A country born
From the Earth
Watered with blood.
A country born
Out of sweat, toil,
Pain and bloodshed.
A country born
Out of partitions
On communal lines.
A country born
Out of divisions
Of caste and creed.
A country born
After killing thousands
Of innocent souls.
The price of freedom is costly…
For Poetry 101 Rehab
To all Indians who use the Internet,
Guys, the Internet is in danger! A day may come (read: 25th April, 2015) where your right to have a free and equal Internet will be abolished and you will be in the control of your telecom operators. Yeah, there will be no Net Neutrality, and its abolishment will be COMPLETELY legal, with the TRAI agreeing to it.
As a blogger and an active netizen, I urge you to watch this video to realise the importance of Net Neutrality, and visit this website and send a simple mail to TRAI (which is available in a template).
“Where you tend a rose my lad, a thistle cannot grow.”
– Ben Weatherstaff
Title – The Secret Garden
Author – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Pages – 331
Genre – Classics
I read this book as a part of my Re-Read Challenge, and man, I can’t believe I’ve forgotten everything about it!
The story revolves around Mary Lennox, an India-born young girl who loses her parents to cholera. A sour-faced, unpleasant girl, she moves to Yorkshire to her uncle’s house, and to her horror, finds that people behave differently than they did in India.
Soon, she learns about the ‘secret garden’ that belonged to her aunt, who had died there. Distraught, her uncle locks away the garden and throws its key away. Mary is curious to know more about it and tries to find it.
Put together a boy who can char animals, a hypochondriac who behaves like a prince, some Yorkshire slang, and lots of Magic, you have a typical Burnett book – magical and charming.
Despite all it’s beauty, I hated the racist point of view that the narrator has towards India. It is completely different from what she portrays, and she twists history according to her own whims and fancies. But seeing that racism wasn’t a crime back then, I (generously) forgive her.
The part I love the most about this is the transformation of the selfish, wicked, Mary to an angel who wins everyone’s heart by the end. Filled with hope and positivity, you are sure to love this everlasting classic.
I’ll rate it **** out of *****.
Have you read this book? What do you think about it?
“I give you ten minutes more. Make your choice soon. Fight, or flight?” my to-be-killer smirked.
I sighed, trying to heave the wheel up, while my charioteer, Salya, looked upon me with contempt. I bit back a curse, squeezing the wheel to get it up. As I squeezed and squeezed to no avail, I thought of another day, where too, I was squeezing and squeezing…
Being the best friend of the crown-prince of Hastinapur meant that I had to know something of the royal matters. Mincing no words, my new-found friend, Prince Duryodhana, explained the political situation and his royal line very clearly.
King Dhritarashtra, Duryodhana’s father, was the son of the Kashi princess, Ambika and the sage Vyasa.
Ambika and Ambalika were the two wives of King Vichitravirya, who died childless. In order to continue the royal line, his mother, Queen Satyavati, summoned her illegitimate son Vyasa to father children on Ambika and Ambalika. The sage agreed, and requested the princesses to meet him in his chamber.
When Ambika went to meet him, she shut her eyes tight to avoid seeing his gristly form. So, she gave birth to a blind son, Dhritarashtra.
When Ambalika went to him, she turned pale with fright, so a pale and sickly son named Pandu was born to her. Pandu was the father of the Pandavas.
Satyavati was unhappy with her elder grandson being blind, so she sent Ambika again to him. Not wishing to undergo the trauma once more, she sent her maid servant instead. This woman served Vyasa faithfully, who blessed with her a wise son, named Vidura.
Vidura, everybody’s loving uncle and the royal minister, was always mistreated by the Kauravas due to his low origins. In a way, I struck a chord with him, as even I had to face the same pain and humiliation I had to face due to a low birth. However, he had no sympathy for me.
As Dhritarashtra was blind, his brother, Pandu took over the reins of the kingdom. However, he declared himself to be incapable of ruling after being cursed by a sage, and retired to the forest with his two wives. Dhritarashtra was crowned the king.
Dhritarashtra married Gandhari, the beautiful princess of Gandhar. She was unwittingly connived by Grandfather Bhishma to marry the blind prince.
Once she realized her husband was blind, she tied her eyes with a silken cloth, so that she couldn’t enjoy the pleasures that her husband was deprived of.
However, her husband didn’t share her noble ideals. Gandhari suffered from an unusual pregnancy of two years. Meanwhile, he fathered an illegitimate child, Yuyutsu, on a maid servant. Gandhari was heart-broken.
