The mood in the Kaurava camp was solemn at the end of the day. Clearly the day belonged to the enemy. A single man accounted for a full legion. Did they underestimate Bhimasena’s power? A cool evening breeze wafted through both camps. In the distance, funeral pyres raged higher and higher. The cries of hundreds of women grieving their fallen husbands rent the air. Drona entered Bheeshma’s tent. The look on both the ageing warriors faces betrayed their thoughts. The other old horse – Kripa, soon joined them. For several minutes they did not speak a word. They sat in silent contemplation. A myriad of thoughts flashed through the oldest man’s mind. He assessed himself. Did he have enough in him to go the distance? His mind was willing. But would his body endure the relentless bombardment from the best archer the world had ever seen?
As if reading his thoughts Drona said, “Pitamaha, we need to provide extra protection for you”
Bheeshma smiled. “Are you afraid your favorite student will kill me in battle?”
“I am more wary of his charioteer”
“Acharya, I know what is to happen of me. This is a battle of right against the wrong. There can only be one victor in the end”
“You can end this without firing another arrow. Must a million widows pay the price for one man’s ego?”
“If I wanted to end this war it wouldn’t even have started my dear Drona. Truth and virtue must defeat evil. Death is the only proper culmination. But do not despair. Winter always gives rise to spring. The cycle of life continues”
Drona realized it was futile trying to convince Bheeshma to give up arms and beat some sense into Duryodhana. Drona was a warrior. But he did not want to die. He loved life. He loved his position in the Kuru kingdom. He loved the respect. Above all he loved his son dearly. But he knew his days were numbered. Because in the enemy camp was one man whose sole purpose in life was to kill him. Drupada – Drona’s one time friend turned enemy – had raised Drishtadyumna with only one goal: Kill Drona. With each passing day, that day when Drishtadyumna would snuff the last breath out of him was drawing nearer.
Drona disliked Duryodhana from the beginning. More so after he made friends with Karna. Drona was very proud of his own brahmin birth. He genuinely believed only the most fortunate are born as such. He believed a brahmin’s ultimate goal was to teach and teach he did. He was the best weapons expert in the entire world. He also believed weapons instructions were to be imparted only to those born of the highest order. Anyone not born a Kshatriya had no business learning about warfare and weaponry. He abhorred Karna because of his skill with archery. Drona’s ego would never admit that the skill of his favorite student was somehow inferior to that of the son of a charioteer. He made sure Karna was always reminded of his lower birth. He knew that as long as Karna was around, Duryodhana would not give up. The only way to stop Karna from getting into battle was to keep Bheeshma alive. But the longer the war progressed, the shorter the chances of Bheeshma’s ultimate survival. With Bheeshma’s life was tied his own. If Bheeshma died in battle he was next. Drona’s only chance of making it alive out of this war was to make the Pitamaha surrender – which he would never do.
Drona left the tent decidedly dejected. He turned to say something to Kripa but he was already gone…