Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mahabharat 15: Karan and Eklavya: The Real Heroes - I

(Its been a while. I know. Hence you can recap it all here: Its long, its pretty painful, I guess, but well worth the effort I guess). 

Meanwhile, in Hastinapur, the princes continued to study well. Now Drona was not too different from the various different coaching centres of today, he had a special batch of students to whom he himself administered arts, whereas in his academy, there were many other students as well who studied from lesser teachers. Drona's fame had spread far and wide, and soon there were many students who wanted to enter his academy.  Princes from other kingdoms all wanted to study in the greatest school in the land, as did sons of charioteers, stableboys and merchants. Everyone who was a someone wanting to achieve glory in war turned up at the Hastinapur School of Weaponry and Warcraft (HSWW - now you know where did JK Rowling borrow her school's name from). 

As you might have guessed by now, HSWW had four houses.For simplicity sake, we will call them: a) the Slytherin House, which housed the Kauravas, b) the Gryffindor House, which housed the Pandavas, c) the Ravenclaw House, which housed all other Princes, and d) the Hufflepuff House, which housed all non-princes. (Author's Note: It is possible that Ravenclaw housed all non-princes while Hufflepuff the Princes and that I might be mistaken, but who really cares about those two - right?) There was a student who was not a member of any of the houses, Dronacharya's son, Ashwathama, who studied with everyone else for free. Houses were graded on various things during classes, such as sports and arts, and everywhere Gryffindor came out on top, despite having only 5 students. Most of these points could be attributed to Arjuna and Bhima, who were favourites of all teachers.

Now, unlike Hogwarts, where the students from different houses studied together in a class system, HSWW had its own rules which Drona proposed as it suited him. He run the school like his personal fiefdom. We have already encountered the hitherto unspoken Rule 0 of HSWW which went something like this, to put it very crudely: " If you want to be my favourite student and become the best archer in the world, you must make your mother sleep with me. Regularly and discretely. Easier if she is a widow and is hot. Very hot."

Unfortunately for Drona, none of his other students were  as ambitious as Arjuna and despite his repeated hints to mothers of other princes and other females, he failed to bed any of them. Which is when he made the following rule, henceforth called Rule 1 of HSWW:
Drona personally would only teach students of Slytherin and Gryffindor House. Which meant, the Kauravas and the Pandavas.

The other two houses, took lessons from Kripa, who was good but nowhere as the same quality as Drona. However, because the admission fees were very high, and non-refundable, most students had no option but to continue studying with HSWW. Now the curricular of HSWW was also unlike Hogwarts, students could pursue their courses according to what they wanted. It was upto the teacher, seeing their wards potential, the level to which he would teach a particular student. There were no exams, and HSWW had a set closing date after a very long period, when the final practical tests would be conducted and students would all graduate.

Like we have already seen, and for reasons best known to us, Arjuna was the fastest learner in Drona's class. He topped in everything related to archery, which was the main weapon, and was capable of massive destruction. (Don't let the simple bow and arrow fool you folks. Archery was the art and science of knowing a zillion mantras  which could deploy destruction more than a hundred Hiroshimas and Nagasakis put together.). However, the other Pandavas were not too far behind. Bhima was brilliant in wielding the mace, Yudhistra in the spearcraft, while Nakul and Sahadeva were kind of peerless in swordsmanship. Among the 100 Kauravas, while Duryodhana could challenge Bhima in mace, while Dushasana could challenge Nakul and Sahadeva in swords, the others were pretty big disappointments - and not being the teacher's favourite did not help them much.

