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A modern Tara learns a salutary lesson from the Mythological Tara and retrieves her freedom from a husband who uses her as a pawn in his career growth.

She stopped for a while, took off her golden high-heeled shoes one after the other and started walking bare foot with her shoes in her right hand and lifting her saree pleats in the left. She had bought this pair of golden high-heeled shoes from the Zabong internet site a month back. Sudhir commented that they would look beautiful on her feet. Today, she wore them for the first time, for a special occasion, matching them with the golden border of her saree. 

She stopped for a moment and looked at the darkness on her right. A deep hedge of darkness - probably a forest of bushes. 

Where is this place? Where has she reached? 

Suddenly she realized that she had crossed a lot of distance. Actually, she had not been walking; she had run half of the distance and sprinted for the other half. She stood there- took a deep breath, turned back and looked.

No one is behind her. No one is there following her or running behind her. Yet she felt…….

She looked at the golden shoes in her right hand for a moment and hurled those into the darkness on her right.

Not only shoes, she also felt like taking off the golden bordered saree from her body, cutting it into pieces and throwing it into the forest. When Sudhir got the saree for her, her face had lit up like a hundred-watt bulb. Sudhir had said- ‘for my beloved who is as beautiful as the Lily flower’. All bullshit…Her face contorted. 

She tried to walk but she could not. The stones and thorns on the road pricked her feet as she had no shoes on. Maybe there were bruises and bleeding. Let it be. She tried not to notice.

Yet how long would she walk? Where was she going? She realized she was standing on a deserted road near the forest. Although on the road ahead there was not a single vehicle or light. It was completely dark around. She looked at the sky. It was a clear sky without the moon. Countless stars twinkled in the clear sky. On both her sides, deep, dense darkness was bordered by a thinner layer of darkness. It appeared as if a thick and strong wall of darkness was running parallel with her. May be these were the trees, plants and hills which posed like a wall in the darkness of the night. 

Has she entered the Chandaka forest? Can anyone walk into the forest? Would there be roads going into the forest? 

She shivered as such thoughts crossed her mind. In this sanctuary of elephants, herds of them come out of the forest in the first leg of the night. Jackals, cheetahs and snakes of different kinds too roam around. Yet she could not feel any fear. What could happen anyway? At best they would kill her and she would be killed. What kind of life had she been living so far, anyway? Animals are perhaps better than human beings. One knows that the tiger will kill and eat; the elephant will crush and lift by the trunk and throw away; the snake will bite and poison to death. It would have been better had she been one of them. She would have lived with her instinct. Human beings can be so treacherous! Let an animal come and she would watch how the animal behaves with her. May be the animal will feel her love and affection and accept her! 

She did not have the strength to walk any further. Her feet, knees, body - everything had started to give away and the most painful was the headache. She felt as if she would breakdown. The images of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre toppling down after the terrorist attack flashed across her mind. The twin towers crumbled like pieces of paper, amidst smoke and dust. The people inside them, machinery, carefully organized office spaces, homes everything came down like sand and stone, getting destroyed and becoming non-existent. Her dreams nurtured with care over the years, excitement and confidence, concealed-self pride- all were burning, disappearing and disintegrating…

She would fall down here, she would lie down on her back on the road with the forest and darkness around her. There will be countless stars on the sky and there would be no one- really no one else with her.

She indeed sat in the middle of the road, spreading both her legs. She balanced her body with her hands on both her sides and looked at the sky by tilting her head backwards. Suddenly a meteor burnt like a firecracker, dropped and was extinguished. When she was a child whenever a meteor fell her mother used to say-"Live long". In the hostel, friends used to say – "Close your eyes, make a wish on the falling star. Whatever you ask you will be given. Your heart’s desire will be fulfilled." 
"What did you ask?" Tania would roll in laughter. "Did you ask that Sudhir should be all yours in body, mind and soul? He should not even look at any other girl. You asked that, didn’t you?" Tania would tease with her lips pressed and a flutter in her eyes. She would smile back with pursed lips saying as if, 'yes, what else?’ If she had to ask anything of the falling meteor and if that desire had to be fulfilled, what could she ask other than the undivided love and attention of Sudhir?

