Friday, May 15, 2020

Karna - The Mahabharata Chronicles #17 - Part 2

Dambodhbhava meditated with just one single thought in his mind. He was invoking Surya with a specific intention. He wanted to conquer all the three worlds and become the all supreme King or God, if he so pleased.  Surya observed the man meditating upon him. He could sense that there was something amiss about this hardcore penance. Sooner or later, he would have to appear in front of him and give him what he sought.

He finally bestowed his presence and appeared before Dambodhbhava. After the usual prostrations of prayer and blessings, Surya asked his devotee what he sought. The king looked at him slyly and said what was in mind.  Immortality. Surya shook his head and said that he could not grant that particular boon but asked the king to choose anything else instead. This was the chance that Dambodhbhava was waiting for. He knew that immortality was not a boon that would be granted, and therefore his plan was entirely different.

He looked up at the sun-god and laid down the specific conditions of the boon he sought.

One - he had to be bestowed a thousand armors.

Two - the armors would be invincible to the extent that only a person who has undergone rigorous penance for a thousand years could break the armor and kill him.

And finally, three - whoever broke his armor, would fall dead the next instant.

This was a boon akin to immortality and Surya knew it. There was no choice but to grant it and ensure that down the years, someone would make the asura realize his folly.

Years passed and Dambodhbhava’s atrocities grew. He plundered kingdoms, and harassed everyone including the Devas, wreaking havoc in all the worlds. As his notoriety spread and fear ensued, people started calling him – Sahasrakavacha – the one with a thousand armors.  

-----------------------------X-----------------------------

Murti looked at her sons. They were the very epitome of calm, unlike other children their age. More so, they were unlike any other children she had ever seen. Their actions mirrored each other as well as their thoughts. They had an innate sense of understanding and what one was thinking, the other would be doing it. They were but for all purposes one soul in two bodies. She could see them now, one practicing archery and the other meditating. She could sense their minds attuned to the same wavelength. They were preparing for what was coming their way. For their purpose on earth was far bigger than anything else. Her husband had made that mighty clear to her. And she was attuned to it too.

Nara, pulled back his bow string, locked in his arrow and glanced at his brother. As if he could sense his mother’s and brother’s eyes on him, Narayana, opened his eyes and looked at them. The brothers smiled in unison at their mother and went back to their actions.

-----------------------------X-----------------------------

News of course travelled fast, and it was not long before Dambodhbhava heard the story of the ascetic brothers and visited them. He sought them out in the dense forest and took in their appearances and the surroundings they were in. Looking at the sinewy sages, he haughtily invited them to a duel.

Narayana looked at Nara. This was the moment they were waiting for. Nara took up his arms and charged at Dambodhbhava, who was now in his true demonic form. The fight went on for a thousand years with neither of them yielding. At one point when it looked like Sahasrakavacha was getting the upper hand, Nara, took a swinging blow and the asura’s first armor broke. And with that, Nara dropped dead. Sahasrakavacha was astounded. More than Nara falling dead, he was stunned to see his armor break. As soon as Narayana saw Nara dead, he ran to him and whispered a mantra. And Nara woke up right as rain and steady on his feet.

                                  [pic courtesy: https://www.quora.com/Was-Karna-the-reincarnation-of-the-demon-Dambhodbhava]

Sahasrakavacha could not believe his eyes. If losing his first armor was a bolt out of the blue to him, this was nothing less of a shock. He understood then that the brothers had undertaken rigorous penance and received the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra as a boon from Lord Shiva. He understood the essence of the duel now. This time, Narayana took up his arms and Nara sat down to meditate.

Another thousand years. Another armor. Another resurrection.

This went on until there 999 armors broke. When the 999th armor broke and Nara fell dead, the demon king ran for refuge to the bestower of his boon - Surya.

Narayana soon revived Nara and the two sages gave chase to the king.

Surya stood in front of them with folded hands and told them that, the asura was his devotee and since he had sought asylum at his feet, he could not hand over Sahasrakavacha to the sages. Blinded with anger, the sages cursed Surya that he would be born as a human in the Dvapara Yuga. Surya agreed for he knew what lay ahead as did all the Gods in the pantheon.

