The Epics

"To be Indian, or to simply live in India at any period in her recorded history, is to open oneself to the benign moral influence of two epics - the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Caste, creed, colour do not matter here; what matters is the degree, range and subtlety of exposure, which in turn determines the quality of the affected person's 'Indianness', whatever that very large word means" - Professor Purushottam Lal

Oct 6, 2012

Voice of a shadow

The setting sun is glowing red, with shades of darkness tinging it. It is reminiscent of a father's face who is ashamed of his son's failure, reddened with angst, anger, disgrace and distress. The father who knew that his son studied well for the exam, but failed for some strange reason. Darkness has already set-in in that house on the banks of Ganga.  Two shadows sit there still, in that corner room. A slow voice echoes out of a shadow, with a slight tremble in it.


Oh dear Mother! How can I thank you for letting my head lie on your lap. It is this lap that protects me, more than this kavach that I was born with! Like the Sun who goes down into the Western hill to rest, I come to your lap for solace. The love you showered on me, all my life, is immeasurable. Wasn't it you who fought with father to send me to Drona's school. I pestered you night and day about learning archery! I don't know why, but I wasn't ever satisfied with just driving chariots, the chariots of someone else. I wanted to have my own chariot, lots of chariots, and become Maha Rathi! It is you who constantly encouraged me all along, keeping all the bruises caused by arrow sharp whispers of our neighbors, to yourself. Oh Mother, how come you love me so much!

Even today, when I came back home, it is you who recognized my grief. Neither father nor my dearest friend Duryodhan could see it! You asked me why my face looked like the Sun in the clutches of Rahu. Mother, I'll tell you why. I'll tell you all the questions that are piercing my heart in spite of this kavach covering me. I'll let loose the fire burning inside me, hidden, like the oceanic fire. I know, you can bear it for my sake. 

As you know, I went to Parasuram to obtain Brahmastra, the astra that Drona denied me giving because of his favoritism towards Arjun. That obsessive partiality of Drona, right from the school days, made me burn with jealousy. He used to teach him many new techniques for many extra hours. Is it fair of Guru? And that Arjun! His eyes drooled with haughtiness as he looked me down as an insect. Oh, how much I hate that big black pig! It is that pique which drove me, to somehow get that astra possessed by Arjuna. But alas, I returned empty handed today! But mother, that is not what makes me distressed. I went there with deceit and that didn't pay off, as simple as that.
But do you know why I failed? I did manage to obtain the Brahmastra from Parasuram, posing as a Brahmin. But yesterday the fatal thing happened. He was taking a nap on my lap, under the shade of a tree. At that time, a bloody damn demon insect came from nowhere and started biting my thigh. I resisted the pain. I couldn't move, as that might disturb my teacher. I've heard enough stories of rishis getting disturbed by slightest of things and giving curses! So I sat there still, like a statue. Blood oozed from my thigh. It slowly started trickling down and touched Parasuram. He woke up. "Oh, I'm in soup!", I thought. It was a soup indeed, but with a completely new recipe! I said that I endured the pain lest his sleep gets disturbed. And that, O mother, enraged him! He spoke some strange things to me. He said that such an endurance, such a valor, are the traits of a Kshatriy, and a Brahmin cannot have them. He said he was convinced that I am not a Brahmin, but a Kshatriya. Holy Cow! What was he saying? I was damn confused! I fell on his feet and revealed the truth. I told him I'm not a Kshatriy, but a Suta! He didn't care to hear thereafter. Boom came out the curse! The Brahmastra which I got with deceit, will come to no use for me. 

Mother, do you see the paradox, the contradiction here? Today, solely based on my traits, my Gunas, I was declared a Kshatriy! These very traits, did not come to any help when I challenged Arjun for a dual that other day. The day when princes were showcasing their skills. That time, it was my birth which took the upper hand. What an irony! In both the cases, I was at the losing end. Does this happen to me alone? - this strange mixture, of being someone by birth, and someone else by their characteristics?  Are the characteristics according to one's birth varna, or is the varna according to one's characteristics and deeds? Is a thing named after its characteristics, or does it inherit them from its name?

Mother, my head is bursting and heart is burning with such questions! Let me tell you one more thing, something which I didn't tell anyone, even to you. From the childhood, I had a deep desire inside me, to become a king and rule a country.  That desire grew with my age. Why should I have such a desire? Is it my dharma? I don't know. But I had the required qualities too, didn't I? Then why this discrimination based on birth? Shouldn't every one get the same opportunities to learn? Shouldn't jobs be given solely based on skills and talents? Mother, tell me, who will answer these questions for me? My aspiration remained unfulfilled, till that moment when Duryodhan appointed me as the King of Anga rajya. Oh Mother, Mother! That was the happiest moment of my whole life! It was like a re-birth to me. At that moment, I felt, I became the twice-born! And so, that new life that I got from Duryodhan, I decided to dedicate it to him. Whatever is good for him, is good for me. Whatever he asks me to do, I'll do. Now, the only wish I have is to kill my one and only enemy, that middle fiddle of Pandavas, the Arujun. I don't even care about the other four guys. To my mind, they are not even Kshatriyas. Arjun is the real guy. The real warrior. One should either kill him or get killed by him. There lies the ultimate meaning for my life. 

So you see, nothing is left in my life except revenge! Dear mother, the only love that remains, is you. Please let me rest in your lap till my life's wish comes true. 


The voice went mute. The two shadows dissolved into the darkness of night.

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