The Chitrakoota mountain rises above the mists of the Mandakini river. It is summer and the forest is full with its fruits. The harmony of the woods and its beasts, the flowers and their fruits, all in this multitude of rocks. Ancient herbs surrounds us and purifies this air, flocks of birds moving from one hill onto another is perhaps the only sound around. The crystal waters of the river reflects back the greenery of the forest. There is calm all around in Chitrakoota, a heaven on earth.

Life has never been so good. Laxmana had built a mud house for the three of us in the mountain. The view from the mountain is breath-taking, its serene. Mountains remind me of the unshakable things in life, of the higher purposes of living. Our little house is cosy and I’m surprised where Laxmana learnt all this from. He knows every fruit that is edible, every animal that can be hunted and every twig that will burn. It was a surprise when Vaidehi walked all this distance through the forest and slid so well into the daily difficulties of this forest life. Laxmana’s inventiveness surprises me more than that. If it was not for this difficult times, possibly the best within us would never have come out.

Forest life has its difficulties. There are no paths in the forest and often we clear ways through the jungle which end up in deep ravines or waterfalls. Food is abundant, but cooking the meat is difficult at times, with Janaki so inexperienced with the different animals we hunt everyday. Certain fruits are not edible and often leave a bad taste for days. The animals have been very kind to us though they make weird sounds during the night and Janaki wakes up bewildered and shocked. I dont think Laxmana sleeps any time, I have never seen him sleep and many a times I think of him as a tiger among men which prowls all night. Despite all this we are on our own, without a care, with no fear and no responsibilities. If I had ascended the throne, I would have been pacifying the caucuses and people and losing sleep around that. Compared with that, what a good life we have.

There is something funny with my sleep these days. I see dreams in the wee hours of morning and the next day,the same things happen around me. Yesterday I saw this leopard chasing a black antelope in my dreams and it really happened today in front of my eyes in the western bank of the river. Today I saw black vultures over Ayodhya, whatever that means. It is as if the whole world around me is what I see in dreams. It is fun, but a bit scary at times.

Life is good as Janaki, Laxmana and me sit on this huge moonlit rock overlooking the dark forest below. The sky above is clear and starlit, the air is cool with wafts of sandalwood and jasmine. There is no human being in any conceivable distance. Its just the three of us tonight, and for us, just the kindness of this forest.

Love and peace in Chitrakoota, Ayodhya braces itself as fears of anarchy sets in. Bharata rushes to Chitrakoota with the news of Dasharatha’s death.