-----------------------------X-----------------------------

Surya now looked at the young man, rushing towards the avatars of Narayana and Indra, the trails blazing beneath his chariot wheels. There were just a few hours left for sunset, and unfortunately what would be this soul’s last battle on earth.

Or maybe it was fortunate in a way. Who was to know?

[to be continued]

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Karna - The Mahabharata Chronicles #17 - Part 1.

The sunlight glinted off his chest. The armor shone like burnished gold against his taut arms. It had seen plenty of battles and yet it hadn’t lost its shine, leave alone a scratch upon it. It still shone like new. Over years it had melted into him, almost becoming one with his self. He knew it had yet to see the biggest and the most important battle of its time. 

-------------X-------------

Narayana looked at Nara, sharpening his weapons. Preparing himself for the gruesome days ahead. He could see the resigned look on his face, as though he was being pushed to do something against his will. Neither of them had much choice. This battle that they would ride into, would be the harbinger of dharma. And for that, blood had to be shed. Mother Earth had to be appeased, for all the adharma that had sapped out her benevolence. In a lot of ways and for a lot of people this would be the culmination of their chance at moksha or yet another few lifetimes of nibhandana.

Nara looked at Narayana and a message of deep understanding passed through them.

-------------X-------------

He could sense his end was nearing. There were plenty of flashes about his past that came in his dreams. And the two men who frequented it. They adorned ascetic garb, yet there was something quite regal about their bearing. Their eyes shone with ancient wisdom and their actions seemed like one mirrored the others’ thoughts. For all purposes, it seemed like they were one soul in two bodies.

-------------X-------------

Surya looked down at his progeny. The one he had sworn to protect. The one who had sought asylum in him when he knew that his end was nearing. And yet after a few hundred years, when The Preserver had come to him, seeking that his amsa be sent to Earth to play a part in the circumstances that would lead to the end of the Dwapara Yuga and the beginning of the Kali Yuga, he had seen it as a chance to save his devotee from eternal damnation as well as liberation from his promise and curse. A promise that he had not really thought through when he had granted it. A curse that he had no choice but to bear. He still shuddered at the thought of it and the havoc it could have caused, had it not been for the sages.

Now was his chance to set things right.

-------------X-------------

It was the 11th day.

This war had taken a major toll on both sides. The great-sire Bhishma had fallen and Drona was now commander as per his suggestion to his friend.

When Drona fell on the 15th day, he knew that the onus was upon him. His king was counting on him. And he couldn’t let him down. But more than that, this was his time in the sun. This was the moment he was waiting for, to show the world who the better warrior was. To showcase his prowess and finally gain the recognition he was seeking for.

[Art by jubjubjedi on Deviantart]

His time to shine had finally come. He rode into battle in full glory. He had his eyes only on one target. But to get to him would be a mammoth task and he knew it. He had many hurdles in his way and he had to cross each one of them, making sure that the promises he had given were kept. He had had to use his Shakthi against Ghatotkacha, but he still had plenty of weapons to ensure that he slew his target. Mindful of the promises he had given, the charity that was forced upon him, he rode into battle on the 16th day and wreaked havoc.

On day 17, he finally came face to face with his nemesis.

-------------X-------------

He saw them riding into the battlefield, towards him, the flag of Hanuman flying high. The chariot being driven by Krishna and Arjuna, his head held high, the focus in his eyes unmistakable. His eyes were playing tricks on him, surely. From the far distance, he thought they were wearing ascetic garbs and not the battlefield armor. He blinked his eyes, the vision too strong and saw them again. They looked remarkably similar to the two men from his dreams. What had he heard them call each other? It was eluding his memory. As soon as they came closer, the mirage cleared and he saw that they were wearing battlefield armor.

Nara! Narayana! He recalled the names in a flash!

He saw the chariot speeding towards him, driven by Narayana while Nara took up arms and readied himself for the battle.

He could see Narayana mouthing a name from the distance.

Sahasrakavacha – the one with a thousand armors.

The irony! 

He had just given away his last armor as charity to Indra.

-------------X------------
[to be continued...] 

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Here's to 2020.

