Friends know I am a great fan of Kannada playwright T.P.Kailasam. One of the unique factors about his plays is that all his Kannada plays are based on social issues and his English plays are based on mythological stories such as Ramayana and Mahabharata.
His English works rare to find today. Hari Ravikumar has an exclusive blog for that where he has shared Kaillasam’s poems and I contributed the plays. Since he got busy to update his blog by the time I shared the last play, The Brahnmin’s Curse, I am sharing it here.
THE BRAHMIN’S CURSE
A PLAY OF
(An Impression of Sophocles in Five Acts)
Flung adrift by very mother at birth,
Accurs’d of anger’d tutor in thy youth,
Forlorn of friend and kith and kin; in sooth,
A nameless aimless waif upon this earth—
Relentless fate swoop’d thee to serve her aim
And veer’d thy steps into a nest of plots
And feuds: A royal house of power-drunk sots
Perdue to pity, chivalry…e’en shame!
Beguil’d with bribe of crown to battle in cause
Of king who match’d thee ‘gainst thy very kin,
Thy valour, bounty, innocence of sin
Availed thee naught ‘gainst unjust death! Alas,
Befooled babe ‘gainst fate’s bewild’ring odds!
Bejewell’d bauble of the jeering gods.
* * *
“Idam Rahasyam Mama Yena Darsitam—
Sa Vandaneeyoh Gurureva Kevalam—”
IN THE HALO OF WHOSE
THE HUMBLE AUTHOR
OPE’D HIS BABY-EYES
UPON THE WONDER-WORLD
Raama (BHAARGAVA) — The Tutor
Karna — The Pupil
Raadhaa — The Pupil’s Foster Mother
Suyodhana — King of Kuruland
Bheeshma — The King’s Grandsire
Dhritaraashtra — The King’s Blind Father
Vidura — The King’s Uncle—Paternal
Gaandhara and Maadra — The King’s Uncles—Maternal
Yuyutsu — The King’s Brother
Bheemasena and Arjuna — The King’s Cousins
Dronaachaarya and Kripaachaarya — The King’s Preceptors
Aswatthaama — Drona’s son
Krishna — Cousin to The King’s Cousins
Draupada — Crown Prince of Paanchaala
Queen Kuntee — Mother to the King’s Cousins
Paanchaalee — Espoused to The King’s Cousins
Other kinsmen of The King’s; Courtiers; attendants; maids;
Princes; Priests and OTHERS
PLACE and TIME of Action — Are set forth in situations
PERIODS OF THE MAHABHARATA PORTRAYED: AADI, SABHAA and KARNA PARVAS.
TIME OF ACTION OF THE PLAY: THREE HOURS
“Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of Princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme
For you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone, besmirch’d with sluttish time”
PLACE: RAAMA’S AASRAMA.
DISCOVERED: RAAMA AND KARNA
Raama : This, the last day of thy pupildom, Karna ?
Karna : Aye, Gurujee.
Raama : Karna, hundred upon hundred of brahmin pupils have passed through my hands these two long yugas of my deathless life! And yet of all of them, ‘tis thou hast crept nearest my heart! As fitting guerdon for thy selfless love, reverence, loyalty to me, I shall initiate you into the secret of invoking the deadliest of my astras. Hast fasted over-night, as I bade thee?
Karna : Aye, Gurujee.
Raama : Discharg’d thy morning’s rites as well?
Karna : Aye, Gurujee.
Raama : ‘Tis well. Now list: I’ve often told thee Karna, that AHIMSA proclaims UNIVERSAL TRUTH. And yet, in man’s practice of this TRUTH in this world of duality with its multiversant struggles for preservation of self, there is HIMSA, Karna, in AHIMSA; and AHIMSA too in HIMSA! Art perplexed? Then list….
In the sparing of the killer one really shares with him in his sin of killing others! In the slaying of this killer, one washes away one’s sin of killing in the merit one earns by having saved the many many would-have-been victims of the killer! Look! (Points out a young BAKULA sapling in close embrace of a Maadhavee Creeper.) Yonder
Maadhavee, beauteous in form and flower, in poor requite of the food, shelter and support it hath received, is bent on strangling out the life of that Bakula whose flowers, fruit and stately arms will, in time, play host to millions of birds, bees and men! Now, in the slaying of that one Maadhavee, beauteous as she is, one really earns the merit of finding food, home and shelter for the many! I am clear. Karna?
Karna : Aye, Gurujee.
Raama : Now fetch me a blade of grass or aught that is born of this dying earth. (Karna does accordingly)
You have ? Now hold that blade betwixt thy thumb and forefinger: close thine eyes and concentrate upon that one Maadhavee: I’ve taught thee how to concentrate. Fix thy mind on that ONE creeper; be wary, child! : Aught else included in thy thoughts will share that creeper’s fate! You’re ready?
Karna : Aye, Gurujee.
Raama : Now whisper after me: (Raama whispers into Karna’s ears; the pupil mumbles his words after the Guru.)
Now open thine eyes and look! (Karna does accordingly.)
Karna : Why, Gurujee, I see no Madhavee at all!
Raama : (Smiling) You’ve seen the last of it! And if you near that Bakula, you will not see aught left behind to mind you that that creeper ever was! NOW, THAT, MY CHILD, THAT WAS THE DEADLY ASTRA : “BHAARGAVA”!, DREADED OF THE GODS THEMSELVES!: No more but blade of grass:….. a few words whispered; …… and aught th’ invoker deigns is snuffed quite out of existence as feeble flame in gust of hurricane! Now that, Karna, completes thy pupildom!: Come mace, come sword, come bow and shaft, come axe, come lance, come knuckles bare, you’re a master of them every one!, second not e’en to thy Guru! The human to excel thee in the use of arms, is yet to see the light of day! And now must I remind you of the fee you owe me for my tutordom of thee: the fee that I bespoke at very outset of thy pupildom, which is: that you do utilise each grain of the knowledge of use of arms you learnt of me, for no purpose but extirpation of all power-drunk kshattriyas! And this assur’d, I shall feel fully repaid for my tutordom!
Karna : I swear it, Gurujee. (Karna prostrates before the guru; Raama blesses him; Karna rises.)
Raama : Go out, my child, into the world beyond this Aasrama, and use the prowess of thine arms for but the sacred rite of succ’ring distress’d beings on this earth and so help me fulfill the one, one purpose of my deathless life!
(Karna rises and departs sighing. The tutor, with heaving bosom and wistful look, watches the departing pupil.)
The Curtain Drops Slowly!
PLACE : A grove in the purlieus of the Aasrama.
A foot-path runs along the foreground
DISCOVERED : In the fore-ground :
Karna walking along the foot-path, his bow, quiver and haversack slinging by his right shoulder.
In the back-ground :
Raama is asleep, his head resting on the “out crop”ping root of a low-branch’d tree.
Karna : (throwing a wistful look over his shoulder).
May God’s eternal blessings shower on thee, my loved Aasrama!
May thy kindly denizens, my lovers, kith and kin all these years, may they all live in peaceful blessedness! (As his eyes sweep round the Aasrama, they come to rest on the sleeping Raama, on whose face the westering sun is pouring a wealth of golden light.)
My Gurujee! The blazing Sun will in Sooth, awake him from his rest! (Drops his belongings; cautiously stalks up to Raama. Sitting at Raama‘s head Karna delicately transfers the sleeper’s head into his own lap, his own body ‘twixt Raama’s face and the Shining Sun.
Anon, a mason-wasp afluttering by, attracted by Karna’s bared thigh, settles on it, mistaking it mayhap for some soft wood, and finding it succulent withal eats its way into the flesh to the very marrow of his thigh bone; Karna, for fear of waking his Guru, counters the excruciating pain he suffers by biting into his nether lip, and by effort of sheer will restrains’ his torso and limbs from the slightest tremour, and his lips from the faintest murmur or cry of pain. But the warm blood gushing out of the wasp ‘s ingress impinges on Raama‘s cheek and wakes him).
Raama : (Sitting up: not fully awake)
Wh…? Wh…ere ?…Where..,am…I ?…What…?
Karna : (Approaching his scarf to the Guru’s face)
Allow me, Gurujee. (Wipes away the blood on Raama ‘s cheek).
Raama : Blood? Whose blood? Who was it hurt Karna, and how?
Karna : ‘Twas I, Gurujee, hurt in my heart that your sleep was disturb’d!
Raama : Come, come Karna! A hurt in your heart would not stain my cheek with blood! I mind me resting here with not a soul about; next I find me waking up from your lap, and blood not of my shedding astaining my cheek I Come, boy. The truth! But tell me first how you are here yet? Methought you’d left the Aasrama?
Karna : ‘Twas thiswise, Gurujee : Bound for my far off home, as I was walking along you path, my last look on the Aasrama did ‘light on you asleeping with the blazing Sun full on your face; I flung my belongings aside walked up to you and tried to earn myself the merit of…
Raama : But this leads us nowhere!…. The blood …. What of the blood?
Karna : Well then, great one,: as I sat with your head aresting in my lap, a hungry wasp aflutt’ring by decided for its food upon my not ill-nourished thigh and…Oh! I have forgot that wasp! Why, glutted with my gore and flesh…….and far too heavy to crawl out e’en now ‘ts dead mayhap for want of air to breathe! (Pokes his forefinger to its very root and carefully scoops out the wasp; delicately wiping the blood off, blows gently on the wasp; Seeing the wings open out:)
The Gods be praised! It is alive! (Places it tenderly on a low branch of the tree:)
Now, greedy, gourmand wasp, rest there awhile-then fly and find thy home!
(All this while, Raama has been watching Karna’s doings with a glowering look.)
Raama : (Almost hissing his words between his teeth)
Do you make out, Karna, you withstood yonder wasp aboring through your thigh right to the marrow, without one groan of pain, one tremour of your trunk and limbs only for fear of waking me?
Karna : It pained me, great one; but t’was my nether lip did brunt my agony!
Raama : You are faultless as a pupil, Karna; but you make a poor, poor liar!
Karna : “Liar”! Why, great one, it was the truth I spake!
Raama : You did in truth recount the wherefore of the blood: but I, a Brahmin know full well that one of brahmin blood may not endure such agony of flesh without one shriek of pain, one shake of limb or trunk! (In an impassioned tone:)
Like dullard nurs’d a frozen snake against his bosom for but to court its sting, I’ve cherish’d nourish’d thee and parted with my knowledge of the use of arms to lying brat of very race I loathe!…A creature that with face and eyes dissembling truth, did lie to me of Brahmin birth! (Raising his voice to a threatening pitch.) Come now, the truth! Thou art a Kshatriya by blood? Full one and twenty times have I set on and crush’d to dust the pride and power of royal Kshatriyas! And now I find my foremost pupil, Brahmin as I thought him, turns out but a spawn of very very race that useth strength and wealth that God doth gave for but to slaughter feeble, helpless humans and to fatten, batten on the spoils acquir’d of weakling victims! Pshaw!
Karna : Believe me, Gurujee, I am no Kshatriya! I am not twice-born e’en! By sire and dam I am a low-born sootha!
Raama : What you a low-born sootha-child! Nay, nay.
Karna : Pray you list, great one! What made me lie to you of Brahmin birth—the only path to gain your tutordom—It was an inner, innate call… some inborn hunger for to learn the use of arms denied my lowly caste! Beyond this, Gurujee, I had no aim! No greed for Power or Pelf! Mulcted off oppressed victims!
Raama : What you a craven low-born child! It is a lie! The sire that ‘gat you and the dam that did brought you forth could neither be of lowly blood! (In a blazing fit of anger): With lie of Brahmin birth hast thou acquir’d the mastery of arms second not e’en to me! And for thy dastard lie, list to a Brahmin’s CURSE:
‘IF EVER YOU SHOULD HENCEFORTH SORELY NEED THE USE OF ARMS YOU’VE LEARNT OF ME…… THE BAREST TALK, THE MEREST THOUGHT OF THY SUPPOSED SOOTHA BIRTH CROSSING THY MIND…WILL SWELL THY HEART TO SENSE OF SHAME, WILL DULL THINE EYES AND MIND, NUMB AND PARALYSE THY LIMBS BEYOND THEIR POW’R TO HELP THEE MAKE THE SLIGHTEST, SMALLEST USE OF KNOWLEDGE THAT YOU’VE LEARNT OF ME! AVAUNT! AVAUNT!, ERE I INFLICT A FURTHER CURSE ON THEE!’
(Overwhelmed with terror and grief, Karna collapses at Raama’s feet, and sobs in whimpering notes:)
Karna : Forgive my sin, rever’d, loved Gurujee! Forgive th’ unwitting sin of child…A child that all these years hath found Father, mother, brother, kith and kin in none But thee! Oh! Woe is me!
(Sobs his heart out on Raama’s feet! Raama collects himself, bends down and lifts the prone boy, drawing him to himself and gently stroking Karna’s head… speaks in a soothing tone: )
Raama : Forgive my choler, child! But then in grasp of thy child’s hands doth lie the pow’er to raze to very ground my ancient vow to venge My father’s cruel death at hands of Kshatriyas! I cannot, even if I would, recall the CURSE! That stands Karna! My love for thee reveals to me that Fate hath wove thy life and death in threads of tragedy! And yet, for all eternity thy name shall stand For VALOUR, BOUNTY, PURITY! Adieu, my child! May HE that watches over all this world, may HE in all HIS love and MERCY, grant thee strength of mind and soul to combat stormy life before thee, UNSULLIED OF MANLINESS, despite this BRAHMIN’S CURSE! (Kisses Karna on the brow. Karna prostrates; kisses the Guru’s feet and rises; With great effort restraining a fresh spasm of sobs mutters:)
Karna : God bless you for your kindness, Gurujee.
(Walks to the path in the foreground, shoulders his belongings and walking along the path fades out of sight. Raama, sighing deeply, watches the departing pupil with wistful eyes mumbling to himself.)
POOR KARNA! POOR, POOR KARNA!
The Curtain Drops Slowly!
PLACE : THE ROYAL STADIUM, HASTINA.
The heterogeneous mass of humanity that over flows the amphitheatre shouts in jubilance…. in one Voice:
Hail, Prince Arjuna! Hail Prince Paartha! The greatest archer earth hath ever seen!
(Karna is discovered standing on the outer fringes of the crowd:)
Karna : Why, good people! What’s this you say: “The greatest archer earth hath ever seen”! Why. HE is far away from here in his own Aasrama? (smiling), The only other greatest Archer in this world is herein me!
A man: Art mad, fair youth? Why, he we hailed as greatest bowman of all times, is our Prince Paartha that hath all this day, amid this tourney of the royal princes of the Kuru House, proved his worth with feats of archery part all belief of human eyes!….
Karna : (eagerly), I pray you, do recount to me his greatest feat!
A Second Man: What, Paartha’s greatest feat? Well then. He shot but single arrow at yon, huge Aswattha tree and as you see, no less than ov’r a hundred leaves show mark of Paartha’s shaft!
Karna : (laughing) A meagre hundred leaves pierc’d and hundred thousands left unscath’d! The novice in our Aasrama could have….. You all think that I boast? (In a trice, fixes a shaft to his bow).
NOW, NOW, GOOD PEOPLE! LOOK!!
(Releases his shaft. At sight of the effect of Karna‘s shaft, the people around gasp in astonishment and vent their wonder in diverse remarks:)
“Ye Gods! Did he mark that?”
“Aye! For Paartha’s hundred leaves or less, this unknown youth hath pierc’d through evr’y leaf upon the tree! Who can he be?“
“I know! It is some denizen of the skies here masquerades in human guise!“ “For sure he is no human!“
First Man : (in tones of abject apology). You’re marvellous, young sir! I do take back my hasty words!
Second Man: I know, young sir, you are some prince in guise of pauper, set forth to challenge Prince Arjuna’s claim to peerless bowmanship! (To the crowd:) Make way, you sheep! This unknown prince would fain get to the Arena! Make way!
First Man: That’s right! Make way! (To Karna:) I pray you, Sir, be pleased to walk into The Arena and feast our eyes afresh!
Karna : I would, my brothers! And I could! But this unwieldy crowd…..unruly ….
Many Voices : Part a way, you herd of Cattle! And let this godly prince approach The Arena and prove that Paartha may not flaunt His bowmanship unchallenged!
(The crowd, now excited to eager expectancy, parts a passage. Karna enters The Arena. The Arena, a half-circle in form, holds at the far end the DHAARTARAASHTRA and the PAANDU princes in two different shamianas situated at either end of a hue of “boxes” holding royal elder folk. In the centre of the Arena, on a raised dais, The judges, Aachaaryas Drona and Kripa, are in close converse with the Royal Patriarch. Karna takes his stance in the very centre of the Arena. He casts his eyes all around the Stadium and in the manner of a young lion amid a herd of tuskers, is awed and yet unafraid. In dulcet, yet far reaching notes he addresses the great concourse:)
Karna : Good people, priests, princes and all assembled here, it was no thought of disturbing you hath embolden’d me to thus intrude upon you all! I learn this is a tourney held to test the prowess of all wielders of weapons of war. With myself taught the use of arms by greatest, deftest wielder of all arms-of all times……. I feel I owe it to my great Guru to challenge this Prince Paartha to contend with me in use not only of a bow and shafts but mace, sword, axe or lance or even knuckles bare!
A Voice in the crowd : (sarcastically). Retrace thy steps, fair youth! A fool thou art to expect fairly treatment in this Arena! Our Crowned Prince himself was robbed of Sure Victory at macecraft, by the Royal Patriarch who wilfully estopp’d the bout only for fear of Bheemasena losing!
Another Voice : No! It shall not hap a second time.
A Third Voice : An archer that with single shaft did bore through lacs of leaves of yonder Aswattha against Arjuna’s childish feat, is surely fit to challenge Paartha vaunted, flaunted as begat of Mighty Mahendra! Do cast thy fears aside; a hundred thousand citizens of Hastina will see thee treated fair!
VENUE: The DHAARTARAASHTRA SHAAMIAANA
Gaandhara : (sotto voce) I see, fate herself hath ta’en hand and stand against The Patriarch! (To the Crown Prince Suyodhana:) I Crave Your Royal Highness’ ear! Yon flippant, royst’rer in the crowd spake out the truth in averring that fair-play doth not rule this Arena! And hence it doth behove Your Highness, in fair Hastina’s good name, to make sure that this stranger youth is treated fair!
