Ahead of the book’s release, here we share an exclusive excerpt from Amish’s ‘War of Lanka’.
‘War of Lanka’ by Amish Tripathi
Raavan stood quietly. Holding Indrajit’s hand. Just like he had held Kumbhakarna’s the previous day. Letting the physician do his work. Making the death mask. An image of Indrajit’s last expression, the one that would be recorded for posterity in a bronze mask. It was an expression of veera ras. The emotion of courage and triumph. He had almost turned the battle single-handedly. Stopped only by the courage and brilliance of Ram and Bharat. History would record, in glowing words, Indrajit’s lionhearted defense of his land and his father. A brave last stand in the face of defeat.
‘My lord…’ whispered the physician. He knew that Raavan would be fighting a duel in a few hours. He wanted his lord and master to rest. ‘Do you need a chair? Should I ask for some herbal infusions for you?’
‘Just do your job,’ growled Raavan. ‘Make sure my son’s death mask is perfect.’
‘Yes, my lord.’
Ram had not allowed the Lankan army to return to Sigiriya. He had insisted that Raavan order his troops to disarm and remain outside the fort walls, in the open ground. They were detained and surrounded by the Ayodhya army. Raavan had been allowed to go back into the city with the corpse of his son and a hundred bodyguards. Not one warrior anymore.
Ram had ensured that, if he won the duel and ordered a victory march into Sigiriya to take control of the city, there would be no street-by-street resistance. He would restore order in Sigiriya immediately and cleanly.
Ram had accepted the challenge of the Duel of Indra. But he was putting only himself in harm’s way. He was not about to make a move that would damage his army later.
There is a difference between being noble and being stupid. Ram was certainly not stupid.
‘My lord?’ The physician asked for permission to pour the plaster on Indrajit’s face. Raavan would not then be able to see his son’s visage anymore.
Raavan remained quiet. He could not tear his eyes away from his son’s warrior countenance. I’ll be with you soon, my boy.
He ran his fingers through his son’s hair. But I will leave this world like you did… In a blaze of glory… I will go like the sun…
For the sun does not go quietly into the night. As he sets, he rages. He turns the sky into vivid colors of orange and purple as he burns everything around him with his fury.
I will not go quietly. I will go in a blaze of glory…
‘My lord?’ asked the physician once again.
Raavan was about to answer when he stopped. A sound at the door. Someone had entered the royal hospital chamber. Raavan turned and looked.
‘Please wait,’ said Mandodari, politely and softly.
This was the first time she had entered the palace complex in nearly two decades. The ever-present, sage-like gentle smile on her face was missing. Her dark, captivating eyes normally revealed her unbending and righteous spirit; now, it was a window into a person who was broken and bereft.
She stood there.
Looking at her son.
Her pride and joy.
Her finest accomplishment.
Her sun and moon.
Her refuge from the misery caused by the husband she had been cursed with.
Mandodari staggered to the corpse of Indrajit as Raavan stepped back quietly.
The one woman – besides Vedavati – whose moral strength Raavan acknowledged, was his wife Mandodari. But he had never loved Mandodari. There was space in his heart only for Vedavati. If he was honest with himself, though, he would accept that in the dark suppressed corners of his heart, he was afraid of Mandodari.
The queen of Lanka reached Indrajit and gently touched her son’s face. She did not utter a sound. No crying. She did not allow the tears to slip past. Her eyes had imprisoned grief which ached to burst forth from her soul now. She wouldn’t cry. Not in front of Raavan. Not in front of her husband.
‘I’m so sorry, Mandodari…’ whispered Raavan, speaking to her for the first time in many years. ‘He died like a hero… He was one of the finest ever… A better man than me…’
Mandodari did not look at Raavan. She had eyes only for her son.
Mandodari ignored her husband.
‘I am fighting a duel with King Ram in a few hours. I will … This will probably be the last time that you and I …’
Mandodari did not say anything.
‘I am sorry for everything…’
Mandodari remained silent. Focused on her son. Only on her son. Gently running her hands over his face.
‘I will be with our son soon… I will go with my head held high.’
Mandodari looked at Raavan. And whispered, ‘The only thing you will be holding high is what you have always held high – your ego.’
Raavan took a sharp short breath. Anger coursed through his veins. He wanted to shout curses and expletives at his wife. But he couldn’t. Not in front of his son. For he knew… He knew that his son had worshiped Mandodari like a Goddess.
Raavan bent down, kissed Indrajit’s forehead, turned around and stormed out of the chamber.
Mandodari held her son’s hands. And finally allowed her tears to pour out in a flood. Crying bitterly.
A mother who had lost her son. Her magnificent son.
A mother who had lost everything. All that she was left with was her life.
Life. Vicious life. Lucky are those who escape early. The others are kept around long enough to suffer more.
I am sorry that I could not protect you from him, my son. I am sorry that I could not protect you from your father.
(Published with permission by HarperCollins India).
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