Another year. A decade drawing to a close. And for the first time in years, I am at a loss as to what to write for the mandatory, year-end wrap-up post. Normally, this is the one post that I have already drafted in my head, right at the start of December. This time though, I quite frankly do not know what to write.

I could write about how the year has been, how much has happened, what I learnt from experiences and what I am looking forward to for 2020. But honestly, the thing is that I have nothing to say. Or rather, what I have to say is of no consequence at all.

Yes. There were a lot of things that happened. Yes. There were experiences. Yes. There were plenty of travels. Funny stories. Happy anecdotes. Milestones reached and celebrated. Snippets of sadness. Building patience and endurance. Making mistakes. Accepting fault. Learnings.
That’s what makes up a year doesn’t it. The growth that you see in yourself.

Already, I can sense the post turning philosophical. But then, most of my year-end wrap-ups are such. The idea of a clean slate, fresh starts, tends to bring out the deep thinker in me. [she generally doesn’t make an appearance otherwise].

The primary take-away from the last year, in a bigger sense the last decade is the growth that I have witnessed in myself. There is such a huge change from where I was in 2010 and where I am now at the brink of 2020 and I can see it, feel it and sense it in every pore of my being. There have been immense learnings along the way, moments of self-realization, understanding of strengths and weaknesses, letting go of things, people, and situations.

2019 was special.
In a lot of ways.
To know that one tiny human being can awaken the deepest of feelings in you, to make you realize that you will be and are capable of anything when it comes to him, to push you to greater limits every day and to cheer along with you, to shower you with unconditional, accepting love that has no strings attached, and to motivate you to do even your every day things a little better than before, to set and scale new standards is one of the biggest takeaways from this year. Nothing in this decade even comes close the learnings and changes that this tiny person has brought about in me.

And for that and for many more things, I am eternally grateful for this path and for the courage that I had when I embarked upon it.

For 2020, I wish for nothing but positivity. Everything else can be taken care of.

It is definitely a long road ahead. Filled with experiences and challenges. But if there is one thing that I am sure of, its that it will be worth it. 

Here’s to a fresh start. A new beginning. Another decade. 

Bring it on! 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Has it been 13 years already? :-)

13 years ago, on this day, I started this blog on a whim. What started in the beginning as an outlet to keep myself from being bored, soon turned into something that has been a constant throughout. Even through my prolonged disappearances and the false promises to be a regular, this space has always been there at the back of my mind, like a long-lost friend, waiting for me to reach out to her. 

Pic Source - Magma Digital

This blog has seen me evolve from an amateur writer to someone who can express herself clearly. It has seen me through relationships, friendships, life’s ups and downs, happy memories, sad ones, almost everything that has made me into the person I am today. And my evolution can clearly be seen in my writing as well. When I read those posts written in 2006 to the posts that I write now, I can see the difference myself. No, I am not saying that I am ashamed of the old posts. They were written by the girl who had her head in the clouds and stars in her eyes. They were written by the girl who was hot-headed and always wanted to please everyone even while putting herself at an inconvenience. They were written by the girl who was immature and idealistic. They were written by the girl who had a tune in her head, a spring in her step and a story always in her mind. They were written by the girl who was learning what it was to step into the big bad world and learn what it was to be independent.

You know, sometimes I miss the older versions of me. Especially the happy-go-lucky version, the one without a care about anything in the world, the one who knew she could do whatever she wanted. This was the version of me who was gung-ho about trying new things, having new experiences, etc. I partied every weekend, binge ate every given opportunity and basically treated my body like I owned it. Night-outs were the order of the day (err.. night!) and the next day was the usual, office, routine, up and about, swinging endless cups of coffee, red bull and other such energy providing drinks. Impromptu trips were planned over drunken nights, and impulsive decisions were taken only not to be followed through and sometimes very rarely followed through. Vacations followed standard steps - take the cheapest flight, rough it out at the reasonably priced hotels and live in the moment, no planning, no sticking to a schedule, one backpack to fit everything and budget was the way to go. Life decisions could wait, planning for the future could wait and the main thing in life was living in the moment, having fun.

