Ram and his younger brother Lakshman had gone out into the forest to collect firewood; she saw them from a distance. Her mouth went dry and she snorted with nervousness; then she recalled how shed become more beautiful than shed imagined, and tried to control these noises she inadvertently made. She thought, looking at Ram, He is not a man; Im sure hes a god, and was filled with longing. When they came nearer her, she lost her shyness, and came out into the clearing.
this? said Ram softly to his brother, pretending not to have seen
Lets have some fun with her, whispered Ram. Hed been bored for days in the forest, and this overbearing, obstreperous creature of ethereal beauty, now approaching them with unusually heavy footsteps, promised entertainment.
Lord she stuttered, Lord Forgive me for intruding so shamelessly, but I saw you wandering alone, and thought you might have lost your way. Ram and Lakshman looked at each other; their faces were grave, but a smile glinted in their eyes. Theyd noticed shed ignored Lakshman altogether. It amused and flattered Ram to be on the receiving end of this attention, even if it came from a rakshasi whod changed shape; and it also repelled him vaguely. He experienced, for the first time, the dubious and uncomfortable pleasure of being the object of pursuit. This didnt bother him unduly, though; he was, like all members of the male sex, slightly vain. Lakshman cleared his throat and said: Who are you, maiden? Do you come from these parts?
far from here, said the beautiful woman, while the covering on her
bosom slipped a little without her noticing it. Lord, she
said, going up to Ram and touching his arm, lets go a little
way from here. Theres a place not far away where you can get some
rest. Within the beautiful body, the rakshasis heart beat
fiercely, but with trepidation.
said: Whatever pleases you, Lord, but thought: Ive
won him over; I cant believe it. My prayers are answered.
to Lakshman and said: This creatures beginning to tire me.
what? said Lakshman. He was sharpening the blade of his knife. Ram
admired the back of his hand and said moodily: I dont know.
Something shell remember for days. Teach her a lesson for being
got up wearily with the knife still in one hand, and Ram said under his
breath: Dont kill her, though.
later, a howl was heard. Lakshman came back; there was some blood on the
blade. I cut her nose off, he said. It, he gestured
toward the knife, went through her nostril as if it were silk. She
immediately changed back from being a paradigm of beauty into the horrible
creature she really is. Shes not worth describing, he said
as he wiped his blade, and Ram chuckled without smiling. She was
in some pain. She flapped her arms and screamed in pain and ran off into
the forest like an agitated beast.
Crying and screaming, Surpanakha circled around the shrubs and trees, dripping blood. The blood was mingled with the snot that came from her weeping, and she wiped these away without thinking from her disfigured face. Even when the pain had subsided a little, the bewilderment remained, that the one shed worshipped should be so without compassion, so unlike what he looked like. It was from here, in this state, that she went looking for Ravan.
|A prominent Indian writer and scholar, Amit Chaudhuris recent honours include the LA Times Book Award for 2000. He writes in English and lives in Calcutta|