Saturday, November 19, 2011 1 reflections

A mystery called Kalidasa

I was about 10 years old when I first saw 'Kaviratna Kalidasa' in Kannada featuring the thespian Dr. Rajkumar. Out of the various scenes the one that stuck most to my memory was the transformation he undergoes from a quintessential rural goatherd to one of the biggest names in Sanskrit literature. The scene where this takes place is depicted thus: Having shocked the living daylights out of the immensely intelligent and articulate princess he married (due to the evil motives of a minister) he tries to console her in the time of such grief. To help him out with this she takes him to the Kali temple (a deity Kalidasa is known to have utmost devotion for) and tells him to sit and pray to her all night. She also assures him that Kali will appear before him and 'cure him' from the illiteracy that plagues him. Kalidasa, hence, sits and starts to pray. Lo and behold the goddess does appear in human form (bejewelled with the usual cinematic inclusion of theatrical ornaments) and asks him to push out his tongue. When he does so she dramatically raises her trident and etches the word 'Aum' on it. The very next moment a halo of knowledge starts to glow behind his head as he opens his eyes, now welled up by the effect of this drastic transformation, and starts to sing Kali's praises in pure Sanskrit.

The scene, needless to say, is a memorable one. Partly because of the masterful authenticity Dr. Raj brings to this otherwise comic version of how Kalidasa actually got his skills. (As a child, and being one who was woefully inept at topics like Math and Biology, I secretly hoped that I too could get a goddess to come to me this way and etch that magical 'Aum' on my tongue so that I could ace exams and get more Amar Chitra Katha and GI Joe's as gifts...)

A second version of this story is presented in the aforementioned Amar Chitra Katha comic where Kalidasa is shunned by the princess on realizing she has been swindled into marrying an absolute dimwit. Unable to tolerate the shame he walks straight to the Kali temple and spends many days in meditation trying to please the goddess. On failing to do so he picks up the sword near the idol and tries to kill himself (as a sacrificial offering) when, finally, the goddess appears and blesses him with the vision and tongue of a poet laureate.

To me both these versions, despite their colorful variety, of Kalidasa's literary beginnings began to seem less and less accurate with passing time. The one point I had a hard time digesting was the appearance of Kali as some sort of quick fix mantra to take care of all of his problems. A premise, that, just seems too easy for the start of such a legend's historic journey.

Over the last few years I have sporadically tried to find out as much as I could about Kalidasa's origins as a poet but have failed to find anything reliable. So, as an attempt to try and rationalize the intellectual start of such a literary giant in Indian literature, I present to you my humble version of the same episode.

So what might have happened? Perhaps this: Contrary to popular belief Kalidasa was not a complete illiterate. He is said to have had 'minimal literacy' but was not a very bright lad. This perhaps means that he did get some crude sort of formal education but either due to poverty (given that he was a goatherd in all versions) or due to the lack of motivation, the boy never learned much. This brings us to the next point. Now, why does anyone learn anything sincerely? Some ounce of genuine purpose? Maybe some spoonfuls of passion mixed in? But Kalidasa had none of these factors to actual see the benefits of a good education. At such a point in his life enters the wronged minister. He spots an ideal way to get back at the egotistical princess. He takes a gullible Kalidasa under his wing and trains him enough to pass the 'groom test' she conducts with every man who walks into the palace wanting to be her husband. Due to a sequence of circumstantial events the princess does not detect the plot hole. In fact I have also read that Kalidasa was quite a handsome looking fellow. So there is also a bright chance the princess, despite her centered demeanor, developed a slight state of infatuation just by laying her eyes on him. This perhaps also explains why she didn't think too much of his bizarre responses which were being aptly paraphrased by the minister.

Long story short, the marriage takes place. She discovers she was wrong and kicks him out. Initially I was surprised she didn't have him executed immediately. But on second consideration it dawned upon me that it could have been her soft feelings for the man and the blatant realization that he too was a victim, that made her merely let go of him, albeit with a broken heart. What happened next? Kalidasa, clearly now full of self hate and uncontrollable fury (at having been shamed by the princess thus) goes to an abandoned Kali temple (or even somewhere in the middle of a forest. It doesn't matter where) and starts to meditate intensely.

