Cries and sobs erupted outside the palace walls, the people of Ayodhya were in disarray. They chanted the name of Rama, their lost king, who was forced to live in exile for the next 14 years due to conditions step by his stepmother Kaikeyi.
Far away from the revolt of the kingdom, there sat a woman hunched over in a dimly lit room. Kooni was seated in the only furniture of her quarters, the best accommodations from being a servant to the king’s third wife Kaikeyi her whole life. The only light in the room was from a small fire in the corner, as Kooni sat in the chair she twiddled with a string of pearls. She smiled a devilish grin as she twirled the pearls of her exploits around her hands.
Kaikeyi then burst into the room bringing in a gust of air, she had been running after her son asking for his forgiveness before racing to the servant quarters to see Kooni.
“This is all your fault!” She shouted while her eyes burned with resentment.
“Calm down. You received exactly what you wished for.” Kooni countered without even looking away from the pearls.
“I am your queen, address me when you speak. I never wanted my son to despise me or the kingdom to protest me. You must fix what you orchestrated you serpent.”
Kooni began to cackle when Kaikeyi called her a serpent, she finally turned around and faced her accuser. “My, my. You certainly have aged in the days since our last discussion. As I said previously, you only have your youth and your beauty. Do not let these setbacks take away the only things you have ever had. In only a short time you have become years older and far less pretty.”
“All I ever had was my sons. I shared four sons with Dasaratha and his other wives. Now the king has fallen from shock, none of my sisters will look at me and my son wants nothing to do with me. I was perfectly content watching Rama grow to be king, you manipulated that away from me.” Kaikeyi screamed at her trying to preserve the tears behind her eyes.
|(Image information: Picture of Kooni and Kaikeyi |
from Story of Rama.)
“You are so unfortunate. I will keep you in my prayers. I shall pray for the strong woman who was queen and fought for her son to receive what is rightfully his. I shall pray for the girl, who has taken that woman’s place, to one day realize that you had everything handed to you on a silver platter and you squandered it. So the wives of the king, despise you? Only because of their envy, you sacrificed two wishes granted by the king in favor of your son. Oh the kingdom cries because they support their beloved Rama. Rama is so perfect, Rama is so righteous. What about your own son Kaikeyi? I would rather have a king that has never crippled a poor, old handmaiden.” Kooni then stood from her chair and the pearls fell to the ground, her back struggled to regain its former shape. Kaikeyi had seen Kooni’s hunchback before, but never knew what had caused it.
“Take what is yours, and never let the small minded people in this city change you. You are not selfish for pronouncing your son as king, the people are selfish to not give him a chance. Rama may have their affection now, but if he were king he would show his true colors.” Kooni uttered, as her mind flashed back to the time when Rama accidentally struck her with a stick while playing a game with his brothers. An occurrence that ignited her to knock Rama off the throne ever since that day.
Kaikeyi turned and left the servant quarters with confidence to face her harassers and for this moment in time both women got what they wanted.
Author's Note: When reading The Ramayana I was really interested in why Kooni manipulated Kaikeyi to use her wishes to dethrone Rama. The book did not really give an explanation of her motives until the end when it said Rama used to throw clay at Kooni. So I decided to write my own version of why she intervened. I consulted Wikipedia and it talked about another episode where a young Rama broke Kooni’s knee on accident while playing a game. I decided to alter that and make it the motivation behind her character to dethrone Rama as well as be a reason that she was hunchbacked. It was a lot of fun to write because I felt like her dialogue resembles Olivia Pope's father in the TV show Scandal who is a master manipulator. I chose an image that I thought would represent the strained argument between Kaikeyi and Kooni, with Kaikeyi being torn on what to do. I wanted the reader to take away that Kaikeyi was in a tough predicament and that in her mind she wasn’t being selfish making her son king. In her own mind she is being selfless and sacrificing her two wishes for the betterment of her son.
Narayan, R. K. (1972) The Ramayana.