Suyodhana: In sooth, I see your meaning, Uncle Gandhaara! About my bout, there’s none will gainsay I was gaining ground: Royal Cousin Bheema, stronger than the strongest man in Hastina, is far bulkier in thews and bones than I, and yet, his gourmandising off the flesh-pots of The Royal kitchen hath play’d dire havoc with his wind! Thus it was that I stood still, no more but blocking and apparrying his thrusts taking full care to keep him always on the move! My plan did prove its worth, for he, anon, was slower on his feet…his swings and thrusts all loose and light … his breathing short and labour’d; he was tiring! A few more ghatikas…I meant to but Taataajee … would estop the bout! ‘Tis Balabhadra should have judged us… But let that pass! ‘Twas but a pariksha! As for this stranger-youth… with most of us more skill’d in use of other arms than bow and shaft…my cousin Paartha’s unoppos’d display did prove but poor, poor meat to all the rabble there. Now, this fair youth, if he but be one half as good at archery as Arjuna, in sooth he’ll serve to show our Paartha off…
Aswatthaama: (almost brusquely) All this apart, I feel this stranger youth must have his chance ‘gainst Paartha if only to be convinc’d that his own Guru, be he who he may, may never be the equal of my father! For Arjuna’s prowess at archery is but the merest medicum of his Guru’s! And hence, Your Highness must perforce bestir yourself and welcome yonder youth assuring him of fair-play in this Arena!
(Leaving the Shamiana, The Crown Prince enters’ the Arena, and walks up to Karna and opens his arms wide. At sight of this, the whole amphitheatre springs to its feet and jubilates approval:)
“Hail our gracious Prince! Our king to be!“
“Our Crowned Prince is the only ONE in all this assembly that knows and shows the dharma of a warrior host to warrior guest! Long live our King to be!”
(Amid this tumult, the piping voice of an woman pierces through:) Host or Guest, I know not ought of these! To these mine eyes, it is but one lion’s whelp agreeting another lion’s whelp! Who dares say there is no fair play, while Our Crowned Prince welcomes his stranger-guest with open arms?”
(A thunderous applause which follows the old woman‘s sally is silenced after great effort by the heralds and other royal myrmidons and a tense silence follows)
Suyodhana: In th’name of Hastina I welcome thee. I crave thee to describe us all, the great worth of thy tutor in the only tongue this tourney understands: the language of a warrior by use of arms of war! We have amongst us such can engage thee with any weapon thou may’st choose!
Karna : (Smiling). I fear I’m poor of courtly talk. I’m only after chance to face one Paartha. Here acclaim’d as peerless in the use of bow and shaft. But I am not a stranger to all other weapons used of Warriors.
Suyodhana: ‘Tis well! Messems you’ve travell’d far ashould’ring this!
(Gently relieves Karna of his haversack, bow and quiver).
Forget this challenge for
The nonce: welcome into my tent; a bathe,
Repast and raiments fresh will make thee twice
A pupil of thy Guru and help thee
Display his greatness with e’en greater surety!
(Leads Karna into the shamiana. At sight of the graciousness, of the Prince, the crowd goes into the wildest ecstasy and shouts:)
“Well done, Great Prince”
(The irresponsible hag shrieks out:)
“That’s right, my Royal Child, that’s right!:
First feed and clothe thy foe; then fight him fair!”
(The crowd Laughs boisterously)
Bheeshma : (To Aachaarya Drona). The coming of this stranger-archer’s naught
But succour to our plans to well convince
My Dhaartharaashtra grand-children, that if
They will not acquiesce to what is right,
By plea of argument and just counsel,
The welfare of the Royal Kuru House
Demands the equal Right to Kingship of
The Pandit Princes, e’en by right of might!
This youthful warrior, in sooth, will prove
The very foil to our Arjuna
To help him show his bowmanship, and thus
To hammer into all assembled here
That blood for blood and birth for birth,
That right for right and even might for might,
Great Paandu’s Sons have equal right unto
The half of Kuru Kingship and again—
All this apart, I feel I must give voice
To my delight, and pay my respect too
To Grand-child Prince Suyodhana for thought
Of wearied traveller’s need for bathe, repast
And rest-although he be the challenger
Of name and fame and honour of The Prince’s
Drona : E’en so, Gaangeya! Suyodhana,
Ever graceful in the use of arms of war,
Is gracious too in solicitous thought
For comforts of a stranger guest-as doth
Behove a princely host!
As for this stranger’s archery, with all
The multitude ashouting wild that he
Hath marked ev’ry leaf on yonder tree
With use of single shaft… against the few
Scores pierc’d by Arjuna… it seems he is
No tyre at the game! The ever fickle Fate
Hath time and again play’d strange pranks
In th’ history of wars and parikshas!
Thus it may even turn out that it is
Our Paartha that will prove a foil to this
Fair youth! So, would it not be wise to put
Him through some tests to gauge his mettle
Ere he engages Arjuna? For if he prove as good
Bheeshma : (in alarm)
Just so… Aachaarya… why, mefears.
The slightest doubt in eyes of Hastina
Of Paartha’s sole supremacy with Bow,
Will undo all our plans for weal of my
Scions! And so… should tests of this fair youth
Reveal him deft enough ev’n to extend
Our Arjuna…this contest must not be!
At least be tactfully belated…why,
This fading light may well provide excuse
For staving off… you see my meaning, Aachaarya?
Drona : Enough, Gaangeya, say no more! Kripa,
‘Tis you that must avoid….Lo! Here he comes!
(Karna, refreshed of bath and food, and robed in silken apparel, walks to the dais. The Crown Prince follows Karna a step behind, a deafening roar by the new highly excited multitude is with much effort silenced by the royal minions)
Drona : (to Kripa)
Kripa, go speak to yonder youth and sound his worth and birth
Kripa : (approaching Karna) You’re welcome, youthful sir, to add unto
The splendent glory of this tournament.
But ere you face the foremost bowman of
This age, it is but meet that you should prove
Your worth and fitness to engage him in
(Karna interrupts with a loud guffaw:)
Karna : Ha! Ha! What’s this you say? Prove MY fitness
To fight this booby bowman that can send
His shaft but through a few score leaves
Of yonder tree, leaving me the task
Of riddling hundred thousands left unmark’d!
You make me laugh!
(Karna laughs boisterously. The multitude follows suit. Non-plussed for the moment, Kripa recovers 🙂
Kripa : We, the judges of this tourney, we
Would be convinc’d of your own worth…we are
Prince Paartha’s preceptors
Karna : (indignantly)
Convince me then of your own worth to test
The foremost pupil of dread Bhaargava
Whose very name doth quake the hearts of e’en
The doughtiest of Royal Kshatriyas!
(Wheels round dramatically towards the amphitheatre, and throwing his arms out, appeals to the multitude in impassioned accents 🙂
Good citizens of this fair Hastina!,
Ye kindly souls that mother-like receiv’d
A friendless stranger-youth into your hearts,
List, list to me!
A rarer treat awaits ye all than that ye now
Expect! As foremost pupil of Raama,
The wielder of the Parasu, I now
Will face, not Paartha, but his very preceptors!
(To Kripa and Drona:)
Come, sirs, come severally or both at once
And I shall show to all assembled here.
One single pupil of dread Jaamadagni can,
With ease, defeat a host of preceptors
That turn out Arjunas and Paarthas who,
Within the confines of their palace gates,
Claim foremost rank amidst the bowmen of
This wide, wide world! COME SIRS?!
(At the names Bhaargava, Raama, Jamaadagni, “wielder of the Parasu”, the Royal Folk, the preceptors and everyone about almost gasp for breath.
But Gaandhaara smiles knowingly, and winks significantly at obviously alarmed and chagrined Aswatthaama.)
Bheeshma: (in notes of astonishment: Sotto Voce)
My Guru’s pupil, he? My fellow pupil! And
So young! incredible! And yet he seems
And sounds full truthful! Dares, defies the two
Aachaaryas. This must stop! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
(Laughs heartily and turns to Dronaachaarya:)
This mob, in fitful style of mobs, will now
Insist on you and Kripachaarya meas’ring arms
Against this child… aston’shing child! Forsure
That must not be! Do ask him who he is:
Whence he hails; what Royal House he is of; why,
His sire, his grandsire e’en, may not, mayhap,
Be unbeknown to me!
Kripa : Aye, Gangeya!
(Kripa approaches Karna and addresses him 🙂
The Patriarch o’the Royal Kuru House
Begat of Moon Himself, “Dread Bheeshma” by
Repute, would fain hold converse with thy self;
Own son to Divine Gangaa, and uncrowned king
Of Kuruland, a pupil too of thine own preceptor,
He would fain learn of the Royal House
That gave thee birth; the names of thy forebears
Whose blood doth course thy veins
(Karna leaves Kripa’s side and reaches Bheeshma
Drops to his knees at The patriarch’s feet 😉
Karna : I crave your blessings, Sire! Crowned or uncrowned,
Kings are ever Kings! And yet. my liege,
Divine Gangaa, thy mother, if she’s worshipp’d for
But Her Divinity, who knows?, who cares?,
What boots it to the millions that adore her true,
What beggy dale, what marshy vale begat her? WORTH,
INTRINSIC WORTH, it is my liege, NOT ACCIDENTAL B1RTH
That gauges human’s use for MOTHER EARTH!
The Brahmin birth of these adversaries
Of mine, will no more guide their shafts
Aright than mine will turn awry by reason of My
(At Karna’s mention of Sootha-Birth, a shudder runs through The Stadium),
“What he, a sootha? No, not he!“
“Nay, nay! He looks a twice-born every inch!”
“I tell thee, ‘tis some trick to rob us of a fight!”
(The garrulous hag screams out:)
“Born once or twice or over and over again
As man or beast, as pig or fish-as Great
God Vishnu did of yore-that stranger-child
Is right: ‘tis worth that counts, not idle boast
Of blood or birth!“
A Herald : Hush! Hush thy shrieks, old hag! If thou wouldst save
Thy worthless life, do hold thy tongue in curb!
The silver hair hath stay’d my lancer hands
The Hag : (Laughing Sardonically)
Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! That’s right! That’s right!
Why, there is twice-born bravery for you!
Come on!: Set all thy twice-born lancers bold
The noble task of slaying soodra-hag!
Thy fright at sound of woman’s tongue goes well
With fright of all these royal folk at sight
And sound of yonder fearless stranger youth!
Twice-born blood, forsooth! You make me laugh!
(The multitude yell with delight at the old woman’s home-thrusts; silence is restored after much trouble and effort by the stadium attendants)
Kripa : ‘Tis custom’ry, young sir, in the annals of
The Royal House of King Kuru-begat
Of Moon Himself-that princely scions of
This House forbear to ‘ngage at fray, any man
Who’s not of Kingly lineage or state!
And hence, Prince Paartha will not condescend
(At this, The Crown Prince, in two graceful leaps joins Karna. In a sudden impulse of affection draws Karna to himself and speaks to him softly.)
Suyodhana: Thy lowly birth, my brother, it will prove
No robber of thy noble worth, not while
I’m Crowned Prince of Kuruland!
(Throws out his arms addresses the multitude in a leonine voice that booms from end to end of the stadium:)
List, O List to me, good people of our Hastina!:
IF SLIMY BLOB OF PEAT BEGET A KRIPAACHAARYA AND
IF SLIME-BEGOTT’N POT BRING FORTH A DRONAACHAARYA,
MAY WE NOT MAKE A KING OF FOREMOST PUPIL OF
DREAD RAAMA-WIELDER OF THE PARASU?
(Addresses a particular section of the crowd:)
Ye people of fair Angaland…with your own king
But lately demised…leaving no heirs behind…
Think now, on whom your choice may better fall
To rule ye all in wisdom…guard ye all
With, might of doughty arm…than this, my new
Found friend and brother? Say your will at once!
(The whole amphitheatre stands up as one man and shouts:)
HAIL to THE NEW KING OF ANGALAND!
LONG LIVE THE NEW KING OF ANGALAND!
Suyodhana: ‘Tis well!
Revered Gurujee!, I have learnt at
Your feet: a man, he may be counted ‘King’
By spring off the loins of a King.
A kingship gifted or a kingdom won by arms
Or being chosen King by People’s Will!
And now, all Angaland is his by willing choice
Of Angaland! And this! for th’nonce his crown
(Receiving his own crown places it on Karna’s Head.)
And these, a medicum of his regalia
(Transfers his gem-bedecked necklaces to Karna’s neck)
Maadra!, My Mace!—His Mace!
Aswatthaama!, My Sword! His Khadga!
(Suits action to word and places Mace and Sword in Karna’s hands.)
And now, beloved Gurujee, my well
Beloved Brother Arjuna may face
The King of Angaland fans peril of
Besmirching holy annals of The House
Of Royal Kuru ‘gat of Moon Himself!
(A riotous pandemonium reigns the stadium at the dramatic turn the events have taken and the attendants look on helplessly while the wild tumult rages.)
Bheeshma : (To Drona)
Aacharya, come apart! (Drona approaches)
Meseems that Femme Fate, as e’er her wont.
Has thought it fit to vent her freakish humour on
Our plans, as you did fear, this brill’ant youth
Looks bold enough to use our Arjuna as foil;
And may perhaps place Paartha’s fame in jeopardy!
And hence, in wisdom and in truth, you may announce
To all assembled here that yonder Sun
Uninterested in this tournament
Will hardly linger to lend us the light
To judge this fray! Mayhap some other near
And future day…this test…?
Drona : (Smiling) I understand, Gaangeya!
(Drona walks up to the middle of the Arena;
The crowd watches him in tense, expectant silence;
In crisp, dispassionate notes, Drona addresses the multitude;)
Encounters betwixt brilliant contestants
For sole supremacy of bowmanship
In all this world may not be decided
By simple feats as piercing leaves of trees
Or snapping twigs off shrubs! The Science and Art
Of Archery are governed by laws
And canons which may not be observed
Within the few, few ghatikas left us
Of fading light! GOD’S WILL assur’d some day…
Some near and future day… a whole, whole day
Of strictest tests of Archery, will feast
The eyes of all the worthy citizens
(Drona turns and dignifiedly retires and with Kripa at his side departs the scene.
The disappointed Crowd hisses its disapproval. Quits a measure of “Horse Play” is indulged in by the crowd, and the cry; “Clear The Stadium all! This day’s Tourney is over” draws disgruntled remarks from the departing multitude:)
“I told you so! It was a trick to rob us of the sight of another fight!”
“No, no you ass! Drona was right! A whole, whole day of tests and not a simple trick or two!”
‘Whichever way you look at it, there is no fair-play here!“
“Oh! Hush your brays, trot out of here and find your stalls! There is no more to see!”
(The crowd clears out of the Stadium. The attendants, after hustling out the stragglers, themselves depart:
Most of the Royal Folk, now all on their feet, have turned their backs on the Arena.
The Dhaartaraashtra Princes have all left their shamiana and departed the Scene.
The Pandu Princes, still in the shamiana are on their feet, preparing to depart. GAANDHAARA RUSHES TO THE SIDE OF KARNA WHO IS STILL STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ARENA)
Gaandhaaara : (in a silky, bland voice)
Hail to the new monarch, of Angaland!
A while ago, a nameless, aimless waif!
Purblind to thine own worth! And in a trice,
Our Crowned Prince doth gauge thy true mettle
Add makes thee ruler of the fairest land
In all our Aaryavarta! Verily
You’re well beloved of the Gods!, above!
Do not forget,: this honour, pow’r and pelf
You win but through the bounty of our Prince
To whom, I’m sure, you will not grudge to do
Some small service…to show thý gratitude!
Karna : In sooth, I’ll not!
Gaandhaara : Well then, look! Yonder
Stands our Prince’s foe! And yours too!
(Points out Paartha who is standing in Paandu-Shamiana, with his brothers)
Now, fix, an arrow to thy bow, and train
It on Paartha! Challenge him to combat!
You owe this to the prince that made thee king!
(With the daze of sudden elevation to kingship, yet overpowering him, ill at ease with the heavy crown and the unaccustomed jewels and gaudy raiments, Karna feels almost as if he were in a trance and the last half-hour’s happenings seem a dream.
In this condition of semi-dazed mind and sight, Gaandhaara’s soft and persuasive voice almost hypnotises him into a sort of conviction that hesitation in obeying Gaandhaara would spell ingratitude to the Noble Prince that had befriended him!
Hence, he mechanically fixes a shaft to his bow and half-heartedly trains it on Paartha. At sight of this, Bheemasena suddenly snatching the bow and a shaft off his brother’s shoulder, jumps into the Arena with a yell, and roaring like a mad hull, plants himself before Karna, and clumsily trains bow and shaft on him.)
Bbeema : None other weapon but the mace it is
I’ve handl’d all my life! The mace it is
Will win me name and fame past all eternity!
And yet, a bow and arrow in my hands
Seem not so ludicrous as in thy sootha’s hands!
Made but to hold a horse’s reigns and whip!!
And now, thou low-born spawn of Sootha-blood
Vanquish at first a mace-adept with bow
And shaft, ere you dare aim your arrow at
My loved brother Arjuna!
(Karna, blazing with anger at Bheema’s scurrilous tongue, is on the point of releasing his shaft at Bheema’s heart when, the very moment the words: “Šootha”, “Low-born” fall on his ears his arms as though struck with palsy drop limply.)
Gaandhaara : (not suspecting Karna’s plight)
Shoot him, Anga! Slay that foul-mouth’d brute
Forthwith! All Hastina knows Bheema is
The biggest booby…bow-in-hand! Bereft
Of mace. Bheema is naught but meat for mice!
Destroy him now! You’ll never get a chance
To end his gourmand’s life as easily!
(With all this, Anga’s arms refuse to move: with head hanging down he stands as if in a trance.)
Bheema : (with a coarse leer on his lips and laughing jeeringly)
Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! I knew it all the time!
Low-born sootha blood was ever low-born sootha blood
Making him king of million Angalands
Will never, never change his sootha blood!
Peerless Archery forsooth! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
(With another coarse guffaw he joins his brothers who all depart the same.)
Gaandhaara: (Puzzled beyond measure at Anga’s inanity)
Come, come, Anga! What made thee hold thy hand
From slaying yonder human hog? You lost
The very surest chance of ending life
Of our Crowned Prince’s direst foe!?
Anga : (with eyes welling with tears of anger and impotent agony)
It is a curse, my lord of Gaandhaara,
That robb’d mine arms and trunk of strength and life:
A mighty Brahmin’s potent curse that rules:
Whensoe’er my lowly birth is flung at me,
And made to cross my mind, my brain refuses thought
My heart refuses beat! Mine arms remain inert!
Pray pity me, my lord, a helpless, hapless victim of
A BRAHMJN’s CURSE!
(Collapses into Gaandhaara’s arms. Gaandhaara gathers him in his arms and half carries him out, muttering tearfully:)
POOR ANGA! POOR POOR HONEST ANGA!