Initially he is full of distractions. He thinks of the beautiful princess and lets his thoughts wander. That then brings back the ugliness of her words that drove him out of her life. Anger keeps returning and fuelling the energy in him to focus on the goal at hand – to prove her wrong. For several days, Kalidasa is in this state of trance. Animals, birds and insects wander about him but do not harm him as he doesn't seem like a threat. His mind is full of prayer verses that he knows for Kali. His face and body is now covered with all kinds of debris. Rain, sunshine, wind – each one of them have come and showered him with their presence. His body has also been regularly answering nature's calls without his knowledge since, well, it has to do what it has to do. His soiled garments are proof that despite the shabbiest state of affairs the man has not moved a muscle. His body remains but his mind is fixed only on Kali. He wants to please her and get her blessings. It is also possible that due to the state of fatigue and growing hunger he may have had bizarre hallucinations of Kali at some points too.

Now, while all of this is happening in his conscious state his subconscious state has been picking up a few things. It notices the song of birds, the perfume of trees, the music in the breeze, the rustle of leaves, the hum of bees, the rhythm in the rain drops, the way a wind runs up to someone and hugs them like a child eager for attention, the way different times of a single day smell so unique from one another, the way animals communicate various feelings to each other – of anger, of lust, of sorrow, of trust. Every single entity in the world around him is coming alive in a way that Kalidasa had never bothered to notice before. In fact it seems he didn't have the faculty to do so. By filling up his conscious state with so many disturbances and wants, he had subdued the poet in him for a very long time. But now, in these moments when his body is not his own and nothing else matters, the poet inside him is waking up. A sense of calm comes over him. He looks and smells like the foulest garbage mound on earth but within that heap of hovering flies and maggots stirs the psyche of a man in whom the thirst for knowledge has begun. It starts in the inner most walls in his mind. First as a drop of dew, then multiple drops, drop by drop accumulating, a puddle, many such puddles now, filling up quickly as the elements around him start to influence the volume, growing with each passing day, becoming too heavy for him to hold it within until it starts to fill his insides. His itch for learning becomes so grave that he can't even reach it to scratch it back to peace. It continues to well up like an emerging lava as the fumes of its impending arrival start to ooze out of him. His yogic trance starts to die away as the long hidden meaning for his birth breaks down every door and like a flood that cannot be tamed, gushes out of him, illuminating him from within and exploding out into the open. The raw fierce energy of the force ignites his conscious state now and switches his eyes open. The lack of food in his stomach and water in his throat for days, perhaps weeks, now suddenly hits him. His mental strain in keeping his focus on the goal was so overwhelming that it now overpowers his physical attributes. He leans over immediately and loses consciousness.

The reason I feel something similar to this, if not all of it, happened was because the mind is arguably one of the most powerful things in the universe. Learning to control it basically means being able to control pretty much everything else in and around one. So if Kalidasa was to go on into the passages of history and create epics then the fire of ambition to actually go there had to have come from within him. His devotion to Kali was perhaps so huge that in a sheer display of humility he later on dedicated his mastery to her – thus earning the name Kalidasa (there is literature that says his name was something else earlier to this episode. He became Kalidasa much later).

So let us wrap up then. Maybe he did faint, maybe he didn't. That is besides the point. Either way once he was back to his senses he was a different man. He got up and walked straight to the river where he shed his awful clothes, bathed till his mind was content and came out a completely new man. Maybe, while in the waters, he wept bitterly till his heart's content too so that along with those foul tears his past also might disappear into the waters never to resurface again.

He then perhaps got some help from someone for shelter and food, after which began a lengthy phase of him reading and analyzing every scripture, epic, upanishad and veda known to man. This must have taken him several years since even though he had the burning desire to overcome his own shortcomings it still needed a different sort of mental and physical acumen to actually absorb the literature he was gradually being exposed to. It is conceivable then, that after such rigorous self training (or perhaps he did seek out a guru too. We have no evidence to claim he didn't) he walks into the court of King Bhoja one day and enthralls the audience with his abilities. The rest, as they say, is history.

