Lament Of The Unnamed Mother Of Mahabharata’s Wise Vidur

But even with so many sacrifices, he also remained their puppet, a puppet to their rules and traditions. His righteousness was never enough as my faulty pedigree made him inferior. 

But even with so many sacrifices, he also remained their puppet, a puppet to their rules and traditions. His righteousness was never enough as my faulty pedigree made him inferior.

I don’t have a name and I seem to exist only as a memory. As a memory who became inconsequential in the world seeped in rules and traditions. I was the cog in a perfect system. I was the reminder of the many faceless, who actually run the system. But that strength of many did not save me from my fate, for I was a woman, and I was deemed last in the pecking order of caste and class, and this is my story.

My birth you see was inconsequential. I was after all doomed to my position and let’s just say  the lottery of birth did not favour me. My parents blamed karma , something beyond my grasp and understanding. But I was there, I was alive and I was a girl. So like others I joined this life of servitude quite early. Lucky for me, even  while bowing down, I had a full tummy, which was more than enough, considering many others.

I grew among the rich, I saw their privilege, I saw their clout and their whims. I styled and transformed and secretly aspired for a better station. And when the opportunity came, I was thrilled.

I had seen  the young heiress, with her love, in the night secretly romancing. I was there and she was the sharp one, the eldest one. My one glimpse and she knew she was watched. I did not say anything and nor did she hint anything, but the next day I had a change of duties, I was to be handmaiden to the sisters. Yes, the three sisters, heirs to great wealth with every possible privilege. But they were valued not for anything more than their wombs. It was sad, in a way, the younger ones especially, who lived such a cloistered existence, obeying all the rules and norms.

But I admired the eldest, she was so assertive, so independent. She was a hero to me and that’s why it hurt a lot when that man ruined her plans. I watched as she was broken by this man in the name of honour, and by her love in the name of pride. Oh, how I hated their ego, and how I wished to comfort her but inconsequential was my desires!

Soon enough I was shipped to serve the younger ones as the eldest faded from common memory in pursuit of revenge. The household, it was a new place, with the same rules and hypocrisy. But the  worst feeling was to bow down to that man, the proud bachelor, the one who ruined the dreams of love.

But what goes around,does come around, and sadly the younger ones became the scapegoats of loss. Widowed so young,  I could see the grief in their eyes, as they were herded as sheep to mourn. Even their mourning was short-lived, as the household heads planned an intervention to propagate heirs, before the rumour mills. Yes, this was when I became their cog, a mere cog in their great household of power and prestige.

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For so long, all my yearnings, desires remained unspoken. I did not name them, and I thought I was pining for some unknown loss. I knew they would forever remain unfulfilled, it was after a small price to pay for a stable existence, as all I had was a precarious station in life.

Wrestling control was hard, but I did decide right, at the opportune moment to realise it. A chance at luxury, a brief interlude in my life of servitude. But this brief freedom to live as a woman, be with a man ,bestowed not by affection but as a trade. Yes, the second sister traded me, as a piece of flesh, as her replacement. I was not asked but told. I reasoned that this was perhaps the only time I could live a fantasy of entitlement. I lived the fullest that night and with no shackles of birth or class discriminating against me, I enjoyed my being and I was fulfilled.

And so this short-lived joy also bore fruit and the consequence of my choice was they tore away my boy. My boy, yes the perfect being, but raised away from me, his imperfect mother. I was not allowed to cast even a shadow on his existence, as he belonged to the household and me in obscurity.  But even with so many sacrifices, he also remained their puppet, a puppet to their rules and traditions. His righteousness was never enough as my faulty pedigree made him inferior.

Years went on, I watched in distance as I couldn’t bring myself to fade away completely. The sisters departed, they relinquished. But how could I do the same, and so I persisted, without wanting  to renounce.

Changes happened, there were marriages, deaths, but shrouded with envy the household was starting to lose sanity. I watched as my son tried to balance out, create stability ,unsuccessfully. Oh how I wanted to point out the flaws in his plan, to make him realise  his naivety. Yes, the cleverest son, innocent of their hollow gestures and traditions.

But then even bad escalated to worse. There was a war, but I was secretly relieved,my son wouldn’t fight, I mean what use is there for brains in a brawl. The household in opposing teams fought , even the proud bachelor, old but still proud.

Days passed and I heard of the horrors as they unfolded on the battlefield. As a remnant of the past I heard the proud bachelor had fallen, yes at the hands of his destined adversary. But I was a bit disappointed as even in his fall he was held, yes above the ground! Guess, the privileged don’t even fall the same as the others.

So, the battles continued, as I heard, sons, fathers, brothers fight. I could hear shrieks of pain and cries of anguish continuously. Then I ventured to see for myself the horror, yes the horror the righteous people like my son have let happen.

The field was marred with smoke, wails and blood seemed to seep through the earth. The swords, knives, shields of human ingenuity laid bare the truth about men’s frailty. Yes, I blame all the men, the ego boosting exercise for power laying to waste so many lives. The mothers, widows crying,lamenting their fates, decided by the few men in high places, cursing them! I took it all in, I mean, what else could I do, I was the irresponsible mother who did not raise a son!

But then something happened, that shocked even me, for what a day I had chosen to visit the battlefield. Amidst all the loud wailing, one voice stood out. The battle was paused and I could see the mother, yes it was the widowed matriarch from the household. A sad soul caught between her fatherless sons and the household’s patriarch. She was wailing a loss, and on her lap lay the body. With her laments everyone realised the burden of truth, and I would say, their lofty karma.

The meaningless rules and their traditions crumpled before her reality. I wished my son was there so he could witness this hypocrisy that separated us. I could finally name the angst that raged forever in my being.

I looked on as the matriarch was chided, admonished and what not by her sons and others. But I understood her, I understood her grief, and her choice for who better as I had a live son who was but a lost cause.

She reminded me of the anguish of single mothers who choose to abandon rather than accept. It’s no judgment on them, I mean reality was at least an orphan can avail sympathy but a bastard none!

I waited as they dispersed but she remained holding the son, and I felt jealous as I knew I wouldn’t even be able to avail that right. My son wouldn’t even know me, I was but a stranger from another world.  Time passed and she was coaxed to leave as rites needed to happen , when she looked at me, the frail woman standing alone.

Perhaps there is an advantage in being alone,’ she remarked. ‘One is spared the worry. I need worry only about myself.’ She shook her head. ‘And I have learnt not to worry overly about myself. What is the worst that can happen, after all?’ She looked up.“

She left and I realised how little she knew. She was after all the matriarch, all things said and done. She had the position to right her wrongs, unlike me who was doomed to face consequences for my wants. Her name would remain to be seen by all, criticised, applauded or what not but I would remain a nameless womb, with no legacy.

This story was shortlisted for our August 2021 Muse of the Month short fiction contest. Our juror for the month Madhulika Liddle says “Obscured by the power and wealth of those who surround her, the woman who is nothing more than the ‘nameless womb’: a poignant and thought-provoking story.”

Image source: a still from the 2013 Mahabharat on Hotstar

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Ambica G

Am a feminist who wished for a room but got stuck in a jar. Still, I go on clueless but hopeful and I keep writing. Taking it one step at a time! read more...

23 Posts | 88,198 Views

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