The Curtain Drops Slowly!
PLACE: AN OPEN QUADRANGLE.
IN THE PALACE OF THE KING OF PAANCHAALA
(The high-placed throne on which is seated the Paanchaa!a Princess with a maid of honour standing on either side, provides a fitting background to the splendent pavilion teeming with gorgeously arrayed royal aspirants for the hand of the Princess. The open roof bears a pisciform target, the mid-day Sun casting its shadow on the floor. A number of rigid bars of steel are placed in a row—for the contestants to first bend to shape of bow, then string and fix then a shaft to before addressing the target above WHILE ACTUALLY LOOKING AT BUT THE SHADOW CAST UPON THE FLOOR. A number of Brahmins are seated on a separate dais.)
Draupada : O Kings and Princes all assembled here
To try and win my royal Sister’s hand,
The failure of a few must surely not
Dishearten all the rest! The bringing down
Of yonder target whilst one looks but at
Its shadow on the floor, albeit no task
For novices, I’ll not believe there’s none
Can execute the feat amid this vast
And brilliant concourse of the doughtiest
Expounders of bowcraft! May I invite
The valiant Emperor Suyodhana
Or any of his vassal Kings to try
Their hand at bringing down of yonder fish?
Gaandhaara : (Who, with Anga, Aswattha and Maadra immediately behind the King of Kuruland)
‘Twould seem, my liege, the very honour of
The Royal Kuru House is plac’d in jeopardy
With but a dark-faced girl held out as prize!
Were this a test at throwing dice, she’d now
Be on her way to Gaandhaara! With bow
And shaft as tools of test, methinks she’d make
A charming queen for Angaland!
The King : (Smiling)
Why, uncle mine, I do believe you’re right!
Like you the maid. Anga?
Anga : (laughs outright)
I do not know, my liege! I cannot tell!
I never was a one to notice womankind!
My loved mother ‘xcepted!—And this test,
It is but feeble challenge to a pupil of
My tutor Raama! And HE saw no woman but
His Mother! And I’VE thought of none but mine!
Gaandhaara : (Querulously)
You’re lost in your own self, Anga! List close:
The maid is not the issue now! ‘Tis very name
Of Royal Kuru House at stake! Arise and bend
Yon bar of steel; string it; fix a shaft;
Floor yon fish and save thy sovereign
The chagrin of finding his following
Unequal to a simple feat of archery!
(With an indifferent shrug of his shoulders, Anga rises;
Walks up to the row of bars of steel and picks one up at random;
Setting one end of the bar on the floor presses the other end almost effortlessly with his palm and bends it to shape of a bow;
Stringing the now bent bar, he fixes an arrow and drops to his knees on the floor.
With eye rivetted on the shadow on the floor, he aims his shaft ahigh at the target hanging o’er his head.)
THIS WHILE, CONVERSATIONS TAKE PLACE BETWEEN:
(i) TWO BRAHMINS SEATED ON THE SEPARATE DAIS AND AMONGST:
(ii) THE PRINCESS AND HER MAIDS OF HONOUR AT THE THRONE:
(iii) ON THE DAIS:
A Dark Wiry Brahmin to his huge neighbour:
Look! Booby brother, look! ‘Twas naught
But out dear mother’s prayers must have saved
Thee from most certain death at Anga’s hands
On day of pariksha! Look, look! What strength
Of arm and palm bends rod of steel to shape
Of bow as it were but a cane! What poise!
What grace! If I know aught of archery,
I vow ere e’en that shaft departs that bow,
That darkfaced girl’s his spouse! Come, come!
Let us away: This day’s SWAYAMVARA is over!
(ii) AT THE THRONE!
First Maid: (To the Princess)
My hereto anxious heart doth now beat peacefully
For I rejoice to see… the warrior that will take
Your Highness from our care he is as firm of arm
As fair of form!
Arm and form apart, what blood
Is he? What Royal House?
Second Maid: King, he is, Your Highness, of
Fair Angaland, but not of kingly blood! I have heard
Tell that the Emperor Suyodhana, in love for him,
Did crown him king, despite his sootha-birth!
(Shocked beyond control at these tidings, in a sudden frenzy of overpowering pride and hurt vanity, the Princess Paanchaalee vents her indignation in a shrill voice reaching the furthermost corner of the vast Pavilion:)
Paanchaalee: WHAT INSULT THIS, YE GODS ABOVE! WITH ME
A DAUGHTER OF A KING, A SOOTHA’S SON
MY SPOUSE! THE GODS FORBID!
(Paanchaalee’s outburst synchronises with the very moment that Anga is about to release his shaft.
He suddenly finds himself fighting for his breath; his limbs hang limply—bow and arrow slipping of his hands;
The whole Pavilion gasps aghast at Anga as he, with superhuman effort, rises to his feet, and with head hanging down in shame precipitately departs the scene.)
The Curtain Drops Suddenly!
PLACE: A CORRIDOR IN THE PAANCHAALA PALACE
DISCOVERED: THE FLEEING ANGA HALTED BY THE KING OF KURULAND AND TRIO WAITING ON HIM
The King : (In a stentorian roar of admonition)
Desist from flight, Anga, and hear my heart,—
Ere you depart in craven’s fashion after sore
Betrayal of thy king and friend!
(Anga turns and faces The King;
The king approaches Anga and speaks in a voice—a mixture of pathos and ire:)
Anga I’ve never in all my life begg’d aught
Of any man! And yet I beg of you
The knowledge of the wherefore of the fit
Of madness that did seize thee and made thee
Drop thy bow and shaft, and flee the scene
Like craven-hearted churl… leaving thy king
And loving friends behind, to face in shame
The triumph of these puny, pigmy worms!
Come come, Anga! What possess’d thee to turn
A coward at the very moment thine
Arrow ‘waited its release?
Anga : (In abject agony)
Forgive me, Sire, but ‘twas that woman! Her Voice!
Her haughty words deriding me, my blood,
My birth! You know it not, my liege! I am
Accurs’d! The curse that numb’d my limbs today
It is my Guru Raama’s potent curse!
It rules that whensoe’er my lowly birth
Is made to cross my mind, my limbs, my mind,
My heart, they all are paralys’d! And I
Am stricken dead to sense of shame; of love,
Of honour, loyalty! Without a peer
In use of ev’ry weapon of war, I’m yet
A victim of Dread Jaamadagni’s Curse!
Forgive me, Sire, and in thy gen’rous heart
Find room for pity for a friendless waif,
A helpless victim of A BRAHMIN’S CURSE!
(Anga collapses forward;
The king catches him from falling and gathering him up in his arms, carries him out—muttering ‘neath his breath:)
The King : POOR ANGA! OUR POOR GREAT ANGA!
The Curtain Drops Slowly!
PLACE : THE THRONE ROOM IN THE KURU PALACE.
DISCOVERED : THE KING SITTING IN FULL COUNCIL DISPOSITION OF THE PERSONAE IN THIS SCENE:
In The Background: The King is on The Throne.
The Royal Patriarch Bheeshma, with Dhritaaraashtra and Vidura on either side, is sitting to the RIGHT of the King-immediately behind The Throne.
In The Mid-ground: Gaandhaara, Aswatthaama and Maadra are seated a foot below The Throne to the LEFT of it. On the RIGHT, a foot lower down, are seated the five Paandu Cousins of the King. On the RIGHT again, on a separate dais, are seated the preceptors, Aachaaryas Drona and Kripa. Much lower down, to the LEFT of the Throne, the hundred and more brothers of The King are in seats extending quite up to the foreground. The Courtiers and other Royal myrmidons are disposed at the back of the Dhaartaraashtra Princes.
In The Foreground: The Princess Paanchaalee, unadorned and with her midnight cascade of woman’s crowning glory streaming down her back to her very knees, is standing on the RIGHT of the foreground. The Crown Prince Dussaasana is standing a step behind The Princess.
The King of Angaland is seated at the extreme end of the LEFT of the foreground.
A CLEAR PASSAGE OBTAINS FROM THE THRONE RIGHT UP TO THE FOREGROUND, AND PARTS THE ASSEMBLY.
The rising curtain discovers Gaandhaara on his feet addressing The Throne.
Gaandhaara: (in deferential yet firm notes)
‘Twas well, Your Majesty, ‘twas well!
High-born Princess though she be, it is
But fair, that she doth reap the reward of
Her haughty impudence! In just requite
Of her derisive laughter at The King
Of Kuruland—at Raajasuya Rite
Of Prince Yudishtira—the world should laugh
At her in turn!
Her lords, self-vaunted super-battlers of
This earth, forfeited all their rights o’er her
In throwing her as food to gamble-greed
Of him their eldest—whom the Patriarch
Speaks of as “DHARMA INCARNATE”!
It is but just, my liege, that she be made
To serve as warning to all Kuruland
That Royal Lions of Lunar Race will brook
No insult from a CHIT THROWN OUT AS PRIZE
TO FIRST-COME JUGGLER WITH A BOW AND BOLTS,
WHO AGAIN—IN FASHION MOST UNWONTED, MOST
UNMANLY AND UNHOLY—SHARES HIS SPOUSE WITH OTHER MEN!
Strength of JAW, it is my liege, doth mark
All kings. Be they the kings of men or beasts!
It is but braying donkeys guis’d in lion’s hide
—Insulted and derided—puts out, not
Its gnashing, crunching jaw and teeth, but ears,
Its ugly, tong, long ears… to glean and garner all
The senile quibblings, tritest platitudes,
Inane discourses which, slime-like, ooze
Out of the mouths of dotards that do burden earth
Beyond the days of their own right to live!
I warn Your Majesty, in solemn tone
To guard Your Royal Will ‘gainst turning limp
And lifeless at the feeble protests of
Your counsellors the wisdom of whose counsel lies
Not in the sense and logic of their words,
But in the silver hue of brow and beard,
Of lock and whisker!
(Gaandhaara resumes his seat: Prince Vidura suddenly springs to his feet and addresses The King)
Vidura : (in appealing notes)
My child, my loved child Suyodhana!
Forget thy bounden duty as a king;
Of saving helpless humans from distress;
Forget respect for parents, elder-folk:
But poor misguided fool!, do not forget
The scions of the Royal Kuru House
Begat of Moon Himself, if ever they
Did err, they err’d on side of CHIVALRY!
Lose all, Suyodhana!; Lose Kingdom, Throne;
Lose pow’r and pelf: Lose parents, kith and kin;
And count thy loss as naught; But do convoke
The few but precious crumbs of MANLINESS
Thy parasitic sycophants have left
In thee! In assembly of men e’en mention of
A woman’s name is counted gross unmanliness!
Yet you, drunk-blind of newly ‘gotten pow’r
Hast dragg’d thy Royal Sister into this
Concourse of man! No sinner ever work’d
His way to hell with surer certainty
Than thou, the dastard scion of a godly House
Of Godlike men!
(Collapses into his seat.)
Dhritaraashtra : (In straggling notes of senile inanity. To Vidura):
But Royal Brother, Vidura! Admonishing
Our Royal Child is hardly counselling!
I’ve heard it told by elders that a King—
Annointed of, the ‘Gods on Earths, the Brahmanas,—
Can do no wrong! And even if perchance
Some wrong accrue of King’s decree, it is
But Brahmin, Counsellor doth brunt the sin!
I pray our Royal Father will as e’er his wont,
Give us his sense, and clarify the happenings
That have confounded us this day!
(Dignified of mien, impassive of face, dispassionate of voice, The Royal Patriarch speaks:)
Suyodhana, my child! It is but churls
Of lowly blood that think, that death it is
That endeth man! I mind, most clearly,
My Sainted Father, Royal Santanu
Aver that life of man may thrive beyond
His death and may not end with shedding of
Of fleshy slough, but endeth only when
His name’s forgot of goodly men! Good name
Suyodhana, good name it is that good
Men labour for! My child, I may not love
Thee not a spark less than thy brothers be
They’gat of Paandu or thy sightless sire
That sits here by my side!
Crown and kingship, pow’r and pelf are deadly lures
Of FATE, to test a human’s HUMANENESS! And FATE
Who rules e’en superhuman gods above, hath plac’d
These lures within thy grip! And now, ‘tis thine
And thine alone, my child, to reck’n accounts
(All through these speeches, The King’s face is impassive; the foregoing speech of Bheeshma, only makes the King tighten his jaws a shade harder. The tense silence that follows the dignified appeal of the Patriarch is broken by a disturbance amid the Dhaartaraashtra Princess—seared to the LEFT of
The Throne in the midground—;
YUYUTSU, the youngest of the Royal Brothers, seated in the hindmost row amidst his brothers, is seen on his feet struggling with over a hundred pairs of arms that are pushing him back and down:)
Yuyutsu : (in a frenzied shriek pitched high)
Let me be!, you brutes! I will not be
Held back! I’ll say my say e’en if you tear
Me limb from limb! Ye ingrate craven beasts!
Ye call yourselves the brothers of the King,
Yet unconcerned watch him wend his way
To damnation with not a word from you
Of protest! Ye pretending ingrate beasts,
Let me be!
(The King vents his hitherto pent up feelings in a deafening roar:)
The King : Silence Ho! Unhand the Prince and suff’r
Him audience! Come hither, Yuyutsu!
Fling all thy fears side! There’s none here shall
Gainsay right of speech to thee…or any one
In this Assembly! But I do beseech thee, spare
Me sermons… goody-goody sermons that
Mine ears have to very cloyment fed!
(The Prince walks up the passage and reaches The Throne:
The King gathers him up, in the manner of a mother—bear her cub, and seats him by his own side on the Throne.)
The King : (in soft, crooning, yet far-reaching notes)
What ails thee now, young Yuyutsu, that you—
Whoever trusted me in mine own strength
Of heart and mind—should feel like guiding me
By thine own counselling!
Yuyutsu : (in appealing tone)
Forgive me. Royal Brother Mine! It was
No foolish self-esteem nor vanity
Of over-wiseness goaded me to break
The dignity of this, thy Royal Court!
It was that thought that Taataajee threw out
“That life of man’ is spann’d by but the period
His name’s remembered of all goodly men!” And now
With all the land adoring thee for lion’s heart
And lion’s might….
The King : (annoyed and interrupting)
If there’s aught I do detest far more
That sermons… it is bare-fac’d flattery!
Forgive my fretful mood. Yuyutsu but
Do ask your will at once! The King doth grant
It whatsoe’er it be!
Yuyutsu : I only pray that you do loyally
Follow Taataajee’s wise advice!
(At this, The King guffaws boisterously.)
The King : Ha! Ha! “Taataajee’s wise advice” forsooth!
You, Yuyutsu, learned, wise and yet.
As innocent as new-born babe! Dìdst thou
Not mark our Taataajee’s astuteness! He
Did speak in grimly dignity, as e’r
His wont. But in his wisdom took good care
To give me no advice, but left me free
With all the lures of Fate within my grip,
To render my accounts to HER by test
Of my humaneness!
(Here, The King suddenly changes his tone to one of respectful, calm, dignity:)
I mean no want of love or reverence to
The Royal Patriarch!:
CRYSTAL CLEAR IN EVERY THOUGHT AND WORD AND DEED,
IMMACULATE IN EV’RY ACTION OF HIS LIFE,
LIKE HIS OWN MOTHER THE DIVINE GANGAA!;
YET ICY COLD IN MIEN, IMPREGNABLE TO FOE,
INEXORABLE TO FRIEND KIN; LIKE HIS
GRANDSIRE: TH’ETERNAL SNOW-CLAD HIMAVAT,
HIS WOMAN’S HEART THAT WAS IT IS NO MORE!:
IT DIED WITH DEATH OF SIRE, THE SAINTED SANTANU!
IT IS BUT RIGID VOWS AND ANCIENT PROMISES
THAT BIND OUR TAATAAJEE TO US AND TO THIS EARTH!
THE FRIGID PURPOSE IN THIS LIFE THAT BINDETH HIM
TO THIS OUR WORLD, DENYETH HIM THE WARMER BONDS
OF LOVE AND FRIENDLINESS TO FELLOWMEN!;
SUCH STRONG YET TENDER SILKEN CORDS OF HEART OF MAN,
SUCH CORDS OF LOVE THAT BIND A HUMAN MAN
TO SPOUSE, TO FRIEND, TO KITH AND KIN; THEY DO
NOT BIND OUR TAATAAJEE AND HIS GREAT KURU HOUSE
Yuyutsu : (in surprise)
“HIS GREAT KURU HOUSE”? But we too are
Of Royal Kuru House?
The King: (Guffawing again)
Ha! Ha!! Our Royal Kuru Lineage. forsooth!
Whatever House we are descended of, in sooth,
‘Tis NOT the “ROYAL HOUSE of KING KURU
DESCENDED OF THE MOON HIMSELF’! Have you
Not known that th’ ARYAN line of Kuru House
Did cease to be, the moment Taataajee
Did win his famous sobriquet: “Bheeshma”!:
“The Dreadful One”!? A godly prince was he
With all the land adoring him and hung’ring for
The day he would ascend the throne of his fore-bears
But he did paralyse all Bharata
By dreadful vow of Brahmacharya in
His love and loyalty to aged sire,
King Santanu, to help him win a bride
Of lowly soodra caste!
Yuyutsu : Our great-grandsire, King Santanu’s Consort
Our great grand-dame, The Queen Satyavatee,
What then of her?
The King : (Guffawing loudly)
The royal grandame Queen Satyavatee
That we all vaunt and flaunt, was none
Else but the low-born maid that I spake of:
A winsome fisher-wench was she that smit
The aged Santanu with love! And her
Own sons, when they both died leaving no heirs
Behind. It was end of th’MIXED line
Of Royal Kuru’s race! Thus, Yuyutsu:
OUR TAATAAJEE’s THE ONLY REAL SCION OF
THE ROYAL KURU HOUSE BEGAT OF MOON HIMSELF!
Not you! Not me! Not any one of us!
And thus, if e’er my brothers taunt thee with
The low-born dame, remember to remind
Them of our own grand-dame who was by birth
Far lower than thy mother who was Maid
Of Honour to her Queen!
(In a tone of summing up:)
Thus, Yuyutsu, WITH TAATAAJEE HIMSELF
ENSLAVED BY BONDS OF ANCIENT PROMISES
AND VOWS; WITH MINE OWN FATHER WHO, DESPITE
HIS BLINDNESS OPENS HIS EYES TO MY FEW VIRTUES, BUT
IS DOUBLY BLIND TO ALL MY TEEMING FRAILTIES; WITH
MINE UNCLE ROYAL VIDURA, DELUGED
AND DROWNED IN VAIN DELUSION OF DESCENT
FROM MOON HIMSELF; I KNOW OF NONE IN ALL
THIS VAST ASSEMBLY, I MAY TRUST TO COUNSEL ME
ARIGHT! My royal mother loves me dearly, and
Her loving brother may will me no ill!
