Vultures descended on the kingdom. People had started dying of hunger and thirst. There was no water anywhere. Aridity stared at us from what were rivers and lakes until a few months back. The nudity of the rivers and lakes encroached upon our consciousness like bloodsucking vampires. It sucked life out of us.
“Anga needs a saviour,” King Romapada lamented. My mother listened to him sympathetically. “We need a beautiful young maiden to go the forest and…,” he paused a while as if to clear his throat, “… and seduce Rishisringa.”
Rishisringa was a young ascetic living in the forest with his father Vibhandak Rishi. He was himself an offspring of seduction. None other than god Indra had sent Urvasi, the enchanting celestial dancer, to tempt Vibhandak away from his ascetic vow of chastity. The gods were jealous of the spiritual powers Vibhandak was accruing from his chastity and austerity.
The gods are strange creatures. They have everything they need and yet they are not contented. They vie with the lesser creatures on the earth.
Vibhandak’s chastity swayed as Urvasi’s statuesque curves undulated to the thumping melody of the cosmos. In the due course of time Urvasi dutifully gave birth to Rishisringa and with an equal sense of dutifulness returned to her heavenly abode to entertain the gods there with the undulation of her curves, leaving her son behind with the father. Vibhandak brought up his son without the remotest possibility of meeting any seductress. He made a protective ring around his island with his spiritual powers. Wild animals would pounce upon anyone who dared to enter the island. Even the boulders on the mountains were ordered to hurl themselves on intruders.
Rishisringa grew up without ever knowing any female of his species.
Without the possibility of knowing love. Love had no place on the sage’s island. Rishisringa was to grow up as the most austere ascetic who would challengethe gods. The rishis are no less strange than the gods.
“The royal priest says that only Rishisringa can bring the rains to Anga,” King Romapada said to my mother in a very unroyal whisper. My mother was used to Romapada’s hushed whispers. She was one of the many concubines to whom the King had spoken in whispers in the darkness of the royal chambers as the bed creaked under the weight of their mating bodies. I was the King’s daughter, one of the many he had in the kingdom. "Vaishali has a unique charm," I heard the King my father tell my mother. "She's just the right person."
“You are making a prostitute out of me,” I protested when my mother asked me to go to Vibhandak’s island and seduce his ascetic son. She was teaching me the art of seduction.
“It’s a golden opportunity for you, girl,” my mother chided me affectionately. “When the heavens open and the showers descend on Anga, just imagine what the King will do out of joy. Rishisringa may be the next king. Or at least a part of Anga will be given to him. And you will be his queen.”
“Rishisringa’s chastity may be the actual cause of this drought,” I said. The people of Anga had diverse opinions about the cause of the drought. Most people thought that the King was responsible for it. When a king becomes immoral, the heavens punish the country with drought. When I heard about Rishisringa and his father, I thought they were the cause of the drought because they lived such a sterile life. Their sterility must have spread to the land.
“You are going to put an end to that sterility,” my mother said. I accepted the challenge. I dreamt of being a queen. Vaishali the Queen!
It wasn’t easy to reach Rishisringa. We had to dodge the rocks that fell from the mountains as we entered his island. We had to hide ourselves from the wild animals.
Rishisringa first thought that I was an animal, a new one. He looked at me with curiosity. I smiled coquettishly. He touched me. The touch became a caress. I could feel sterility being washed away.
I led him towards the boat which was waiting. He walked with me like a bewitched man. When he fondled my breasts I could see rain clouds gathering in the distant horizon.
As soon as Rishisringa put his foot on Anga’s soil, the heavens roared. The lightning was followed by a cloudburst. The people of Anga danced in the rain. I too stood in the rain for a long time while certain ceremonies were going on in the palace under the guidance of the royal priest.
Then came the news which shattered my heart.
The King had arranged Rishisringa’s marriage with princess Shanta.
I am a prostitute, nothing more. The King, my father, used me just like he used my mother earlier. I am a mere tool in the hands of the King. A mere tool. An object. The rain continued to pour down. So nobody saw my tears.