The Life That Never Was: Chapter Three

He repaired to his tent and changed his dress. After that he went to see Padmavathy. She was overseeing the packing of his dresses and hers for their trip. Two neat bundles, one larger than the other lay on the floor of her tent.

He then proceeded to see if the chariot was ready. It had to be modified to carry her and the luggage. And some modifications had to be made to enable it to go through the forest paths. The horses were also sturdy animals who were not very fast but would endure.

By that time, he had to meet the commander of his armies. While there, he received a message that Suyodhana wished to meet him.

Suyodhana was not alone in his tent. Bheeshma was with him. Vasusena wondered what it was all about.

“Vasusena,” said Suyodhana. “Pitamaha has received a message from my father.”

He looked livid, though Bheeshma looked impassive.

“My father,” continued Suyodhana, “has implored Pitamaha to avert this war at any cost. He has sent a similar missive to the Pandavas too.” He paused. “He has said he is coming to Kurukshetra himself. He has requested Yudhistira one last chance to make amends. He has said he will accede to a peace proposal.”

Vasusena was stunned. This volte face from Dhritarashtra was completely unexpected. He could not understand how it came about.

“What happened to him?” He asked Suyodhana.

“He had a nightmare, he says. And so horrible was it that he refuses to even contemplate the possibility of war.” said Suyodhana. “And he has ordered me to accept his command as he is still the King.”

“Just a nightmare?” asked Vasusena, in surprise.

Suyodhana picked up a scroll from a table and handed it to him. Vasusena read through. Twice. Then he lifted his eyes to look at his friend. “He had a vision of the future, he says. The same vision was shared by your mother.”

“Vision!” Suyodhana snorted. “They are being scared by dreams! And he has said he realized uncle Vidura was right! Mark, my words! This is all my uncle’s doing! He’s taking advantage of our absence to bend my father to his will!”

Bheeshma compressed his lips in anger, but remained silent.

Vasusena shrugged. “Whatever prompted it, your father has changed his mind.”

“How can he do this to me!” burst out Suyodhana. “To us! He has no right to do this!”

Vasusena did not know what to say. Dhritarashtra was certainly within his rights, but it seemed the wrong time to assert those rights. Both armies were assembled and the day for starting the war had also been determined. But he knew the King. Fear ruled the old man. Fear of something or other was the only thing that ever forced him to do what he did not want to do. Vasusena looked at Bheeshma. It was for the Patriarch to give an opinion on the rights and wrongs of the situation.

“What do you think general Bheeshma?” he asked.

“It is unheard of,” said Bheeshma, “and quite unprecedented to sue for peace at so late a stage. However, it is not against the rules. And I am no advocate of a needless war.”

“And what shall our allies say?” Asked Suyodhana, furiously. “They shall call us cowards!”

“They shall thank you for stopping this devastation.” Said Bheeshma sharply. “Not everyone is as hot headed as you! They have come to fight for you out of their love and obligation, not because they are eager for war!”

“Vasusena,” Suyodhana’s voice held a plea. “What do I do?”

Vasusena shook his head, his insides in turmoil. The situation seemed too miraculous to be true. But he knew that Suyodhana was not going to accept it.

“Your father is the King. And even were he not, he is your father.” He said.

Suyodhana bit his lip. “I wish you were not going tomorrow.”

“Should I postpone?” Padmavathy might be heartbroken but she would understand.

Suyodhana shook his head. “No. Your wife is looking forward to it. You should not disappoint her. I will make father see reason.”

As he walked back to his own tent, Vasusena wondered if Krishna had known of Dhritarashtra’s message.

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