Editor's Note: The phenomenal success of the Naga trilogy made Amish's next venture something hotly anticipated in the publishing world. The Scion of Ikshvaku is the first in his Ram Chandra series. In it Amish follows the adventures of young Ram Chandra and his brothers but in his own fashion makes them relatable to a modern generation. Just because he is venerated as Purushottam now, does it mean an adolescent Ram and Bharat could not have a conversation about something boys of their age are obsessed about - girls? In their gurukul in the forest, Ram and Bharat discuss the birds and the bees. The excerpt appears courtesy Westland Books.
Another one? Ram refrained from voicing his thoughts, trying to control his surprise. This is his fifth girlfriend.
Seventeen years had gone by since Dashrath lost the Battle of Karachapa. At the age of sixteen, Bharat had discovered the pleasures of love. Charismatic and flamboyant as he was, girls liked Bharat as much as he liked them. Tribal traditions being liberal, the empowered women of the tribe of Chief Varun, the local hosts of the gurukul, were free to form relationships with whomever they pleased. And Bharat was especially popular.
He walked up to Ram now, holding hands with an ethereally beautiful maiden who was clearly older than him, perhaps twenty years of age.
‘Never been better, Dada,’ grinned Bharat. ‘Any better and it would be downright sinful.’
Ram smiled politely and turned to the girl with grace.
‘Dada,’ said Bharat, ‘allow me to introduce Radhika, the daughter of Chief Varun.’
‘Honoured to make your acquaintance,’ said Ram, formally bringing his hands together in a polite namaste and bowing his head.
Radhika raised her eyebrows, amused. ‘Bharat was right. You are ridiculously formal.’
Ram’s eyes widened at her forthrightness.
‘I did not use the word “ridiculous”,’ protested Bharat, as he let her hand go. ‘How can I use a word like that for Dada?’
Radhika ruffled Bharat’s hair affectionately. ‘All right, “ridiculous” was my own addition. But I find your formality charming. So does Bharat, actually. But I’m sure you know that already.’
‘Thank you,’ said Ram, straightening his angvastram stiffly.
Radhika giggled at Ram’s obvious discomfort. Even Ram, relatively immune to feminine wiles, was forced to acknowledge that her laughter had a pleasing lilt, like that of the apsaras, celestial nymphs.
Ram said to Bharat, careful to speak in old Sanskrit so that Radhika wouldn’t understand, ‘Saa Vartate Lavanyavati.’
Though Bharat’s understanding of archaic Sanskrit was not as good as Ram’s, he understood the simple compliment. Ram had said, ‘She is exquisitely beautiful.’
Before Bharat could respond, Radhika spoke. ‘Aham Jaanaami.’
An embarrassed Ram retorted, ‘By the great Lord Brahma! Your old Sanskrit is perfect.’
Radhika smiled. ‘We may speak new Sanskrit these days, but the ancient scriptures can only be understood in the old language.’
Bharat felt the need to cut in. ‘Don’t be fooled by her intelligence, Dada. She is also very beautiful!’
Ram smiled and brought his hands together once again, in a respectful namaste. ‘My apologies if I offended you in any way, Radhika.’
Radhika smiled, shaking her head. ‘No, you didn’t. Why would a girl not enjoy an elegant compliment to her beauty?’
‘My little brother is lucky.’
‘I’m not so unlucky myself,’ assured Radhika, ruffling Bharat’s hair once again.
Ram could see that his brother was besotted. Clearly, this time it was different; Radhika meant a lot more to him than his previous girlfriends. But he was also aware of the traditions of the forest people. Their girls, no doubt, were liberated, but they did not marry outside their community. Their law simply forbade it. Ram did not understand the reason for this.
It could be an effort to retain the sense of purity of the forest people, or it might even be that they considered city dwellers inferior for having moved away from Mother Nature. He hoped his brother’s heart would not be broken in the process.
‘How much butter will you eat?!’ Ram could never quite understand Bharat’s addiction.
Evening time, the last hour of the third prahar, found Ram and Bharat relaxing under a tree at the gurukul. Lakshman and Shatrughan were using their free time for some riding practice; in fact, they were competing fiercely in the open ground. Lakshman, by far the best rider among the four, was beating Shatrughan hollow.
‘I like it, Dada,’ shrugged Bharat, butter smeared around his mouth.
‘But it’s unhealthy. It’s fattening!’
Bharat flexed his biceps as he sucked in his breath and puffed up his chest, displaying his muscular and well-toned physique. ‘Do I look fat to you?’
Ram smiled. ‘Girls certainly do not find you unappealing. So my opinion really is of no consequence.’
‘Exactly!’ Bharat chuckled, digging his hand into the clay pot and spooning some more butter into his mouth.
Ram gently put his hand on Bharat’s shoulder. Bharat stopped eating as he read the concerned look on his brother’s face. Ram spoke softly. ‘Bharat, you do know—’
Bharat interrupted him immediately. ‘It won’t happen, Dada.’
‘Dada, trust me. I know girls better than you do.’
‘You’re aware that Chief Varun’s people do not…’
‘Dada, she loves me as much as I love her. Radhika will break the law for me. She will not leave me. Trust me.’
‘How can you be so sure?’
‘Dada, stop worrying about me. Just be happy for me.’
Ram gave up and patted him on his shoulder. ‘Well then, congratulations!’
Bharat bowed his head theatrically, ‘Thank you, kind sir!’
Ram’s face broke into a broad smile.
‘When will I get the opportunity to congratulate you, Dada?’asked Bharat.
Ram looked at Bharat and frowned.
‘Aren’t you attracted to any girl? Here or in Ayodhya? We have met so many on our annual holidays…’
‘Nobody is worth it.’
‘What are you looking for?’ Ram looked into the distance at the forest line. ‘I want a woman, not a girl.’
‘Aha! I always knew there was a naughty devil behind that serious exterior!’
Ram rolled his eyes and punched Bharat playfully on his abdomen. ‘That’s not what I meant. You know that.’
‘Then what did you mean?’
‘I don’t want an immature girl. Love is secondary. It’s not important. I want someone whom I can respect.’
‘Respect?’ frowned Bharat. ‘Sounds boring.’
‘A relationship is not just for fun, it is also about trust and the knowledge that you can depend on your partner. Relationships based on passion and excitement do not last.’
Ram quickly corrected himself. ‘Of course, Radhika and you will be different.’
‘Of course,’ grinned Bharat.
‘I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want a woman who is better than I am; a woman who will compel me to bow my head in admiration.’
‘You bow to elders and parents, Dada. A wife is the one you share your life and passions with,’ said Bharat, a crooked grin on his face, brows arched suggestively. ‘By the great Lord Brahma, I pity the woman you will marry. Your relationship will go down in history as the most boring of them all!’
Ram laughed aloud as he pushed Bharat playfully. Bharat dropped the pot and pushed Ram back, then sprang to his feet and sprinted away from Ram.
‘You can’t outrun me, Bharat!’ laughed Ram, quickly rising to his feet and taking off after his brother.
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Updated Date: Sep 12, 2015 19:23:54 IST