Wednesday, December 24

Cheerharan... And Christmas Cheer!

25 pages, 40 minutes and a reservoir of tears...

That’s how I can describe my reading of the game of dice and ensuing catastrophe that occurred when the Pandavas were invited to Hastinapur by Duryodhana after the Rajasuya yagna.

Never once was I so touched when I saw the
Mahabharata on television. (Ramanand Sagar’s direction, wasn’t it?) The emotions escaped me and the actors did little or no justice to the role. Or maybe I was too young to understand the authenticity of their lengthy dialogues, garish gestures and overstated expressions.

As I read
Menon’s modern rendering, I can’t help forming a few ideas and hypotheses. I feel the mishap could have been averted, had Yudi declined the invitation and accepted his inability to win at dice. But then, what fate plans, mere mortals can only follow. And so went the troupe to Dhritarashtra-land, courting disaster. That fateful day when Yudi lost his head, and thereafter ended up losing everything he had – his dignity, wealth, kingdom and family.

To recount the course of events, Dury asked Shakuni to play for him, and it was no secret that Shakuni, besides being an evil and avaricious chap, was a master at the game. (Did you know his dice were made from the bones and ashes of his departed brethren? When he and his siblings came for sister Gandhari’s wedding, the host family starved the guests, and the brothers kept Shakuni well-fed and alive to take revenge. Shakuni, in a bid to destroy the in-law clan, kept nurturing his nephew Dury to become wicked and wanton.)

Despite Yudi’s initial refusal, the game began, and Yudi lost control as his losses mounted. Gambling is a nasty thing, it kills your sensibility and murders your intellect. After his material possessions went under, he put his brothers at stake. (I’m compelled to consider that had this taken place in kaliyuga, this debacle would never have transpired, as the brothers would have questioned and then disowned Yudi’s irrational decisions, thus ending the game.)

However, the brothers bound by dharma obeyed their eldest brother, and found themselves slaves of the Kaurava clan. Draupadi wasn’t spared either, and the insult she bore at the hands of Dussasana, Duryodhana and even her husbands and elders (indirectly) is narrated in a painfully distressing manner. Imagine being stripped naked by a stranger amidst a huge audience that comprises of a thousand men, half of whom are your cousins, husbands and elders, and none of them voices outrage at this dreadful affront...

Vikarna, Dury’s brother, gives a couple of reasons why Dro can’t be treated as a slave won by dice. One was that Yudi lost himself before Dro, so she cannot be put at stake by him. Another was that the other 4 husbands weren’t asked before this decision, and Dro belongs to all 5 after all.

Moving on, Dhritarashtra, gripped by fear and foreboding, finds himself returning to Yudi all that was lost by him in the game, and requesting his nephew to forgive and forget what had occurred during the day. (Prior to that, when Dhri granted Dro a few boons, you know what she asked for? Yudi’s freedom first, followed by the freedom of the other brothers and their weapons. Watta woman!!)

Off went the Pandavas, burning with shame, but perhaps willing to forsake the thought of revenge. Things would have been peaceful had Dury not asked his father to call them back again for one last throw of dice. And Yudi (curse his nobility!) relented yet again. This time, they lost their kingdom and were exiled for 13 years. (Not that Yudi really minded, he was always more of a sadhu-sant than a hungry-for-war kshatriya! But, Dro’s and Bheema’s emotional and verbal demonstrations are worth a dekko!)

That brought me to the end of the Sabha Parva. I’m now on the Vana Parva, that’s section 3 in the first volume. It describes the life of the Pandavas and Dro in the forest. How Dro received the magical food-bowl from Surya Deva, how Bheema killed Kirmira the demon, how Arjuna waged war against none other than the mighty Shiva, and a host of other intriguing tales. So faa, so good... (What WASN'T so great for me was the Arjuna-Urvashi rendezvous. What with Indra sending Urvi to Arjy so that he could "taste the sweetest fruit in Devaloka" and Arjy calling Urvi mommy! And what does he get for his sincerity? A curse that will render him a eunuch! Good for him though... Takes care of his last year in exile that required him to be undiscovered.)

Enough Mahabharata... What plans for Christmas, people? I’m probably going to visit Camp, slurp on some Dorabjee Frappe and walk around enjoying the festivities. No Christmas stocking for me this season, as Santa’s missing in my life... (Miss you, Sarikadi... It hurts when we chat formally on the phone, and end up saying nothing half the time...)
Well, let's not take off on a sad note. Here are some Christmas carol links to cheer you up (WITH the lyrics, for all my lovely readers who do not know them but would like to sing along!)
Jingle Bells -
Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer -

I’m eagerly awaiting December the 31st... Unfortunately, my colleagues don’t share my enthusiasm. Obviously. Considering it would be their last day in the office. Alchemy has downsized, and this leaves me and the boss to grapple with the new business that’s coming in as a fruit of my BD efforts. Reminds me of my power of perception post : the same situation, but such vastly different outcomes and perspectives for different individuals... Hope the going’s great for you!

Wish you a wonderful holiday season, ladies and gentlemen!
May all your dreams come true!


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