That one night in the life of Gopa
By Gopa Nayak
There is a chasm of absurdity in the way humans and animals perceive the night. This incongruity between the human and animal, between living and surviving, between morality and rationality was no less stark that one night when a handsome prince was leaving his beloved wife and son, tossing away the luxuries of a palace and escaping to anonymity. What no one remembers now is the sacrifice of a woman who was no less enlightened in her role as a consort, as a wife, a mother and as the prime follower of Buddhism – ‘Gopa’ literally meaning ‘one who has conquered or attained victory over the senses’.
Gopa was thinking to herself – Where is the all-engulfing depth in which all her shame would find the best burial ground? She longed for another night.
Gopa was a fighter. She does not seek the reprieve of a recluse. And yet she longed for another night. She prayed for the death of light. She hoped for the end of senses. She was not trained to be weak. She was a princess born to defend royalty. She was the queen regarded as the saviour of her countrymen. And then the thought occurred to her. Perhaps this was the momentous night she had been waiting for. This was the deplorable night when she would have to bear all kinds of insults for the sake of humanity. She had always thought that her arms could be the resting place for tired limbs and exhausted senses. She had grown up with the fantasy that her embrace could hold the toughest of rulers and the fiercest of warrior kings. She had married a prince, the invincible ruler of the great kingdom of Vaishali. She herself was the daughter of a ruler from a famous warrior clan. She was brave enough to shoulder the responsibility of a kingdom all by herself. She was not afraid of anything. She had been brought up to face all the eventualities of life and yet she had never been prepared for a situation that she was facing. She failed to come to terms with this sudden twist of destiny. Death she could have handled but desertion was difficult.
A night of renunciation perhaps, Gopa thought to herself, as she reflected on the happenings of the hours fading before her. She had come to bed with Rahul’s drowsy eyes looking unto hers and his frail frame leaning against her shoulder. The cool breeze from the south was soothing enough to put him to sleep. She had turned to her husband who, as usual, was looking out of the window. She could never fathom what went on inside his head. It was not that she had never tried to read his thoughts but she could never see anything but the constant flapping of the eyelids on the serene face. Little did she know that behind those innocent looks was the master plan of a clever escapade. She had never imagined that under the guise of those kind words he had actually made the harshest attack on her femininity.
Gopa had known Gautama before she had become his queen. She had always been fascinated with his probing questions on life and love. She had been a part of the many dwellings in which he had discussed the sufferings of life in this world. She had indulged him in many romantic entourage in which life had appeared so attractive. She has entwined him in moments of togetherness through her body, mind and soul. She had never imagined that any man could leave her. How could Gautama do this to her? How could he just leave without saying goodbye? She tried to convince herself that perhaps he had just gone out for a while as he had once left his father’s kingdom as a young lad. She tried to console herself with the thought that he would come back to her arms with a haunting question on the saga of life, perhaps on love and marriage this time.
But she could read a different story in the eyes of the people surrounding her. It appeared that they were sure that their master had left home for good. She did not have the courage to challenge them. For the first time in her life she realised they knew her husband better than her. The feeling itself was demoralising. How could she not understand the person with whom she shared more than the people gathered around her? What she found most difficult was answering to those piercing eyes and inquisitive minds trying to fathom her inability to keep the prince tied to her bedroom. How could she tell them that she did not have a clue as why what has happened did happen after all? How could she explain why her husband left her alone in bed when she had only experienced the good things of life in his company? How could she explain to the world that he was the kindest man she had come across in her whole life?
It was ages before the thoughts of that night germinated and took the shape of a sublime feeling, a sense of achievement in what her husband Gautama had become in that night of renunciation. She had taken both pride and pleasure in her husband’s contribution to mankind. She could not help but nourish the thoughts that if Buddhism was so enriched today it was because of the love and sacrifice that she had instilled into a human being who had shared everything with her, albeit for a while. Those thoughts had finally brought respite to her soul relieving her from all the anguish of a deserted woman. She realised that she was the only fortunate one with whom the Buddha or the enlightened one had shared things which he could never share with anyone. She heaved a deep sigh. Finally the night took her into its lap and she became a recluse unto herself.
Dr. Gopa Nayak is an academician, a poet and a writer. She writes on current issues on blogs such as firstnews.com and Bargad. Her first collection of poems in English has been published in 2011 under the title –‘Dissension’. Her poems have found a place in the anthology of English Poetry from India titled, The Dance of the Peacock, published by Hidden Brook Press, Canada (2013). Two of her poems have been published in the book SUVARNAREKHA (An Anthology of Women Poets in Indian English Poetry), published by the Poetry Society of India (2014). Although few in numbers her short stories in English have been published in academic journal and e-journals such as museindia.com. She has a DPhil from the University of Oxford and is currently serving as Director of English Language Centre at O.P. Jindal Global University.
For more stories, read Café Dissensus Everyday, the blog of Café Dissensus Magazine.