Soon, she became the mother of the hundred-and-one Kauravas, the eldest being Duryodhana. Her last child was a daughter, named Dusshala, married to the Sindhu king, Jayadratha.
However, her greatest grief was not that her husband was blind. Nor was she angry at the fact that he didn’t respect her sacrifice for him.
It was rage at the fact that Pandu’s wife, Kunti, had given birth before her. Kunti’s son, Yudhishtira, ever gentle, was the eldest Pandava. And because of him Duryodhana could never become the king.
What madness was this? Pandu had died long back due to a curse along with his second wife, Madri. It was a widowed Kunti who brought up her three sons, Yudhishtira, Bhima, and Arjuna, along with Madri’s twins, Nakula and Sahadeva.
Now that Pandu was dead, it was Dhritarashtra’s sons who were rightly entitled for the throne. However, the Queen Mother, Kunti, deferred. She argued that as her son was the eldest son of the first king, it was he who was to become the king. This was the cause of all the clashes and riots of the kingdom.
The public favoured Yudhishtira, as he was a kind and considerate king, ever gentle, and always noble. On the other hand, my friend Duryodhana earned few supporters, as reports of his shady dealings to finish the Pandavas spread like wildfire across the kingdom.
It was his maternal uncle, Shakuni, the Gandhar king, who poisoned his mind against the Pandavas.
As far as I could see, he was crazed at his sister’s plight and wanted to bring about the downfall of the Kurus to avenge her, but was hiding his real motive under the pretext of ‘helping’ my friend.
But Duryodhana believed otherwise, and despite all my pleadings, he remained a staunch supporter of the evil Shakuni.
Their latest plan was to burn the Pandavas and Kunti in a house made of lac, which they pulled off successfully.
While the city of Hastinapur was plunged in grief at the news of the accidental demise of the Pandavas, there was revelry in the royal court at their deaths.
“To the Pandavas!” screamed Duryodhana, sarcasm in every line of his face as he raised a toast. I grimaced. I didn’t approve of tricking people to their deaths, and he knew that.
However, I was secretly pleased at the fact that my arch-rival Arjuna was dead in that fire, and that nobody would question my supremacy as an archer.
“All hail Duryodhana!” I said, as I drank my toast that night.
Being the Anga king only changed my name, not my fame. I was no longer Vasusena, the son of Radha. Now, I was Angaraj Karna, the greatest giver.
Affluence had not changed me in any way. Being endowed with sudden wealth and prosperity, I took a great oath in front of the Sun God that as long as the sun was in the sky, I’d give whatever was in my possession to deserving people seeking alms.
This made the people of Anga name me ‘Mahadaani,’ the greatest giver.
My generous nature did not change their mind, though. They were unhappy with the fact that a charioteer’s son should lord over them. Even when I was on the rounds of my kingdom, I’d hear repressed remarks and sniggers on my lineage. I received no respect from my own citizens.
Once, when I was out in my kingdom, a small girl stopped me. She must have been about five or six years old. Shards of broken pottery lay around her, and tears were flowing down her cheeks like rivers. She asked me, “Aren’t you the king?”
“Yes, I am,” I said, lifting her up smilingly.
She broke down once more. “Take me to your palace, please. I can’t go home. My stepmother won’t let me in.”
I was surprised at this. What sort of woman will refuse entry to such a sweet little thing? I asked her the reason.
“You see, she had sent me out to get a pot of ghee. When I was coming back, I tripped on that stone, and…and…”
She started crying, wildly gesticulating at the broken shards of her pot.
“Why one pot, dear? I’ll give you ten such pots full of ghee. Go and give them to your mother,” I said, laughing.
“No, no, I want only this ghee. Otherwise, she won’t let me in!” she wailed.
Little ones. Nobody could convince them. I shrugged, and bent down. The ghee was splattered and mixed with the earth. I wasn’t new to the mud.
I bent down, picked up some soil, and squeezed it. The clarified butter fell inside a shard of the broken pot. I squeezed and squeezed, until all the ghee was taken out.
“Oh, thank you!” the girl squealed. She ran up to me and hugged me.
“You know, I thought you’d never help. My mother said,” she leaned forward conspiratorially, “Don’t tell this to anyone, please. Promise? Okay, so listen. My mother said you were very, very bad, and would kidnap small children! I didn’t believe her, of course! Now that I’ve seen you, I’ll tell everyone how good you are! Bye bye!”
With that she left me, and ran away.
