This is Ganga flowing at the end of the Kosala countryside, on the farther bank is the forest of Dandakaranya. Ganga, the all encompassing flow, the refiner of minds, the melting place of punarapis. She carries within her the destiny of nations, the germs of future empires. She gives birth, she carries ashes. Has anybody asked her why she flows, what she is searching for.

Sumantra, my charioteer till this point, asked me where this whole thing is headed. He will return back to Ayodhya in the morning, leaving us here in the forest all by ourselves. He is the most trusted friend of the family and I want him to take good care of father. I told him I had no idea. I told him I had to keep my father’s word and protect his honour. I told him when I returned back, if at all, maybe father wouldn’t be alive, mother may die of grief, maybe he himself wouldn’t be living. I might lose Sita or Laxmana on this dangerous journey. I told him this will be a journey of truth, courage and love. This journey will probably be its destination.

Tonight I have seen how much father loved me, I saw him crying like a child when I parted. I have seen the overwhelming emotion in Ayodhya, with people lined on the streets asking me not to go. Laxmana’s mother told him to treat and respect me like a father, like a king, to treat the forest like Ayodhya and to treat Sita like herself ; and then she blessed him well. She is a woman of very few words, but I havent heard anything more beautiful, so selfless, ever. Sita insisted on coming, she could have stayed back like a princess with all comforts, but Janaki chose this uncertain path of hardships. I fear she will lament later, on this big waste of her vernal years but she says it is her duty. She says she will go wherever I go.

O Sumantra, look at that young man,my brother, pretending to be busy so late into the night. He is staying guard for me, protecting me like the thousand headed snake that protects the God of light. He is Adi Shesha himself, my constant companion, my friend. I’m not sure where I will be tomorrow but tonight I go to sleep in the warmth of all this love. I dont know whether I deserve it, tonight I’m just thankful to existence. I’m crying now.

the two princes and Sita cross Ganga the next morning and continue their journey through Dandakaranya forest towards Chitrakoota. In Lanka, the poet-warrior smiles.