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At the end of her long life, Kunti, mother of the Pandavas, muses about the ‘whys’ of her life. The third winning entry for the Muse of the Month.
This year, we bring you again the Muse of the Month January contest. The cue for January 2016 was:
“Aren’t we all pawns in the hands of time, the greatest player of them all?”
―from Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Palace of Illusions
The third winning entry is by Deepa Arun.
Kunti looked into the mirror like sheet of water in the dense forest. Time had worn her body, but not her soul. Kunti noticed that the clouds, trees, flowers, creepers strained themselves towards the pond to see their reflection. The pond, Chaaya Saras (Chaaya means shadow, Saras means pond) was a mirror to flora, fauna and Kunti.
As Kunti admired the serenity and scenery around, her gaze turned back to her reflection in the pond. She slipped into deep introspection.
“Here I am, a queen mother, at last. My sons and their families are settled back in the palace. There is peace and calm after the tempest. The price I paid for the calmness was too high. I lost my brothers, relatives, kith and kin. Most of all, I lost my precious star….Karna, my eldest son.
I was very young when my biological father gave me away to his friend. Though, I was brought up by my step-father, I was blessed with abundant love and affection. Earlier named as Pritha, the world came to know me as Kunti, after my step father’s name.
Chaaya! Why was I adopted by my step-father, Kuntibhoj?
I was a pretty damsel well versed in music and science. Many strong kings and princes coveted me. As I gaily passed my teenage years, there came a sage called Durvasa. He was welcomed into our kingdom with respect and adulations. My step-father asked me to serve him during his stay; fully aware of his intolerance towards mistakes- trivial or grave.
Chaaya! Pray, why did my step-father ask me, then a teenager, to serve the sage? I could have been susceptible for a curse or disliking. The king could have sent any learned scholar from his court. Why was I chosen?
My life got enmeshed into metamorphic events when I was gifted a boon to bear children from any god, whomever I wished. Being a curious teenager, I tested the relevance of the boon. I saw the Sun shining high in the sky and used the boon. Behold! The Sun was near me in a mortal form. I had mixed feelings of euphoria and fear. Everything was predestined and thus was our union. My eldest son, Karna was born. With promises of protection by the Sun, guilt stricken of being an unwed mother, I laid Karna in a basket and set him afloat on Ganges.
Chaaya! Though I had mixed feelings, I enjoyed the presence of a man and being a mother. It was timed for a very short period. Why did my feelings overcome my sensibility? Why did the sage gift me such a boon? He could have blessed me in other ways.
I was married off to King Pandu. I was happy being his wife. I did not complain when he brought another princess, as his second wife. I joyfully welcomed her into the palace as my friend, partner and sister with whom I could share everything including my husband’s love and affection. Due to disturbances of duties, my husband, his second wife and I had to renounce the palace and live in a jungle. Since my husband wanted children, albeit the fact that he could not help in the act, made me to use the boon I was gifted. I bore three healthy children. I shared the boon with my husband’s second wife who was blessed with twins.
Chaaya! Initially, I repented the boon. Later, the same boon was the reason for my family to grow.
I took care of five children, accepted widowhood, ignored gossips and repulsion and stood strong like a fort guarding all the attacks thrown towards my sons. Of course, I had support from few righteous men. Yet, war was inevitable. My sons had to wage war against their own cousins. We won, but we were imploded with its after effects. I lost my Karna in the war. I had requested him to switch his loyalty from Duryodhana to Yudhishtira. Karna chose to be with the former, as it was him who gave my son, Karna, an identity and respect.
Oh Chaaya! I did not want war. My children and I tried the peaceful way of attaining our rightful share, but war was unavoidable. I have renounced all the luxuries of palace. I am going to merge my inner light with the supreme light. Strange are the perplexities of mind. When I saw your beauty and tranquility, I wanted to bare my tumultuous thoughts. May these thoughts travel time and space. Let these thoughts be recorded by writers in this world, let the protagonist Kunti be understood in the right way. After all, aren’t we all pawns in the hands of time, the greatest player of all? Kaalaaya tasmai namaha!
Deepa Arun wins a Rs 250 Flipkart voucher, as well as a chance to be picked one among the 10 top winners at the end of 2016. Congratulations!
Image source: old woman at the ghat by Shutterstock.