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  Chapter 4 : Wood -Apple Episode

SUMMARY: A highlight of the anthology is this Wood-Apple episode in which SITA gets the wisdom from nature in a dramatised fashion. A creeper, the humble green grass, a wayside rock, the mighty Sun, a mountain, and the Wood-Apple tree give SITA the delicate tenets of ‘nari-jeevan’ ie. a woman’s life. The husband’s duty to his wife is also strongly emphasised in the anthology. Excerpted verses are given here.

SITA is seated in the hermitage of Rishi Valmiki with her Sakhis (lady friends). One of them asks her:“What is the duty of a wife? “

SITA replies:“Husband is everything for a wife.He is her Lord,Guru (teacher) ,Friend,Consort. A wife’s duty is to do auspicious acts as per her husband’s wish.” “Then ,how should we know ,what is his wish?” asks the sakhi.This question of the sakhi brings back nostalgic memories of the incident of the WOOD-APPLE episode to SITA.,She narrates this epiode to her sakhis.

It was within a few days of the banishment of the Lord from Ayodhya to the forests . His brother Laxman had accompanied us to the forest. Both the brothers made a hermitage for us to stay. I would clean and maintain it.
The brothers would collect forest fruits and roots. I would prepare them for a meal .Even in the forest , we lived happily.

One day in the afternoon, my Lord came into the hermitage and smiled and said:‘SITA, At a distance of some four miles from our hermitage , on a mountain top, I saw a WOOD -APPLE tree laden with beautiful fruits. I feel like eating the fruits.’ I asked the Lord: ‘Then why did you not bring the fruits?’ The Lord said: ‘Oh! SITA, the road that leads to the wood-apple tree is fraught with danger. There are thorny bushes and trees along the way which will bruise you badly. Poisonous snakes and ferocious wild animals of the forest roam about everywhere. The whole place is uninhabited and hence not safe to tread.’

On hearing the wish of my husband that he wanted to eat the wood-apple fruit, I decided that I must arrange for the fruit. The question that bothered me was ,”How will I cross the dangerous forest that leads to the wood-apple tree?” But I knew that ‘No job is impossible if it be done with a true heart.’

Early next morning, when Rama and Laxmana were still asleep, I woke up. The light of dawn had not yet struck. Only one small oil wick lamp in my hand gave me company. With the lamp ,I stepped into the dark forest very nimbly , and started walking in the direction that my husband had indicated. But soon I ran into thick thorny undergrowth of the forest and I almost shrieked as pointed thorns painfully pierced the soles of my soft feet. There were tears in my eyes. I cannot go further anymore and I cannot get the wood-apple fruits that my husband wants, was my sorrowful feeling. I kept peering into the darkness again and again, and just then through my misty eyes , I saw a path by the side of the thorny bushes. I was surprised to see the path, since it did not seem to have any thorns on it. I rapidly stepped onto this path and walked with brisk steps.

But suddenly I froze in my path. In the dim light of dawn , I saw a huge serpent entwining an equally huge and tall tree- trunk.
Only on closer look and with the light of daybreak did I realise that it is a creeper. The creeper seemed to talk to me thus..

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