Bheeshma was smiling as he was walking through one of the corridors that led to a small chamber where the spies brought their daily reports to the Pradhanamantrin. It was no longer part of Bheeshma’s duties to listen to these reports or to advice the Pradhanamantrin, but habits died hard. And if Vidura was irked by his uncle’s presence, he had not expressed it so far.
Vidura was alone when Bheeshma entered. The chamber was small, bare of ostentation, the only window was high up, and was meant to provide ventillation rather than light. There was a small table and two chairs, and a metal stand on which a pot of burning coals stood near the table. The sconces on the wall held burning torches.
Vidura was burning some parchments in the pot when Bheeshma entered. He frowned but did not speak as he sat down in one of the chairs. Vidura burned a few more parchments and came to sit in the other chair, facing Bheeshma.
“You seem very pleased,” he said now, drumming his fingers on the table.
“I am,” said Bheeshma. “I think I’ve managed to discomfit that arrogant Maharani.”
Vidura looked heavenward. “Was that what you did?”
Bheeshma stared at him in surprise. “You object to it?”
“My objections now would be rather superfluous, would they not?”
“I didn’t go to Madra to demand Madri for Pandu,” said Bheeshma. “But it seemed prudent to have the King for an ally,”
“Why? Madra is not that powerful a kingdom. Nor is it the nearest one to have a princess of marriageable age.”
“King Salya seemed a good ally to have. I have heard reports that he is a good warrior.”
“Coming from you, that is high praise,” conceded Vidura.
“I also wanted to discomfit Kunti. She’s too arrogant. She dares look upon me with contempt!”
“Does she now? My respect for our Maharani increases.”
Bheeshma frowned. “Do you mean I’m contemptible?”
“Of course not, uncle. But the man who has, through rather unscrupulous methods, obtained two wives for an impotent King might not be the most popular person with those women.”
“So? They are only women. Does it matter how they feel?”
“Maybe not. But have you considered the repercussions of what you did? Pandu is not capable of impregnating his wives. There won’t be an heir to Hastinapura. When Kunti was the only wife, it could have been blamed on her. But with Madri too married to him, the world shall know Pandu is impotent.”
“I don’t see what difference it makes to have Madri married to him. If we had blamed Kunti, the world would have expected him to marry again. And then, the truth would have been out. As it is, now we can do something to forestall the exposure.”
“I don’t see how you are going to wriggle out of this one, but I would be interested.”
“What were the reports you burned?”
“Nothing that concerns you.”
Bheeshma coloured. It was the first time Vidura had implied that the reports of the spies was no longer his concern. But he made no angry retort.
“Let’s talk about your forthcoming nuptials then.”
“Oh yes. Let’s talk about how you finally managed to find for me a bride of equal status.”
“You think I’ve been unfair to you? There’s not a Kshatriya woman in the entire Aryavarta who would have you. You know that too.”
“They would have if I had been the King of Hastinapura!”
“We’ve been through this before, Vidura.” Bheeshma said. “I’m really not interested in your whining. You can marry this girl I chose for you or you can find someone who meets your expectations. But I tell you now that you shall never find what you want. Get real, nephew. Your birth disqualifies you.”
“Then why am I the Pradhanamantrin?” Demanded Vidura. “Doesn’t my birth disqualify me from that position too?”
“It does, but it is something people are ready to overlook. A King is a different matter altogether.” Bheeshma paused. “If you have any ideas of ever becoming the King, put it out of your mind. That shall never happen!”
Vidura’s face tightened in anger. He said nothing, but glared at his uncle in hatred. Bheeshma’s gaze was cool, and Vidura dropped his eyes drawing a deep breath.
“I don’t want to be married just yet,” he grated out.
“All right. King Devaka and his daughter shall await the Kurus’ convenience. But marry her, you will, for she’s promised to you now.”
“Let’s talk about something else,” Vidura said, irritatedly.
“I’ve decided that Pandu shall go on a Dig Vijaya a month hence.”
“Are you hoping he will get killed? He’s too good a warrior.”
“I know. But it will take at least a year to finish such a campaign. No one shall wonder why Hastinapura does not have an heir yet.”
Vidura chuckled. “Neat. But have you talked to our monarch?”
“He will do as I say. He has always done so.”
“Yes, he has, hasn’t he?” Murmured Vidura. “But you would at best be postponing the inevitable. Once he comes back, we are back in the same position. Unless you mean to tell the world that he had sustained some – ah- injury that affects his virility.”
“No,” said Bheeshma. “I’m hoping a long military campaign might cure him of this- disability. Even though he’d a good warrior, he has never been tested. He has been pampered and that is probably why he finds himself unable to- well- you know what I mean.” Bheeshma’s face was red as he finished.
“I do. And I do hope you are right. But what if you are not?”
“There’s always Niyoga,” said Bheeshma dismissively.
“Is there? Niyoga is somewhat difficult to keep secret, is it not?”
“It won’t be required. Once he comes back from the Dig Vijaya, Pandu shall be able to prove his manhood.”
“You know uncle, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you for long.” Vidura paused, watching Bheeshma carefully. “Did you really have her killed? The princess Amba?”
Bheeshma stood up so suddenly his chair fell with a clatter on to the stone floor. “Never,” he said through gritted teeth. “speak her name to me! Ever!”
He walked out, angry. Vidura looked at the pot where the fire had burned down to glowing coals and smiled.
One thought on “Chapter Nine”
Oh my god! This is just awesome! Vidura has always been an example of a devoted brother, expert statesman, ardent follower of Dharma and most importantly a human incapable of anything that is remotely wrong. That is what we have been told and the scriptures describe. To view him as a flawed human, like any other, is just different and welcome.