“Brainwashed the young one, didn’t you, son of Radha?” spoke a low voice menacingly.
I turned back. Right behind me stood a young woman, charming to look at, but her face contorted with pain and rage. She was dressed in brown, earthy shades, and her clothes swirled around her, making her look very hazy. She was bejeweled and resplendent, and even the unmistakable agony on her face could not mar her beauty
“Know that, oh Radheya, that I’m Bhoomi Devi, the Earth Goddess, whom you have squeezed so hard that had she not been immortal, she would’ve been dead!”
“I curse you Karna, that as you have held me in this way for the sake of a small girl, so will I hold the wheel of your chariot, without releasing it, when you need it the most!”
Before I could reply, she disintegrated into the Earth.
Great job. Curse number two. How may more curses I was to receive, I didn’t know.
What an accursed life I led! I was a king against my wish; my saviour, my only friend, would not listen to me; my own citizens did not respect me; and at the age of eighteen, I had already received two curses, omens signifying my death.
With a sigh, I rode back to my kingdom.
(to be continued…)
Ironic. That’s how my life is now. Ironic. Amid the clash of maces, clang of swords, whiz of bowstrings, all I am trying to do is remove the wheel of my chariot from the ground. It’s sad that I, the greatest archer in the world, am going to be killed by my own brother in this fashion.
In these last few minutes of my life, I guess you people deserve to know the truth. Before it is too late.
As they say, let me begin from the beginning.
I am Karna, the one born with the armour and ear-rings. My parents are Radha and Adhiratha, a charioteer couple. I was raised near the banks of the river Ganga.
I was always fascinated with archery. The sturdy bows, sharp bowstrings, and the keen arrows always had me stare in wonder. While my brothers employed their rough, coarse hands in lubricating chariots, I was busy utilizing my long, thin and nimble fingers for crafting rough bows made from the bark of trees. Whatever happened, I wanted to become an archer. The best archer in the world.
I didn’t need anything else except a good teacher. I am already born with this amazing golden armour that appears and disappears with my will, and nothing could penetrate it. Not to mention my earrings, which makes me glow like the Sun itself. Yeah, I know. I’m incredibly lucky.
Anyways, seeing my deepening interest in archery, my parents took the utmost pains to take me to a good teacher, who would teach me the complex skill of archery. Alas, it was a hopeless dream.
Every single guru we met, every single one, from Guru Drona to Guru Kripa, all of them rejected me. They stung my heart with their words, “You have great potential, my boy, but we cannot teach you, ah, for you are the son of a wretched charioteer. We do not accept suta-putras as our disciples.”
When honesty and sincerity fail, there is only one way left: trickery and deceit. I went to Guru Parashurama, the guru of Drona himself, and posed as a Brahmin to him. He had taken an oath to teach only Brahmins, and this was the only way I could learn from him.
One day, towards the end of my training, Guru Parashurama was sleeping, resting his head on my lap. Suddenly, a scorpion appeared from nowhere, and stung my thigh. Not wanting to disturb my guru’s hard-earned rest, I bore the pain. But I guess the warm blood trickling down my thigh could not be controlled, for my guru woke up, and started scolding me.
“Oh Vasusena, what have you done? You told me that you were the son of a Brahmin, but no one, not even I, can bear the pain of a scorpion sting without even a whimper. Surely then, you must be a Kshatriya, for only a person with royal blood in his veins can bear it.”
I was startled. I had expected him to respect my effort of not to wake him up, and here he was, calling a suta-putra a Kshatriya. Slip of the tongue, I guessed.
“You fool, knowing my hatred of Kshatriyas, how dare you come here in the guise of a Brahmin? I curse you, oh Karna, that in the hour of need, may you forget the use of the divine weapons!”
Great. I spend all my life learning the use of divine weapons, and here my great guru is, cursing me to forget all of them.
I couldn’t bear my guru being so disappointed in me. He had once told me that I was equal to him in all skills of warfare. My guru love me deeply. I couldn’t let this happen. I couldn’t disappoint him in this way.
I’ll ask for his forgiveness. There must be something, something I could do to be pardoned. But deep inside, I knew it was impossible. Nothing could change my guru’s mind. There was practically no hope that he would show me even an iota of pity for the crime I have knowingly committed.
“However, being the excellent and diligent student that you were, I give you a boon too. Here, take my bow, Vijaya.The string of this bow cannot be broken by any kind of divine weapon. Every time an arrow is released from this bow, it will create a terrible twang as loud as thunder, causing terrible fear in the hearts of your enemies, and will produce flashes of light, as brilliant as lightning, which will blind your enemy.
