There was only darkness now. In this all pervading gloom, Kaikeyi longed for a ray of light for just a moment. But that longing vanished as soon as it was born. She did not deserve the light.
She did not know how long she’d been here. A village at the edge of Ayodhya’s borders. Her sole relief was that none in that village knew her identity.
When was it she left the city of Ayodhya and the palace? How many years might have passed since then? Kaikeyi was unable to recall. Time was meaningless for her. And in truth, hadn’t her life ended that day? That cursed day which would never fade from her memory?
Even while she claimed aloud that she was blinded by the love for her son, Kaikeyi knew she was deceiving herself. The mother she lost. The mother who did not exist even in her memories. From the day she learnt that her father had abandoned her mother, she had started hating men. Never did she seek to know why her father did that. But she hated him for making her motherless.
The hatred and contempt just grew in her heart. It spilled over to all the men in her life. She had felt nothing but contempt for her husband who loved her above all his wives. She had never felt victorious, but contemptuous as King Dasaratha neglected his other two wives for her. He was lost in her beauty.
She had also felt fear. What if someone more beautiful came into the King’s life? He’d already neglected two wives for her. He might neglect her for another too! All the wiles she used to keep him attracted to her, all the little tricks were not born out of spite for her co-wives, but her own insecurity. She never sought to establish her ascendancy over them, but only to keep her own position secure.
Kaikeyi was amused by the jealousy and anger of the other two queens. She was also surprised at how obtuse they were- how was it they could not see the frailty of their husband? How was it they never realized that none of them were beloved of the King?
Why had she been so stubborn? It wasn’t out of her love for her son. It was true that she had forgotten the King’s promise to her father at the time of their marriage. The son born to her would be made King. This he had promised. And she was angry that the King chose to completely forget that promise. By the time she realized that she had been prompted neither by her love of Bharata, nor by any envy for Rama, it was already too late.
She sighed deeply as she thought of that day again. The day when her son had walked away from her after calling her a mariticide. She had never seen him after that. In the days that followed, she had wondered if she was being punished for what her forgotten mother suffered. In spite of knowing her whereabouts, Kaikeyi had never once attempted to see her. In spite of the anger she harboured for her father, she had never tried to ease her mother’s suffering.
The day she left the palace for good, the thought of ending her life was foremost in her mind. When did she get the realization that her true punishment was life, not death? She could not remember. Countless number of days had passed since then.
Kaikeyi was ready to welcome death as an old friend now. But the one she longed to see before that was Rama, not Bharata. Rama whom she had once loved more than her own son; Rama who had once loved her more than his own mother. If that Rama did not forgive her, she knew her death would be even more futile than her life.
As she lay on the bare earth, Kaikeyi’s dreams were full of her mother’s face.


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