The Life that Never Was: Part Twenty Two and Twenty Three

Bheema heard the laughter from the next room. He could not distinguish whose laughter it was. He looked at Nakula who was also frowning.
“Let’s go have a look,” Bheema mouthed.
Nakula nodded, the gleam of adventure in his eyes.
Nakula opened the door a fraction and saw Krishna going downstairs. He turned to Bheema. “Krishna just went downstairs.”
Bheema frowned but gestured at Nakula to go ahead.
The door to Vasusena’s room was ajar and they could hear his voice. “You should not have come,”
They stood rooted to the spot as they recognized their mother’s voice. “I just wanted to make sure you were all right.”
They heard Vasusena chuckle. “Were you expecting your nephew to harm me in the night?” There seemed to be genuine amusement in his voice.
“Not that,” Kunti spoke. “I wanted to see if you were comfortable.”
“I am quite comfortable,” he replied.
Bheema and Nakula heard the sound of footsteps on the stairs. They beat a hasty but stealthy retreat into their own room.
“What was that?” Muttered Bheema.
“I think mother wanted to make up for our hostility,” said Nakula.
“I don’t see any reason for that.” Bheema grumbled.
“Nor I,” agreed Nakula. “He is an enemy, whether we are at war or not.”
Nakula sank into the bed, drawing the covers up to his chin. Bheema smiled fondly at his brother. He had had this habit from early childhood. They had all laughed at him at those times but he had not changed.
“You still look adorable when you do that,” said Bheema. Nakula made a face and threw a pillow at Bheema, which Bheema caught deftly.
“And your aim is still to improve,”
They both laughed. It was a standing joke between them.
A knock sounded on the door.

23.

Krishna went downstairs with a slight smile on his face. He saw Draupadi sitting on one of the chairs. She looked up as he entered.
“You can’t sleep either?” She murmured.
He sat down opposite her. “Why can’t you sleep?”
She shook her head. “I don’t know.”
“Do you regret that there won’t be a war?”
She was silent for a long moment and then she said. “All those years when we were in exile in the forest, I comforted myself with your words. When my husbands refused to act citing various reasons, I consoled myself with the memory of your promise to me. I worked as a menial in Virata’s household, and was insulted by Keechaka. The kick to my backside did not hurt as much as my husband’s indifference.” Her voice was emotionless, flat as she continued. “And after all that, when you went for peace, they wanted to have peace. My husbands wanted only peace. Five villages would have kept them content. But you again comforted me. You promised me justice.”
“Yes, I did,” said Krishna. “And do you feel that justice has not been served now? Your insult is unavenged, but hasn’t the injustice meted out to all of you been corrected?”
“I have no arguments.” Said she. “I do not want revenge. And as long as my husbands are content, I can live with an unavenged insult.” She paused and her voice broke at the next words. “Can you at least tell me why?”
“Because I had to correct another injustice,” he said. “Which was done to someone who never demanded justice. But I was honour bound to grant him justice too.”
“You can’t be just to all,” she pointed out. “One’s justice might be another’s injustice.”
“True. But that is a human perception. Leave your justice in my hands, and I promise your tormentors shall suffer through life as they would never have suffered had they died.”
She looked at him, a dawning wonder in her eyes. “What do you mean?”
“Imagine their deaths in battle. It might be agonizing, but it would pass. And they would have attained heaven. The ones to suffer would be the ones left behind. And they never wronged you.” He paused. “Now imagine their lives. They have been forced to give your husbands their kingdom. And as long as King Dhritarashtra lives, they won’t be able to do anything to them. Just imagine their rage and frustration which they have no choice but to bear. And once he dies, there’s no power on earth that can save them if they move against your husbands.”
“No power except the one who’s sharing your room tonight.” Her voice was dry. “And I hardly think suffering rage or frustration for a few years qualifies as any kind of justice.”
“I told you I had to correct another injustice.” He said. “Once that is done, all equations are going to change. And those who tormented you are going to drown in their own despair and helplessness.”
“I don’t understand,” she complained.
“You will. The day is not far off. And then you will understand what true justice is.”
She bit her lip. She still trusted him. She nodded. “I trust you,”
“You should,” said he.
She rose. “I am going upstairs, mother might be worried.”
“She’s checking on her sons, so she might not have noticed. But we should both go to our rooms now.”

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