But now I “think” I am a lot more grounded. Plenty of things have changed from back then. My definition of fun has changed a lot. Maybe growing older does that to you. Marriage, a child, job, career, running a household, making it a home, these things now take priority over reading, dancing, writing. At the beginning of this year, much like every year, I took up the reading challenge and challenged myself to read 25 books. A friend had commented that if that happens with a baby in tow, she would be impressed. At that point, I thought, come on it is just 2 books a month and 24 books will just whizz by. We are now in the 9th month of the year. I have read exactly 5 books to this date for the year and none of them were life-changing or heavy-duty. Rather, they were watered down versions of chick-lit. And honestly, it doesn’t even cross my mind until I see someone post about a book they read. It has been years since I went out to a club. I don’t remember when I last danced. Like I said, priorities have changed. Life now craves for the mundane, the ordinary, the routine.

This blog is one of those routine things. It’s like a deep-rooted tradition, if not a post regularly, at least a post a year. When I completed the post on Ekalavya, almost 2 years after I had written part 1, I was pleased to say the least. It had been sitting in my drafts, in my mind and every single time I opened my laptop, it would remind me that I hadn’t yet finished the post on Ekalavya. It is definitely not something that I would say is my best work. But it is a start after ages of not having penned anything.

For the longest time, there was this deep sense of unrest within me. Like something was nagging my soul. Words that would form and then disappear. Sentences that would start and then vanish. When I started writing again, those flutters of strife started fading. I felt contented and instantly calm.

People emote in a variety of ways.    
          
Some talk. Some cry. For a few it is through the arts – music, dance, painting. For some others it is through actions.

Me – I write! 

Friday, September 6, 2019

Ekalavya - The Mahabharata Chronicles #16 - Part 2

Krishna glanced at the taut figure sitting by the lamp, reading a manuscript. The spine straight, the shoulders rigid, the light dancing across his eyes, making it gleam.

He announced his presence.

Drona, looked up from the manuscript that had caught his attention, and looked askance at Krishna.  He imperceptibly nodded his head, indicating that he had set the plan in motion. Not one to even miss the smallest of things, he discerned what appeared to be a tiny tear at the left corner of Drona’s eye. He chose to ignore it as there was nothing that he could really say to soothe Drona’s frazzled mind, however, the Acharya looked into Krishna’s eyes, and told him, “You do realize if guided properly, this young man could have been the greatest archer in the entire universe. You just deprived him of that chance and maybe his whole life.”

Krishna held Drona’s gaze steadily and remarked, “I know!”

---------------------X-------------------

Ekalvaya was disheartened. He was dejected over the turn of events. He knew he couldn’t be moping around like this. He had a tribe to lead and now had to focus upon other things. But how? His entire life, he had focused on learning archery and being the best there was and now even that was snatched from him for no fault of his. The pride in him refused to accept what had happened. His ego refused to accept defeat. He wanted to show the man he had thought of as his Guru, that losing a thumb did not make any difference.

He started practicing with fervour again using his forefinger in place of his thumb. With days, he got better. Though he would never be the archer he once was, he was at least following his passion.

---------------------X-------------------

Krishna looked over at Bheema and Arjuna. They were visibly excited at the prospect of visiting Magadha. Much acclaimed for its hospitality, they were looking to have a good time, after completing the objective for which they had set foot on. They reached the palace gates, where they announced their arrival to the sentry on duty. They were received with much aplomb, even though Jarasandha – the Emperor of Magadha, was well aware of the intentions behind this sudden visit. Over dinner and wine, the well-meaning banter, took a more serious note when talk switched to wrestling. It was no surprise that Jarasandha was a well-known wrestler, his fame had spread far and wide as did the mystery of his birth and youth. Called upon to honour an invitation to fight anyone of the three guests, the emperor, known for his sharp tongue and suave wit, remarked that he would fight an opponent who was worthy of him – Bheema. He said he wouldn’t fight a weakling archer like Arjuna, nor an escapist who runs away from the battlefield like Krishna.

