Towards mid-day Krishna and Arjuna arrive at a tent, closely followed by Yudhishtir. Arjuna appeared flustered. Krishna calm as usual. Yudhishtir seemed angry as he stomped off into the tent.
“I demand an explanation as to what happened out there today. How did a thousand soldiers die in three hours? Where is your focus Arjuna? I need answers now!”
Krishna had settled down on a chair with nothing but a smile on his lips. He looked mischievously at his friend. He had known Arjuna for a long time. Today was just not his day. Bheeshma and Drona clearly had the upper hand in their duels with him. He could not muster enough strength to parry the onslaught by his two mentors. They made him look like a novice – killing hundreds of soldiers in the legions led by the Pandavas. It was a coordinated and well-planned attack. They knew their strength lied in hunting in packs. A single warrior was incapable of taking on Arjuna by himself.
“I just couldn’t match their wizardry. It was like they knew me inside out. They knew my strategies and my plans. They had an answer to everything I was throwing at them. I even…”
“Enough! I don’t want excuses. For four and a half days we’ve been fighting this war. We haven’t made a dent in their forces. They keep coming from nowhere. You do realize our army is smaller than theirs don’t you? A couple of days like this and we’ll be dead meat. We went into this war hoping you will finish them off in a couple of days. You are supposed to be the best archer in the world, the best general. Your weapons knowledge is supposedly unmatched. There is not a soul in this planet that can stand up to you – or so you’ll have us believe. But you cannot even hurt two men three times your age? What good are you?”
A swell of anger overcame Arjuna. He could take defeat. But he couldn’t take insults. He was already agitated at the morning’s defeats. He was angry because right behind Bheeshma and Drona’s chariots was Dusshasana’s – whose unkind words about Arjuna’s lack of skills still echoed in his ears. He was not in a mood to listen to another scornful examination of his abilities. But his eldest brother wasn’t going to stop.
“Fourteen years! For fourteen years we have suffered. For fourteen years we have gone through hardships and misfortune. What for? All in anticipation that one day this hero of men would rise above all and punish those that are responsible for our misery. This lion of an archer was to deliver us from our wretchedness. And today he says he couldn’t match the valor of two old men? Why don’t we just call off the war? Just go away and live in our abjection. I will tell my wife that her hotshot husband is really worthless!”
Arjuna could not take it anymore. He turned around to face his brother. He was seething inside. The third man in the room quickly realized the situation was about to worsen. He rose from his seat and turned in the direction of the eldest of Pandavas – cutting in between Arjuna and Yudhishtir.
“The ‘my wife’ you talk about Yudhishtir – do you forget who won her in the Swayamvara? Hundreds of princes were there – you saw with your own eyes. The most boastful archer of all – Karna – was also there. Most of them couldn’t even see the fish machine directly. Your brother here, the one you called incapable – hit the eyeball of a rotating fish whilst looking at its reflection in water.”
With unwavering smile he continued, “When your entire capital city was a jungle, this inept brother of yours mowed it down with nothing but arrows and turned it into the beautiful Indraprastha. When it rained day and night, this incompetent brother of yours stopped it from dousing that forest. Why go that far back? A few weeks ago when the entire Kaurava army attacked Virata, this ineffective brother of yours rescued them single-handedly. You question the ability of this man?”
“Of course you would support your dear friend Madhava. You guys are thick as thieves. Maybe you can inject some of that verve back in him when you drive his chariot. Why can’t you talk him into being the fearless warrior that you make him to be? Or have you gone soft as well in this war?”
“Stop it you insolent fool!”
Both the brothers took a couple of steps back at this outburst. They had never seen Krishna lose his temper. Yudhishtir suddenly became aware of who he was talking to. Fear replaced contempt.
“For years now these brothers have suffered because of you. You practically stole Arjuna’s wife because of your lust for her. Do you not remember who won her? You knew exactly what your mother would say when you took Arjuna’s bride home. Yet you chose those words because her beauty entranced you. Your devious ways won’t fool me Dharmaraja. You always wanted her for yourself ever since you laid eyes on her at the Swayamvara. But you just did not have the skill to win her. And you blame Arjuna for lack of craft?”
Arjuna watched in horror as Krishna’s face turned red in anger. He worried for the safety of his brother. Shockingly for him, Krishna said the same words that were mere thoughts in his own mind a few moments ago.
“When your wife came running into Virata’s court pleading you to stop Keechaka what did you do? You hid your face in your palms like a coward. Who took care of that? Your other brother did!”
“Let’s talk about this war. What is the reason for this war? Why did it come to this pass? Who is really behind this situation? In drunken stupor you shamefully wagered your wealth, your kingdom, your brothers, yourself and even your wife. Where did your dharma go then? The moment you lost yourself you lost all rights on your wife. And yet you gambled dear Draupadi. Tell me this Yudhishtir: recount for me one instance, just one instance where you stood up for your mother, your brothers or your wife. Yet you disgracefully accuse Arjuna for the death of some soldiers. Don’t you know the cost of war? You are not a nitwit to not realize a war like this will have its ups and downs. Or are you? Even the womenfolk in our camp are not complaining. If there was anyone dishonorable among all here it is you. And yet these brothers are fighting this war for you, killing people they do not need to. You are the one that should be ashamed of yourself.”
Without waiting for a reaction from Yudhishtir Krishna beckoned Arjuna to follow him out of the tent.
As soon as he boarded the chariot he turned to his friend and smiled. The warrior was still in a daze.
“Partha, I knew what was going through your mind when your brother was denouncing you in there. At that time if you said these words it would destroy the tender fabric of relationship you brothers have. This was the only way to protect your kinship while berating Yudhishtir. Forgive me for lambasting your elder in there. But I need you to focus on the war and not what your brother thinks of you. Now lets go mow some Kauravas down”
Arjuna is more thankful than befuddled at the amazing ways of his friend, philosopher, guide and driver.