Now what will she ask of the falling star? Should she say - I am giving back whatever I had asked for. Give me back my life, the time before I met Sudhir.
Her union with Sudhir was ideal and complete. There was nothing to complain. It was a movie like story. They met when they were studying engineering; they fell in love, followed by promises of marriage. Their families had nothing to complain; no problems were there to be solved. They both belonged to the same caste. Sudhir was the only son of his parents and a very good student. Not only she but everyone believed that his future was bright. There was no doubt that he would get a job and good salary. That happened as well. Sudhir joined Management after finishing his engineering degree. And right after two years, he joined a reputed multi-national company with a good pay package in Bangalore. However, after finishing her engineering, she did not go out to work anywhere. Sudhir would always tell her that she did not have to work hard and there was no need for her to take up any job. "Why would you spoil your beauty? My salary would be more than sufficient for us. You can live a life of luxury in that money. Just watch what I do for you!" he would say.

Her parents also wanted the same. They were aware of her relationship with Sudhir when they were studying together, and they supported Sudhir’s view. She was not very career conscious herself. Her world was only Sudhir; and she thought she would be happy with Sudhir in a decorated home, in any corner of the world.

Why not? Must good education always lead to a job? The fact that she is able to earn money is enough. She can always work if there is a need. Sudhir is earning well enough. He is always busy with his work. He has to give both time and energy to his job. Hence isn’t it enough to set up a suitable home for him and to have a good environment for their family? She loved homemaking. She also loved the idea that Sudhir did not want a child very soon. They should spend time with each other for some more time. Nowadays there is no need to rush for setting up a family. There are a lot of convenient medical means available. 

Sudhir would embrace her and say – "Only you and me – a bit more."

She was sitting there with her arms on both sides serving as pillars on the ground and her head leaning backwards looking up at the sky. Streams of tears flowed down from her eyes and entered her ears. Let the tears flow. She did not feel like lifting her hands to wipe them. Let the tears of sorrow, of regret, of stupidity, of foolishness and of being mad in love, flow…

After quite a time she lifted her head and sat straight, looking forward. At a distance she could see something whitish. What can it be? Can it be light? Maybe a scooter or a motorcycle is approaching. But there is no sound. And the light is also not moving forward. Was the light there before? She had not noticed it! May be a small hut or a tea shop. She decided to walk towards the light. 

What could it be?

It didn’t look like light anymore. She walked a few steps towards it. It appeared as a shape. She was not able to make out. She stood a bit away from that shape and tried to stare into the darkness. Looking steadily into deep darkness sometimes results in developing an ability to see through it. As it is, the light was coming from the shape. It appeared to her that there was a culvert on the side of the road and there was a luminous shape on it. As if a human being was sitting on it. If a human being was there why the brightness? Milky white light, like that of a tube light, was emanating from the human being! She gathered courage and walked a few steps towards the light. May be the human being was covered with a white cloth. May be the fluorescence was coming out from the cloth. How strange! What could it be? She stopped again for a while. 

It appeared as a woman. All alone, so late in the night! She realized there was brightness emanating from her body and clothes!

She gathered courage and walked forward. Now the woman turned her face and looked at her. She was surprised. The same white light covered her face as well. She was not able to make out her eyes, nose or ears. But she appeared as a woman. It looked as if she was wearing a saree. 

Who is she? The goddess of the forest? A Witch? A ghost? Definitely not a human being!

“Who? Who are you?” She asked in a loud voice. By that time she had started feeling a bit scared.

 “I am TARA!” The voice was as melodious as one coming out from the veena or the sitar. It appeared as if the voice floated in from a distance.

“I…….I am Tara. I am indeed Tara. How could you be?” Words emanated from her in confusion. 
“Oh! Alright. What’s in a name? Your name could be Tara. But I am indeed Tara” The woman uttered the words with more clarity. 
“My name is Tara,” she declared with emphasis and confidence.
“Many women have had the name ‘Tara’ in this world since its inception. Many Taras have taken birth and perished. Are you the only Tara?”
“But why is your name Tara? Your name could have been something else” she asked with a touch of sultriness in her tone.
The woman burst out into peals of laughter. 
“Do understand -‘Tara’ is not only a name- it is a realization- an understanding- an awareness-a concept! Haven’t you heard since your childhood? Ahalya, Draupadi, Kunti, Tara and Mandodari, Smare Nityam - remember them every day in the morning and get rid of the severest of sins. I am that Tara. The Tara of the ‘Tretya Yug’. Your mother must have narrated this story to you and made you listen to the Sanskrit verse, didn’t she?” 
Tara listened to the woman with her mouth slightly open. “What is this woman saying?”
“Yes. Didn’t I say that between you and me there must have been hundreds of Taras who must have been born, lived their lives as Taras and breathed their last. Don’t you believe me?”

The woman looked at her and said forcefully...

Continued part-2

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