Like many of the pieces I have recently written, this too is an attempt to dissect out the mysterious origins of Kalidasa and try to find a non-mythical way to explain his talents. That he eventually fell prey to the same (the story that he was killed by a greedy courtesan to get some extra money) is perhaps the most fitting end to a life that was always somehow so much larger than itself.

Thoughts and feedback most welcome.

Saturday, November 05, 2011 2 reflections

Short Fiction : Ranga and the demon king

Ranga and the demon king
a short fiction by ShaKri

Circa 19— and the land was a meat mart. Fresh ones went for a higher price while the aging skins were left on the back burner. Dicey ones abandoned in the name of the Omnipresent while the smarter ones were often found in a puddle of their own blood. A shameful dance of how meaningless and absolutely worthless a human life was became more apparent with every tabloid spill. Burning the soles of his hardened feet was the common man, stuck somewhere between the moon and the rainbow, trying to scratch his back in peace. Ignored, he sat waiting in line for an unknown finale just because others like him did too. Fanning themselves with the only other piece of clothing they had brought, they waited. And they hoped.

Thrown somewhere into this bizarre equation of simmering humanity was Ranga. Burning the tips of his fingers with a beedi he had borrowed, he smoked in deep drags with a moist hand towel on his head. Strapped in a dirty dhoti that begged for a wash and an equally shabby cotton shirt he sat enjoying his ten minute lunch break. His face was an image of eternal struggle laced with a hint of a discerning frown. Little was known about this middle aged looking wrinkle-faced nobody who minded his own business and slaved at almost every road repair, flyover construction, brick-laying and sign painting project the city would undertake. Sniffing till his mouth went dry in the blistering heat, Ranga would get soaked in sweat as he toiled relentlessly each passing day to make the few rupaiyyah he got at the end of it. A quick wipe of the weary face and another deep whiff of the foul tasting beedi was all he needed to get through the day.

He ate when there was food available. He slept where there was room. His only possession was a hand-sown cotton bag that hung in desperation along his groin. He would flap up his dhoti with an air of uncouth proficiency and stuff his earnings into that bank of atomic fortunes. Many a time this rather ghastly act of uninvited publicity would see orthodox faces in the crowd look away in utter disgust. With little care for anything around him he would sneeze out a long one, adjust his crotch with practiced ease and move on. Nothing, it appeared, could make the fellow blink an eyelid of concern for anyone else besides himself.

Not far from the invisible shanty-town that was the city’s eyesore was the new project at hand. Ranga’s discovery about this high yielding job had borne fruit when he found himself tenth in the ant-hill that was forming for rapid occupation. A name exchange, a nod of approval on the payment rules and he was in. Zaveri Builders had taken it upon themselves to provide the already bejeweled headdress of the city yet another elite column of apartments with one bedroom and two bathrooms. Ranga was once forced to join in some banter about the owner being a major power player but being the way he was, he coughed and spat before resuming work.

His apathetic reactions to the people around him had created unrest among the ranks as he quickly got the repute of being a loathsome loner. He was, without a shred of doubt, a man of few words but somehow the only salvation others like him with nastier coughing and spitting habits had was to know they were part of a community. This blatant disregard by Ranga of the working-ants brotherhood did not seem to gel well with the clan.

The meat market would remain simmering with the blister of each passing sun. The women folk carried heaps of gravel and stones during the day while their bare bottomed toddlers watched in curious glee before returning to their sand play. At night these mothers and their children nestled next to each other with a half empty stomach while the fathers drank themselves insane and yelled obscenities at the perfumed bedrooms of the snoring elite. Their make shift tents with a dull kitchen outside would be filled with badly sung lullabies and the occasional wail of a nightmare as the stars enveloped this part of the globe. Apart from this faction of noise and activity the rest of the area and all sixteen-floors of it would be the city of the dead.

