The Night Before

The Pandava camp began to disperse, after discussing a few formations and strategies for the morning. Krishna fondly placed his arm on Abhimanyu’s shoulder and said, “I am very proud of you, for standing up the way you did during the discussions today. You are a worthy Kshatriya. You will be celebrated for millennia my dearest nephew”

Abhimanyu was perplexed. He was used to effusive praise from his uncle before, but today he sensed a tinge of emotion. He felt humbled. The greatest man to ever live, the unflappable Lord Krishna betrayed emotion. He smiled proudly.

“Come, let’s go for a ride, it’ll allow you to cool down”, said the uncle as he ushered both of them towards his chariot. They rode in the dark to the far end of the battlefield, towards the lonely, giant peepul tree. Krishna did not say a word during their ride, and Abhimayu let it be. As they approached the tree, he noticed the silhouette of another royal chariot, against the sky. Who was waiting for them at this hour?

“Mother!”, he said, bending down to touch her feet, and definitely surprised to see Subhadra near the battlefield. Although it was unusual for women to ride in the night, Subhadra was a fearless warrior in her own right, capable to defeating an entire army all by herself. She was trained in all forms of warfare, including hand-to-hand fight, something extraordinary for the women at the time. She came prepared, with a bow, several quivers full of arrows, two swords, a mace, many spears, and a full body armor. Concealed under he chariot seat was a vessel full of oil, in which she intended to dip her arrows before shooting them, to set fire to enemy camps, should she face them. She secretly hoped she could find a band of Kaurava forces, so she could ease her husband’s burden.

Subhadra’s chest filled with pride, seeing her young son full armor. She smiled and said, “May your name live forever!”

Abhimanyu was a tad surprised at her blessing, but in his exuberance, asked, “How is Uttara? And my unborn child?”

“She is resting. I had to leave without telling her, for she would insist on coming along. I had heard about your heroics in the battlefield. I sent for you today because I just wanted to see you”, lied Subhadra, covering for her brother. Krishna had sent a messenger to her, to meet him. She knew what it meant, but she wasn’t certain whom the meeting was about. Her heart sank when she saw that it was Abhimanyu riding with her brother.

“Son, there isn’t much I can teach you. You are the son of the greatest archer the world has ever known, and nephew of the man considered to be the living embodiment of the supreme being. You know that this war is about upholding dharma. But it is also about something else”, she said pausing to contemplate.

She continued, “Imagine a woman, who had just finished bathing, being dragged into a court full of men, laughing and lusting her. Imagine her being gawked and being asked to adorn a man’s lap, to satisfy his lecherous desires. Imagine a man drag her into the center of the court and attempt to disrobe her, fleece her of all she’s wearing. Hear her cries, feel her anguish, suffer her powerlessness.”

Abhimanyu closed his eyes, focused, and forced his fury to gather at the center of his being. He opened his eyes, resolute and immutable. He took one last look at his mother and walked towards his chariot, indicating he wanted to leave now, with these thoughts in mind.

“Now, son, imagine the woman was Uttara”

Abhimanyu jolted back, looking shocked.

“Aunt Draupadi is every woman in this great land, my child. That fire in you must burn tomorrow, and burn bright”

As Abhimanyu mounted the chariot, Subhadra turned to her brother, not uttering a word but questioning through the tears in her eyes, “Why him? Why my son?”

He smiled, and hugged his dear sister, whispering in her ears, “Because I want to witness your husband’s wrath”

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