Kaikeyi

As a child, every time Grandma told us a story from Ramayana, Kaikeyi was unfailingly described as the bad woman. The description was so strongly stamped in my mind that years later, when I revisited the stories from the epic to tell my son, I would often find myself using the same words for another mother.

It was only recently, while sifting through mythology, that I began to wonder how the women who glisten in black are always the ones who have exercised their will, expressed their thoughts, sought to satisfy their desires, and in the process crossed the lines etched in stone by men. And by erring on the wrong side of these boundaries, they are reviled in perpetuity.

Kaikeyi is a character who often pops up in my mind, when I think of how we expect daughters, wives, mothers to be. She was given away in marriage in a faraway land by her father. She saved her husband’s life on battlefield. She was devoted to the welfare of her offspring. Is her entire life of being a meek and dutiful woman negated by one act of asking her husband to live up to his promises? I would rate her as naïve for taking the promise of his promises at face value. But I don’t see that as a reason to vilify her. No one is perfect. And she was just human.

Kaikeyi

Stoic
I stand here
As I have done
For centuries
Despite the abuses
You have hurled at me
I shall never accept
The tags of
The flawed woman
Or the vile mother
Although I am the
Scorned Queen.

Unyielding
And unrepentant
I have no excuses
To offer
Nor any forgiveness
I seek
What was my fault
Except to believe
Naïvely
That two boons were
Mine for the asking
Any time that I liked.

Judge
Me if you must
Like so many others
Before you have
And more to come
Shall too
But tell me
In all your honesty
How would you
Have labelled me
Were I a man
Making a calculated move?

Being woman
Now that is a price
I must pay forever
And more
The unbearable burden
Of expectations
Of virtue
Of untold sacrifices
And toeing the line
Mutely
Be it drawn by father, husband
Or son.

Handed
Out in lieu of
Protection
For my father’s kingdom
As second wife
To my husband
Although second
I was to none
The tragedy of
Being woman complete
When I was forsaken
By my own son.

Jyotsna Atre
April 19, 2021

This post is a part of the Blogchatter A2Z challenge