Uttara lay coyly in her bridal chamber still adorned in her wedding attire. The doors opened gingerly and his gaze met the sight of her, illuminated in equal parts by two lamps placed on either side of the bed. She awaited his embrace like a farmer awaits the first rains. He looked at her, filling his mind with her beauty to the brimful. He felt a never before like inadequacy in trying to fathom just how beautiful she looked. Anxiously, he approached her and the lamps complied by giving up their defiance to the breeze when it seemed most opportune.

Her sandalwood fragrance became more prominent as he drew closer, subsuming the smell of burnt oil and wick interspersed by the doused lamps. He sat down on the bed, facing her and reached for her chin with his first three fingers, elevating her field of view. It took every single fiber of her restraint to contain the quiver that first touch caused in her body. When their eyes finally met, she saw his lips part into words.

“I must confess something”

“Anything” she replied truthfully.

“My life is to serve a purpose and once it is fulfilled, I will depart. I ask that you give me the gift of another life so that there be a trace of my existence after I’m gone.”

“I understand” she replied obediently.

“My life is not mine to give you or I would have in the blink of an eye. I can only share with you my pain for it is all I have that I can claim as mine.”

“I’m yours”

“Yes, you are. But it pains me that I cannot do any justice to you. All I can do is ask of you and it pains me.”

“Why should it? Do you doubt me?”

“Doubt you? I’m not worthy of it.”

“You are worthy of my undying love and for that, I do not ask for an undying life in return.”

He held her shoulders and lowered his head in gratitude of a debt he didn’t have the means of repaying.

“I know that war will come soon and separate us. I know your place in it. But I know that you can give me something that will outlast the destruction and mark the beginning of the new world order. This is my Pariksha. In return, I ask of you Parikshit. I’m worthy of that.”

“Yes, you are”