The booze-hound men would sit around all night exchanging dirty jokes about the owner of the building being an impotent with only one working testis. They would guffaw at various ill conceived rumors about the project’s money being generated by the mafia. Some of them would swear on their dead mothers (‘God rest her soul!’ they would add) that they had seen with their own living eyes covert exchanges at late night meetings. Initially they would call out to Ranga to come on over and join their verbal exploits but on his consistent reluctance to do so they had confidently declared that even he was not a complete man either. Too bad, they said, that at least the owner had so much money! And they might as well have been right about Ranga’s non existent manhood had it not been for that fateful night when the demon king finally decided to make an appearance.

Literacy among these folk was pretty minimal. Agriculture had been their main occupation before the land started to crack and worms began consummating on their crops. While some of them took rat poison for dessert others fled the land to the city where the dreams were produced and caged. They left behind wailing wives and dead kin. Memories of a hard life were past them as the glitz and distraction of a disoriented metro consumed them in one merciless gulp. The silence that engulfed their empty eyes would be filled with the reflections of the stars sequined on some teenager’s ripped jean. The masks they would wear as they built someone's aspiration during the day would burn off their faces as the liquor made way into their food craving veins. With a stomach full of lost ambitions, they would disappear into a mirage of poison vials and humping ring worms before the irksome crow would croak each morning. Those few minutes of reconciliation was all they had. It was all they could afford.

What did not bother Ranga about this scene was the familiarity of it all. He too was a child of abuse in the name of democracy. A lowly farmer whose land had been lost in oceans of debt that would take at least three generations of buttock peeling to pay back. As the heads of the administration looked the other way his home burned. His brothers hung from banyan trees with letters of sorrow cold in their still palms. The elders cremated their mortal remains but the spirits still wandered around the old banyan tree, looking for a release. A proper one. And hopefully a happy one. It seemed like the mixed emotions of the banyan tree dwellers fell on the wrong ears. Somewhere in the belly of an undigested sky slept the demon king in peace. Their cries soaked in flesh-scented fury, somehow, reached the pit of the evil that sang itself a lullaby of death. Not the silent kind O no! The noisy kind. The kind that makes stomachs churn and tongues heave. Somewhere someone somehow had managed to say those two words – magical concoctions of liberty – that would descend from the ill bowels of the skies. That unmistakable pair wrapped in one pristine request – ‘Release Us’.

Ranga squatted for a quick late night relief near the garbage mound when the signs initially appeared. Two drunks were discussing various ways of having rough sex with the latest starlet when mixed with the wind came the scent of decaying souls. Ranga picked it up almost right away. His thoughts ran back to his village, to his family, to his wife, to his twin-daughters who still had not yet reached their tenth year of existence and to his dying land. The land that sat buried inside the shame of his family. The land that had made him as hard as itself. That mass of helpless earth that sat choking on its spit with no one to care for it. As the silence broke with the demon king’s flaming eyeballs Ranga was on his feet – alert, aware, ready. He stood all set to take the monster by his blazing horns and send him back to where he came from.

It was close to 3 AM when the out of control four wheeled chariot of the demon king was on its final ride. Loud and unfamiliar music radiated with glaring insanity from its foul interiors that spat out sparks of fire as it mercilessly banged itself against the sidewalk. Ranga’s math was as accurate as it had ever been. If he did not come in the way of the demon king’s death-strewn path then more than two dozen drunks and eight sobers would be trampled under the hot wheels of the chariot the demon king was riding. The refugee camps with the mothers and children would be next in line. If he did manage to cross paths with the frenzied machine then there was no way to predict which route the dying chariot would take before fragmenting into a thousands pieces perhaps taking Ranga along with it.

Without a second to spare, Ranga took one last look at the boiling lights from hell and leaped onto the chariot’s view. The dark shades prevented him from seeing the demon king in the eye but what a sight that was! An ear piercing crescendo of unearthly noises came out of the metal chariot as Ranga clung onto it desperately trying to force it out of its path of impending mayhem. A few meters away from the snoring half-dead Ranga realized he had gained access to the chariot's steering wheel. He quickly maneuvered his arm onto the square that was dimly lit by smoke and expensive alcohol. He heard a cry behind him; a sleepy sober was shouting at the top of his lungs and trying to pull out every sleeping worker away from that cursed sidewalk. In the following moment the chariot was in Ranga’s control. At a speed unimaginable the demon king's chariot sped onto the construction site narrowly missing the snoozing booze-hounds and crashed violently into one of the weaker pillars in the basement area.

