“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.