"DEAR, dear Vanara friend," said Sita, "I do not know whether to rejoice or grieve at the news you have brought. Your words are like nectar mixed with poison. My lord's love for me is sweetest nectar, and his grief over my plight is bitterest poison." Thus Sita spoke what she felt and found comfort in putting in words her love and her grief.
Pleasure and pain, happiness and misery alternately impel human beings. Sita was consoled but also pained by the thought that Rama had not forgotten her, but was thinking of her, grieving and searching for her.
"We are puppets manipulated by the twin strings of joy and sorrow", said Sita. "None of us can escape their pull. My lord and Lakshmana and myself are all subject to this law. You say my lord suffers like a sailing ship caught in a storm on the high seas. O! When will he come here? Dear Vanara friend, when will he destroy Lanka and Ravana and the other Rakshasas? All this must take place within the two months' time still left. Please explain this to my lord. Only two months remain to me. Vibhishana, the younger brother of Ravana, tried his best to persuade the latter to change his ways. 'Return Sita,' he said to Ravana, 'and save Lanka and the Rakshasa race.' All his words have gone in vain. My heart is strong within me. I know Ravana is on the road to the abode of Yama. Soon my lord will vanquish his foes and redeem me. I have no doubt about this. My innocent heart tells me this and it cannot prove false."
Thus Sita went on speaking with tears in her eyes. Hanuman could not bear the sight of her suffering.
"Mother!" he exclaimed, "I shall go at once and bring back Rama. He will descend on Lanka with a mighty army. But why should you suffer any longer? If you are agreeable, sit on my back. I shall carry you across the ocean and restore you in a moment to Rama. Do not for a moment doubt my ability to do this. As Agni carries the sacred offerings to Indra, so shall I transport you to my Lord Rama. Permit me, O pure of heart, to do this service. I can not only carry you and restore you to Rama, but I have the power to wrench Lanka from its foundations and throw it and its ruler at Rama's feet! Sit on my back now and, like Rohini rejoining the Moon, you will rejoin Rama. As I sprang and came here, so shall I spring and reach the other shore with you."
Thus Hanuman went on speaking out of his affection and enthusiasm. And Sita wondered how the little monkey before her could hope to carry her across the ocean.
Hanuman saw her doubt and so, to demonstrate his powers, he jumped off from the platform and began to grow big in size. Sita was pleased.
But she said: "O Son of Vayu! I realise your strength and yet it is not right that you should carry me. On the way the
Rakshasas are sure to intercept and challenge you. They will hurl their weapons at you. Your care will be to guard me. You will not be able to fix all your mind on the battle and that may be a serious set-back to the strongest warrior. In a battle, one cannot be certain of victory and what would be my fate if you should fall? And besides, in the violent convulsions of a heady' fight, how could I be sure of maintaining my position on your back? I may slip and fall into the sea. It is clear, therefore, that you should not try to cross the sea with me. Apart from that Hanuman, if you snatch me away stealthily from the Rakshasas it would be no credit to the valor of my lord. The honor of the Kshatriya race demands that he should come and fight and vanquish Ravana and redeem me as the prize of victory. Would Rama have me stolen back even as Ravana stole me from him? No, my son, return and quickly bring Rama here with Lakshmana and the Vanara army. Let my lord's arrows destroy Lanka and send Ravana to Yama's abode. His victory is certain. Like the fierce sun at the hour of doom, Rama's arrows will burn the Rakshasa people to ashes."
"You are right," said Hanuman, "I shall return alone. But what shall I tell Rama? What sign shall I carry of my having met you and talked with you?"
Hearing these words, all her happy life with Rama came like a flood to her memory and her eyes were filled with tears. If she told Hanuman and Hanuman told Rama some intimate happenings known only to herself and her lord, it would be proof of Hanuman having seen her and also make Rama see her present disconsolate state.
With flowing tears, she recounted incidents of their forest life.