The explosion that followed echoed across the neighborhood. The roar of melting metal was so intense that life in the hundred meter radius was brought out of its slumber. Within a few seconds scores of groggy heads surrounded the smoking chariot of the demon king that was now engulfed in raging flames. Wailing children and their hysterical mothers appeared from their camps and did little to bring order to this chaos. Residents from the neighborhood rushed towards the accident spot with overflowing buckets of water and blankets. Within minutes the fire was brought under control as the entire area was engulfed in a foggy layer of invisible grief.

A burly man, who identified himself as Yadav, began pushing curious onlookers aside to try and rip open the doors of the burning chariot. Using the water and the blankets as fire-safety gadgets he pulled open the door with some effort to find two seriously injured individuals trapped inside. One of them was a young woman who seemed to have hurt her head with a bright red stream of blood dripping down her face and the second one, the driver, was a young man who was immediately identified as the impotent owner’s only son. Someone’s presence of mind worked well that dreary night as an ambulance and a police jeep arrived within the next few minutes.

The impact had been quite vexing. The front portion of the chariot had been completely damaged as the bodies of the unconscious occupants were awkwardly stuck inside. With efforts by the burly Yadav they were finally pulled out and put on sanitized stretchers before being whisked away to safety. The police quickly cleared out the area so that the clean up operation would go smoothly. Considering the owner’s son was involved in this grisly incident they did not want any delay. Not a minute more. Not a second more.

‘Hey! See this!’ screamed one of the younger workers as the ambulances disappeared into the distance. The crowd turned its attention towards the lad only to realize that one more fatality had occurred. One of the local workers, whose name no one knew, lay in a pool of blood as the back of his head had pierced into one of the metal rods that stuck out of one of the concrete blocks of aspirations. They slowly pulled out the dead body of the stranger from its entanglement and laid it out in the open for everyone to take a peek.

‘Sorry son of a bastard’ said one of the intoxicated workers. ‘We pleaded with this fellow to be with us. If he had been then he would have been alive today. You see what happens if you act too smart? I always knew he was not man enough!’ Having said this he spat on Ranga’s bloodied face before being pushed away by the others. Someone later called the local authorities and informed them about an unknown body that had been involved in the incident and needed cremation. Thus, Ranga’s historic tryst with the demon king remained undocumented.


The inspiration for 'Ranga and the demon king' came from Shankar Nag's 1985 Kannada movie called 'Accident'.

Other posts of a similar genre:
A tale for Ambu
The death of Krsna
Tuesday, November 01, 2011 7 reflections

Short Fiction : The death of Krsna

Dear reader, 

I had posted a blog yesterday discussing the death of Krsna. One possibility was that he could have been perhaps executed for his controversial role in various parts of the epic. The more I thought about that possibility the more I wanted to pen those moments where, perhaps, a group of assailants accosted Krsna one evening and killed him in a planned ambush. Given the room for some creative freedom there I present to you the short fiction version of mine below. It details the final moments of the attack. It has been eons since I blogged short fiction so this was one way of breaking those shackles of uncertainty.

Feedback, of course, is most welcome.