Among the other students in the other classes, there was only one student who was the fastest learner: Karna, the son of a charioteer, was the fastest learner, and was able to grasp concepts very fast. This was the same Karna, who was thrown by Kunti at his birth, and was found floating on the river by Adhirath, a charioteer of Dhritrashtra. He had a golden skin, black hair, was 6'2" tall and looked like Adonis - quite a contrast to the dark-skinned, short and simple looking Adhirath and his wife Radha. However, the couple took to the boy and raised him as their own son, and gave him all the love Karna could ask for. Never once was he told that he was found in the river, and while he sometimes doubted the colour of his skin, and noticed he had two earrings which he could never remove, he never asked questions from his parents. He had a burning ambition: to be the best archer in the world, and become the greatest warrior the world had ever known. It was with this ambition that he had forced his father to spend a large part of his earnings, and plenty of loan from Dhritrashtra to enroll him at HSWW. The Rule No. 1 of HSWW had come to be a big shock to him. Despite the news, however, he really enjoyed his time at HSWW, and made good friends with Ashwathama, who also finally had someone to talk to.

Ashwathama did not like attending classes with the Slytherin and Gryffindor houses, for his father was teaching there, and seemed to make him work extra hard. He much rather enjoyed the lessons Kripa taught and thrived. Moreover, Ashwathama could never get along with the snobbish princes, who his father always compared him to and seemed enamoured by, while ignoring him and his mother, while the rest of the students at HSWW were not upto his intelligence. Except for Karna, who was intelligent and brave, and confident.

While Karna did not study under Drona, he would use his friendship with Ashwathama to get access to some study notes written by Drona. Ashwathama would steal them for his friend, Karna would take a day to memorize them, and the papers will be back in Drona's study before Drona ever knew. Ashwathama felt bad for doing this, but his father had always told him their relationship in personal and professional spheres were going to be very different. Ashwathama took his help of Karna as a crusade against the evil principal while at home, he looked on Drona as a caring loving father, who helped him secretly to teach what he was teaching Arjuna, hence helping him to become as good as Arjuna.

Karna did not boast about his prowess, but all his peers knew he was special, and would goad him by saying things like, "Dude, you are the best. You are better than Arjuna whom everyone talks about. If only Drona would teach you." However, he never expressed his actual talent to Kripa, who only knew him as a normal student, and had trouble remembering his name, just liked he forgot remembering every other students name.

And then there was Eklavya. Eklavya was son of the Nishad king. Nishads were the tribals who lived in the jungle, dressed up in leaves and bark, and had those wild Afro haircuts. Eklavya was a very talented archer, who had learnt all he could from the peace-loving, hash-smoking Nishads. Like Karan, however, he was very determined and ambitious. And like Karna, he wanted to enroll at HSWW and study from Drona. And so he came upon Drona, and asked him in the most humble of tones, to register him as his student. To which, Drona, who by now, had become filthy rich, and was also growing arrogant told him, "Why should I enroll you? You are a fucking Nishad. You guys have no money. Your women are ugly - while you yourself stink. Give me a good reason to teach you, and I will. Otherwise go away." To which, Eklavya, who was on the burst of tears, answered, "But sir, just give me a chance. I will become the greatest warrior ever. People say I have the talent. " To which, Drona looked at him, and laughed, "And who exactly says that - your Nishad teachers? They are hippies, what have they done other than smoke pot. What degrees do they have? Fuck off, I have to go do some fucking myself. " And so he sent Eklavya away, thinking about Kunti in the interim. (Lets have a poem to introduce some sex in the narrative, shall we?)

Kunti was waiting eagerly for Drona, as she so often did,
for Vidura had gone impotent, and of him she had rid,
Drona was a stud however, despite that big, white beard,
and she became hornier, as the time for his coming neared.
He made her come many times a single night, and made her see the stars and moon,
he was all  she had ever dreamed of in a man, and he made her swoon,
But this relationship was illicit, and she was sad about the fact,
but the sex was so good, that she forgot everything else while in the act.
Even then however, she could not forget her firstborn son, oh what a pretty boy he was,
he must be dead by now, she often worried, and still hadn't overcome her loss.

