What role does jealousy play in romantic love? Quite a big one, I would say. Think of Shakespeare’s Othello and our very own epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Think of the fabulous, strong-willed queen of Ayodhya – Maharani Kaikeyi.
Twenty-five years ago in 1992, I wrote Kaikeyi, about this fascinating lady of the Ramayana. Here was this wildly beautiful woman, spoilt and wilful…the beloved only Princess of Kekaya. Born after seven brothers to Maharaja Aswapati, she was married to Dasaratha, the middle-aged king of Ayodhya. Of course, this marriage took place because of matters of state. But Kaikeyi was to remain passionately in love with Dasaratha for the rest of her life.
She was his second wife. Kausalya of Kosala was his first, the Chief Queen. But Kaikeyi had nothing to fear from the mild-mannered Kausalya. Glittering in jewels, brilliant in conversation, warm and lovely, she was easily Dasaratha’s love, and the Chief Queen in everything but name. And then he married the beauteous Sumitra but remained besotted with Queen Kaikeyi.
Four sons were born to the Queens and Kaikeyi took over the boys, as was he won’t. And remained the central sparkling figure in court.
What happened then?
How did she change from a beloved lady to the most hated and reviled woman in Ayodhya? Why did her husband never see her face again?
Why did she have Rama, the much loved Crown Prince, exiled? She adored him too. Was it only because she wanted Bharata, her son to become King? Or was it something that ran darker and deeper?
Rosalba Griese, an Italian, did her dissertation on my book Kaikeyi, winning the Franz Kafka prize for it. She told me once, “There is a Kaikeyi in every woman. Every woman is Kaikeyi.”
Yes, that is true. Kaikeyi’s crime lay in loving too much. She could not bear the thought that another woman would take the chief position in court…Kausalya would be Queen Mother. Deeper ran the feeling that her Dasaratha loved Rama much more than her own son, Bharata. Rama was the son of another woman, a woman Kaikeyi had to some extent deprived of the love of her husband…Could she bear to see that woman become important, reinstated in the old King’s life?
She forgot that neither Dasaratha nor Rama would do that to her. They loved her too much.
But the insecure tendrils of jealousy in the form of Manthara wound their way into her heart and resulted in tragedy.
So it happens sometimes with all women …and men today. We love.
But it is so easy, so easy to become wrapped in jealousy. It is so easy to be trapped in jealous insecurity…and rush into hasty, wrong decisions.
Take a close look. It is happening all around you. Broken families…broken lives.
The warm, loving, vital Kaikeyi is still being transformed into a cold-hearted, conniving, cruel, selfish bitch…
The darker side of romantic love. The ugly serpent of jealousy.
Oh, we so long to trust, wholly trust those whom we love…those whom we have chosen as partners for life…but can we? We are insecure…we lack faith…we disbelieve those whom we love… too easily.
And sometimes with a cause.
Yes, sometimes with a cause. A careless affair or two, perceived favouritism is shown to a child of another… things like that and everything lies in shambles all around…
And those watching feel the pain …as it seeps into their lives …insidious and evil… jealousy spreads.
Colouring all aspects of the relationship…
Yes, we love…but do we always know how to trust?
The shattering pain of the Queen of Ayodhya…glass shards piercing our collective psyche…our Kaikeyis…
Related reading: Indian gods teach us about mutual respect in relationships
Kaikeyi was ravaged by jealousy, pain and doubt so she transformed momentarily into a being of evil….so do some of us sometimes…how can we be kind to others, even those we love when we are so wounded?
So though we love we must learn to make correct choices…we must talk out doubts …we must learn to trust…otherwise love will turn around and become destruction personified…