~ The death of Krsna ~ 
a short fiction by ShaKri

The meandering clouds bore a reddened glow even before the blood spill that fateful dusk. Stunned into a sense of helplessness by their impending tryst with destiny the tall trees that overlooked the palace city for centuries swayed about uneasily. From the cacophony of a bustling day in paradisiacal nests the king emerged. Exiting from the rear side of the colossal palace, he took the snaking path to the river’s edge for his evening bath. Silent shadows had followed him with the precision of a hawk and the grace of a swan ever since he had slipped out for his evening dip in the river from the palatial halls. On recognizing the followers, he had then acknowledged their need for anonymity whilst continuing his journey towards the water front. The breeze that gently danced on the impatient surface of the river somehow seemed to carry a bitter pinch of melancholy with it as he, the dark skinned monarch of the Yadavas, walked without the slightest hint of royalty on him despite his standing. No jewels, no footwear, no head dress. He walked like a man in a state of eternal trance yet his gait was unwavering. His face bore the pain of the crumbling walls of a once mighty empire yet his lips managed to curl into a subtle smile. To the untrained eye he might have seemed like the commonplace wanderer with no home or country to call his own yet his confident stride bore the mark of a man who could own every inch of land he stepped upon. His flowing auburn tresses swayed about with the same playful nature that had for many decades sent a flurry of inexplicable affections into the hearts of absolute strangers. His saffron colored silk dhauti fluttered in the stiff breeze as he took one meticulously placed step after another.

Barefooted, he stood a few meters away from the river's edge and silently gazed at the horizon. After those humble beginnings behind caged rooms here he was this day; prepared, perhaps, to finally find liberation. His eyes, now lit by the dying light of the day, seemed to be in a wordless conversation with an invisible entity. Or perhaps it was just the image of the remaining sparks of hope that still sat smoldering in them despite the obvious absence of that roaring fire which had made him the creator, architect, father and emperor of that city... his city...his Dvarka.

The setting sun in the distance somehow seemed to be in the most irregular haste to bring that day to an end. The solitary king, even with his eyes into the nothingness beyond, could pick up restless feet moving about in the shade of those tall trees. He showed no reaction. Instead, he walked on, stepping into the welcoming arms of the nervous river that seemed equally impatient to embrace him. With the abundance of time at his disposal, the great king began disappearing into the shimmering layers of liquid gold and silver.

'Now?' whispered an inquisitorial voice from within the shadows.

'No!' asserted another. 'No one is to waste a single breathe! We wait for him to emerge. The venom we bring today shall enter him from the front. Not the back! We perform this so that he may be aware of every moment of it!'

'What difference, O learned one, does it make in what direction death arrives from?' reasoned another voice.

'Direction?' hissed the commander. 'You speak of direction O venerable warrior? Do you not see the rotting corpses of those he has slain O brethren? Have your senses gone blind to the fiend in that glorified Yadava? Without laying a finger on a fly in the battle field he has claimed victory by slaughtering thousands, tens of thousands of kinsmen merely by pointing the arrow in the right direction. Yes...direction. The charioteer of mayhem masters that quite well. The imposter! The thief! Listen closely. Tonight we point our craft to his heart as his eyes watch. That, my brethren, would be the right direction. The just direction!' he added with an emphatic appeal in the word 'just'.

Meanwhile in the distance, away from the ghostly patch of hissing whisperers, the king had slowly emerged out of the waters. His blue dhauti clung to him so purposefully that it seemed as though he had changed his skin to a bluish tint. He brought his jewel-less hands in rapt salutation to the swiftly setting sun and prayed under his breathe. Eager faces, boiling with fury, watched his ritual as their breathing got heavier and stance became more alert. The aged king then repeated this sequence standing in the cold and soothing bosom of the river twice more before turning around and plastering the dripping tresses onto his nape. He then stepped out of the river onto the sandy shore like a fresh memory of a long forgotten dream.

He walked a few paces towards the majestic trees and stood there admiring their poise for a few fleeting moments. Tiny granules of muck stuck to his feet as if pleading him in desperation not to tread any further. He found the thought amusing. The birds he could speak to were nowhere in sight. The animals he had cared for were absent that day. And yet, he reflected, the earth he stood upon was smearing itself against him in a hapless attempt to shield him. But before the king could ponder further at his futile attempt at life’s poetry, it began.

He heard the impatient release first followed by a short grunt.

Before the next few sand grains in time’s capsule could drop, a sleek arrow swiftly appeared from oblivion and punctured the pages of history. It pierced through the generous space just under his heart, like a knife cutting through fresh fruit, and forcefully lodged half of itself into his rib cage.

