The Blind Men

“And thus, the second born of Kunti rode off towards his camp, leaving the lifeless mortal remains of your second born, O King!”

As Sanjaya narrated the details of Bhima’s methodical and patient killing of Dusshasana, tears rolled down Dhritarashtra’s cheeks.

“But we still have Duryodhana, Karna, Shakuni, Kripacharya, Ashwatthama, and many many warriors. We can still win this war, can’t we Sanjaya?”

It sounded more like a tragic resignation of truth, than a genuine question.

Sanjaya did not answer for several moments. Dhritarashtra knew what Sanjaya was thinking, but did not have the courage to mouth it.

“At this time, my dear king, it is pointless to contemplate who will win this war. That holy stretch of land we call Dharmakshetra, that flat expanse where for sixteen days our children, friends, well-wishers, have been killing each other, that tract will stand forever drenched and stained in the blood of the righteous as well as the immoral. Long after you and I are gone, consumed by the sands of time, long after our progeny is gone, long after this dynasty withers, the only witness to undeniable truth will be the tongueless: the rocks and pebbles, the trees and grass, the soil and dust. But history and future generations will look at this passage of time, this carnage and ruin, and hold answerable those who had the power to intervene, but chose impotence, who had the power to orate, but chose silence…”

He paused for a moment, looked at his king and said, “and those who had the power to see, but chose to be blind”

Sanjaya then dropped his head into his palm and sobbed, anguish gushing out of his soul with every whimper he made. He knew what was to come. He knew that the side Sri Krishna was on could not lose. He looked up at his king, who sat expressionless, deep in thought.

He wished he could somehow make the blind king see, see that he was wrong all along. See that he will lose all his sons, and their sons, in this battle. See that he can still stop this butchery. See that the Pandavas were in fact good people. See that both sides can co-exist.

Dhritarashtra read his adviser’s mind. He was blind in the eye, not in thought. With his heightened senses, he could feel Sanjaya’s gaze upon him. He rose from his chair and stood up, proud and strong.

As he started to move, Sanjaya shifted to help his king, only to be stopped by a gentle wave of the hand.

Unassisted, Dhritarashtra went to the window, and gazed outside, feeling the warm late afternoon air on his face. He took a deep breath and turned around.

“Sanjaya, do you think I know not what is to become of my bloodline at the end of this war? Long time ago, when my children, as young boys, tried to drown Bhima, I knew a day would come when I have to face their mortality. Through many insults and injustices, my brother’s children have shown that they are far superior than mine. They are forgiving yet powerful, generous yet tough, humble yet noble”

He turned away from the window, and rested both his hands on the ledge behind him, gently lowering himself to lean on the sill. He took another deep breath and let it out, his powerful chest heaving at the sigh, the exhalation sounding more a lament than a biological activity.

“Above everything Sanjaya, the day my son chose Madhava’s army over him, I knew the outcome. He came to me proud that he bagged the entire Yadava army, proclaiming we had strength of numbers over the Pandava army. I cried inside. I pictured what would happen to my beloved son at the end of this war. I know it deep inside my heart”

He looked up at the ceiling and blinked hard, trying in vain to turn back the torrent of tears hanging at the bottom of his eyes, unwilling to control themselves from rolling down the old king’s cheeks.

“Over the years, I have realized one thing my dear friend, and even though I never verbalized it, I have to say it, to get it off my chest”

“I am the blind one, Sanjaya. But it is my children that cannot see”

He then slumped to the ground, and plunked his head into his palms.

Sanjaya walked up, sat next to his king, and put his arm around Dhritarashtra’s shoulder.

The deluge of silent tears and muffled whimpers could not be heard by anyone.

Except for the one woman behind the curtains of the hall, whose blindfold was quickly turning from damp to wet.

