The man stirred. He had no idea where he was. He had no idea who he was. He frowned. He was lying on a grassy bank of a river. His clothes and body were wet. Had the river swept him here? It seemed likely. And yet, why was he alive? Why didn’t he drown?
He stood up. He was tall, fair and handsome. He had wide eyes set under winged brows, an aquiline nose and moulded lips. His hair was bedraggled though it might have been straight, curling naturally at his nape.
He looked around him with bewilderment. He was in a forest. His body seemed to ache all over, yet, there were no marks on his body that he could see on a perfunctory examination.
He looked at his hands. They looked dirty and muddy, but no lacerations and scars were visible. If he had been swept by the current, shouldn’t there be some marks?
But all that bothered him less than the fact that he could not recollect who he was. There was a gaping chasm where his memories should have been. He had nothing. He was nothing. Whatever he was, whoever he was, was lost.
Someone stepped out of the woods. As he saw the stranger, something clicked to place. Memory came flooding back. He reeled and sank to his knees as the stranger leapt forward to catch him.
“You’re safe now,” he murmured.
Vasusena did not think so. “What have you done, father?” He groaned.
“What I should have done long back,” was the grim reply.
Vasusena sat in his father’s palace. The situation appeared horrible to him.
“Why did you do this?” He demanded, still furious. “You made me abandon my friend, my men! I am their commander. I have responsibilities!”
“Not anymore!” Surya’s voice was dry.
“You have caused our defeat!”
“Your defeat was already written!” Snapped his father. “I did what any father would have!”
“You are not any father! You are a Deva!”
“I am still a father! And I love you! I am not prepared to lose you to this senseless war!”
“I am also a father! And I have responsibilities back on earth!”
“Sit down,” said Surya. “Your sons and brothers will be safe now.”
He glowered. “Do you think that is my only concern?”
“No. But that is my only concern.”
Vasusena glowered again.
“Stop being childish,” said Surya. “I saved your life.”
“By kidnapping me?” Vasusena shouted.
“I am your father,” Surya’s voice was like a whiplash. “While I am prepared to make allowances for your state of mind, I am not going to tolerate your shouting at me.”
Vasusena sighed. “I am sorry father, but you have placed me in an intolerable situation. Kidnapping me on the eve of battle is hardly calculated to make me happy!”
“Oh, were you on the eve of battle? I was under the impression that you were not fighting!”
“Well, technically, I am not, till Bheeshma falls, but-”
“You do know that Bheeshma has the gift to choose the hour of his death, don’t you? He could fight for ever.”
“In which case, you wouldn’t need to be concerned for my life.”
“Better be safe than sorry,”
Vasusena shook his head.
“Not everything is simple, father. You did wrong. You can’t keep me here forever.”
“I’m not planning to.” Replied Surya. “But after what Indra did to ensure his son’s victory over you, in which endeavour you quite nobly aided him, I simply could not sit back and let you go to your death like a sacrificial lamb!”
Vasusena ran his hand across his face. “Father, everyone must die someday. Why do you take away from me the chance of fame? That is all that makes us immortal!”
“Forgive a father’s concern if he cannot quite see it that way!”
“Now we wait.”
Vasusena sighed. It was likely to be a long wait.