Her eyes kept following the toddler as he made his way through the room. He was crawling towards Panchali who was cooing to him and beckoning him forth. He tried to stand up, took a few tentative steps and wobbled as he was reaching towards her. Instinctively, her reflexes sprung and she rushed to catch him before he fell.
She needn’t have worried. Draupadi’s strong hands had already caught him.
Her gaze turned towards the First Lady of Hastinapura. The Iron-woman herself. Her luscious hair now tinged grey, the regal bearing intact, she was now cajoling the baby into eating something.
She remembered the first time she had met the queen who reigned over the Pandavas. The derisive gaze, the haughtiness in her stance, the underlying anger at the new entrant into Arjuna’s life. For her part, she had been meek and subservient, just as Arjuna had asked her to be. Over time, she had formed a cordial yet endearing bond with her. And over the years she had realized that they had much more in common than just Arjuna.
After all, their lives were guided by the same person. Keshava, the unification of the lord of creation and the lord of destruction.
The One who made sure they followed the path of Dharma. At least the Dharma that he said they had to adhere to.
They had both given up their first loves upon his word. They had both let their progeny ride in to the war, knowing fully well that they were riding into meet their death, upon his word.
But now, thinking back she wondered if it had been the right thing. If they should have stood up to him and not just taken him at his word. If all these adversities and the conflict could have been averted had they been allowed to be with the one who had usurped their hearts. But then, Krishna could be more convincing and persuasive than anyone else she knew. She could imagine how he must have persuaded Draupadi to choose Arjuna over Karna, just as he had persuaded her to choose Arjuna over Suyodhana.
Even after all these years, her heart skipped a beat when she thought about him.
Her first love. Him with his gentle demeanour and soft nature. Her happiest moments were with him, sitting by the riverside, his head in her lap, talking about all things substantial and trivial, the spells few and far between. He confided everything in her. Of the Pandavas bullying him and his brothers, of the Gurus favouring Arjuna over anyone else, of his immense respect for her eldest brother, Balarama, and about how he had tried everything in his might to ensure cordial relations between the cousins and yet somehow, his plans were foiled every single time.
And then like a flood, the memories fast-forwarded to their home in Dwaraka and Krishna talking to her in that soothing mellifluous voice of his. Persuading her to sacrifice her love for the greater good. Stressing upon her, the part she was tasked to fulfil in the purging of the evil in the world, gently revealing to her who she really was and how she came upon to her present avatar, confiding in her about the manifestations of the Gods and Goddesses and the role they had to play during the transition of the yugas, from the Treta Yuga to the Kali Yuga.
[Pic courtesy: Maha Maya - https://i.ytimg.com/vi/vHKdkS5OZoQ/hqdefault.jpg]
Swayed, she had sacrificed her love for him and embraced the love of another. For the greater good. For that choice of hers was the focal point of gentle Suyodhanas’s transformation to his present moniker, Duryodhana. She had sent Abhimanyu into the war, with a mustered bravado and blessing for a long life which she knew would never ensue. For his demise would be the pivot motivating Arjuna to wreak havoc upon the so-called enemies, his own kith and kin.
And as for Arjuna, even though she was his favoured one, her respect for him diminished that fateful day in the Sabha. The day, the man touted to be the greatest archer, failed to stand up for his first love – Draupadi, succumbing to the actions of the depraved men, binding himself to the trivial words of a king who had staked his own wife as wager in a wrongful game of dice.
She remembered the hollow look in the proud queen’s eyes, the pale face and the simmering rage within. She recalled taking her cold hands into her own, putting her to sleep like she would a small child. She thought of how the once statuesque queen had whimpered and convulsed, reliving those appalling moments.
Like a mother would care for her young, Yoga Maya had comforted the manifestation of Shakti.
And so, it had all begun and ended as the wheel of fate had spun her life into unmanageable twists and turns.
Yet here she was, now a grandmother.
She was drawn back into the present-day, by the young one pulling at her saree, pleading with her to play with him. Her grand-son.
The one who wrested over death while in the womb itself. The one who survived.
For in him, ran the blood of the Matsyas, the Kurus and the Yadavas.
Abhimanyu’s progeny. Parikshit.