A Revenge Long Due – II

Continued from here

Dusshasana picked up his bow and shot a couple of arrows in Bhima’s direction, hoping to scare him away. Both were unceremoniously broken mid-way. Before he strung a third arrow, his bow broke, much like Karna’s earlier in the day. Bhima did not want a long drawn duel with Dusshasana. He wanted a quick kill.

Bhima’s approaching chariot stopped a short distance away. Before Dusshasana picked up another bow and strung an arrow, a booming voice shouted, “Dusshasana, you will die today. That is for certain. Not even Yamaraj can protect you from me. But before you die, I will give you an opportunity to repent. Say you are sorry for all the wrongdoings against us, and find peace. It will not protect you from death, but it may make your path to heaven easier”

Dusshasana laughed his wicked, irritating laugh. His arrogance knew no bounds, “Bhima! We kicked you out of your kingdom, rightfully. We found you out in your incognito year, rightfully. I personally won your wife in a game of chance, rightfully. You are my slave. And yet, you stand here, in a borrowed chariot, and ask that I apologize. You are not half the warrior you think you are. I could have made quick work of you many times over. But I spared your life. For that, you should be thankful. Why don’t we do this? Why not kneel down and express your gratitude, and I will let you live another day”

This time, the mention of Draupadi did not anger Bhima. He smiled to himself. It just made his job easy. He would have absolutely no regret killing this worthless man; it was pointless to even further the conversation.

He blew his conch, rage snaking through the sinuous insides of the shell and discharging from the other side in an ominous release of deafening resonance.

As is wont, Dusshasana attempted to cheat, firing arrows while Bhima was still issuing his warning. But the Pandava deftly ducked and let them whizz past him. He then picked up his bow and shot one arrow.

It took Dusshasana’s headgear with it, whipping it off, carrying it far into the background, and driving it into the ground. Dusshasana was unnerved, but remained defiant. His next several attempts to shoot at Bhima ended the arrows being cut in flight.

Bhima’s skill with the bow would’ve amazed a connoisseur. With every release, the distance traveled by Dusshasana’s arrow lessened, as Bhima’s counter arrows began to approach Dusshasana closer and closer. This simple fact was lost on him, until one was cut down inches from the bow, barely after release. Perplexed but still insolent, he shouted at his charioteer to close the distance between him and Bhima, hoping he will get a better shot.

When his bow broke the next time he strung an arrow, tiny beads of sweat started to form on his bare brow, as the reality of Bhima’s skillfulness began to dawn upon him. Still, Bhima didn’t fire an arrow in offense.

Bhima’s plan was simple, and an exercise in patience, a quality not associated with him in general. He would let Dusshasana exhaust all his weapons; every last arrow, mace, spear and sword. He would give his enemy every opportunity to attack, and defend himself.

Soon, all of Dusshasana’s arrows and bows were broken. He then hurled his spears, only for them to meet the same fate as his arrows. Bhima didn’t need to use his own spears to counter Dusshasana’s.

The worry inside Dusshasana began to transform into fear. He was left with two maces and two swords. All the weapons that could be discharged from a safe distance were gone.

He did not want a wrestling match with Bhima. He knew the fate of two others who did – one was torn vertically from the pelvis to the head, and the two parts strewn across from each other, while the other, the commander of a large army, was murdered in the middle of the night, and his body made into a big ball of flesh and dead muscle.

Dusshasana changed his approach, like he always did when he was faced with a back to the wall situation. He targeted soft spots. He picked up his mace and threw it with all his power towards Bhima’s charioteer, intending to kill him and disable Bhima.

Bhima’s spear met the mace mid way and smashed it into pieces, scattering metal shrapnel around.

Down to his last projectile, Dusshasana looked at his charioteer just for a moment, with the intention of asking him to bolt. His fear had not turned yet to dread, but he sensed imminent danger. Bhima read his mind and fired off a series of arrows. They lodged themselves all around Dusshasana’s chariot, boxing it in. Bhima followed that up with two special arrows, that came to rest right in front of the horses, and on contact with the ground, released vapors only detectable by the horses. On smelling the vapors, the horses crouched and sat down, much to the charioteer’s amusement and his master’s dismay. They refused to move.

