Continued from here
It took a few moments for Karna to come to terms with the humiliation handed out to him by Bhima. He mounted his chariot and they rode off into the Kaurava camp to get reinforcements and replenishments. Neither said a word on the journey, both equally shell-shocked, and thankful to be alive.
Karna’s strength returned as he approached his tent. Soon, that strength turned to vigor and vigor turned to anger. He loaded himself up with bows, arrows, swords, maces and spears. He asked Shalya to replace the horses and be ready for a long day.
“Bhima will not see sunset today”
Shalya couldn’t believe what he just heard. He looked at Karna like he was a fool. Here was someone who was handed out a disgraceful bashing. Every weapon he picked up was broken. Every attack repulsed. His life was spared. His son was throttled. All without Bhima breaking into a sweat. And here was this man, thinking he could take on such a giant.
But Shalya did as was told. He fed his horses, and inspected the chariot. He let Karna board. Then he spoke.
“Karna, you are a much better warrior than I am. But I have seen more of the world than you. Out of experience, and out of concern for your well being, I will tell you this. What I have seen today is out of this world. This is not the Bhima I know, and I know him better than you. His power is well known, but the physical capability on display today was something else. The arrows lodged in your chariot have gone deep into the walls and pillars, causing unsightly gashes around the cabin. It cannot be repaired. The cabin has to be destroyed and rebuilt. I have never seen anything like that, ever. The ease with which he destroyed your bows, and cut down your sword, I still wonder if it was an illusion. And the agility, it is as though he has taken a magic potion. The nimbleness with which he picked up your arrow mid air and strung it to his own bow, that to me was unreal. He did not give you any time to settle down”
“Karna, there comes a time in battle when even the best warrior must realize when to withdraw and live to fight another day. This is not a retreat. It’s just a brief withdrawal, while the enemy calms down, his powers diminish, and his emotions subside. When that happens, he will be more vulnerable. We must wait for such time. It may not come today. It may be tomorrow, but patience is an important virtue for the warrior, and more so for the commander in chief. You wait for the enemy to weaken, and then you strike”
Karna immediately took umbrage at Shalya’s comments.
“I wish you showed a little more respect for me as a warrior, Shalya. You think I cannot defeat Bhima today? I am the commander in chief of this mighty army. I have acquired weapons Bhima cannot even fathom in his wildest dreams. One invocation of a lethal weapon and Kunti’s strongest son will be reduced to ashes. I expect you, as my charioteer, to take my side, not praise the enemy”
“I am on your side, my dear Radheya, and as your well wisher and chauffeur I must warn you that this path you want to take will not have a happy ending. You can defeat Bhima, but not today. Today he is death personified”
Karna was in no mood to heed. He berated Shalya again for not supporting him, and ordered him to get ready to leave soon.
Shaking his head, Shalya headed towards the chariot, knowing fully well that if there was a second duel today between Karna and Bhima, the father would meet the same fate as the son.
They headed to battle, Karna determined to seek out and attack Bhima.
But Bhima had already moved on. His target was someone whom he was waiting to kill with his bare hands for many years.
Bhima headed towards Dusshasana, purposefully and decisively.
He blew his conch as soon as he spotted the Kaurava’s flag.
The exhaustive fifteen day battle had taken the lives of thousands of soldiers, and decimated many armies. The thinning of protective foot soldiers exposed mighty warriors, allowing for more duels. It became evident that the Kaurava advantage lied only in numbers, because one-on-one, the Pandavas were much more dominant and skillful.
Dusshasana heard Bhima before he saw him. He knew this was a call for him. He had heard about Bhima’s promise to Draupadi, and was waiting for this day. He always fancied himself against Bhima, thinking he could kill the strongest Pandava before his elder brother did.
Bhima decided he would throw all rules to the wind in his killing of Dusshasana.
Right from childhood, he had disliked Dusshasana. He was more pompous than Duryodhana, and certainly more audacious. If Duryodhana was thought, Dusshasana was action. Duryodhana, for all his jealousy, was severely aware of his strengths and weaknesses. But Dusshasana was egotistic and bombastic. Here was a man who had scant respect for customs, traditions, honor, or the rules of engagement. His contempt for Pandavas was evident from the start, but his lust for Draupadi crossed all limits.
And that day, when he attempted to disrobe Draupadi, Bhima’s dislike turned to hatred. That day, the moment his eyes fell on a lecherous Dusshasana dragging Draupadi into the grand hall, he swore he would kill the Kaurava, and kill him with bare hands. He pictured the killing in his mind, every move of it.
That day had come!
Bhima picked up his bow, pulled the string hard and let it go, without an arrow. The pitch of vibrations from the release reached a crescendo that could be heard by Dusshasana himself. He perked up, and saw Bhima’s lion banner approach, slowly but steadily.
Shortly after, he heard another sound, that of a whizzing arrow, and the slow groan of a wooden staff cracking. He looked around, unsure of the sound. It took a few moments for him to see it at it came tumbling down.
His flagstaff had just been broken. Cleanly, expertly, and permanently.