This bow cannot be broken by any weapon or anyone, and it is so heavy that a normal person cannot even lift it. Every time an arrow is aimed, the energy of the arrow is amplified by multiple times, as this bow is charged with sacred mantras.
Bowing down, I received the celestial Vijaya, the last show of affection to me by my guru. I will preserve this bow for future use, I thought.
“Take this bow, and show me not your face again,” my guru said with rage.
I reeled. I had thought of telling him the truth and begging his pardon before I left the gurukula, but I never expected it to come off this way.
(to be continued…)
Outnumbered and weaponless, the young warrior surveyed the battle field of Kurukshetra grimly.
The day had not fared as well as he would have wished for it. The Kauravas, his enemies, had created a chakravyuha. There were only three people in the Pandava army who knew how to break into the formation: his father Arjuna, his grandfather Drupada, and himself.
The knowledge of entering into this complex wheel-shaped vyuha was imparted to him by his uncle, Krishna, while he was in his mother’s womb. However, his mother had fallen asleep while her brother was imparting the knowledge on how to get out of it. And so, he had never learnt it.
His chariot had been broken by one of the greatest archers in the world, Karna. The horses and the charioteer were killed by his father’s guru, Dronacharya.
His enemies were mocking him. Sixteen, he thought, was too young an age to die. And he was just about to do that. Die.
According to the rules of the war (incidentally created by his great-uncle Shakuni, who was also his enemy), a soldier who is weaponless should not be attacked. A warrior should be attacked only by an individual. A warrior who is willing to surrender should not be attacked. Well, and his enemies were breaking all these rules.
“Why, young Abhimanyu, your father never declined a challenge. Are you going to make him feel ashamed of you?”, mocked Dusshasana, his father’s evil cousin.
He knew Dusshasana and his brother, Duryodhana, was enraged as he had killed the latter’s son, Lakshmana. Even when he was left weaponless, he had taken the wheel of his chariot and had fought valiantly. Now, even that was broken.
“Fight with my son, Durmashasana, if you dare,” sneered Dusshasana.
Abhimanyu smiled grimly. War etiquette demanded you never decline a challenge. While he was thoroughly exhausted, his cousin, Durmashasana, was bubbling with energy. While the latter was backed by hundreds of war veterans, Abhimanyu had no one to back him up.
Without any other choice, he accepted the challenge. Then began the tussle. Though Abhimanyu was exhausted, he seemed to have inherited his uncle, Bhima’s super-human strength. The same was true of Durmashasana, whose uncle, Duryodhana was even more powerful than Bhima.
The two wrestled each other. They pushed and heaved, jumped on top of the other, tried to tear their opponent apart. The Kauravas jeered at Abhimanyu, laughed at him, mocked at him. In the heart of their hearts, they knew that if Abhimanyu had regained even half of his valor and vigor, Durmashasana would be no match for him.
A strong gale started to blow. In a moment of weakness, Abhimanyu fell down, but not before pulling Durmashasana along with him.
Then Kauravas watched with bated breath. The first to rise would be the first to strike the other, leading to victory. Then, as the gale continued to blow, a figure rose. Recognizing it to be of Durmashasana’s, the Kauravas raised a cry of triumph.
As Durmashasana rose to strike, Abhimanyu thought of his life. Just sixteen years long.
In that moment of reflection, Abhimanyu looked around himself. He could hear the cries of fallen soldiers, as vultures pecked their entrails. The scavengers screeched in the sky, looking for more bodies to feed on. So many lives were being taken in the battlefield. The neighing of horses, the rumble of the chariot wheels, the sound of conch shells, all of these clogged his ears.
He then thought of his pregnant wife, Uttara Kumari, and how she would react to his death. He thought of his father, Arjuna, who was always proud of his valiant son. He thought of his mother Subhadra, who would grieve for the loss of her one and only child. He thought of his eldest mother, Draupadi, who, though she didn’t give birth to him, loved him more than his mother. At last, he thought of his uncle, Krishna, who was believed to be the incarnation of Lord Vishnu himself.
He smiled. Though he knew that his family would grieve his death, he was sure they’d be very proud that he had died a brave and valorous death, for something worth dying for. He would die, he thought, making his family proud. And that made him happy.
Then, his cousin smote the final blow on his chest. And with the thought of the Lord, Abhimanyu’s life went out softly, blown away like a candle.