Save the tears for me
It was the darkest of the days that brought Radha and her Kanha together.
The brightest of the nobles had congregated at Kurukshetra, among them Krishna. Having slain his Kans mama, he came as the Prince of the Yadavas, accompanied by his birth parents, Vasudev and Devaki. They were there, with the other royals, to take a dip in the holy tank of Syamantapanchaka during a total solar eclipse. The saints believed that this holy bath would cleanse their souls.
Somewhere in the melee were also some cowherds from Vrindavan. Spotting their Kanha, they ran to him and chattering happily informed him that his foster parents, Nand and Yashodha, were at Kurukshetra too.
Devaki was instantly excited, “We have to meet them. I want to thank Yashodha Maa again for taking such good care of my Kanha.”
Vasudev agreed with his wife, “Yes, run along, take us to them. I want to thank Nand-ji too for bringing our boy up with all the right values.”
Krishna silently smiled his approval too and together they wove their way through the crowds. With each step, his heartbeat escalated. He had not been back in Vrindavan since the day he left, to battle Kans in Mathura. Once he had claimed his royal lineage, he had moved the kingdom to Dwarka and got caught up in all the work that comes with ruling a kingdom. But no matter how busy he got his thoughts were always with her. No matter how many wives he took as his own, his heart remained with her.
“Radha’s here too,” one of the cowherds whispered in his ear, as if reading his thoughts.
Krishna nodded gravely, “I know she is, I can sense her presence.”
An instant later, she was standing before him, her eyes demurely lowered, her ghunghat decorously covering her head.
And there was nothing left to say.
Radha had said everything the day he had left Vrindavan to fulfill his destiny. She had known then itself that life would change for him once he was king. There was never any doubt in her mind that he would kill Kans and succeed him. But she wasn’t ready to be his queen.
“I need you,” he had implored that day, looking deep into her eyes, hoping she would read the love and desperation pooling in them.
She had, but his feelings couldn’t make her change her mind.
“No Kanha, you don’t need me,” she told him firmly, drawing from the wisdom of the ten years advantage she had over him. “You will need courtiers experienced in politics, warfare and kingdom building to guide you., not a girl from the hinterlands.”
The wind had rustled the leaves of the trees as if in protest. And he had flashed that heart-melting smile she had never been able to resist, “This girl from the hinterlands is mine.”
Radha had smiled back, her eyes sad, as she watch the water ripple, taking him away from her. “Yes, she will always be yours. But Kanha, you won’t be only mine there. You will need to marry wisely, take on many wives for many reasons, and you will keep them happy. But I would be unhappy sharing you with them,” she whispered.
She paused for a moment, to swallow the lump in her throat, then, had soldiered on, breaking his heart, “Here even the gopis only got your reflections and you were always mine. There, I may end up with one of your mirror images and I would be lost forever.”
He didn’t understand her or at least had pretended not to. “So, you would rather lose me than come with me?” he had asked belligerently.
She had taken his hand in hers, gently, and said quietly, her voice so soft he had lean towards her to catch the words, “In Vrindavan we will always be Radha-Krishna. No matter who else gets to share our lives, we will always be entwined in everyone’s memory here.”
As if reiterating her faith, the moon had suddenly peeked out of the clouds and silvered the surroundings. On another night, the beauty of the moment might have made him pick up his flute and play a tune just for her. But that night he was too upset to wowed by the romance. Gripped her hand, hard, he had almost roared in agony, “So, you will stay here and forget me?”
She had reached out with her free hand and tenderly wiped away the tears streaming down his cheeks unchecked, “Can I ever forget you, my Kanha? I will see you every moment here in Vrindavan, prancing with the cattle on the hills of Govardhan, playing your flute by the Yamuna, dancing with the gopis and me in Madhuban, stealing Yashodha Ma’s butter and hearing Nand Baba call out to you in his sleep.”
Her words had only made him cry more and soon her tears were flowing too. The moon, finding them unresponsive to its magic, had sullenly retreated behind the clouds. He had pulled the darkness around him like a shroud.
She had broken the silence, her voice choked. “How can both of us leave your parents here alone and go away? They will be devastated… Destroyed. Let me stay here with them, with the Kanha I know. The cowherd with a peacock feather for a crown and a basuri in his hand whom I have loved all my life and always will…”
Her words brought no comfort. He had turned away from her and asked petulantly, “And where do I find my Radha?”
“Share your smiles and your riches with the others, but your tears are mine alone. You will find your Radha in them,” she had replied.
There was nothing left to be said after this. He had left her there, sobbing, and returned home. Neither of them had slept that night.
Early the next morning, he had climbed into the bullock cart after taking his parents’ leave, resolutely not looking in her direction even though he knew she stood at the back. He had hoped Radha would call out to him, tell him to stop and stay. But she had simply stood there silently, saying goodbye with her tears.
As soon as his bullock cart had disappeared from her sight, Radha had fallen into a dead faint. When she returned to consciousness, the mischievous banter, the flirtatious glances, the moody tantrums, even the music and dance were gone. She had surrendered to her destiny. And so too had her Kanha.
Now, here she was standing before him again. And here he was, standing before her again. Everyone waited…. For the music and the dance, the love and joy, anger, and appeasement had once been so much a part of their lives. All they got was silence… And a flood of tears.
Radha and her Kanha spoke not a word that dark day in Kurukshetra. They exchanged not a single smile. They just stood there and cried silently. And finally, went their separate ways without so much as a backward glance. To the world they met as strangers. To themselves they were still lovers, their hearts and souls united.
In all the years they had been apart, Krishna had shared his smiles generously, but he had kept his tears locked away. That day, he let them flow. And as his tears had mingled with hers, he had known that his Radha Rani was still his and that he was still her Kanha. That their love would live forever in their tears as she had promised him. And after a long time, he was at peace again.
She had melted away into the crowds with the cowherds. He had gone with the other nobles for the ceremonial bath. Their worlds, as she had predicted, were now far apart. Perhaps that’s why they had met and parted in silence. No, he corrected himself hearing her voice whisper in his ear, they didn’t need words, they never had. They didn’t need music and dance though that was what had brought them together and given them so much joy. They didn’t even need to be together because Radha and Vrindavan would always be enshrined in his heart.
Radha and her Kanha never met again. They didn’t need to. All that had to be said, had been said. Now, even their tears were spent.