Mine Uncle Gaandhaara reminds me of
A MONARCH’S IRON JAW! IF FATE HATH PLAC’D
MY CROWN AND KINGSHIP IN MY GRIP TO TEST
MY HUMANENESS, MY HUMANENESS SHALL BE
TO LOVE AND CHERISH THEM THAT LOVE AND CHERISH ME!
Now, Yuyutsu, do let me play the King
The best I can!
(The King gently lowers Prince Yuyutsu who walking down the passage, seats himself in an empty seat next to the king of Angaland.
After a long pause, The King speaks in dry hard notes:)
AS FOR OUR ROYAL COUSINS AND THEIR SPOUSE,
HENCEFORTH OUR ENTIRE PROPERTY, WE WOULD
FURTHER PERPEND UPON THEIR FUTURE LIFE!
THIS WHILE, THE CROWNED PRINCE DUSSAASANAH,
HE SHALL DISPOSE THE PRINCESS PAANCHAALEE
IN TH’ROYAL ‘PARTMENTS. BUT. AMID THE CHAMBERMAIDS!
(The very moment the Crown Prince, steps forward towards the Princess, the king of Angaland springs to his fret dramatically, and addresses Dussaasanah in a threatening voice hissed between the teeth:)
Anga : DESIST! MOVE BUT A STEP AND YOU DIE!
(Startled, the Crown Prince steps back.)
The King : (equally taken aback)
ANGA! YOU!! PLAY ACTING? AND NOW!!!
(Anga addresses The Throne; His voice and manner are an odd mixture of naively and superciliousness without loss of dignity or deference:)
Anga : Forgive your servant, Sire! But this,
My loutish interruption of the brisk
Obedience of Your Majesty’s commands
Was not ungrounded of good reason! And,
As for the threat’ning manner I assum’d
For to beseech the Prince to stay his hand
The while I spoke my heart and mind to thee,
My liege, THAT doth but prove how boorishness,
Which Nature doth engender in all men.
Of lowly birth, survives e’en after years
And years of closest intimacy with
Kings and Princes, Priests and peers!
(The King wears a pained smile and addresses Anga:)
The King : Anga, I pray you, do desist from this
Dissembled clownishness! Why all of us
Assembled here do know, ‘tis YOU have been
To us the very ideal to con
For knowledge of the subtleties of grace
Of speech and mien and manner whilst at Court
Or home, at chess or battlefield! Mefears,
Anga, this ill-tim’d ill-assumed want
Of very elegance WE LEARNT OF THEE
Pre-ambles yet another sermon to
Condemn my want of…wisdom?…manliness?
Or chivalry ‘ or which is it Anga,
I pray you say your say at once!
(Anga smiles and laughingly replies in an airy drawn out drawl:)
Anga : My well beloved liege, it was my snug
Ensconcement in my sovereign’s heart did lend
Me courage to intrude atween my King’s
Command and its obedience! ‘Tis not
For me, my liege, to venture to condemn
My King’s commands! The Royal Patriarch
Hath ruled that none but Fate Herself may dare
Condemn Thy wishes and commands! Nor is
It for thy servant, Sire, to dare commend
Or to condone his King’s behests! My Lord
Of Gaandhaara—henceforth the keeper of
The Conscience of the King of Kuruland
‘Tis he that hath commended thy command!
This trusted callid mentor of his King.
He hath effected even greater service to
Your Majesty! I pray you, list, my liege!:
The Dreaded Doughty Battler Bheeshma and
The Valiant Warrior Vidura—by worth
Of deeds recorded of their lives—have been
The makers, breakers of Kingdoms and Kings;
Preservers and destroyers of empires
And emperors; and in their wisdom are
The sagest, sanest, safest counsellors
A monarch e’er may have! And yet, My Lord
Of Gaandhaara, with all his eeriest
Astuteness made this SPLENDANT TWAIN to seem
In thine own eyes as dotards that exude
Trite platitudes from out of senile lips!
With nought a lofty trait of Gaangeya,
No profound wisdom of Prince Vidura,
Nor astute statesmanship of Gaandhaara,
I have but scant pretension to arise
In this assembly! Nathless, I stand up,
In right of love for thee, for to relieve
The serious trend this evenings happenings
Have ta’en, by talk and speech of harmless wit
And levity usurping for the nonce,
The role of Jester of thy brilliant Court!
The Young Prince Yuyutsu, beside himself
With grief and indignation at The King’s
Unholy treatment of his cousins and
Their spouse, by his unseemly shrieks and loud
Protests, did but proclaim the feebleness
Of heart and mind that lowly blood or birth
Is heir to! YET, the moment that he was
Reminded by Your Majesty, of his
Near kinship to his King and Emperor,
He did regain the strength and dignity
To watch the strict obedience of your
Command with all the calmness of
A twice-born Kshattriya! But I, my liege,
Am lowly born in both my sire and dam!
E’en all the years I spent at feet of Great
Raama, the foremost Brahmin of all time;
E’en all these years I spent amid
The noblest in this land have not endowed
Me with courage to look without concern
On sight of well-born woman put to gross
Having no JAHNAVEE for mother and
No snow clad HIMAVAT for my grandsire,
I may not emulate The Patriarch
Who witnesses with icy calm the Throne
Room of his father Royal Santanu
Turn’d into a venue wherein to feast
The ghoulish eyes of men of beasted blood
And kingly lineage, with sight unholy of
A Royal Princess dragg’d in here by brute
Whose act belies his sex and noble blood!
Nor am I, Sire, of Brahmin lineage
Like these Aachaaryas Drona and Kripa
Who both, with scantiest compunction of
Their conscience, use the strength and bounty of
The Kshatriyas for but to vent and venge
Their private hates and malices, and eke,
To glut their greed for yellow yellow gold!:
And these appeased, the ill—or well-fare of
The Royal House, that welcom’d them, that housed
And fed them, gave them of its best, is of
But no concern to these “GOD MEN” on Earth! :
EARTHLY in their greed for yellow gold,
AND UNEARTHLY in callous heart and callid mind!
Nor may I boast, my liege, descent from pods
Or heav’nly Orbs…to brook this dire
Abomination with a god’s indifference
To human suffering! I am no scion of
Mahendra, Vaayu or The Aswinees or Yama, like
The Paandu Princes who, despite divine
Descent, do condescend to yield to greed
Of gambling, and, in their defeat and loss,
Do suddenly remember their own godly birth
Which doth forbid them stoop to harbour such
Infirmities of human as the qualities
Of manliness and chivalry that do enjoin
Upon a manly man, the duty of
Protecting helpless maid that left her parents care
To trust her life and honour in the hands
Of God-begotten Princess who, with arms
Of proven worth and valour numbed through shame
Of less at gambling, watch in helpless plight,
Their Royal Spouse put to the grossest ignominy
A woman may endure! My Lord of Gaandhaara
Did mind Your Majesty, of how The Patriarch
Is ever wont to speak of th’eldest Paandava
As “DHARMA INCARNATE”! I feel no doubt
That Prince Yudhistira can cite authority
Of Dharma, Veda, Saastra, Tatva, for to prove
That WIFE and BROTHERS of a man are his
Own GOODS and CHATTEL e’en to stake them all
At dice! I’ll spare you sermons, Sire, But here’s
A TALE all sad and full of truth:
A royal winsome maid there was, once on
A time not very very long ago;
The Royal House that gave her life, famed far
And wide for might of arm, espous’d this maiden to
The greatest battler of his time—a doughty king
That wrested diadem of emp’rordom
Of entire Bharata, for Royal Kuru House.
And he in faith of sacred TYAGA RITE
Relinquish’d right to Crown and Emp’rordom
In favour of his sightless elder brother and
His aged sire, and went his way to tread the wilds
In search of PEACE ETERNAL! Now… this royal maid…
His queen…eschew’d the luxuries of courtly life
To share the dire vicissitudes of forests with
Her lord and elder co-wife! But Alack!:
Fell Fate did haunt her steps and… came
A hapless day that saw her widow’d of
Her royal mate! Anon…descending half ascended pyre
That bore her husband’s corpse, she threw
A longing ling’ring look on the twin-born babes
She left behind!, and spoke to DHARMARAAJA!:
“MY SON, YUDHISHTIRA” said she, “YOU’RE DHARMA
INCARNATE! TRUTHFUL, WISE AND DUTIFUL WITHAL!
NOW LIST MY CHILD: MY SPOUSE’S HEART IS ON
THAT PYRE WITH MY DEMISED LORD; MY MOTHER’S HEART,
‘TWOULD LAG BEHIND TO TEND MY ORPHAN’D BABES!
BUT THIS, MY WIFELY DHARMA DOTH FORBID!
YUDHISHTIRA. my son, MY HEART WILL BURN IN PEACE
IN YONDER PYRE IF THOU WILT GIVE ME SWORN WORD
THAT YOU WILL MOTHER THESE, THE TWIN-BORN FLOWERS OF
MY HEART!” And, Sire, this “Dharma Incarnate”
Did bow his head in sworn assent!
KNOW YOU THIS MAID, MY LORD OF MAADRALAND?
Maadra : (whom this tale has reduced to sobbing)
YE GODS! WHY, ANGA, ‘TWAS MY OWN, MY VERY SISTER…
Anga : (interrupting)
Hush, hush, my lord, it is a sootha holds
The ear of this Sabhaa!
(Resuming his address to The Throne:)
And now, my liege, if I make bold to ask
This “Dharma Incarnate” what Dharma. Veda, Saastra gave
Him right to gamble away the twin-born flowers
Of chaste Queen Maadree’s heart, mefears he will
Retort: “WE GOD-BORN ‘DHARMA INCARNATES’ are loathe
TO STOOP TO HOLD CONVERSE WITH LOW-BORN HUMAN MEN!”
(Suddenly, Anga throws off the easy, airy manner he has hitherto been assuming; Standing rigidly upright, he addresses the throne in a voice which, outwardly calm, yet portends latent, potent fury:)
Anga : O King of Kuruland! Now list! THIS HE
THAT NOW ADDRESSES THEE IS NOT THE SOOTHA-KING
OF ANGALAND! NOR IS HE THY SERVANT OR THY FRIEND!
I SPEAK TO THEE AND ALL ASSEMBLED HERE
AS PUPIL OF DREAD RAAMA WHO EXACTS HIS FEE
FOR TUTORDOM IN DOUGHTY DEEDS OF ARM AND NOT
IN GIFTS OF YELLOW GOLD AS DOTH APPEASE
ALL OTHER BRAHMIN PRECEPTORS! “Karna”, he said
At end of my own pupildom, “Come mace, Come sword,
Come bow and shaft; come axe, come lance
Come knuckles bare; You’re master of them all,
Second, not e’en to thine own master Raama!
The fee for tuition I will exact from thee now,
Is THAT YOU USE THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE USE OF ARMS
YOU LEARNT OF ME FOR BUT THE SOLE PURPOSE
OF EXTIRPATING KSHATRIYAS WHO, DRUNK OF POW’R
AND PRIDE, DO USE THE STRENGTH THAT GOD GAVE THEM
TO HARASS HELPLESS HUMANS”—I shall begin
The payment of my tutor’s fee…TONIGHT!
Now, list ye all assembled here! There is a voice
Within me tells me that IF ANY MAN, IF FATE HERSELF
IN GUISE OF MAN, SO MUCH AS LAYS A FINGER ON
THAT HELPLESS DAUGHTER OF KING DRUPADA,
I SHALL INVOKE THE DEADLIEST ASTRA OF
DREAD BHARGAVA!: NO MORE BUT BLADE OF GRASS
(His eyes sweep around and about and finally alight upon a willed flower on the floor— torn off the tousled locks of Princess Panchaa!ee:)
Why E’EN THIS FADED FLOW’R WILL SERVE:
HELD IN MY HAND…A FEW WORDS MUMBLED…THIS
ASSEMBLY OF YOU TWICE-BORN PIGMIES …AYE,
ALL HASTINA TOO WILL BURN DOWN LEAVING NOT
A CINDER TO REMIND THE WORLD THAT
KURU KINGDOM EVER WAS! LEST YOU BELIEVE ME NOT!
LEST YOU THINK THAT I BOAST,…IN PROOF OF MY
DREAD POW’R I’LL FIRST DESTROY THIS BRUTE THAT LAID
HIS HANDS ON HER! HIS FATE WILL
WARN THE REST!
NOW WATCH THE PROWESS OF A PUPIL OF
THE DREADED BHAARGAVA E’EN THOUGH HE BE,
A LOW-BORN SOOTHA!
(As he stoops to clutch the flower on the floor, the moment the word “SOOTFIA” passes his lips—a numbing pain traverses his spine, and the arm he has extended droops limply:
Instantly realising with stark clearness the import of this.
With super-human effort of his will, Anga
Conceals his plight from everyone around and turning to the king resumes his talk but now IN A FALLEN PLAINTIVE TONE:)
But that, my liege, would be disloyalty!:
Rank, base ingratitude for all the bounties thou
Hast show’red on me—a low-born youth whom thou,
Befriended, rais’d to a king’s estate
And suited him to sit in equal worth
And honour amid the high-born men in this
Assembly! I stood up. Your Majesty,
To importune for permission to emulate
Your Majesty’s Queen Mother by obscuring to
Mine eyes a sight they cannot brook to see!,
(In a piteous appeal to Yuyutsu:)
Young Yuyutsu, I pray you blind me with thy scarf
And earn my life-long gratitude!
Yuyutsu : Anga…my scarf…it’s wet with…I’m
Ashamed to confess… the while you spake
I could not help…but play…the woman!
Anga : To sheds some gouts of sacred sympathy
Is oft the mark of real manliness!
Thy wetted scarf will serve!
(Yuyutsu blindfolds Anga with his scarf and Anga resumes his seat.)
WITH A WEIRD GLOW IN HER BRILLIANT BLACK EYES,
THE PRINCESS PAANCHAALEE GAZES HARD AT THE KING
OF ANGALAND FOR MOMENTS TOGETHER….AND STARTS TO
SPEAK IN A METALLIC VOICE THAT RINGS FROM END TO
END OF THAT VAST ROOM:
Paanchaalee : What YOU again! I had not thought that we
Meet again THIS side of Death!
(Bursts into a high-pitched guffaw:)
Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! How it makes me laugh
The freaks of Femme Fate were ever thus:
The while these swine in garb of sages, priests
And kings! of Brahmins, princes, nobles, aye,
Of brothers, fathers, parents too… did watch
A woman visited with the grossest ignominy,
That THOU shouldst be the very one that FATE
ELECTS TO USE for to defend the honour of
THE VERY WOMAN THAT INSULTED THEE!
IF IN REQUITE OF MY INSULT—UPON
MY WEDDING DAY—THOU DIDST THIS MOMENT DRAG
ME BY MY HAIR THROUGH HASTINA,
THY JUST REVENGE COULD NOT BE SWEETER, NOR
MY DEROGATION DEEPER…THAN BY THIS:
THY NOBLE SUCCOUR OF MY WOMANHOOD!
(In a tone of self-contempt and self-abasement:)
SUCH HAUGHTY PRIDE OF ROYAL PARENTAGE,
SUCH ARROGANCE OF QUEENLY POMP AND POW’R
AS HAVE OBSSESS’D MY HEART AND MIND AND SOUL
AND BLINDED ME FROM KNOWLEDGE THE REAL WHY
AND WHEREFORE OF MY BIRTH ON EARTH…
AS SCALES OF SLOUGH FROM OFF A SERPENT’S EYES,
ARE TORN ASIDE BY THIS ALMIGHTY-SENT
ABOMINATION I HAVE BROOK’D TONIGHT!
(Her eyes take on a VISIONARY‘S look and seem to see into the dark unknown: Her voice too, assumes a sepulchral note; Her face wears an expression of SPIRITUAL ECSTASY.)
Ha! Now I see most clearly the manner of my birth!
And now I mind most vividly the purpose of my birth!
My royal blood and royal parentage forsooth!
My birth on earth, it knew no mortal womb nor seed
My sire and dam were one! But ONE! DREAD FIRE!!!
Not Fire that burns and warms to cherish, nourish life!
But Fire that burns and burns to KILL!
Dread fire that burns to glut its endless maw
Consuming ev’rything within the sweeping compass of
Its flaming tongue, with scant respect
To right or wrong, weak or strong!
Dreadful as in the best it is,
Dreadmost FIRE of all is FIRE OF HATE!
‘Twas fire of Hate, begat me, bore me
Brought me forth!: ‘Twas Royal Drupada,
Obssess’d of Hate, in RITE of Hate did force
The SACRIFICIAL FIRE to yield him triplets tongues
Of flame in ME and BROTHERS TWO, with but
A single purpose in our lives: THE BURNING OF
THIS HOUSE TO LESS THAN CINDERS! AND Ye,
YE BLINDED FOOLS! YE ALL THINK I AM NAUGHT BUT
FRAGILE! HELPLESS WOMAN! NAY! WHY I THAT WAS
A WOMAN ONCE, AM NOT A WOMAN NOW BEWARE!
I AM BUT FLAME!, Although ye see me in
A woman’s frame! And all assembled here
Are food for me…A FLAME BEGAT OF HATE!;
A FLAME BROUGHT FORTH TO BURN THIS HOUSE
OF COLD COLD MOON! (To Anga) No need of thee,
Thine astras or defiance of thy ghoulish king
And all his brutal henchmen!, for thy defence
Of honour of the woman who, amid a vast concourse
Of Kings and Princes, flouted thee, and called
Thee low-born churl! And you believe
You’re lowly born? Nay, nay, you’re not!:
You’re not a sootha, nor a Kshatriya,
Nor brahmana like all these vermin doom’d
To die! MINE EYES THAT NOW ARE OPED TO SEE
BEYOND A HUMAN’S FLESH-BOUND SIGHT. DO NOW
DESCRY THE REAL WHENCE AND WHEREFORE OF
THY BIRTH! Do not believe the mortal man
That lies he ‘gat thee! Believe not
Mortal woman that lies she brought thee forth!
BELIEVE BUT ME THAT AM NOT MYSELF EARTHLY IN
MY BIRTH! THOU ART, IN SOOTH, SOME STRAY RAY OF
SOME STRANGE STRANGE STAR THAT HATH, BY SOME
MISHAP, ASTRAYED INTO THIS SINFUL WORLD!
(Her hereto mein of dignity, suddenly drops from her.
A wild bright light plays in her eyes, in uncanny brilliance.