"Once in Chitrakuta my lord and I wandered about in the grove beside the river and became weary and rested on the ground. He laid his head upon my lap and fell asleep. While thus, a crow came down and hungrily pecked at my bosom, I drove it off, but again and again it returned and troubled me. I then flung a pebble at it. But even that had no effect. Rama was roused from slumber and saw me thus troubled and weeping in pain. At first when he saw what the matter was and found it was but a crow, he was inclined to laugh at my discomfiture. But he saw the bruise the crow had made and discovered that the bird was really an Asura. The bird flew for its life, but Rama sped a dart at it that pursued it wherever it went, till at last the crow-Asura sought Rama's feet for refuge and found pardon there. Tell him of this incident. O Hanuman, I cannot wait for many more days. Tell him to come quickly and save me."
Again she was in tears as she said: "On another occasion we were both wandering all alone in the forest. I was tired. Perspiration had washed off the tilaka on my forehead. My lord playfully plucked a pinch of red mineral from the rock and applied it between my brows with his own sweet hands. Ask him if he remembers this incident."
As she went on recalling happy memories of the past the weight of her present sorrow overwhelmed her and she wept and said:
"What should I tell Rama? What is there that he does not know? Does he need my words to rouse his indignation? Only tell my lord that I embrace his feet. That is enough. There is Lakshmana beside him, the brother born to serve him and of unrivalled skill in arms. Looking at his sweet face, my Lord even forgot his grief for the father's death. The pure- hearted hero, dear Lakshmana, parted from his own mother and came away with us and regarded me as his mother. Tell him he should come and end my suffering."
As she thought of Lakshmana's heroism and devoted loyalty, Sita's eyes were filled with tears. When Rama had gone chasing the golden deer, did she not insult him and fling burning words at the selfless and devoted friend? The thought of this injustice filled her repentant heart with insufferable pain.
She was unwilling to part from Hanuman, who had come to her and consoled her just as she was about to put an end to her life. At the same time, she wanted him to return quickly to Rama and give him news concerning her.
At last she said: "My child, here is the jewel given by my mother at my wedding and fixed on my forehead by the late Emperor. Take it and give it to my husband as a sign from me."
So saying she untied a knot at the corner of her sari, took out the divine jewel and handed it to Hanuman who received it with humble reverence. When Hanuman had the jewel in his hand, pride and joy filled his mind.
His heart was far away with Rama. Mentally he had recalled Rama's presence and conveyed the glad message of his discovery. Only his body now stayed in Lanka.
"Dear friend," said Sita, "you must tell Rama all you have learnt here, and it will be your good fortune to help him to achieve victory."
As Hanuman was about to leave, Sita spoke again: "Dear Hanuman, convey my affection to the Prince and also to king Sugriva and the other Vanara leaders. Tell them from me that I implore them to give help to Rama to save me from this sea of sorrow. You, more than anyone else, I hope will encourage and show the way to the prince in all matters."
Hanuman answered: "Lay aside your sorrow, dear princess. Rama, Lakshmana and the Vanara army will descend on Lanka destroy the Rakshasas and redeem you. Have no doubt."
As he was about to go, Sita said again: "Should you not stay here somewhere, for a while, and rest? Should you return at once? Your visit has given me such great consolation and made me forget my grief for a while. When you leave, I shall sink again in my sea of sorrow. You came here crossing the great ocean. How will Rama and the big army cross it? Have you thought of that?" Doubts assailed her once again.
"Have no doubt, my queen!" said Hanuman. "Do you think I am the only Vanara that could cross the sea? There is not a Vanara but has more power and skill than I. Not only Sugriva, but many in his army can fly round the world. What is this narrow sea to them? There are thousands among us who can roam in the sky. Have no doubt whatever. Do you think they would send the best among them as a mere messenger? Dear lady, have done with sorrow, for you will soon see me with the two mighty princes on my back. They will lay waste this city with the arrows. They will destroy Ravana and all his race. You have as good as crossed the ocean of sorrow and reached the other shore. God bless you. In a few days you will see the two princes standing, bow in hand, at the gates of Lanka, destroying the Rakshasa host. You will see the Vanara army leaping with joy over the ruined city. Once they hear the news from me, they will not delay a moment. I have only to tell them and they will start at once. Do not lose heart." Saying this and bowing profoundly, Hanuman prepared to go.
"Tell Rama and Lakshmana that I am alive," cried Sita. "See that no time is lost. May God bless you."
And Hanuman left. Let us meditate with reverence on the heroic son of Anjana, the wise messenger who gave consolation to Sita and quenched her grief.