The king gasped and made a choking sound, stepping back a little. His eyes instantly welled up from a familiar feeling of loneliness at such a vacant junction in his long life. Perhaps, he thought in that passing slice of time, too long a life. Blinking rapidly through moist eyes he looked around and tried to regain his posture. A recognizable figure emerged from the shadows of the trees followed by three more faces the king had come to know quite well. Each of them held a sturdy bow and a full quiver of poison tipped arrows. The end had commenced.

'Hearty salutations O Dvarkadeesh!' screamed one of the men stepping from behind the leader and taking aim from a closer range to let go of another arrow. This one sped past the previous resident in the king's person and made a clean penetration into his stomach. He noticed the bottom half of the arrow protruding from his torso before the pain hit his senses. On realizing the agony, he swayed erratically to his left, lost his balance and collapsed on his knees. He could hear the distant sound of a conch being blown somewhere. He wondered if it was that from the palace that had realized his unannounced absence. Or was it just another figment of his many illusions? The river's soothing waters still dripping from his sides, he parted his lips, struggling for air. His eyes remained open and his face still seemed to carry a subtle smile. Was that a smile of prior knowledge? Or was it that of unexpected relief?

'Halt!' the leader screamed before a third arrow could be planted. His eyes searched the area around the fallen emperor and spotted something which made him grin. He walked up to the king and having grabbed him by his wet tresses, dragged him away from the river's edge onto the foot of a giant Pippala tree nearby.

'For centuries have you played all the wrong games O son of Vasudeva!' he said pulling the king up on his unstable feet and propping him against the tree. 'Many a silent night has been curdled with the venom of your deception that now freely flows out of you. Today, O kin of the Pandavas, you are no longer playing any game. You, sire, are the game.' Having mouthed these words he, unhesitatingly, stepped back a couple of steps, pulled the string on his sturdy bow to its maximum length, said something incoherent under his breathe and released a third arrow that penetrated the king's right thigh. This time the wound was the deepest. It cut right through him and lodged itself into the tree on which he had been placed. The king shut his eyes tighter and winced in visibly excruciating agony yet not a hint of noise escaped his mouth.

'The grit deserves applause your majesty!' another voice opined. 'Three arrows and not a single scream leaves your lips! But your city will scream, sire! O yes it will! When the news of your pitiful end spreads like wildfire, every stone, every grain, every inch of the grand city of yours will howl so loud that its echoes will be heard for hundreds of yugas to come!'

The fourth assailant now stepped forward and took aim.

'And for the four maha yugas...' he said inhaling deep ' are four little tokens for your royal pleasure!'

The last arrow found its mark on the king's left foot fracturing it and, thus, paralyzing it as it pierced a gaping hole into the tree as well, pinning him in the process.

The leader walked up to the semi-conscious emperor who lay nailed to the Peepul tree and spoke in a low tone in his ear.

'You can tell your own story now Madhava for now you have received an end akin to the grandsire Bhsma whom you fell on a bed of arrows that day. This is no bed, indeed. But the bowl of nectar that pours into us from crushing your world of deceit to smithereens shall last us till the end of time itself.'

Throwing these venomous words around the injured king like cobwebs of a nightmare he could not wake up from the assailants cautiously withdrew and vanished forever into the annals of the past.

Resting his head against the comforting bark of the tree the king slowly opened his eyes and looked at the clouds. Darkness was almost complete yet he could make out the final few layers of sunshine still reluctant to leave. Nightfall would surface soon. He also knew that even though the sun would reappear to the world in a few hours the black mask of fate that had been tied around Dvarka's lovely face to asphyxiate it away from existence could never be undone. Much like its creator, his beloved city was also breathing its last. His era had now arrived at the threshold of an uncertainty he knew no way out of. Or was it perhaps because he knew all the ways that he had been stitched in such an unceremonious fashion to nature herself?

It was in the medley of such random thoughts that his fading eyes rested on yet another familiar face. He emerged from the shadows with tears streaming down the cheeks and eyes red rimmed with grief. He approached the king gingerly and clutched his lifeless and limp hand.

'Welcome...dear....Uddhava...' said the dying king to his friend.


Recommended reading of a similar nature:

The Eldest Kaunteya