Her voice rises shrill and piercing. And a hysterical laugh punctuating her words completes to show her dementia:)
Ha! Ha! Look! HOW STRANGE! THE KURU HOUSE
HATH FALLEN, YET…THE CRYSTAL COLUMNS STAND!
(She shambles and shuffles through the passage like a sleep-walker, and reaching the Throne circumlocutes it raving all the time.)
LIST! LIST! YE WOMEN OF THE KURU HOUSE!:
ASCEND YE EVERY ONE YOUR FUNERAL PYRES!
YOUR MEN-FOLK ALL…THEY ARE BUT CARCASSES!
‘TIS DAUGHTER OF DREAD FIRE THAT SPEAKS!
BEWARE! I‘M FLAME! I’M FLAME OF HATE!
I DARE THE BOLDEST AMONGST YE
TO TOUCH THIS FLAME OF FIRE! I’M HATE!
I BURN! I KILL! I’M DAUGHTER OF DREAD FIRE
OF HATE! HA! HA! HA! HA!
(Moves past and round The Throne, and departs by the centre-door in the background shrieking:)
DEAD! DEAD! ALL DEAD AND BURNED! BURNED DOWN
TO LESS THAN ASHES! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!
(The unearthly notes of her laughter ring back back from every corner of The Throne Room, and is heard e’en after she has departed.
The whole assembly vibrant with a superstitious terror is hushed for fully a minute.
The chill silence is suddenly pierced by a high pitched wail of anguish from the blind Dhritaraashtra:)
Dhritaraashtra: (in a whimpering tone to BHEESHMA)
Father!, Rever’d Father! Speak to me!
Mine eyes are sightless…NOW, MEFEARS,
MINE EARS…ARE PAST THEIR SENSING! TOO!
HEARD I ARIGHT? AND DID SHE SPEAK…THE…
Bheesma : (in a cold and dispassionate voice)
YOU HEARD ARIGHT, MY SON! SHE SPAKE THE TRUTH.
THE BARE BARE TRUTH!
Dhritaraashtra: (in a shriek of apprehension)
OUR HOUSE! OUR ROYAL HOUSE! WHAT OF
OUR HOUSE…OUR RACE…OUR SONS…
WHAT WILL THEY ALL COME TO…?
Bheeshma : (drily)
“COME TO’’ WHY, NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING!
Dhritaraashtra : (Clutching at the air like a drowning man…the sightless man let out a heart-rending yell of agony:)
Oh! Oh! WOE IS ME! WOE IS ME!
(Collapses in a faint)
(The King rushes to his father’s side. The Royal Brothers follow suit, and between them carry away the swoon-struck man through the centre door in the background.
The Royal Retinue, the priests, and nobles all depart silently by the egress on the left.
The Throne Room now holds:
The Royal Patriarch,’ Prince Vidura, The Paandu Princess and the king of Angaland.)
Vidura : (to Bheeshma)
Rever’d Father! I cannot but fear
Our Royal Kuru House begat of Moon
Will surely crumble unto very dust!
(With a resounding sigh of boredom Bheeshma rises and stalks dignifiedly to the centre door in the background and times each word to his steps:)
Bheeshma : You’re wise to find that out, my son!
In sooth, you’re very wise!
Vidura : (to the eldest Paandava)
You mark’d him? He was ever thus!:
GREAT GANGA’S DEPTH AND CRYSTAL PURITY
AND SNOW-CLAD HIMAVAT’S ICE FRIGIDITY!
HIS WORDS SO FEW, SO FAR APART, AND YET
SO PREGNANT WITH ILLUMING WISDOM! HE
WAS EVER THUS! But come our ways, my loved ones!
Your oft—abused Fate is not all hate:
Fret not for this day’s dire mis-happenings!:
For HE above, who sees both good and bad,
Both love and hate, both strength and feebleness
With equal eye. ‘tis HE will find us all
An easy way for to forget dissensions and
To bind, in bonds of love, our kith and kin,
And thus rescue from certain ruin, our own,
Our Royal House of King Kuru, begotten of
The Moon Himself! Come children, come!
(Leaning on the eldest Paandava walks out through the egress on the left; The other Paandavas follow, save Bheemasena who lags behind. The whole length of the Throne Room separates Bheema and the king of Angaland. In two leaps of a panther, Bheema spans the room and lands before Anga. Anga sits with the taciturnity of a graven idol.
Bending forward, Bheema snatches the scarf from off the face of Anga;
Tearing the scarf to shreds which he flings aside, and striking a threatening pose with all his sinews taut, his neck swelling to burst and his eye-balls almost starting out of their sockets he puts his doubled fists out to Anga’s face and roars out:)
Bheema : YOU! YOU! YOU! I’LL SLAY YOU! I’LL KILL YOU
(Anga, unruffled, speaks in soft tones of quiet indignation:)
Anga : What means this sudden want of decorum, Your Royal
Highness Bheemasena of The Royal House of King Kuru
Descended of Celestial Moon Himself?
For loss of yonder scarf, I owe an abject ‘pology
To Your Highness Royal Cousin Yuyutsu royally begat
Of Royal House of Royal Kuru, who was Himself ‘gat
Of Royal Moon Himself!
Bheema : STOPPIT! STOPPIT!! STOPPIT!!! A TRUE T’THY CURSED
COCKLE! THOU WERT EVER GLIB OF TONGUE!
MY ROTTEN ROYAL KURU HOUSE FORSOOTH!!!
…I LINGERED BUT TO (scratches his head)…
…I FORGET… BUT THEN…I SPEAK AS MAN TO MAN…
NO, NO…NOT! “MAN”! SHE CALL’D US VERMIN…SWINE!!
CaIl’d us “BRUTES IN GUISE OF HUSBANDS”! SHE…
SHE SAID…I MEAN YOU SAID…OR IS IT SHE?…
IT MATTERS NOT WHAT ANYBODY SAID… BUT…I…
YOU KNOW, ANGA…I’M POOR OF WORDS BUT I…
HUNG BACK TO TELL YOU…I…I KNOW NOT WHAT!
YE GODS!.. .I…CAN… NO…MORE!!!
(Coming almost to sobbing, turns his face away and hangs his head!
Anga leaves his seat and reaching Bheemasena speaks in a soothing tone!)
Anga: Vrikodara, believe me now ; I speak
In earnestness! Thou ART a man! A REAL MAN!
Bheema : (snappishly) Cut out your soft cajolry! “MAN” forsooth!
SHE call’d us “BRUTES”!
Anga: (stroking Bheema’s shoulder)
Come, come Bheema! Now be thy real self
And join thy royal brothers
Bheema : (throwing off Anga’s hand)
Do not touch me! I’m afraid. I’ll play
Anga : “Afraid you’ll play the woman”? And who is she?
This woman you’re afraid to play? Your Mother? Wife?
Your sister? Why. Vrikodara, when sacred sympathy
Exhorts thee to be not afraid to play the woman!
Then forsure you’ll not be ‘fraid to PLAY the MAN
At very moment that you should!
Bheema : (subjecting Anga to a quizzing look)
Do you know, there’s a something about you
That makes me want to hate you…almost hate you!
That makes me feel I want to kill…almost to kill
You!…almost slay you…
“Hate me ?… Almost hate me ?“ “Kill me ?…
Almost kill me ?“ “Slay me ? Almost slay me ?“
Whyeverfor ? Whatever have I done to you?
Bheema: (looking sheepish)
I do not know!… I cannot tell!
Anga : (tapping Bheema’s shoulder gently)
Come, come, Bheema, possess thyself and play
The man you art!
Bheema : (snapping at Anga)
Oh! A truce to empty talk! All empty talk!
“Play the man”, forsooth! I did forget
To play the man at very moment! I
I’m poor of words and YOU know it!
I only stay’d behind to tell you… what
I thought!…That there was here but one
Man who… one only man who could defy The King…
Who could defend us…I mean her…from insult of
That brute Dussaasanaah!
(His eyes blaze at a sudden thought that crosses his brain and He thunders out 🙂
ANGA, YOU CRAVEN! COWARD! BASE POLTROON!
‘TIS YOU COULD HAVE DESTROY’D THAT BRUTE!
YOU COULD HAVE, SHOULD HAVE
TORN HIM LIMB FROM LIMB
AND SHOULD HAVE DESTROY’D US AS WELL!, THIS ME
AND MY UNMANLY BROTHERS….NAY…YOU MUST
HAVE SLAIN EVERY OF THIS degenerate
AND DASTARD HOUSE!, LONG ERE THAT BRUTE DID LAY
A FINGER ON….YOU COULD HAVE… SHOULD HAVE…YOU …
Anga: (Wringing his hands in pathetic despair)
I KNOW I COULD HAVE, SHOULD HAVE RAZED THIS HOUSE
TO VERY DUST….BUT THEN AGAIN… I COULD NOT!….
Bheema : (Blazing afresh)
“COULD NOT”! WHY, YOU LIE! COME NOW, THE TRUTH!
ANGA! WHAT MADE THEE STAY THY HAND TO-NIGHT!
WHAT MADE THEE CHANGE THY MIND, WHEN THOU
HADST BENT THEE DOWN TO PICK UP YONDER FLOW’R
(Pointing out the wilted flower still lying on the floor:)
TO HELP INVOKE THY DEADLY ASTRA COME, THE TRUTH
Anga: (Tortured at Bheema’s appeal)
I SWEAR TO YOU, VRIKODARA, MINE ARMS WERE PARALYS’D!
Bheema : “ARMS PARALYS’D”! THOU LIEST! WHAT?: THINE ARMS
THAT EXCELL’D ARJUNA’S ON DAY OF PARIKSHA!
THINE ARMS THAT WITH BUT PRESS OF PALM
CAN BEND A ROD OF STEEL TO SHAPE OF BOW!
THINE ARMS THAT WIELD AXE, SWORD OR BOW
OR MACE OR LANCE WITH EQUAL SKILL
PARALYS’D FOR SOOTH! THOU LIEST, ANGA! TELL ME
WHAT MADE THEE HOLD THY HANDS BACK WHEN
THAT BRUTE DID LAY HIS FOUL HANDS ON?
(Agonised to the very core of his heart and soul Anga speaks out in abject notes:)
Anga : I SEE THY MEANING, BHEEMA! CEASE GLARING, MAN!
CONVOKE THY PITIES! BEAR WITH ME! VRIKODARA,
WHAT STAY’D MY HAND FROM SLAYING THEE ON DAY
OF PARIKSHA; WHAT NUMB’D MINE ARM ON DAY
OF PAANCHAALEES SWAYAMVARA; WHAT PARALYSD
MINE ARM AND DID ESTOP ME FROM RESCUING HER
FROM CLUTCH OF HUMAN BRUTE: WAS BUT RELENTLESS CURSE
OF DREAD RAAMA! PITY ME, THE HELPLESS VICTIM OF A BRAHMIN’S CURSE
(Anga crumples into Bheema’s arms who carries him out muttering amid tears: “POOR ANGA! POOR GREAT ANGA!” The THRONE ROOM, empty now, is exposed for a minute before.)
The Curtain Drops Slowly!
PLACE : THE FIELD MARSHAL ANGA’S TENT IN THE BATTLEFIELD OF KURUKSHETRA.
TIME : ROUND ABOUT MIDNIGHT
DISCOVERED : The Marshal striding up and down the floor in a restless manner and mood muttering to himself:
“TO-MORROW! TO-MORROW! TO-MORROW!”
(Hearing a slight noise at the cloth flap-door on the left, The Marshal turns suddenly round:)
Anga : Who’s that?
(The Marshal’s Batman Enters:)
Batman : ‘Tis, I, my lord.
Anga : How now, Sumantra? Not abed yet?
Batman : My Lord, forgive your servants the scaring sights
I’ve seen upon the battlefield these five
And twice-five days. I fear to face again
In dream-intruded sleep!
Anga : But this is bare bare childishness! ‘Tis rest
You want! The steeds all fed?
Sumantra : Aye, Aye, My Lord!
Anga : My Lord of Madra… Hath he turned in?
Sumantra : Aye, Aye, My Lord!
Anga : Why then, meseems it is but you and I
That are awake in all Kurukshetra!
Sumantra : Nay, nay, my lord, mefears His Majesty’s awake!:
I did espy bright beams of purple light
Escaping through the silken curtains of
The Royal Tent!
Anga : The King awake? (To himself) What keeps him from
His sleep?… What else but “TOMORROW! TOMORROW!”
A VOICE : What Ho! Within!
Sumantra : What Ho! Without! (Goes out)
The VOICE : HIS MAJESTY WOULD FAIN HOLD CONVERSE WITH
THE MARSHAL IN THE MARSHAL’S TENT!
Anga : (Raising his vóice)
Equerry! It is well! The Marshal waits
His Majesty’s pleasure, here!
(Sumantra suddenly lifts up the door-flap and announces:
“HIS MAJESTY THE KING!“ The King-precipitates himself into the tent in the manner of an avalanche, and as he passes in, touches Sumantra’s bow’d head.
On reaching the middle of the floor, The Marshal drops to his knees)
The King : (in a tone of annoyance)
Arise, Anga! A truce to these
Nonsenses! We’re on a battlefield!
Not at Court! You yet awake?
‘Tis past midnight! And you…..
Anga : Whilst certainty of victory in fray
Of tomorrow… did waive off sleep from mine
Own eyes…mefears, my liege, ‘tis want
Of confidence and trust in his servants doth
Keep my sovereign awake!
The King : (impatiently)
Oh! Spare me talk! I came to find wise counsel! List
Anga! My mind, my heart, my very soul
Will know no rest and peace until I’ve made
Quite sure … that …Why. Taataajee hath e’er
Averr’d … our CAUSE IS UNRIGHTEOUS! And Gurujee,.
As he went out into the battle for to lay his life
Down for our Cause, e’en he did say that!
Was in the wrong to wage a war against
My very kith and kin! Now list to me!
Anga, thou hast been e’er nearest my heart!
Why, nearer me than my own heart! Upright
And wise withal! Now tell me true,…have I
Been in the wrong? Been e’en unknowingly
Unrighteous? If YOU decide ‘tis so.
Mayhap ‘tis not too late e’en NOW to make
You see my meaning…?
(Anga interrupts The King in a deferential yet firm tone:)
Anga : I’m blunt of tongue, my liege! As you averr’d
We’re not at court, but on the battlefield!
In his servants’ eyes The King can do no wrong!
And yet the King may wrong his servants by
His want of trust in their prowess at fray!
Believe me, Sire, just now we’re past
All arguments and bickerings of wrong and right!
‘Tis ACT we must … not rob our limbs and mind
Of needed rest….by fruitless talk!
(Approaches the left flap-door and speaks in a commanding voice:)
Art there, Equerry? ‘Tis well! Approach
And escourt out Dread Lord to th’Royal ‘Campment!
(As he passes out the King touches the head of Anga and Sumantra who have dropped to their knees.)
The King : (in a growl of dissatisfaction)
Sleep well, Anga, and mind!: DO NOT BE OVER-RASH
IN THE MORROW’S FRAY!
We may but ILL-AFFORD mishaps to you!
(The King whispers o Sumantra at the door.)
Look to the Marshal! (EXITS GROWLING)
Anga : (to Sumantra)
The Brahmanas arranged for, for the morning’s rites ?
Sumantra : Aye. my lord.
Anga : ‘Tis well! And now, Sumantra do retire
And make the most of these few hours
Left us before the dawn
Sumantra : Aye, my lord.
(Approaches the Marshal and drops to his knees. The Marshal touches him on the head. Rising, and with heaving chest, Sumantra leaves by the flap-door on the LEFT. For fully a minute, The Marshal strides up and down the floor, now and again stopping before AN ARROW, FASHIONED AFTER THE FORM OF A SERPENT and hung on the wall far back—decorated with flowers, saffron and turmeric, the blooms being golden chrysanthemums.
Hearing a noise at the RIGHT flap-door, strides up to it, and lifts the flap:)
Anga : What noise was that? Methinks I hear footsteps! (Peers out)
Who’s there? Speak … or I’ll Why!
It is but some old dame! Come in old, dame!
‘Tis biting cold without!
(Opens the door and himself reaches the middle of the floor muttering to himself:)
An ancient dame! And out at this hour, and HERE?,
In very heart of battle—ground! Who can she be?
(So wrapp’d and muffled in a silken mantle as to hardly reveal even her face, enters The Aged Queen Kuntee; Dropping the door-flap, she slowly walks across and joins Anga in the middle of the floor.
Anga gives her a casual glance and continues his talk:)
Why, old dame, whence cometh it to pass
Thou art astir at this hour on a battle-ground?
This is no venue for old dames to loiter all alone
This is a ground where husbands, brothers, sons
And sires of womenfolk do slaughter each other!,
And not a promenade whereon old dames
Parade alone at middle of night! Mayhap
The inky gloom without hath made thee lose thy way
And led thee here….even as ancient stags,
Betrayed by age-dimmed eyes do sometimes stray
Into a very huntsman’s hut!
(Kuntee, apparently deaf to Anga’s words stares at him—her unwinking eyes repeatedly running him over cap a pie.)
Why, old dame, What art thou looking at?
Kuntee : I am looking at thee! : thy limbs, thy thews,
Anga : Why, hast thou no sons of thine?
Kuntee : (with a soup con of pride in her voice)
Aye, I have! Thre. .. nay f’f’our… nay th’th’re!
Far bigger… stronger than thee
Anga : (Laughing)
Why then, what joy dost thou derive by looking on My….
Kuntee : “JOY”? Nay nay, not joy!, but ENVY… JEALOUSY!
Anga : (bewildered and puzzled)
“ENVY”? “JEALOUSY”? Envious…jealous of whom?
Kuntee: (in ill-controlled indignation)
Envious…Jealous of her whose milk o’breast
Brought out those sinews…thews…the whilst
Of rights… it should I have been…‘m’m’m’my…
(With a gasp, recovers herself:)
But let that pass!… I am a woe-struck soul
Aseeking succour from the Marshal, famed far
And wide as BOUNTY ITSELF INCARNATE!
Anga : CAJOLRY ITSELF INCARNATE will miss a prey in me!
Now list, old dame!: ‘Tis long past middle o’night!
You seem and sound of gentle birth and breed;
Perchance hast lost thy stalwart Sons
In service of the Emperor, and now are left
Forlorn-with none to tend thee in thine aged days!
But ask your will! For Anga ne’er did brush aside
A call for aid from distress’d souls! Gold? Cattle?
Land? Come…come, make up your mind! I may
Not waste The Emperor’s time
Kuntee : I’ve heard tell of the King of Anga’s chivalry…
But I forget you’ve warn’d me’gainst cajolry! I
Will say my say at once! I came not to BEG aught
Of you! I came here but to SELL! I came to SELL,
You THAT, that you will give your very SOUL to buy!
