Saturday, 5 November 2016

A cursed life 4

He was always made up like this since his childhood. And everybody who knew him well could vouch for that. The only person who could subdue him was his father. Surprisingly, not even his mother could control him once he had those bouts of rage. But a gentle word from his father was enough to calm him down. Generally, boys were more attached to their mothers. But for him the world was made up only of his father. It was not only the bond of respect or love from his side that strengthened their relation but the unabashed partiality that his father showered on him that cemented their father-son relationship. And maybe that was the reason why he gravitated towards Duryodhana, whose father too was just enamoured with him. He remembered his early childhood spent in penury with his parents. Drona , his father was a poor Brahmana who studied the scriptures as also the art of archery but was not quite an ambitious person himself . But he was a proud man who never begged or lived off anyone even though he was a Brahmana . He taught a few poor young boys and was paid in kind by their parents in the form of vegetables and grains, whatever they could provide. He perhaps never realised the need for a steady income till he married Kripi , her mother, who was a twin to Kripa. The birth of his son Ashwathama was a great moment of joy for him for though born of the union between the sage Bharadwaj and the Apsara Ghritachi , he never really had a family life in his childhood as both the parents abandoned him. He was born of lust and the uncontrolled desire of a sage. So he clung to his small family as his most treasured possession. But poverty was a great eye opener.

Ashwathama was an infant when his father left home for an extended period of time, during which the course of his life changed. It all started with the normal family quarrel between the couple. They could not afford to buy even milk for the young Ashwathama and to stop him from crying of hunger, Drona suggested feed the baby with chalk dissolved in water. Kripi could take no more and in a fit of anger blamed Drona with the vilest of abuse. Drona would have shrugged that off too, like he did with everything in his life. But the tears of his wife and the cries of his only child made him compromise with his ideals and he decided to seek help from his friend.

The first person whom Drona thought about was his old classmate Drupad who was now the king of Panchala, after the death of his father. But it was not the same Drupad that he knew. Arrogant and haughty, he refused to acknowledge Drona even as his friend. Drona was shocked and could not believe his ears when Drupad sermonised him saying “O poor Brahmin, look at yourself and then look at me . Is there any point of equality between us? Friendship can only happen between equals, which we are not. How dare you call me your friend?”

Drona did not even wait to explain his problems and seek help from Drupad . He left his court and wandered aimlessly, praying to his gods to have pity on him. Just then he noticed a group of Brahmins returning with items gifted to them. He asked them about who the benevolent person was. That was none other than the Maharishi Parasurama , the Brahmana who destroyed the Khastriyas to cleanse them from evil. He decided to give away all his worldly possessions to fellow Brahmins. Drona decided to seek help from him.

After trudging for seven days on foot, without food or sleep, he reached Parasurama . But by this time Parasurama had finished giving away his everything to the Brahmins . He had nothing left to give away. Frustrated and cursing his ill luck Drona returned . But something in his vulnerability struck the great Parasurama . He remembered that he had his bow still with him. Calling back Drona, he said “Son, I have nothing to give you, except this bow. “But you have to be worthy of receiving it. You are a Brahmin. Do you know how to use a bow? ” Even in his most vulnerable condition, Drona could not suppress a smile on his youthful face. He prostrated before the great sage and touched his feet. Then taking the bow from him , he said “ O, Mahaguru , you need to teach me . ” saying this he stretched the bow string holding the bow aloft his head . Closing his eyes , he recited a mantra and released the string . A garland of flowers appeared from nowhere and fell in a heap at the feet of Parasurama. The Maharishi was impressed by this young man.

Drona sharpened his skills with the Maharishi before returning home. He was a changed person. He realised that his family, particularly his son was all that he had in this world and he vowed to give them the best. He decided to pay a visit to his brother in law Kripa who was employed as a teacher for the princes in Hastinapur . On the way he met the young princes trying to retrieve their ball from a deep well and helped them to bring it up. The princes immediately liked him and he too was appointed as their teacher. Pitamaha Bhishma, the main power behind the throne of Hastinapur had an instant liking for this Brahmin who was better than most Kshatriyas in warfare and perhaps second only to him . Since then, the family lived in Hastinapur.

But Drona never forgot the rebuff at the hands of Drupada . He got his revenge by demanding it from the princes as his Gurudakshina , the teacher’s treat from the students. Drupada was beaten, captured and forced to share half of his kingdom with Drona. Now he was equal to him as a king. He forgave Drupada and released him.

Often smaller events cast a much longer shadow on future happenings. And the human mind is governed by the six enemies of senses. It was now the turn of Drupada to nurse his revenge. That incident sowed the seeds of Drona’s fall on the grounds of Kurukshetra and proved to be, indeed, as one of the main reasons for the Great War of Mahabharata, as the learned ones surmised. For King Drupada went for a strict penance and Yajna to beget an offspring to take revenge on Drona. Both Dhristadumnya and Draupadi were the pair who emerged from the sacred altar of fire; destined to take revenge.

With his mind on the Panchala prince, once again rage filled Ashwathama’s heart. He stood up in his excitement. This was his only shortcoming, as his father reminded him so many times. Rage beyond control was like the fire in the forest which destroys everything. It devoured the mind like a famished animal. And coupled with the thought of revenge, it could bring down everything in a moment. He remembered his mother used to call him a reincarnate Rudra , a part of the Mahakaal Shiva . Such were his fits of anger. He tried to calm himself . But he couldn’t . Peeping across , he found Uncle Kripa in a deep trance of meditation and could hear the slight sound of snores from the strongman of the Yadava empire, mighty Kritavarma . He envied both of them for their ability of detachment.

To be contd...........

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