She Stands Next to Radha
The eyes of Radha meet the eyes of Shyam,
the quintessential embodiment of shringaar.
And yet, they are enveloped by twilight melancholy,
the last rays of light disappearing into an endlessly dark void.
A love that could not be realized,
not in this world.
Krishna contains everything, he is everything, there is nothing but Krishna,
But even Krishna’s heartbreak pales in comparison,
That pain is one even Krishna could not rectify.
She watches the lovers, her eyes dead with longing.
She has no name, no identity.
Before that divine pair,
who would even spare her a second thought?
She does not long for Him.
She does not even see Him.
There is room in her heart for only one,
Her only solace lies in the tremble of Krishna’s hand,
the knowledge that in this lifetime,
He must leave,
because the world needs Him.
In this lifetime,
Radhe-Shyam and their eternal love are known to all,
Her love is perdu,
only a distant memory.
She stands next to Radha,
invisible, unseen, erased.
Poet’s note: Raja Ravi Varma is known to have brought to life stories of Indian mythology and history unlike any other artist. Krishna was an avatar of the greatest of Hindu gods, Vishnu. In the epic Mahabharata, he falls in love with Radha as a young man, but has to leave her behind to fulfill his duty. Despite the futility of their relationship, they remain the definition of ‘true love’ in Hindu mythology. Though Krishna never married Radha, they are known and worshipped to this day as ‘Radhe-Shyam’ (Shyam is another name for Krishna). In this poem, rather than focusing on the main characters, I imagine what might be going through the mind of Radha’s handmaiden, who is typically ignored in discussions of Varma’s painting.
Pooja Joshi is a poet currently working as a management consultant in Atlanta, GA. On a less boring note, she is also a classically-trained singer, an avid reader (and talks about books on YouTube and TikTok), enjoys traveling around the world, and dabbles in filmmaking. Her work has been published in The Bombay Review.
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