So Eklavya, meanwhile, fucked off. To the jungle, where he had huge amounts of hash mixed with pot, and set together to make a statue of Drona. His encounter with his idol ought to have crushed him, but Eklavya was made of sterner stuff. He wanted to prove to Drona that he deserved to study with him, and so he built the statue, and still being high, started practicing archery. For a long time, he practiced, and the entire Nishad kingdom was troubled at their Prince's inactivity. But Eklavya did not stop. All he did was smoke, eat and practice. (And yeah go inside the jungle every morning - that needs to be done, doesnt it?). And he practiced and practiced, and for a brief period of time, became so good that he was the best archer ever. Except that there was noone who could recognize it. One day, when a dog came into their realm where Eklavya was practicing and started barking, Eklavya took 7 arrows at once, and filled the dogs mouth with 7 arrows with one shot to make him stop. This was one of the most difficult maneuvers to manage, but Eklavya pulled it off nonchalantly.  The dog was stunned, and turned back. Turned back only a little way, for the dog belonged to Arjuna, The Pandavas had a day off, and it was the House trip, and they had come to the jungle to get in the pants of some Nishad females. Kauravas had managed to fool the Pandavas by making up stories about how easy the Nishad females were to bed. And so the Pandavas found themselves here in the jungle, but this incident put everything else into the back-burner.

Arjuna came up to Eklavya, and seeing him practice, and the real size statue of Drona, asked him, with a princely - yet very squeaky - voice, "Who did this to my dog?" And Eklavya said, "I did, for he was barking and disturbing me." At which Arjuna asked him, "But who are you, how did you do it, and who is your teacher?" At which, Eklavya introduced himself, but said, "Drona is my teacher." At which Arjuna was stunned, for this particular trick he didn't know. He decided to go back immediately and confront Drona. And he went to his mother, who confronted Drona on his behalf. "How come - when you have promised Arjuna to be the best archer in the world, is another student of you able to do things which he cannot. This is a breach of our trust. Remember on what you will miss. I will also accuse you of rape, if you do not take care of this. Post - Braveheart, you know how it is that they are treating people accused of rape, dont you? Hence take care of this soon, or you are gone."

Drona was stunned. All his planning was coming to naught. A rape accusation would also mean curtains for his well-established career. His biggest fear however, was being denied the access to Kunti's love spot. He was by now totally obsessed with Kunti, and did not know if he could live without doing her. This had to be stopped and fast, and he had a plan to save himself. It was a small chance to succeed, but it was the only chance. And so he went with Arjuna, back to the jungle, and where Eklavya was practicing. Eklavya saw him, and said, "Guruji, I am honoured that you have come specially to meet me. See I have your statue, and now I think I have proved myself worthy of being taught by you. Did you see my skills? Thank you, I learnt all this from your statue",  and taking his bow, he showed his yet-unparalleled skills. (Author's note: This is what happens when you smoke too much. Eklavya had delved on the idea of Drona being a teacher. He was high, and hence was unable to distinguish Drona from the statue). Arjuna was aghast and astonished, but all Drona could see was a lack of Kunti in his life. Hence he said, "Wow you are great. But if you say you are my student, where is my fee? What will you give me as fee?" Eklavya, being high, and joyful, "Sir, you are my teacher. All I have is yours, give me your wish and I will get it for you. I promise it, for I am a Prince too, after all." At which Drona said, "Alright then give me the thumb of your right hand." (Archery requires the right thumb for the arrow is released from the thumb). Eklavya was stunned, . "But sir, how would I then...". So Drona said, "Okay, you said you will give me anything, I was just testing your promise. After all, I never thought a Nishad could keep his word. Leave it. " Hearing this, for  he was a prince, and he had promised, and more importantly he was high, he took the knife from Drona, which Drona had brought with him, and smilingly cut off his thumb and told Drona, "Are you happy now, you sonofabitch?". And he said further, I will practice with my other four fingers now. And off he went from there, crushing the statue, and going back to his kingdom.

Drona was stunned at the outburst from Eklavya, but he had managed to keep Arjuna the best archer in the world, and so Arjuna and Drona both went happily back to their school. Arjuna now had no competitor, or so thought Drona. He could not have been more wrong. As the events during the final examinations were to prove. (To be continued)...