Anga : “Give my SOUL away”? My SOUL’s my GOD’S
And not for sale or barter!
Kuntee : Your heart then…or mayhap…your
Anga : (in impassioned notes)
My heart, my mind, my trunk, my limbs
The very deftness of these hands, in use
Of battle-implements…all these, they are
The Emperor’s, not mine… and not for sale!
Kuntee : You take me wrong my child!
(Approaches Anga, and as she reaches him her breath comes in short gasps and pants.
Half aloud she mutters to herself:)
Bulky, hulky, tall and huge although you be,
To these mine eyes you look no more
But tiny infant that in agony of birth
Clutch’d at the fore-locks of
(Her hand instinctively reaches for her own silvered fore-locks:)
Its frighted maiden-mother…but…but…
(Recovering control of herself:)
But let that pass!
Anga : (Puzzled)
What strange words.. .these? I do not understand!
Kuntee : It matters naught you do not! I pray you let
That pass! Now list: That which I’m here to sell,
It is no whit less than the secret of thy birth!:
Thy twice-born’s parentage! The knowledge of
Thy Royal Birth!
Anga : (Bewildered)
My twice-born’s parentage? My royal birth!
No no! My sire and dame were lowly born!
Kuntee : Oh! The sootha man and wife that brought
Thee up? To YOU, why, they are no more but
As crows that hatch a royal cuckoo’s egg
Anga : (impatiently)
Go on, old dame! And who were they?;
My sire and dame?
Kuntee : (Smiling)
You do forget I’ve come here but to SELL!
To SELL the secret of thy Royal Birth!
Now, what of my PRICE?
(Anga loses all control of himself:)
Anga : “Your PRICE”? Why then, ask what you will of me
My heart, my mind, my very soul!:
My name, my fame, my peif, my crown,
My very hope of Heav’n…why, take them all!
But rid me of this life-long doubt
That cankers and corrodes my very soul!
Kuntee : The price, my child, is not as dear
As thou dost fear! Thy soul is safe!
Safe is thy hope of Heav’n; nor do
I covet crown nor pelf! But list to me:
AMID THE MANY MILLION SHAFTS THY QUIVER HOLDS,
TO KNOW THE TRUTHFUL SECRET OF THE ROYAL BIRTH
MAY YOU NOT SPARE THE USE OF ONE, JUST ONE,
ONLY ONE SHAFT…IN FRAY TO-MORROW? BUT JUST
THAT SINGLE SHAFT I SEE ENSHRINED THERE
AS IT WERE SOME GREAT GOD!
(Directs her glance at the arrow on the wall.
Anga follows her eyes and laughs sarcastically:)
Anga : “Great God” you called it? You were right!
That single simple shaft…is God to me!
My loved Emperor, now He is god to IT!
ITS twin-split tongue, aparched now.
Will slake its thirst with Paartha’s blood
Before tomorrow’s Sun goes down! Sped on
From my bow-string. This GOD of mine,
Will wing ITS way to quaff the life of him
Whose death will end this war, and ensure Victory
To ITS God…The Emperor!
(Horror-struck at these words, Kuntee gradually recovers herself as a gleam of intelligence, almost of cunning creeps into her eyes. Her lips assuming a sneering curve; Her voice too is tinged with marked sarcasm:)
Kuntee : But if, perchance, thy shaft doth miss
Its mark, in chagrin of thy poorly marksmanship,
I ween you’ll speed yon self-same shaft
A second time to mend thine errate aim!?
Again he frowns at Kuntee:)
Anga : My shaft “miss mark”! My “poorly marksmanship”!
Speed my shaft “a second time”! You make me laugh!
Why, old dame, this Anga’s proven record knows
No word as “Miss”! My “Errate aim”, forsooth!
When once my shaft bounds off my bow,
‘Tis DOWNED MARK I see, but nev’r my shaft again!
Old Dame, you know not ought of Anga’s archery!
Kuntee : Well then, with you so certain of thy marksmanship,
Your shaft will never miss! And yet, THE ONLY PRICE
I ASK YOU FOR REVEALING TRUTHFULLY
THE SECRET OF YOUR ROYAL BIRTH
IT IS BUT THAT YOU PROMISETO REFRAIN
FROM HANDLING YONDER SHAFT….A SECOND TIME
Anga : (Airily)
BUT, poor old dame, with not a chance of my
Requiring second-handling of that shaft,
The price you ask… is not a price at all!
Come, come, do ask for something worth the…
Kuntee : (Firmly)
In quittance of revealing thee the secret of
Thy royal birth, I may not ask for aught but that
You swear you will not second-handle yonder shaft!
I FULLY KNOW WHAT I AM ASKING FOR!
Anga : But this is a less barter than a gift!
But have your will! For thy relieving of
My life-long doubt, if it requites thee, why,
I promise not to second-handle yonder shaft!
Kuntee : I do not doubt thy word. And yet I’ve heard
Of elders that a “gift” is never “final” but
By …….. (In gesture, simulates the pouring of water with the left hand on the palm of the right hand.)
Anga : (Laughing outright.)
I see thy meaning! Mayhap you’re right
To mistrust me, a stranger!… But, I have
No water nearby…and I’m loath to wake
Kuntee : (Pointing Out a golden ewer on a side-board on the LEFT:)
What’s in that mug?
Anga : The milk my mother leaves of nights,
For me to drink ere I turn in!
Kuntee : (Biting into her nether lip;)
Your “Mother”?… Oh, that sootha woman!
But milk will do as well for “Gifting”!
(Snatching the ewer from the side-board with his left hand, Anga pours the milk on his right palm as he is speaking:)
Anga : Well, here is promise not to use yon shaft
A second time in battle all tomorrow! NOW,
THE TRUTH I THE TRUTH OF MY OWN BIRTH?
(Kuntee approaching Anga, relieves him of the ewer and replaces it on the side-board;
She places an arm, somewhat ‘gingerly’, around him and speaks in a VOICE, the most pathetic mixture of Pity and SELF-PITY; LOVE and REMORSE; GLADNESS and GRIEF; a mixture that only a HUMAN MOTHER may command:)
Kuntee : My price you’ve paid in manner that befits
Thy name and fame for boundless bounty! List:
My time is short. For I must hie back whence
I came, ere I am missed! In lieu of thy promise,
I now entrust thee with the secret of thy birth!:
Now list!: THOU ART NONE OTHER BUT OWN BROTHER TO
DHARMAJA, BHEEMA and the PEERLESS PHALGUNA
KNOW THEN, THOU ART OWN SON TO KUNTEE….ELDER QUEEN
TO ROYAL PAANDU! THUS, BEWARE OF FRATRICIDE
YOU WILL EFFECT IF THOU DOST SLAY THY MOTHER’S SONS
THY MOTHER PRAYS OF GOD HER SONS MAY NOT
SLAY EACH OTHER! AND PRAYS TOO THAT YOU MISS
THY MARK IN PAARTHA THINE OWN BROTHER, IN
TOMORROW’S FRAY! (Moves on towards the door.)
Anga : (His limbs and torso are all of a tremble; and his voice is vibrant with an uncontrollable excitement:)
HOLD HARD, OLD DAME! IS THIS THE TRUTH YOU SPAKE?
THE VERY VERY TRUTH?
Kuntee : (As she lifts the door flap:)
IS FAKE NAUGHT BUT THE BARE BARE TRUTH!
DO NOT FORGET THY PROMISE, BROTHER OF PAARTHA!
(Almost passes out of the door.)
Anga : Hold hard, old dame! But THOU,.. .now, WHO ART THOU?
(Kuntee, now outside the tent, puts only her head inside and speaks)
Kuntee : “I”? “WHO AM I”?…… WHY… THAT, MY CHILD…
(Swallowing a big lump in her throat:)
WHY THAT’S A SECRET NOT FOR BARTER OR FOR SALE!
(The pitch-black night without swallows her up. Left alone, Anga, in a hyper excited state strides up and down in restlessness as he mutters to himself:)
Anga : Who can she be?…I know! Some ancient chambermaid
Of Queen Kuntee’s sent here to coax Arjuna’s life
Out of his life-long foe! Who e’er she be,
I feel assur’d she spake the truth!
What great relief from life-long doubt!
What great relief to have escap’d the ignomy
Of lowly birth! “Queen Kuntee’s own own son!”
And OWN OWN BROTHER, too, TO DHARMAJA.
VRIKODARA AND PHALGUNA!: MY BROTHERS ALL
THESE YEARS, AND NOT A SUSPICION OF IT TO THEM
OR ME! HAD WE BUT KNOWN THIS, WHY, MAYHAP
WE WOULD HAVE BATTL’D SIDE BY SIDE!….NO! NO!
THE GODS PERISH MY THOUGHTS OF WAV’RING LOYALTY!
BROTHERS, KITH or KIN; BLOOD or BIRTH;
POWER, PELF, KINGSHIP OR CROWN; ALL THESE ARE NAUGHT!
THE KING….MY EMPEROR….’TIS HE COMES BEFORE ALL!
(Approaches the DEIFIED arrow upon the wall, and apostrophizes:)
POOR POOR ARJUNA! MY NEW-FOUND BROTHER! AND
TO THINK THAT ERE TOMORROW’S SUN GOES DOWN,
I’LL SPEED THIS NAAGA SHAFT TO END THE LIFE
OF MY BLOOD BROTHER! THAT OLD DAME DID WARN ME. ‘GAINST
THE SIN OF FRATRICIDE! SPARE HIS LIFE
AND ‘SCAPE THE SIN?…. AND JEOPARDIZE
THE LIFE OF HIM THAT MADE ME WHAT I AM?
HIM THAT LOVES ME, TRUSTS ME WITH HIS CROWN,
HIS CONSCIENCE HONOUR AND HIS VERY LIFE?
WHAT, SACRIFICE MY LIFE-LONG FRIEND AND MASTER AT
THE SHRINE OF NEW-FOUND KITH AND KIN?
THE GODS PERISH SUCH DASTARD THOUGHT!
I MUST ECLIPSE MY HEART FROM BLOOD AND BIRTH,
FROM MINE OWN ENTITY,
AND RIVET MIND AND SOUL ONTO MY DUTY AND
AND YET ‘TIS SOME SORE HARD TO NEWLY FIND
A BROTHER OF A NIGHT
FOR BUT TO SLAY HIM ON THE VERY MORROW IN
A CAUSELESS USELESS FIGHT!
(Sighs his agony out.
The door-flap on the left is heard to rustle.
Anga starts from his reverie and calls out:
Hearing no reply walks up to the door:)
That dame, again? It cannot be!
(Peers out of the door)
Why, mother mine, ‘tis you!
(Enters the snow-haired RAADHAA.
Anga puts his arm around the old lady and tenderly carries her across the floor and seats her on a settee disposed at the extreme end of the fore-ground.
Himself squats on the floor, in the manner of a child, and playfully caresses the old lady‘s feet:)
My own, my loved mother: Yet awake?
Raadhaa : How could I sleep, my son, with heart and head
Abursting with the fearsome thoughts of what
May come to pass amid tomorrow’s fray! with you
My son, abattling in the very thick of it!
Anga : (His eyes lit with the gleam of Intense adoration 🙂
Wondrous things, ye mothers are! Dost thou
Not mind the first ten days of this dire war
When Bheeshma’s bow did play such havoc with
The foe, that Riv’r of blood of humans surged and flow’d
And swamp’d the battle-ground—exceeding his
OWN MOTHER GANGAA AT HER STEEPEST FLOOD
Yet, all this while, with thine own son secure
And safe WITHIN this tent – the dreadful carnage that
Did reign WITHOUT, was but as naught to thee!
But NOW YOU DREAD THE DAWN, because MY LIFE…
Raadhaa : (Kissing Anga on the brow)
You’re right, my loved son, you’re right!:
WHAT BOOTS IT TO A MOTHER WHO SLAYS WHOM?
WHAT CARES SHE WHOSE BLOOD IS SHED SO HER
OWN SON IS SAFE! A MOTHER THAT DOTH BEAR
AND BRING FORTH SON… SHE MAY NOT…WILL NOT
SEE OR KNOW A WORLD BEYOND HER SON!
WITH HUMAN MOTHERS ‘TEVER WAS: LOSE SON, LOSE ALL!
So you see, why ancient fragile dames like creepers
Do cling for aid to very very trees
That they themselves do bear and bring to life
Anga : The love of dame for offspring is
But common law of Nature. But
E’EN GREATER LOVE THAN THIS YOU’VE LAVISH’D ON
A CHILD YOU NEVER DID BRING FORTH!
Raadhaa : (In sudden alarm 🙂
What mean you, child?
Anga : Why, mother mine, I know the truth about my birth!
Raadhaa : (Bewildered:)
“The truth about your birth”? ‘Tis I
That am thy mother, and what else is there
Anga : You’re not my mother! YET YOU ARE!
(In impassioned notes 🙂
GREATER THAN A MORTAL MOTHER YOU HAVE BEEN
TO ME A BABE THAT LOST ITS DAM AT VERY BIRTH!
THE LOVE AND CARE YO’VE SHOWDR’D ON
AN ORPHAN’D MITE AS IT WERE FRUIT OF YOUR
OWN LOINS…doth make thee seem to me:
THE BOUNDLESS LOVE OF GOD HIMSELF IN HUMAN FORM!
CAUGHT UP IN FRIGHT OF LOSING ME TOMORROW, YOU
DISDAIN YOUR SLEEP! WHILST SHE THAT BROUGHT
BROUGHT ME FORTH….SHE SLEEPS IN QUEENLY LUXURY
ENSCONC’D IN SILKEN COUCH BENEATH A GOLDEN CANOPY
Raadhaa : (With a tight hold on Anga 🙂
Knowing thus far, Karna, ‘tis but meet
That you should know the truth of my
Coming on thee: IT SEEMS BUT YESTERDAY
THAT BRILLIANT SUN-LIT DAY THAT I AND MY
GOOD MAN WALKING BY THE STREAM THAT COURS’D
ASIDE OUR HOMELY COTTAGE—SPIED
A WINSOME NEW-BORN BABE APULING WITH
THE COLD OF LAPPING WAVES! CHILD-LESS WE WERE,
KARNA, AND WE COULD THINK NO LESS BUT….GOD
HIMSELF, IN ANSWER TO OUR PRAYERS, HAD SENT
IN SHAPE OF BABE—A STRAY SUNBEAM TO LIGHT
OUR GLOOMY COT! AND FROM THAT BLESSED MOMENT THAT
I CAME ON THEE A FROZEN HUMAN BLOB, UNTO
THIS VERY NOW THAT IN MINE ARMS I HOLD
THE KING OF ANGALAND AND MARSHAL TO
THE EMPEROR…IT HAS BEEN ONE ONE LONG
LONG DAY OF SUN-LIT BLISS!
(With a heavy sigh relinquishes her hold on Anga.)
BUT LONGEST BRIGHTEST DAY MUST END SOMEWHEN
IF DEATH HIMSELF IN ANSWER TO MY PRAY‘RS
WILL SPARE THY LIFE IN BATTLE….MEFEARS
WITH THIS YOUR TALK… SOME STRANGER WOMAN WILL
SEIZE THEE FROM ME….DESPITE MY LIFE-LONG CARE
OF THEE! AGAIN, OUR ELDERS PICTURE FATE
IN WOMAN’S SHAPE WITH WOMAN’S CRUEL WHIMS!
AND SHE MAYHAP MAY INTERVENE ATWEEN
THE WOM’N THAT BROUGHT THEE FORTH, AND ME
THAT BROUGHT THEE UP…AND SNATCH THEE FROM
US BOTH! ERGO, KARNA, SLEEP NOW! GET ALL THE REST
YOU MAY, AND GARNER ALL THY STRENGTH AGAINST
TOMORROW’S FRY: GOOD REST BY DREAMLESS SLEEP
AND STRENGTH BY WHOLESOME FOOD! Hast drunk
Anga : (Confused and dropping his eyes to the ground:)
‘D…‘D…‘Deed. .. M’.. .M’Mother… I…have not!
Raadhaa : And wherefore not? You never liked it warm,
I know… but drink it now… before I go!
(Rises and walks up to the side—board, lifts up the ewer and at once notices the “lightness” of the ewer:)
Why, it’s empty! You have drunk the milk
And have forgot!… What’s this my feet are wet!
(Drops her eyes to the floor:)
‘Tis milk! You’ve spilt it all!
How did it come to pass?
Anga : (Looking sheepishly)
In… lieu… of water… that was not nearby.
It was…the…milk…I used to pour upon my palm?
Raadhaa : (Puzzled)
But why pour milk… or even water on your palm ?
Anga : Why else.. .but to gift away!
Raadhaa : (Startled:)
‘Gift Away”! But you and I have naught
To call our very own, to gift away?:
Thy Kingship, Marshaldom, thy pow’r, thy pelf,
The food that we consume, the raiment that
We wear ‘gainst nakedness, the very very milk
You’ve spilt…they all are but the EMPEROR’S
To gift away! :…not thine!…not mine!
(With eyes at their widest, Anga speaks in a frighted voice:)
Anga : Too late! Too late! Your counsel comes too late!
(His brows screwing:)
And yet I feel I’ve gifted naught away!
Now sit and list!
(Leads Raadhaa to the settee and seats her as before.
Himself, squats at her feet and speaks in a calm collected tone:)
Now, harken calmly, mother mine! ‘Twas all thiswise:
‘Twas not a “GIFT’” at all with which I bought
The secret of my birth…
Raadhaa : Bought it of whom ?… with what?
Anga : Of that….anon ….
Raadhaa : But why anon? Meseems, my child, you’re frighted to
Speak out! Whom was it that you bought
Your secret of?
Anga : An ancient dame that came hither tonight
To caution me ‘gainst FRATRICIDE!
Raadhaa : “Fratricide”? (Ruminates for a moment:) Brothers?
If thou hast found thee brothers, WHY SLAY THEM?
Unless… they be,…..(Her eyes look askance)
Anga : (Reading her thoughts:)
They ARE… the foemen of our Emperor!
In slaying Paar…THEM in tomorrow’s fray,
I may not ‘scape the sin of fratricide!
But have no fears, beloved mother mine,
No love for newfound brothers and no fear
Of sin of fratricide will lure me from
My duty to mine Emperor! (Bitterly:) And yet,
With certainty of slaying brothers in
Tomorrows fray ASCALED ‘gainst disloyalty
And sore betrayal of my lord and friend,
I am more helpless NOW as marshal of
The Emperor, THAN AS THE SPURNED BABE
YOU RESCUED FROM THE RIVER’S CRUEL WAVES!
