Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Blind Man's Agony

A hush fell over the court.Draupadi was being disrobed unceremoniously by the lustful Dushasana,reduced to the status of a slave through the bumbling maneuvers of her self-righteous husband Yudisthira.The unthinkable had occurred in the land of Dharma where Dhritarashtra was King. Since his birth, the eldest son of Ambika had been dealt a tragic blow. Born blind, he refused to accept pity, rigorously strengthening his other bodily faculties such that on attaining manhood, he was proclaimed as the man with the strength of ten thousand elephants. His visionless existence keened his other senses extensively, as he moved expertly from one place to another with an uncanny ability to deduce the other person's moods and sometimes, inner fears. Had he been stupid as well as blind, his sorrow would have been lessened. But he was an able administrator and a keen strategist, wise and patient, unlike the headstrong Pandu.Pandu the Pale, handsome, ambitious and noble-the sightful second son.Strangely, he thought, Pandu was always viewed by the people of Hastinapura as the natural heir to the throne of Hastinapura.Fickle, ignorant lot! As though his blindness rendered him defective and hence not applicable. His foolhardiness was interpreted as heroism, his excessive love for hunting, a royal skill. How he wished he could turn the tables on Pandu! He sensed the strained politeness with which the courtiers addressed him as Pandu aggressively annexed the lands based on his own strategies. The mockery and derision was intolerable.Praise for Pandu was desolation for Dhritarashtra,noble but blind.Yet Fate had smiled on him.Pandu’s lust for hunting caused him to be cursed by a distraught sage separated by his mate due to Pandu’s cruel arrow. Cursed to fear sensual ecstasies,Pandu retired to the forest with his two wives after his own grand coronation as the noble King of Hastinapura.Those days in the court, where the courtiers were divided between lamenting the loss of Pandu and mocking his celibate existence,Dhritarashtra was relieved. The Gods had shown mercy. This was Dharma. This was Right.He was the righteous ruler, with the young wise suta Vidura at his side as a loyal counselor, he could look forward to a long, prosperous reign. As Gandhari began bearing him sons his happiness seemed boundless. He secretly gloated at Pandu’s barren, childless life in the forests where he would live and ultimately, as Dhritarashtra wished every moment, die without a son to conduct his last funeral rites. The underdog had survived. His own sons were free to grow and expand the Kaurava grandeur throughout Bharata.His sons would not suffer as he had.But,just as the howls of hyenas shatter the peace of the night, the tranquility of his reign was shattered.Kunti returned with five young sons bearing noble statures escorted by a retinue of sages. Before he could even react, the city had been decorated with full gaiety and the Pandavas, as they were being called, were being welcomed with full aplomb. He was astonished into disbelief. How could they believe the words of Kunti? Everyone knew Pandu was cursed.Rumours were abound that the boys had been fathered by the heavenly gods themselves.Dhritarashtra could have laughed out aloud at the utter foolishness of it all. His sightless eyes searched the wise counsel of Vidura .Vidura would surely see through this Adharma.But Vidura’s words left him speechless-the sons of Pandu had returned, they deserved the royal house of Puru as much as Duryodhana and his brothers. That was Dharma!Duryodhana!His handsome eldest son, born to carry forward the illustrious name of the house of Yayati,Puru and Shantanu.He could almost feel the rising resentment in his son’s heart-his royal path as Heir-Apparent obstructed by the appearance of not one but five descendants of the deceased Pandu.He would not allow these so-called sons of Pandu to relinquish the glory of Duryodhana.Even as he ordered Vidura to make the necessary arrangements for the grand welcome, his keen mind frantically sought potential stratagems to obliterate the clan of Pandavas.Maybe the five could be divided through persistent ,discreet manipulation, thereby fighting and killing each other, clearing the path for the Kauravas.Very well, he would have to take Shakuni into confidence……….. He heard the tinkling of bangles behind his throne as he sensed Gandhari stifle a cough.He could feel her sense of revulsion at the heinous act being committed by her own son, but her hatred for Draupadi outstripped all kind of pity for the nearly naked sobbing girl.Gandhari would never forgive the headstrong daughter of Drupada for openly laughing at Duryodhana at Indraprastha.This, was a cruel revenge for a trivial act of mockery. The Pandavas would never forget this humiliation, Draupadi would never forgive it. But to allow her to be stripped any longer (it was taking longer than he thought) would be foolish. The wolf-belly Bhima had threatened to assault Yudishthira while Vidura beseeched the restoration of Dharma .Like his son’s ambition, Bhima’s anger was uncontrollable when unleashed. Like a volcano, it could erupt any moment, engulfing everything in its wake. Opportunities would again arise, he was sure of it. He would still battle Fate. For now, he would play the part of the suppliant.He cleared his throat and began,”Draupadi……” 

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