Hearing his emperor speak thus, one of his chief guards behind him, turned around and took stock of the visitors. The familiar faces of Arjuna and Krishna, deeply etched into his memory, threw Ekalavya off balance. He was flabbergasted to see them and was even more surprised that his emperor was going to wrestle with Arjuna’s brother. A sinister feeling that no good could come out of this crept upon Ekalavya. He had grown to regard Jarasandha as a father figure and mentor, soon after the emperor had taken him under his wings and made him commander-in-chief of one section of his mighty army. Jarasandha had given him hope when there was none and Ekalavya had pledged his life to him. 

It was over in a matter of minutes, once Krishna had shown the idea to Bhima. Ekalavya had watched the entire match with keen eyes, not missing a thing. Months later, he could still hear and see in his mind’s eye, each whisper of the breeze, each leaf that fluttered, the hushed and eager breathing of the audience, the sly glances that passed between the Pandavas and Krishna, the stricken eyes of the emperor when he realized that this was the end and the victory march by Bhima.
Months later, whenever he practiced each day, he would recall the vow he made to keep fighting for his emperor’s forces and those that he allied with.

-----------------------X-------------------

Krishna looked at the man standing before him, clad in warrior garb, holding a bow that was obviously self-fashioned. He spine ramrod straight, his stance defensive, it was clear that he was itching for a fight. The eyes which once showed humility, now portrayed belligerence tinged with a hint of bitterness.

Ekalavya looked at Krishna, remembering the two instances that he had met him. Two very different circumstances and now this one. He had attacked Dwaraka upon Duryodhana’s orders, instigated by him to avenge his emperor’s death. His mission was to kill Krishna and here he was standing in front of him, the boy he had met a long time ago in the forest, the one who was in a twisted way, his cousin.

“I possess the answers you seek” said Krishna to Ekalvaya. “But for that, you must finish what you have set out to do.”

They duelled. The outcome was of course evident. And at some point, Eklavaya realized it too, that he was fighting against a force greater than a mere mortal. While the warrior in him didn’t give up, his body surrendered. The aggression in his eyes faded, replaced by the acceptance of his fate. In his final moments, he sought of Krishna, the answers to his questions.

Krishna gently placed his hand on Ekalavya’s head, and told him that his greatest falling lay in the fact that he did not follow the words of the man he considered his Guru, the man he offered his thumb to as Guru-Dakshina. The reason was his ego. And because he had let that ego take over, his path had strayed away from the righteous and allied with Duryodhana, thereby making him formidable. And therefore, in order to cleanse the earth of the adharma that had rooted in her, it was necessary that this happened for the greater good.
           

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Hiatus and back!

The last post on this blog was on June 12, 2017 where I closed the writing with the portentous words – to be continued. Trust me, I had all intentions of continuing it as well. In fact, I have a post half-written sitting in my drafts, to conclude the story on Ekalavya. However, quite a few things have happened after I wrote those words. Actually, lots of things happened last year.

1 engagement, 2 weddings, 1 huge loss, 1 birth announcement, and plenty of overwhelming emotions. It was quite a year.

By the end of the year, I didn’t even have the energy to write a year-end mandatory wrap-up. I really did want to get one out there, even if it was just for the sake of writing something and getting the fingers to mirror the thoughts. But hey, fatigue took over and all that! I think out of all the posts that I drafted (some in my head, of course) this one was really the bummer. I had gotten used to the idea of writing a year end post over the last few years recapping the years’ happenings, as well as hits and misses.

That was last year!

This year, the biggest and the most important news is the arrival of the little one, Ved, who has us all wrapped around his tiny little finger.

No, I am not going to elaborate on the entire pregnancy journey, nor about the joy motherhood has brought upon me. There are plenty of other blogs you can refer to for that. For now, I am just enjoying the journey. It is safe to say, life has changed but not too entirely. Of course, there is less sleep, more of the learning moments, more of the day’s timings revolving around what Ved does and on what he wants, but I still read, I still browse, I still buy stuff that I don’t need. I managed to watch snippets of shows I enjoy, I have gotten back to work and things are slowly settling into a routine. The post-partum hormones created a bit of ruckus for a while and though they do make an appearance every now and then, it has more or less settled down a bit.

In between all this, there is that immense learning that comes from being responsible for a tiny little person, along with the awareness that much as I want to be a super-mom, I am only human and that it is okay to ask for help when you need it and you won’t be judged for it.