Now, counsel me: An ancient dame, with hair
All silvery grey, came in tonight and sold
To me the secret of my birth! She swore
That I am OWN OWN SON to KUNTEE, elder QUEEN
TO ROYAL PAANDU …………..
Raadhaa : (Hard of face and stern of voice:)
Whilst glad at heart to see thy joy at ‘scape
Of ignominy of lowly birth, what matters more
To rue that brought you up, and to The King
Who made you what you are is but THE PRICE,
THE PRICE you paid for what you bought of this
Old dame! COME NOW. KARNA? THE PRICE?
Anga : (Gently patting her shoulder:)
Pray calm your fears, my mother; why, the price
I paid…lt was but naught in value to
That dame…or any one!
Raadhaa : In mind and heart, Karna, thou ever wert
So overfull of honesty, that thou
Hast ever been a poor poor hand at feigning or
Dissembling, and thou couldst not cozen ev’n
A bribe! What was the PRICE you paid
And gifted, with the milk accru’d of
Bounty of Our King?
Anga : I do aver again, thy fears are groundless… Why,
The price I paid…
(His eyes stray towards the serpent shaft upon the wall.
Raadhaa’s eyes follow Anga’s glance; Horror-struck in face, and panic in her voice:)
Raadhaa : YOU SOLD HER THAT? GOD HELP YOU! WHY,
YOU’VE SOLD YOUR KING! OH! WOE IS ME!
MY OWN SON KARNA TURNS A TRAITOR TO
HIS KING! OH! WOE IS ME!
(Swaying her head in intense agony drops back on the back of the settee.)
Anga : (Indignantly:)
Forsure, you’re mad to think I sold the shaft!
I swear to you I did not! You’re mad to think it so!
Raadhaa : Well then, the price? You have not told me. yet?
Anga : That dame, well knowing that I thirst for blood
Of Arjuna…and sent here by my mo…his mother…
This dame… did harbour vain delusion that
This Anga—who in all his bowman’s life
Hath n’er a single once failed to down
His mark—may stand in need of second-handling of
Yon Naaga shaft in battle of tomorrow!
Raadhaa : You did not sell that shaft!…Why then.. .the price ?
Anga : I tell you that I would not sell the handling of
That shaft to save my very soul! I only promise to
Desist from using self-same shaft a SECOND TIME,
IN CASE I MISS’D MY MARK AT FIRST ATTEMPT!
But THAT you, know, will never come to pass!
I told her that; and yet she seem’d content!,
Avowing that SHE KNEW FULL WELL WHAT SHE
WAS ASKING FOR!
Raadhaa : You told her you would never, miss, and yet
She seem’d content? And avow’d too “she knew
What she was asking for” ? I cannot help
But think it sounds like some low trickery!
A “woman” did you say? And “aged” too!
Karna, my son, there’s none may read
A woman’s heart except another of
Her kind! I do believe it in my heart,
That dame DID have good reason to be sure
And certain you would miss your mark
Tomorrow! Why, yon shaft, alas, is but
The LAST, THE ONLY HOPE OF SAVING LIFE
AND THRONE OF HIM THAT EVEN NOW DOTH SLEEP
IN PEACE FULL TRUSTING IN THE LOYALTY
OF HIS FIELD MARSHAL! YOU, my son,
—Thy mind and heart made numb, inert
By fetters forg’d of thine unmanly SHAME
OF LOWLY BIRTH AND VANITY of BOWMANSHIP
—Art fretting frighted of the sin of Fratricide!
To caution thee ‘gainst “Fratricide”, forsooth!:
What else but fratricide and patricide
The Paandavas have practised all these days?:
It was by trick of flaunting woman-at-birth
Sikhandin that they forced the peerless Patriarch
In dire disgust to quit the battlefield!
Anon, by lie trick’d out of eldest Paandava
—That KRIPEE’S DEATHLESS SON WAS DEAD—
They snapp’d the thread of their own Guru’s life!
And now they’ve sent YOU some designing dame
To lure thee with the secret of thy birth
Into betraying your own King… and play
The tool to bring to pass their final sin
(With a sarcastic smile and voice:)
And yet, I must concede, thy brothers have
The manliness to face the army of
The Emperor. whilst You like unsuspected canker in
The bosom of The King—who ever loved thee more
Than ev’n The Crowned Prince himself—have thrown
Away his Honour, Throne, his very life
In thine own selfish ardour to escape
The ignominy of low Sootha parentage!
(The foregoing speech of Raadhaa’s gradually unmans Anga;
He throws himself at Raadhaa’s feet And grovels in agony, whimpering:)
Anga : Forgive me, mother mine! I did not know
What I was doing!
(Raadhaa moves away from the now prone Anga, and speaks in a low cold dry tone:)
Raadhaa : With less than e’en an hour for the dawn,
I’ve hardly time to ‘pproach the Emperor
And make him see the wisdom of finding
Another Marshal trustier than thee
To lead his army in the coming fray!
(Raadhaa steps towards the door)
Anga : (Still on the floor in a heart-rending wail:)
Stop, mother mine! You’re breaking my heart!
Raadhaa : And mine’s already broken with thy sore
Betrayal of Thy King?
Anga : (Rising and collecting himself:)
The broken heart will knit again!
I swear to thee!
Raadhaa : “Knit again”? It will not knit again,
Not until you PRECEDE AND LEAD
THE EMP’ROR’S HOST WITH ALL THE LOYALTY
THAT FITS HIS MARSHAL! MY BROKEN HEART?
IT WILL NOT KNIT AGAIN UNTIL YOU SO
BELAY THE FOEMEN OF THE KING, THAT ERE
THE SET OF SUN TOMORROW NAUGHT REMAINS
OF T’OTHER SIDE OF KURUKSHETRA BUT
ONE VAST VAST FIELD OF BARE BARE GRASS,
WITH NOT A FOEMAN STANDING UPRIGHT! THEN,
IT IS, MY BROKEN HEART WILL KNIT AGAIN!
Anga : (Approaches Raadhaa and speaks in quick jerks of excitement:)
List! Mother, list!: Thy talk of “Bare Bare Grass”
Hath minded me of mine own POWER! Now list :
With single blade of grass, I can invoke
The deadliest of of my Guru’s astras
And may in single breath annihilate
The foeman of my King! And yonder Naaga Shaft
Is welcome for to miss its mark; WITHOUT
A SECOND-HANDLING OF THAT SHAFT, with blade
Of grass WILL I EFFECT A HOLOCAUST
OF ALL THE PAANDU HOST…AND THUS RE-KNIT
THY BROKEN HEART…AND JUST THIS ONCE AT LEAST
I’LL CIRCUMVENT A BRAHMIN’S FATAL CURSE.
(Anga drops at Raadhaa’s feet; she lifts up his face by his chin; wiping away his tears speaks in a proud glad voice:)
Raadhaa : NOW SPEAKS MY OWN TRUE SON KARNA!
The Curtain Drops Slowly!
PLACE : THE BATTLEFIELD OF KURUKSHETRA
TIME : An hour before Sunset on the Seventeenth Day of The Great War.
DISCOVERED : ANGA in his chariot with Maadra as charioteer; ARJUNA in his chariot with KRISHNA as charioteer.
The two chariots are considerably apart.
VENUE I : [ANGA’S CHARIOT)
Maadra : (Querulously:)
A truce to frolics, Anga! Come, ‘tis time
You started real fray!
Anga : (Smiling:) “Real Fray”!? What call
You then, the fray I’ve fought this long long day?
Maadra : (Irritated:) Oh! Curb thy glib tongue; ‘Deed you know
My meaning well enough! All yesterday
You wasted needlessly in fruitless search
For Phalguna, whom Krishna’s craftiness
Had hid beyond thy reach! And yet, TODAY,
With Arjuna afacing thee—Thou hast
No more but played with him as cat with mouse
To show to every one upon this field
That Drona’s petted pupil is as but
A novice, facing Anga favour’d of
Great Jaamadagni’s tutordom! And now
With VANITY all glutted full to cloyment do
Remember THIS IS NO PARIKSHA BUT
GRIM BATTLE TO THE DEATH! ‘Tis time you thought
Of him, our Emperor who waits for the
Return of his Field Marshal to the sound
Of bugles blaring triumph; drums
Adinning Victory! ANGA! AWAKE!
Set on thy Serpent Shaft, forthwith, and with
Your ending Paartha’s life, END TOO
THIS MOST UNHOLY CARNAGE OF THE SCIONS OF
THE ROYAL KURU CLAN! It irks my very gall
When I recall the senseless slaughter of
This past fortnight! Think now; A trusting king
Blinded of pride and pow’r of new’gat crown—
A Gaandhaara to goad and mad him into ire—
A Paanchaalee affronted and her doughty lords
Aroused to fury-and here we have a massacre
Of millions with kith and kin ‘gainst kin and kith!
A SINGLE MOMENT’S IRATE FRENZY AND
A ROYAL HOUSE AND CLAN SNUFF’D OUT!
And you, have held your hand all day,
Forgetting him, our king and friend.
Prolonging this torturing fray!
Anga : (As if from a reverie, Anga starts up and replies in a voice fraught with deep feeling:)
You’re right, my lord; I am “prolonging this
Torturing fray”! I deferr’d use of Naga Shaft
Because… because… I could not… bring my heart
To…WELL! (Pulling himself together)
E’EN LOVE MUST DIE AT CALL OF LOYALTY!
Maadra : (Intrigued at Anga’s drowsy mien, and over hearing the word “Love”…in a tone of admonition 🙂
Yet asleep, Anga?? Mumbling of love! Art dreaming ?
And now! And here! You HAVE forgot The King!
Anga : You’re right! My mind adreaming of love
DID lure my heart astray! I HAD forgot
The King My Master! But I’LL MAKE AMENDS
FORTHWITH! (Reaching for the serpent-shaft fixes it to bow and trains it on ARJUNA.)
Maadra : (Highly excited)
Look, Anga, look! That cunning cowherd sets
His steeds AREARING…meaning to lure thee
Into AIMING HIGH! Now, mark my words:
Anon, HE’LL SEND THE STEEDS ASTUMBLING SO,
THAT ARROW MISSES MARK! The wily worm!
SO AIM NO HIGHER THAN ARJUNA’S BREAST,
FOR IF THE HORSES “DIP”, why, Paartha’s NECK
IT IS WILL TAKE THE SHAFT!, and ensure death!
Anga : (Obstinately:)
I will not have Arjuna die in agony
Of CONQUERED SHAMEDNESS! AIM AT NECK
ENSURES HIM INSTANT DEATH! HERE GOES
THE HOODED CICERONE TO USHER ARJUNA
INTO HIS SIRE MAHENDRA’S REALMS!
(With eyes almost closed and sighing heavily, releases shaft)
Maadra : (Peering forward intently for a moment, suddenly turns round on Anga and speaks in a scandalised voice:)
I told you so! That CALLID DEVIL DID DIP
HIS BEASTS! YOUR SHAFT HATH GLANCED WIDE OF MARK!
(Anga, taken aback for a second, also peers out. Leans back satisfied, and speaks in a re-assuring voice;)
Anga : Calm thyself and look, Maadra DOST SEE
AUGHT GLISTRING BY VAARSHNEYA’S SIDE?
Maadra : (Peering out:)
FORSURE… ‘TIS GREAT KIREETI’S GILDED CROWN!
Anga : (Sighing:) IT IS KIREETI’S CROWN! POOR PAARTHA’S
CURLY PATE IS IN THAT CROWN! (IN A PATHETIC TONE OF SELF-ABASEMENT:)
Maadra! I swear to thee!: my direst worst defeat
Could savour not such bitter gall to me
As this, my latest greatest victory!
Avaunt! Avaunt! Ye ugly tools of death,
Enough of havoc have, ye worked!
(In utter disgust flings away his bow and quiver far out of the chariot.)
But I forget The King! The King hath won the war!
Long live The King! Long live The Emperor! SWERVE
THY CHARIOT ROUND, MAADRA, AND BRING ME TO THE KING
(Maadra, who all this while has not taken his eyes off Arjuna’s chariot, suddenly bursts out in strident notes of indignation:)
Maadra : Cease thy drivel, and Iook, Anga! I told thee so!
I told thee you would miss with aiming higher than
Arjuna’s breast! Thy shaft hath done no more
But floor his crown! For look! His limbs do stir!
He’s yet alive! Lo here returns The Naaga Shaft
Abelching fires of fury, cozened of its prey!
This time be wary! Aim at Paartha’s breast.
No higher! I forget: In blinding confidence
Of marksmanship, you cast your bow away!
I’ll fetch it in a trice
(Prepares to jump off the chariot.)
Anga : Hold hard!, Maadra, Hold hard!
No need of bow to slay the foe!
(His eyes blaze with anger and he mutters almost under his breath:)
And so, I DID MISS after all! NOW
I see the meaning of that Old Dame’s “IF YOU MISS”!
As Mother did aver ‘tis all but trickery!
‘Twas naught but Krishna’s trickery did save
Arjuna from his certain doom!
Maadra : (Leering:)
You see it, NOW, do you? Now think, Anga:
What was it but that cowherd’s craftiness
Set woman-at-birth Sikhandin facing Gaangeya
And forced the dreaded Patriarch to quit
The battlefield he’d held unbeaten for
TEN LONG LONG DAYS OF BLOODY STRIFE!
Who was it but that black-faced fox, did bluff
The unsuspecting Dharmaja into
Averring lie that broke Drona’s heart,
And made him easy prey to Draupada’s
Avenging hate? And now, that femine-featured friend
Hath made a feckless fool of thee! Anga,
Why. IF THAT INK-FACED IMP ESCAPETH HELL,
I DO BELIEVE—THERE’S HOPE OF HEAV’N FOR E’EN
THE VERY VERY WORST OF MEN!
Anga : (Pensively:)
Now I see it all! You’re right, Maadra:
Not battle fair, but vile and wily craft
It is that’s sending us to sure defeat and death!
Maadra : (Sneering)
“Battle Fair” forsooth! Why, FAIRNESS, TRUTH
And PITY are but strangers to that deep
Designing black devil! Own cousin to the Queen
Kuntee, uses ev’ry low down trick
To help his cousins win this war! The Right
Or WRONG of it concerns him naught! And now
Anga, convoke thy senses! Wake thy languid mind
And limbs the while I go to fetch thy bow!
Anga : (Gruffly)
HOLD HARD… MAADRA! THE SERPENT SHAFT,
I WILL NOT…MAY NOT USE AGAIN!
(Anga creeps forward to Maadra‘s side and extending his right arm sweeps the field before him and speaks, hissing his words between his teeth:)
Anga : You see yon field Maadra? You see thereon
Th’assembled foemen of our King? You do
Not see the grassy plain they stand upon?
But in a trice I’ll make thee see the other side
Of Kurukshetra as but plain PLAIN
OF BARE BARE GRASS—WITH NOT A TRACE OF FOEMEN!
DESCEND THE CHARIOT AND FETCH ME BUT A BLADE OF GRASS!
Maadra : (Startled:)
“Blade of grass”! Whatever for?
Anga : (Laughing wildly 🙂
WITH BLADE OF GRASS I WILL ANNIHILATE THE FOE
AS RAGING STORM SNUFFS OUT A TAPER’S FEEBLE FLAME!
COME NOW. A BLADE OF GRASS FORTHWITH!
(Maadra, in consternation at Anga’s wild manner, words and strange request fears for his REASON… and appeals in earnest voice 🙂
Maadra : You are not well, Anga! Too ill in mind thyself,
Spurn not my sane advice! The hissing shaft awaits!
It is but BOW you want, not BLADE of GRASS!
Anga : (Indignantly)
‘Tis YOU that’s mad to think my senses stray!
(With a wild glow of triumph in his eyes and elation in his voice.)
MAADRA! DO YOU NOT HEAR AND SEE YOU FOOL!:
‘TIS RAAMA…PARASU RAAMA SPEAKS… NOT ANGA!
DREAD RAAMA THAT, WITH BLADE OF GRASS USED
BY HIS PUPIL ANGA, WILL GLUT HIS HATE
OF KSHATRIYAS! DOST HEAR, MAADRA?
A BLADE OF GRASS WILL END THIS WAR!
(Maadra, FULLY CONVINCED OF ANGA‘S MENTAL ABERRATION, is thrown into a panic 🙂
Maadra : ‘TIS RAAMA SPEAKS” ? “NOT ANAGA”? Why,
Anga, in sooth, you’re insane, men!
(Wringing his hands, looks helplessly about him:)
Now, here’s a pass! The King’s last hope,
His trusted Marshal turns a maniac
Amid the very battlefields, and spurning bow
Doth rave of “blade of grass”! God help The King!
I DARE NO LESS BUT RELEGATE THE MADDED MARSHAL TO
HIS MAJESTY THE KING!
(SETS ABOUT TO TURN THE CHARIOT ROUND)
Anga : (In irate fury 🙂
THOU WERT EV’R A FOOL. MAADRA!
(Jumps off the chariot; walks on a step or two… and stoops to pick a blade of grass speaking to himself all this while 🙂
Rever’d Gurujee! Invoking this your Astra,
I trust in your assurance that there is
AHIMSA in this slaying of so many men,
Not one of them mine enemy! Friend or foe,
Kith and Kin or enemy…’tis naught to me!
‘TIS BUT MY KING I MAY THINK OF… NONE ELSE
O MOTHER MINE, AS I DID PROMISE THEE,
HEREBY I’LL KNIT THY BROKEN HEART AGAIN
ALBEIT AT CERTAIN COST OF BREAKING MINE:
(Proceeds a few steps and starts to bend to pick a blade of grass; Synchronising with the while that Anga speaks the foregoing words, Maadra mutters in a half aloud sneering voice:)
Maadra : “Blade of Grass” forsooth! The man thinks he’s
A SHEEP! Forsure, he’s mad! But why
Call Anga mad? Am I not mad myself?:
Monarch of all Madraland…am I
Not mad…aplaying Sootha to a SOOTHA’S SON?
(Maadra’s last words synchronise with the very moment Anga’s hand reaches out to pith a blade of grass; the words “SOOTHA-BORN” fall on Anga’s ears, and his forefinger and thumb refuse to close on the blade of grass; the palsy spreads, his arm droops; in helpless despair turns to Maadra and speaks in an agonised tone;)
Anga : What hast thou done, thou dolt! Thy flippancy
Hath robb’d The King of certain victory!
And robb’d him too of crown, of honour, aye
His very Very life!
(Staggers back and comes to rest with his back against a wheel of the chariot. Maadra, observing Anga’s plight, jumps off the chariot and running in panic joins Anga 🙂
Maadra : What’s this ? Anga! Ascend the chariot!
