita Sarkar

      Sorry, I didn’t leave a rating. 6.5/10

  3. Avatar
    Sudha Viswanath

    How I wished Lord Rama could have acted prudently like the Rama in the story.
    Lovely mythological take with touches of modern life here and there, for instance hinges in the swing
    I am not very sure but please verify with some veteran writers whether or not a word should start with a capital letter after an opening inverted comma. In more than a couple of places in the story you have used small letters after an inverted comma.
    Nice take on the prompt 7.5/10

  4. Avatar

    Aha! Alternative mythology!
    Loved your take. Please take care of some punctuation errors.
    My rating – 8/10

  5. Avatar
    Moonmoon Chowdhury

    A lovely take on a very difficult prompt. Enjoyed the twist in the tale
    My rating 8/10

  6. Avatar
    Chakravorty Urmi

    A very interesting and optimistic retelling of a slice of mythology that has always indignated me. The narrative style, evocative vocabulary, and the twist at the end were all commendable. The somewhat new-age expressions and gestures of Sita made me smile.

    Noticed a few minor punctuation lapses.

    I was a bit undecided about the way it ended. The expression “muttered under his breath” left me in doubt – was Rama genuinely happy and adequately convinced or was he simply trying to justify the mantle of righteousness that the citizens bestowed on him…?

    My rating – 8 on 10.

  7. Avatar

    A very interesting perspective showing us what could have been! I particularly liked the characterization of Rama and Lakshmana. So much is conveyed about them in such few words. The final twist is totally unexpected and such a masterstroke. Loved the way it ends – full of love and happiness 🙂
    My rating 9/10

  8. Avatar

    I liked the modern take on this incident of Ramayan… and the way second anniversary theme is woven into it is commendable. The detailed descriptions are also beautiful.
    My rating 8/10

  9. Avatar
    Dakshata Kudanekar

    You’ve certainly given a much needed deviation to the original mythology. Yet, somehow how Sita’s gold idol did the change of heart for the crowd, it remains unexplainable. Overall, a great plot. My rating . 7/10

  10. Avatar
    Lakshmi Menon

    I loved this take.

    I wonder if Ram abandoned Sita. It could very well be possible that Sita walked away because of the humiliation. We don’t know… We believe what was written and handed down to us by a patriarchal society. Maybe they couldn’t accept that a queen abandoned her husband because of his insecurity.

    I enjoyed reading this version.

    My rating 9/10.

  11. Avatar

    An epic with a controversial episode and a powerful retelling. I loved the happy ending, just wished it were true.
    The language and the narration were fabulous. I loved Sita’s interpretation of why the second anniversary is more important than the first.
    My only feedback is since it is an alternative retelling , would have appreciated if Ram had taken a stronger stance rather than asking his subjects to introspect (but this is my wishful thinking )
    This was indeed a unique interpretation of prompt. 8/10

  12. Avatar
    Vaijayanti Panchal

    Wow! I loved this take on the Ramayana. It is impressive how the author has described the bond between Ram and Sita. How Sita explains the importance of the second anniversary is also commendable. And kudos to the idea of giving everyone a second chance. My rating is 8/10

  13. Avatar
    Ramya Srinivasan

    Loved this modern take on Rama sending Sita to the forest. It’s an incident that bothers most of us I guess. I also love how the author has cleverly used formal language to bring that mythological feel. The dialogues are brilliant, really feels like someone from another era is speaking. I also like how the story takes its own sweet time at the beginning with beautiful descriptions. And, a great explanation of the significance of the second anniversary.
    The only issue I had is…I couldn’t quite understand how the people were convinced with the idol. The transformation wasn’t too clear. I think the word limit was a challenge here.
    My rating: 8/10

  14. Avatar
    Ratna Prabha

    A highly desirable take on an unpleasant episode. Loved the writing.

  15. Avatar

    It was an interesting interpretation of the theme – second anniversary. I think mythology is a difficult genre to write, but the author has done well with an accurate narrative and characterization. The ending has always been a point of discussion. I would have loved a more elaborative ending to bring more impact. Especially when the change from the traditional ending. My rating is 8/10.

  16. Avatar

    This is a lovely retake on a story that is familiar to all of us. The tightwalk between fact and fiction is one that makes mythology a difficult genre to write in, but it is flawlessly approached in this story.
    I would have liked to hear more of Sita’s voice though. Rating 9/10

  17. Avatar

    A debatable episode rewritten, cleverly. I enjoyed your take a lot. The descriptions are well done and the modern outlook quite bracing. However the ending seems a bit rushed. Maybe more worda were needed to show how the people were convinced about Sita.

    Also how was the name Lava and Khushi tranlated to love and joy? Does the meaning of the name Lava is love? I genuinely want to know this.

  18. Avatar

    Mythology retold differently. Wish you were true. Brilliant take on the prompt. A fresh one thay stood out.
    My rating 9

  19. Avatar

    *wish it were true.

  20. Avatar
    Ashvani Sachdev

    Everybody likes a happy ending. So when you read an oft repeated tale with its sordid ending turned into a happy one, it is a gratifying experience. Suspended disbelief would work to wipe the actual story from the reader’s mind, albeit temporarily. Great descriptions and I was able to visualise the scenes described by the author quite lucidly. Delight to read. 9/10

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