So that’s that!

In all probability, this post will count as a year-end post (its mid-Nov already, where did the time go?) with the blog going back to sleep until next year, unless I manage to churn something out. Well, there are always the drafts that I can complete and post :-) And the concluding part of Ekalavya, of course.

What have you all been upto? :-) 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Ekalavya - The Mahabharata Chronicles #16 - Part 1

Govinda looked down upon the scenes unfolding below. He had to admire his cousin’s tenacity. He doubted if any of the Kuru princes would have had the guts to do that. The thought struck him that both of them, princes in their own right, standing in front of each other, were in fact third cousins, through him, though neither knew that.
----------------X----------------
His hand still bleeding, he looked at his future fallen carelessly by the side. The severed thumb seemed to be mocking at him. He was still in a state of shock. He was now wondering if his courage was nothing but foolhardiness. Which archer would give their right thumb willingly? But then for that matter, which guru would ask for such a heinous guru-dakshina?  All to save the ego of a Kuru prince? 
He had glanced at Drona, looking straight into his eyes, when the request was made. His face betraying none of the emotions he felt underneath, he had calmly taken his hunting knife, severed his thumb in one clean movement and laid it at his guru’s feet. He thought he had discerned a gleam in Drona’s eyes - regret, guilt, relief? He would never know.
-----------------X-----------------
Govinda climbed down from his perch. He walked over to the boy, still in shock. He sat by his side in a comradely way and touched his shoulder. Ekalavya looked up at this newcomer. His touch felt a tad familiar, like a long-forgotten memory.
They both sat in silence for some time, at the end of which, Govinda got up. He looked at Ekalavya and said, “You may not know this. But we are related. Your birth father, Devashraya, is my uncle. You got lost when you were young, just a mere boy, when a hunting trip went awry. I know now, that your father is the King of Nishadas, Hiranyadhanush and you are very happy with him. Your fathers, both of them, would be proud of you. As for whatever happened now, think of it as being for the greater good.”
Saying so, Govinda smiled enigmatically and walked away.
Ekalavya, glanced at the retreating figure. He had known about his adoption, but things were a lot clearer now. However, in place of those cleared questions, more perturbing ones arose.
Why did this have to happen?  What would he do now? How would he shoot again? What would happen to his lifelong dream? A feeling of resentment coupled with anger took over. Wasn’t he also a prince in his own might? And by this stranger, who said they were related, wasn’t he again a prince of the Yadava clan? How could he be differentiated so?  This wasn’t fair at all.
He sat there in the dark, trying to figure out and make sense of his thoughts and feelings.
At dawn, he got up, shook the caked dirt off his clothes, and in a resolute manner, walked towards his home.
-------------------------x--------------------
Drona was disconcerted. He couldn’t believe what he had asked, or why he had asked that. Surely there was a better way he could have dealt the entire thing with. It was almost as if his mind was controlled by someone, when he said those darned words. How could he as a teacher have said something to that effect, even if he hadn’t taught the boy himself? And he couldn’t believe the fearlessness of the Nishada boy. How could he had have just severed his thumb like that? What was the matter with him?  Didn’t he know he would never be able to shoot again? Yes, he had turned the boy down when he had come to him with a request to accept him as a disciple. His hands were full enough with the Kuru princes, and the boy belonged to a lower caste. The rules of the kingdom wouldn’t have allowed Drona to teach him.
But of what point was all this now?
The boy had retreated willingly enough, understanding in his face and sorrow in his eyes at being turned down. However, who in their wildest dreams would have thought that the boy would practice in a front a statue in Drona’s form, revering him as his guru and with no proper guidance still best all the disciples Drona had ever taught.
Something shook him out of his reverie. He looked around and saw nothing. Still disturbed, he turned back to his thoughts.
And as if earlier, as in the forest, he heard himself say, “it was necessary. For the greater good.”
--------------X-----------
(to be continued)

Karna - The Mahabharata Chronicles #17 - Part 2

Dambodhbhava meditated with just one single thought in his mind. He was invoking Surya with a specific intention. He wanted to conquer all t...