Anga : I cannot move! I’m paralysed of limb and frame!
Maadra : “Paralysed”! Wherefore? And how?
Anga : (Smiling sadly 🙂
You’ve seen me paralysed afore this, fool!
I see thy mem’ry is as meagre as thy wits!!
Dost thou not mind Paanchaalee’s wedding day?
It was supposed sootha birth of mine
Thrown in my hearing…paralysed…
I… can… no….more!
(Swoons away, still resting on the chariot wheel: Maadra jumps to Anga’s side and in frenzy of despair, in abject tone:)
Maadra : A million fools in one am I! Anga!
Wake up! I’ll take thee back! A whole night’s rest,
And you will be yourself! Resume the fray
Tomorrow… why you do not speak! Ye gods!:
He’s fainted dead away! A dash of water cold!
There’s none to fetch! I’ll hie for it myself!
(Exits precipitately, leaving fainted the Marshal still leaving senseless on the chariot wheel.)
VENUE 2 : (ARJUNA’S CHARIOT)
Discovered : (Krishna briskly shaking Arjuna who is prone on the floor of the chariot 🙂
Krishna : Come come, Paartha! Awake thyself! Shake off
Thy drowse! Arise and twang thy Gaandeeva
And forthwith show the world, it needs far more
Than lowly-blooded sootha warriors
To vanquish Peerless Phalguna fear’d of
The gods themselves!
(Arjuna wakes, looks about him and sits up; in dazed accents:)
Arjuna : Where am I? What in my chariot?
Meseem’d Krishna, that I was once again
In Forest Khaandava!, aslaying all
Its hooded denizens! Meseem’d too that
The hugest of those fearsome snakes escaped
My AGNI shaft and sprang at me! Its virose hiss
Did seem to numb my limbs and mind! But now
I see it was but Anga’s Naaga shaft
Affrighted me and floored me for the nonce!
I’ll forthwith give him taste of REAL REAL FEAR
With this my SIVA SHAFT!
(Fixes a shaft to his bow and trains it on Anga’s empty chariot.
At sight of this, Krishna breaks into ringing laughter 🙂
Krishna : Ha! Ha Paartha! Meseems the fit of faint
That laid thee low still holds thee in its clutch!
Do ope’ thy drowsy eyes their widest and
Look yonder! It’s but empty chariot
You ace aiming at! A chariot bereft
Of charioteer and foe! Thy TARGET stands
WITHOUT the chariot, aleaning ‘gainst
The wheel! The gods are good to thee, Paartha!:
The shadow that hath all thy life loom’d in
Betwixt thyself and fame eternal as
The greatest bowman of all time, now stands
Inviting death at doughty Jishnu’s hands!
Do not forget: Whilst Anga’s above ground,
The question of thy supreme mastery
With bow and shaft will e’er be moot! Speed on
Thy SIVA SHAFT AND SLAY HIM ERE HE MOVES!
The very moment that thine astra finds
Its fleshy home In Anga’s breast, will find
Thee winning fame immortal as the slayer of
DREAD RAAMA’S DREADED PUPIL! Now slay him!
(Paartha, who has been listening to Krishna’s words with rigid face and unwinking eyes, speaks to him in a sad bitter voice:)
Arjuna : “Eternal Fame”…”Immortal name”…forsooth!
With dauntless Gaangeya forced out of fray
By subterfuge! With Guru Drona slain
Trick’d into blind belief of two things that
May never be: A DYING KAARPEYA
And LYING DHARMAJA—such claim for fame
As fighter fair, I ever did possess—
I forfeited to th’honey of thy tongue!
HE that speaks to thee, Krishna, IS NOT
THE ARJUNA OF SIXTEEN BATTLED DAYS AGO!
With passing of my sons HYDIMBA and
ABHIMANYU, my heart and mind are dead!
Dead too is very brutish call to live!
“Supremacy of Bowmanship” forsooth!:
WITH CRAVEN UTTARA AS CHARIOTEER,
WITH SINGLE SHAFT I LAID THE KURU HOST
AGROVELLING! AND NOW I FIND ME FILLING ROLE
OF FECKLESS TOOL TO SERVE THY FELL DESIGNS,
ALLURED BY THY FEMINE EYES!
Krishna : O Bhibhatsu, a mere man, that yet
Engaged ETERNAL Eeswara in fray!
Dhananjaya, whose twang of Gaandeeva
Doth quake the hearts of even deathless gods!,
DO NOT FORGET THAT FEMINE EYES IN MAN
ARE LESS UNMANLY THAN A FEMINE HEART IN HIM!
Hark! Canst thou not hear the whole whole battlefield
Acackling in derision at KIREETI STRIPP’D
OF CROWN BY SOOTHA FOE? MORE INFAMOUS
THAN EVEN THIS IS THAT YOU SEEM NO MORE
BUT BRAGGART LIAR IN THE TRUSTING EYES
OF TRUTHFUL DHARMAJA!
Arjuna : “Braggart”! “Liar”! What mean you?
Krishna : Bestir thy muffled memory! Do you
Not mind the day this fray began?:
Why you, in arrogance of thy prowess,
Did swear to Dharmaja, to lay the DIADEM
Of King Suyodhana at feet of Dharmaja
ERE SET OF THAT DAY’S SUN! AND SIXTEEN SUNS
HAVE SPANN’D THE FIRMAMENT SINCE THEN!
(From dry hard notes, KRISHNA’S voice changes to an impassioned appeal—with just a soupcon of threat in it:)
I speak not, Paartha, to my sister’s lord;
I speak not to my well beloved friend;
I speak but to the DUTY-BOUNDEN brother of
Poor King Yudhishtira!, and solemnly
Warn thee: THY WILFUL HOLDING BACK OF SHIVA SHAFT
FROM SLAYING YONDER FOE, WILL SPELL NO LESS
THAN DHARMAJA—DEFEATED AND DISGRAC’D
ENCHAINED TO THE CHARIOT-WHEEL OF PROUD
SUYODHANA, WILL GROVEL DRAGG’D IN DUST AND MIRE
THE WHOLE WHOLE WAY TO HASTINA!
THE DOUGHTY BHEEMA AND
THE MAADRE TWINS WILL WATCH THIS SIGHT
IN IMPOTENT DESPAIR, heart-broken at
THEIR ELDEST BROTHER THROWN AS VICTIM TO
THE VANITY OF INDRA’S SCION: ARJUNA!
(Paartha, horrified in face and trembling in limb and frame shrieks out in frenzied accents:)
Arjuna : ‘Dharmaja…defeated”?! “Chained to
Suyodhana’s chariot-wheel”! And dragg’d
In dust to Hastina! I DARE NOT THINK OF IT
I’D RATHER DIE A HUNDRED DEATHS MYSELF!
Krishna : Far wiser, nobler than dying thyself—
Why, live and slay the brother’s foe…THY FOE!
Arjuna : What HE…my foe? Not HE! SUYODHANA it is
I’d face and gladly slay!.– Not Anga, there,
Not unarm’d Anga standing helpless, NO!
Krishna : E’en Anga standing lone and unarm’d is
Not as helpless as POOR DHARMAJA
Deserted of his brother BHIBHATSU!
Arjuna : But, Krishna, FIE! THE SHAME OF IT!:
AN UNARM’D FOE! I DARE NOT, CANNOT, WILL NOT SLAY
POOR HELPLESS ANGA THERE!
(LAYS DOWN HIS BOW AND LOOKS AWAY FROM KRISHNA.
Krishna smiles sadly and speaks in a voice soused in pity:)
Krishna : Vanity eternal-vanity
Which clouds the minds of men. ILLUDES
THEE TOO, Dhananjaya, into believing that
‘TIS THOU THAT DOES THE SLAYING! List:
The arrow-bead in vanity of slaying doth
Forget the shaft that guided it
The shaft again in vanity of guiding arrowhead
Forgets the string that sped it on
The string again in vanity of guiding shaft
Forgets the BOW that help’d it spring ;
The bow again in vanity of springing string
Forgets the MAN that bended it;
And he again in vanity of bowmanship
Forgets th’ETERNAL HE THAT EVER STANDS
BEHIND HÌM USING MAN FOR HIS OWN USE INSCRUTABLE!
Smother VANITY, Paartha, and think of but the CAUSE!!
The CAUSE that finds us both on Kurukshetra Field;
The CAUSE for which thy sons, thy friends, thy kith
And kin did fight and fail!
Arjuna : (AS A FINAL PROTEST:)
But this…this killing of an unarm’d man
It seems to me, is unfair most unjust!
Krishna : It is the PURPOSE of the killing, not
The MEANS and MANNER of the killing that
Decides the FAIRNESS…JUSTNESS of the killing! List!;
(Krishna fixes Arjuna‘s eyes to his own by sheer dominance of WILL…and almost BREATHES his words in SEPULCHRAL notes:)
Abjure AMBITION; absorb ABSOLUTION!
Perish FLESH! Cherish…nourish SPIRIT!
Erase thine ENTITY! Embrace ENTIRETY!
Annihilate the INDIVIDUAL within thee!
Assimilate the UNIVERSAL without thee!
With MIND unsullied of all thoughts
Of GOOD AND BAD,
With heart unthrilled of all throbs
Of SAD and GLAD,
Think of but ME and slay thy FOE
That loometh there as shadow ‘twixt
THY RIGHTEOUS brother and his RIGHTFUL throne
And lay the BURDEN of thy SELFLESS DEED
On thine eternal alter Ego… ME!
(With eyes almost closed, as one in a trance-with bosom heaving with deep sighs Arjuna fixes shaft to bow and trains it on The Marshal Anga, and with tears welling his eyes mutters to himself:)
Arjuna : ANGA! My life-long FOE… and yet
Unarm’d… helpless… poor…poor…ANGA!
(RELEASES THE SHAFT).
(Arjuna’s arrow buries itself in Anga’s breast just the very moment that Maadra arrives with a ewer of water at the Marshal’s side.
Scandalised into a frenzy of indignation at this most cowardly slaying of the Marshal he rushes forward and planting himself facing Arjuna’s chariot roars out in a voice heard all over the battlefield:)
Maadra : DASTARD! DASTARD! DASTARD! ARJUNA!
A MILLION DASTARDS ALL IN ONE!
MIGHTY MAHENDRA’S SCION, YOU?
IT IS A DASTARD LIE!
SPLENDENT SAUBHADREYA’S SIRE?
NOT YOU, YOU DASTARD SWINE!
LOW, AS WAS THE MANNER OF
THY SLAYING THY GURU….
THIS…THY LOWEST DEED OF ALL
SHALL MARK THEE FOR ALL TIME
THE VERY LOWEST, MEANEST, MOST
DASTARDLY BOWMAN THAT EVER
DISGRAC’D A BATTLEFIELD OF HEROES! OH!
HOW I MISS MY MACE!: I’D POUND THY DASTARD FACE
TO….OH!…BUT THAT CAN WAIT! I HAVE
FORGOT THE WOUNDED MARSHAL!
(Rushes to the fallen Marshal and sitting at Anga’s head takes the Marshal‘s head into his lap and looks helplessly about him; seeing none near him shouts in stentorian voice 🙂
WHAT HO! THERE! COME SOMEONE! HELP! HELP!
THE MARSHAL’S WOUNDED! COME!
WHAT HO! KAARPEYA! COME!
(Pandemonium rules the whole field and mostly in the immediate vicinity of the Marshal‘s chariot. A crowd of battle-grimed warriors collect around Maadra and his charge. ASWATTHA rushes into the tableau like a wild and madden’d bull and is struck aghast at the scene before him:)
Aswattha : What’s this I see ?
(Drops to his knees at Anga’s side:)
Speak, Anga! Speak!
Salya, how did this come to pass?
Maadra : The while our Anga sped his serpent shaft
That craven Paartha’s life was saved
By Krishna’s craftiness! Whilst Anga rested in
A swoon, helpless, senseless—on the chariot-wheel—
Paartha, the lump of clay in yonder coal black cobra’s hands
Did send his shaft into a man in swoon!
E’er heard of such a dastard deed?
Oh! How I miss my mace!
Aswattha : (Pours a few drops of water from the ewer into Anga’s mouth:)
Speak! Anga, speak! I come our King, The King
Who ‘waits thy return in triumph! And… I… I…find thee… thus!
(Turns his face away to dash his tears away; His eyes settle on Paartha’s chariot; His face twists into a frenzy of anger. His eyes blaze. Turning to Anga:)
BUT HAVE NO FEARS, ANGA! I’LL VENGE THY DEATH!
Anga : (In weak but clear accents:)
My death is naught, you fool! The King!
‘TIS HE that matters everything!
Look to the King we love!
The craftiness and treachery that overcame
Us all… might strike at him… Our King!
Rally round The King and do not lose
Your sight of him! ASSURED THAT THE KING IS SAFE
I DIE CONTENT IN PEACE!
(Aswattha and Maadra restrain their sobs with much effort:)
Aswattha : How came it, Salya, that the Marshal left your chariot?
Maadra : (Hanging his head down:)
You’ve known me all your life, Kaarpeya!
A million fools in one am I in ev’rything,
Except in use of Mace.
Aswattha : (Snapping at Maadra in disgust.)
Your precious mace!, forsooth!.
With self-same mace!, A BHEEMA, BALABHADRA or
MY VERY SELF, THE KING…and ANGA HERE
COULD ALWAYS POUND YOUR HOGGISH FACE
PAST COGNITION OF THINE OWN VERY MOTHER! Mace
Forsooth! You self-drunk fool!
Anga : (Smiling faintly and speaking with obvious effort:)
Just what I called poor Maadra! List:
‘Twas all this wise, Kaarpeya: I
Was bending for a blade of grass
To help me to invoke my GURU’S DEADLY ASTRA “BHAARGAVA”
Meaning to destroy the foemen of The King
At single breath! But Maadra here
In self-puff’d vanity of royal blood
Did shout aloud within my hearing, his
Regret at playing sootha to a real sootha
—As he and you all think I am!
And hence…my limbs…but you can guess This….rest
Aswattha : Enough, Anga, I understand! It was
The empty-headed buffalo that
Maadra : (In abject remorse:)
Go on! Go on! Don’t stop! I do
Deserve it all! Believe me, Anga, I
Would give my life, my very soul
To undo what my thoughtless folly hath…
Anga : (Gently stroking Maadra’s cheek:)
NAY NAY, MAADRA! FRET NOT! FRET NOT!
IT WAS NO FAULT OF THINE! FRET NOT!
(Holding the hands of both 🙂
NOW LIST, MY BROTHERS IN THE CAUSE
OF HIM-THE KING WE LOVE IT WAS
NO THOUGHTLESS FOLLY OF THE LORD
OF MAADRA BROUGHT ABOUT MY END!
‘TWAS NOT EVEN KRISHNA’S CALLIDNESS
THAT SEES ME THUS!
WHAT REALY BROUGHT ME TO THIS PASS
AND SEES ME DYING THUS, IS NO WHIT LESS
THAN DREADED RAAMA’S CURSE:
A BRAHMIN’S POTENT CURSE!
Aswattha : (With eyes ablaze 🙂
“A BRAHMIN’S CURSE”! ANGA!
RAAMA’S CURSE FORSOOTH!
YOU DO FORGET THAT I’M A BRAHMIN TOO!
I PRAY THE GODS BUT THAT YOU LIVE TO HEAR
THIS POTENT BRAHMIN’S POTENT CURSE!
(Aswattha rises and walks a few steps and turns and faces Arjuna’s chariot WITH EYES AFLAMING, WITH THE MUSCLES OF HIS LIMBS AND TORSO ALL ATAUT, HE ADDRESSES ARJUNA IN A LION’S ANGRY ROAR:)
INGRATE PAARTHA THAT DID KNOWINGLY HELP IN
THE SUBTERFUGE OF LIE THAT SLEW THY TUTOR!
CRAVEN PAANDAVA THAT, HID BEHIND SHIKANDIN SET
THY SHAFTS ON GRANDSIRE THAT DID BRING THEE UP!
DASTARD ARJUNA THAT DRAGG’D THY WARRIOR CASTE IN MIRE
BY SPEEDING ARROW ON A MAN IN SWOON!
NOT ALL THE CUNNING OF THAT HUMAN-FIEND THAT SITS
THERE BY THY SIDE MAY WORK A DEATHLESS HUMAN’S DEATH!
NOW LIST, LIST TO A DEATHLESS BRAHMIN’S CURSE!:
IN HARVEST OF THY HAVING SLAIN THY GURU AND THY KIN
UNFAIRLY AND UNRIGHTEOUSLY, I SOLEMNLY DO CURSE
THAT NOT A SINGLE SCION OF THY SINFUL HOUSE OR SEED
SHALL EVER EVER RULE THIS LAND!
AND IN FULFILMENT OF THIS CURSE, I SOLEMNLY AVOW:
THAT I WILL NOT DISCHARGE THE FUNERAL RITES
OF MY DEMISED SIRE UNTIL I SLAY WITH MINE OWN HANDS
E’RY SINGLE SPAWN OF PAANDU’S TAINTED BLOOD
AND LEST MY BRAHMIN’S WEAKLY BLOOD
DO TURN ME CRAVEN TO MY VOW,
TILL I FULFIL MY VENGING VOW
I THUS RENOUNCE MY BRAHMINHOOD!
(SNAPS HIS SACRED THREAD and returns to Anga’s side and drops to his knees at Anga’s head which still rests in Maadra’s lap.)
YOU HEARD MY CURSE, ANGA!
NOW DIE A HAPPY MAN!
Anga : (Raising his head with great effort:)
“Happy man” forsooth! You fool! You fool!
Take back thy curse! Take back thy curse!
WHY, THOU HAST SWORN BUT TO EXTIRPATE
MY OWN… MY OWN… MY VERY… (Sinks back, mustering the very last few driblets of strength in his frame from which his life is fast ebbing away, Anga raises his head for the last time:)
WOE BE THE HOUR I SAW THE LIGHT OF DAY!
WHILST ALL MY LIFE A BRAHMIN’S POTENT CURSE
HATH HOUNDED ME AND MADE ME FATAL TO
MY LOVERS AND MY FRIENDS….E’EN THIS,
THIS VERY MOMENT OF MY DYING FINDS
ME STARTING YET ANOTHER BRAHMIN’S CURSE!
(Anga‘s head drops and he falls back DEAD. Aswattha and Maadra bury their heart bursting sobs in the bosom of the Dead Marshal Anga whimpering:)
“OUR ANGAI” “OUR GREAT ANGA!” “OUR POOR POOR ANGA!”
The Curtain Drops Slowly!