Thursday, January 12, 2017

Vidura - The Mahabharata Chronicles #15

Na hrishyatyaatmasammaane naavamaanena tapyate
Gaango hrada ivaakshobhyo yah sah pandita uchyate
That one is wise who does not rejoice when honoured, does not become dejected when dishonoured and is not swayed by emotions under the most trying circumstances.       [Vidura Neeti 1.31]

Even as I have followed these words all my life, I sometimes feel the small stirrings of discontentment in me. I thought I had gained control over my uncertainties. Instead I find that as I am growing older, the weight of the older, smothered down resentments are catching up.
My mother named me Vidura.  I doubt if she knew what it meant, for while she was a wise woman, she was not very educated. She probably heard my father mention it in passing and remembered it. My father is Veda Vyasa, son of sage Parashara, my grandmother is Queen Mother Satyavati. My mother, Parishrami, was a maid-in-waiting to the queens of Hastinapura. Vyasa had come to Hastinapura at the beckoning of his mother, Queen Mother Satyavati, to extend the lineage of the Kurus. I was, perhaps a mishap then, for one of the queens sent my mother to serve him instead of herself. My mother, handed me over to Bhishma, I heard, as soon as I was born and slipped quietly into the shadows of the palace to resume her duties. I rarely saw her in the palace, always inconspicuous, but making sure that I had timely food and that I had nothing to complain about. I didn’t really miss her presence, having never really had the privilege of knowing her. As for my father, I heard plenty of legends about him, but I never really had the fortune to know or meet him.
In the eyes of Hastinapura, I was the half-brother of Dhritarashtra and Pandu. I was treated the same way as them, I was given the same lessons in warfare and in the scholarly arts. I was taught by Bhishma himself in the arts of weaponry and by other renowned teachers in the kingdom as well as those who visited us from far and wide. At the palace, I was never made to feel insignificant. Bhishma took care of that. Outside, it was a different story altogether. I have had people taunt me because of my low-caste, bully me and even poke fun at me. But those words that you read above, have always been my motto in life.
Today, however, I am seething with anger. I have held on to my tongue for as long as I can remember, only speaking out when it’s of utmost importance and within my duty as the Prime Minister of Hastinapura. But things have gone too far along now to stop the chain of events from transpiring. I did try with all my might and the powers vested in me, however, I couldn’t. Today, when Duryodhana insulted me in front of all present, accusing me of favouring Krishna and the Pandavas, it was then that my rightful place in the kingdom was revealed to me. My half-brother, the king didn’t speak a word during the proceedings, and just kept quiet while his eldest-born cast aspersions on my birth, my character and my role in shaping Hastinapura. He talked of me as though I was obligated to the kingdom, because of the Prime Minister’s post I held.
What Duryodhana, failed to understand, however, was that I was in no way obligated to Hastinapura. I was neither a Kshatriya nor of royal blood. I was never appointed for any specific post in the kingdom. I self-appointed myself as the advisor to the king, purely because he was my half-brother and disabled, and thus became the de-facto prime minister of the country. I only always advised the king and the sabha on matters of Dharma and the right way to do it. Whenever the righteous path was being veered away from, I strove to bring the wayward back to the virtuous path. Sometimes I failed, sometimes I succeeded. But mostly, I failed.

[Pic Courtesy:]
In body, I may be mortal, cursed to be only a kingmaker, never a king even while having the qualities to rule and sustain a kingdom, by Sage Mandavya, whom I punished for a transgression he did as a small boy. But in thought, actions, words and deeds, I uphold the post of Dharmaraja, the title given to me by the celestials. And it is always those that will be reflected in whatever I do. In this mortal role of a kingmaker, I, the amsa of Dharmaraja, the Lord of Justice, have always strived to adhere to the written and unwritten laws and striven to stick to a harmonious outcome, bearing no ill-will towards my kith and kin. But then, being a mortal does bring with it its own fallacies, doesn’t it? Self-doubt being one of the primary ones that rankle me.  
Maybe I was not a good enough prime minister and advisor. Maybe I failed in my dharma, or maybe Dharma failed me at opportune times, probably for a higher reason, I am not privy to yet. Maybe these turbulent times could have been averted had I learnt to keep my mouth shut when I should have and advised my half-brothers better in times of their needs and indecisiveness. Maybe I shouldn’t have let Duryodhana be pampered so much by his parents, maybe I should have more focused-on imparting what I know to my brother’ children. Maybe I should have controlled my temper, yet again, when Duryodhana provoked me, yet again. Maybe I should have expressed my interest, in spite of no pressure from the kingdom, to fight in the war. Would we maybe have won then, with my war tactics pitted against Krishna’s?  Would Krishna have maybe taken up arms and fought in the war, to counter my infallible bow? 
Everyone knows me as an intelligent man, upholder of Dharma, and a good strategist. Not many, however, know that I am also a skilled archer and that my bow, Govardhan, was a gift from Lord Vishnu himself, against which none stood a chance, not even Arjuna.
But, of course, Krishna knew that.
For today, in the Sabha, when I broke my bow against the words hurled against me and with that, cost Duryodhana this war, the war which could have gone either way, I saw him smile. This was probably one of his masterstrokes, his doings, as are many that I have heard and some, that I have seen first-hand.
Then, maybe this is all pre-ordained. Destined to be so. And we are all mere puppets in the hands of the Preserver himself. And me, I should stick to my duty of an advisor, and a listener for like the wise me before me have said, you can only take a horse to the water, you cannot force it to drink it.
Some call me a wise man. Some call me a pragmatist. Some say I am calm and collected while many others have said that I may not be what I seem.
Me? I call myself an ordinary man. One who has learnt to be content with what has been destined for him. 
For, I have learnt that “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”
And so, I will always be me. 
Just as I am. 
Just as I was.

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