Krishna sat on the swing, swaying gently, looking at the night sky and feeling the gentle sea breeze. The oil lamps lit the hall with a warm glow and the stone under his feet felt colder, winter was round the corner. He heard Rukmini come before the oil lamps cast their light on her beautiful face, blame it on the sound of her anklets; he smiled and welcomed her on the swing next to him. She seemed thoughtful, sad even.
“Is it true that you played the flute when you were in Mathura?” she asked him. Krishna looked at her surprised. “Who told you that?”
“There were some traders who came in from Mathura and there was a talk in the palace. Is it true?” she inquired again.
Krishna nodded. “That was a long time ago. Not anymore though.” They sat in silence for a while and then Rukmini asked him why he stopped playing the flute. “I promised Radha that I would never play the flute again.” Krishna answered.
That was it!
Rukmini wanted him to play the flute for her. If he could stop for Radha he could surely start for her. Krishna tried to explain but Rukmini was obdurate, throwing a love tantrum.
Then Krishna rose from his seat, angry, “Fine if you want me to play the flute we will ride to Mathura and I shall play it in front of Radha. That is the only way you shall hear me play the flute ever again!”
Krishna called for the “Sarathi” in the middle of the night. The palace shook with the news of his anger and Rukmini regretted going down that path with Krishna. She could see that she had angered him and that was rare. He took her by the hand and guided her to the chariot. Rukmini did not want to take Krishna to Radha. She would die seeing them together. She began to cry. Krishna let her hand go, her tears ebbing the rage within him.
“I just want you to love me like you loved Radha. I don’t want anyone to be more important to you than I am.” she sobbed.
“But you are more important to me! You are my wife!” Krishna could feel her pain now and he was gentle once again.
“But I am not Radha. I will never be Radha!”
“Dear Rukmini, you are my wife and I love but no man or woman can love like they loved the first time and you know why? Let me explain. When you are in love for the first time the euphoria of togetherness is fuelled by the fear of separation. You fear that if there comes a time when you have to live without each other you would not be able to survive, that you would die and that makes you love, like you love life because you know death is coming. And then that love does end for most and most of us survive that pain. But when we survive we also understand that when love ends we will somehow survive. How much would you love your life, if you knew death would not really take it away? A broken heart knows the secret; it will survive after love has been snatched from it. Once you know that secret you can never love like that again. It is finished. I wish it were some other way but it is not. Not for me and not for you and not for anyone in this world.”
Rukmini held him tight, “O my lord. But I would die if you were snatched from me.” Krishna put his arms around her and smiled, “You see what I mean?”