Dusshasana was completely anchored, with nowhere to go.

He picked up his other mace to hurl at Bhima’s chariot. He only lifted it half way up when a spear ran through its head, piercing the sphere perfectly in the center, and slamming it into the ground. The impact lifted Dusshasana off his feet and flung him back, crashing into the floor of his cab.

Dusshasana had no more projectiles left to launch. He looked around and found nothing to throw. His chariot was boxed in. His horses were immobile. His charioteer was helpless. Fear turned to panic. He pulled the swords from their leather sheaths, jumped off the chariot and ran towards the Pandava, forgetting that there was only one way it would end.

Bhima smiled, happy that his prey was coming to him instead of running away. He took his mace and stepped off the chariot.

Dusshasana came racing with both his hands up in the air, swords raised. As he approached Bhima, he brought his hands down swiftly, attacking vigorously. Bhima deftly blocked the swords with his mace, holding it aloft flat his hands, and with his right leg, kicked Dusshasana in the gut. The kick propelled Dusshasana back in the air, and he fell several feet away, landing hard on his back. His head spun, he felt dizzy. He didn’t see the giant mace come down on his left hand and crush the palm holding the sword. As the pain seared through his veins, he let out a agonizing cry. His left palm was how completely smashed, only a bloody mess left in its place.

While Dusshasana writhed in pain, Bhima walked over to the other side and wriggled the other sword out of his right palm.

Panic now turned to terror for Dusshasana.

Bhima took the sword, held its grip in his right hand the the blade in his left. He slowly began to bend the blade. The audience watched in awe as Bhima effortlessly arched the blend of polished iron and bronze. The blade, which could withstand other metals in battle, could not endure sustained pressure at the ends. and cracks began to form. It finally gave up, and snapped into two.

Bhima then looked at his prey. Dusshasana had long stopped screaming.

He then picked a whimpering Dusshasana up, spun him around and threw him towards his own chariot. Dusshasana fell face down, squealing in pain as bones he didn’t know existed in his body cracked.

Bhima approached Dusshasana and turned him over. He saw in Dusshasana’s eyes what he wanted to see for years: horror and dread. He rejoiced.

He then sat on Dusshasana’s torso, staring into his petrified eyes. He didn’t want his enemy to pass out or die. He didn’t want him to move either.

Then, he began his operation.

He tore off Dusshasana’s armor and clothes and exposed his bare chest. Then, with his bare hands, using only his nails, he began to press hard into the left side of Dusshasana’s chest. Blood oozed out of the lacerations, as Dusshasana began screaming in pain. The more Dusshasana screamed, the harder Bhima pressed, tearing the flesh off and reaching the ribs.

As grown men watched in horror, Bhima reached between the ribs and dug his nails into Dusshasana’s heart, puncturing it instantly. Blood spouted out of his chest, and hit Bhimasena’s face, as Dusshasana gasped for breath. He smeared his face with that blood, deliberately and methodically.

As Dusshasan’s last moments neared him, Bhima stood up and washed his hands in the cascade of crimson fluid spraying out of Dusshasana’s chest. He then walked over to his chariot and brought back a silver bowl.

Before his eyes went black, the last thing Dusshasana saw was Bhima collecting his blood into the silver bowl and laughing hysterically.

Bhima left the lifeless body of Dusshasana on the ground, and instructed Dusshasana’s charioteer to leave, without his master. He didn’t want the body to be accorded the dignity of last rites.

Before boarding his chariot, he used Dusshasana’s torn off clothes to wipe his hands clean, and threw them away.

He held the bowl in both his palms, mounted his chariot. He placed a gentle hand on his charioteer’s shoulder and uttered one sentence.

“Take me to the queen”