“What were you discussing so animatedly about?” Kunti sat down between Nakula and Sahadeva.
Draupadi sat next to Bheema and Subhadra sat near her husband.
“I could hear raised voices from upstairs,” said Draupadi.
“It was nothing important,” said Bheema.
“Nothing important?” Asked Kunti. “Then why were you arguing?”
“We were not arguing,” said Yudhistira. “Just having a discussion on friends and enemies.”
“There are no longer enemies,” said Kunti. “There is not going to be a war.”
“Enmity is not based on whether a war is going to happen or not,” growled Bheema. “We thought we could live in peace in Indraprastha once before too. Remember? I think we are being foolish if we think we would be allowed to live in peace now!”
“As long as uncle lives, there might be peace,” said Arjuna.
“I don’t have that much faith in our uncle either,” Bheema muttered.
“There are ways of ensuring permanent peace without getting rid of your cousins.” Said Krishna. “And I for one, would favour bloodshed only as a last resort.” His eyes swept them all. “But once we choose that option, there should be no hesitation or doubt. We should be prepared to give it our all till we achieve victory, no matter who stands against us!”
“I too do not want bloodshed,” said Yudhistira. “And I am happy we could avoid it.”
“I am still not happy,” said Sahadeva.
“Nor I,” growled Bheema.
“What brought this up now?” Asked Draupadi. She kept her head lowered and did not look at any of them.
“Krishna had an argument with Vasusena and he went out.” Said Arjuna.
“Krishna had an- you mean the King of Anga is here?” Subhadra’s voice held bewilderment.
“Yes. He came in just a while ago.” Said Yudhistira. “And went out,”
“Into that storm?” Kunti seemed concerned.
“You don’t need to be so concerned, aunt.” Krishna spoke with deliberation. “He had survived far worse even as an infant. I’m sure he’ll be unscathed.”
Kunti paled and looked down. Her hands clasped together in her lap.
“But I can still be concerned,” said she without raising her eyes.
“But why?” Asked Krishna. “He’s no helpless newborn baby, but a man and a warrior. And it is only a little bit of rain, not a raging river. I’m sure he won’t drown!”
Kunti still did not raise her eyes, but a drop of tear splashed on to her hands.
Vasusena looked rather resignedly at the one who materialized in front of him.
“And what have you come for this time?” He asked.
Indra sat down on the wooden seat. “This seat is really uncomfortable,” said he.
Vasusena looked up with a sigh and sat down next to the deva.
“Welcome to the human world, King of Devas.”
“I am also your uncle.” Said Indra. “Is that any way to greet me?”
Vasusena lowered his face on to his hands. “Please tell me why you have come and go,” he groaned. “I really have no time for your immortal jokes.”
Indra huffed. “Joke? Let me tell you, young man, that I am not in the habit of joking.”
“That I can well believe,” muttered Vasusena.
“Are you laughing at me?” Demanded Indra. “Are you mocking me?”
“Yes. What do you propose to do about it?”
“I can try and develop a sense of humour,” was the totally unexpected reply. “What else is there to do when one has such disrespectful nephews?”
“I hope you are going to explain how, in the name of all fourteen worlds, did I become your nephew?”
“Your father and I share the same parents,” said Indra. “I would say that makes us brothers and his son would be my nephew.”
“I am hoping I am the only nephew you have,” said Vasusena, not bothering to hide his sarcasm. “Because your love for me is really overwhelming. I am sure none of your other nephews, if any, might have survived the display of it.”
“About that,” said Indra, though he did not look discomfited. “The situation was also such.”
“Yes, I’m certain.”
Indra held out a hand and touched Vasusena’s chest. The touch burned him.
“At least you are unscarred.”
“Yes.” He paused. “Thank you.”
“But you did not ask that it not cause pain,” said Indra, withdrawing his hand. Vasusena stole a surreptitious glance at his chest and was surprised to find his skin was unmarked. He had expected a burn.
He realized Indra was speaking “You asked that you be unscarred, but chose to suffer the pain of cutting them off,”
Vasusena shrugged. “What’s a bit of pain to a warrior?”
Indra nodded. “True.”
“Why did you come?”
“Because you called me.”
Vasusena looked baffled. “Something wrong with your hearing? Why should I call you?”
“You asked me what more I wanted. How can I answer that unless I come here? Er.. That question was directed at me, wasn’t it?”
Vasusena groaned. “I thought I must be having a nightmare. But now I understand. You have come to drive me crazy!”
“Oh no, nephew. Not that. I know you are feeling a bit low. But that’s only because it’s raining. Once the sun starts shining again, you will be normal. Not that there’s much difference, but still-”
“Was that sarcasm?” Interrupted Vasusena, chuckling. “I’m impressed, Lord Indra.”
“Must be due to your company, nephew.”
They looked at each other. There was a lurking smile in the deva’s eyes. Vasusena shook his head. “Just leave, will you?”
Indra rose. “I will. But I do wish to claim you as my nephew someday. And I hope that day is soon.”
Vasusena kept staring at the spot where he vanished. A patch of grass was there on the stone floor.