Legend tells us that Radha was a married woman when she fell in love with Krishna and that her heart broke when he went away to Mathura. They never saw each other again. So runs the tale in North India. Bengal has another angle to this story.
In the villages of Bengal, women sing songs of Ayan Ghosh. Who was he, this man? None other than Radha’s older and indulgent husband. He was a wool merchant say some, and travelled far and wide selling his wares, leaving his lovely young bride in the care of his mother and sisters.
A lonely life
They sing also about how horrible and cruel the in-laws were to the girl. How they sometimes even beat her and threw away all that she had cooked and made her cook everything again many a time.
Her only ‘me’ time was when she went to get water from the river with her friends. And there of course she met the charming Krishna. Bereft of any kindness in her life, Radha fell in love.
There were trysts on the banks of the Yamuna, on the river boats, in forest groves. Whenever Krishna played his enchanting flute, Radha would run to meet her love.
Of course tongues wagged. Brindavan gossiped. And Ayan’s mother and sisters were beside themselves with spite and hatred. And when Ayan returned from one of his many trips, they sent him to a grove where Radha and Krishna were meeting.
Unwilling to hear ill of his wife but spurred to investigate by the taunts of his sisters, Ayan went to the grove where he saw Radha devoutly worshipping Kali, his family deity. Silently he went away and berated his family for planting doubts in his mind about his innocent wife.
Krishna had taken the form of Kali to protect Radha.
But then the idyll ended and Krishna had to go to Mathura. He left his flute. He never played a note again…ever. His life as a ruler began ….his chapter in Radha’s life was over.
But Ayan? Looking at his broken-hearted wife, what would he believe now? Radha wept and kept nothing back from her husband. She told him everything. And Ayan’s mother insisted that he banish his cheating wife and marry again.
Love means acceptance
He did not do so. Ayan settled his sisters and mother in a different village. Radha and he began a new life together. And gossip was silenced.
There was honour for Radha in her new home. Ayan stopped travelling so much and surrounded his wife with love. There was laughter in the house, there were songs ….and some time later the pitter patter of children.
Did Ayan Ghosh not mind that his wife had betrayed him? Did he not care that everyone had known that he was a cuckold?
Perhaps he did.
He was but human.
And the story ran that his wife had been loved by a god.
Who left her…broken.
And she returned to her husband.
Perhaps Ayan minded. For a while….
But he cared for his wife more and it was important for him that his wife put back the pieces of her life together, with him.
A relationship reborn
Radha’s standing in the village was restored and Ayan did not reproach her, but accepted everything with tenderness and love.
And this new found feeling for her husband made Radha whole again…
North India says that Radha killed herself after Krishna left her. But in Bengal this is a hazy zone. Here they say that Radha found happiness anew with Ayan. And she lived.
How he must have loved his wife…to understand her so completely.
That is why the music of the flute never died in Radha’s life….