Chapter Seventeen

The streets were decorated with flowers and garlands hung at every corner. The whole city wore a festive atmosphere. Hastinapura was decked out like a new bride. There were celebrations at the palace too. Designs of flowers and coloured powders added to the decorations.

“What’s the celebrations for?” Vasushena asked Radha as he helped her fill the earthen lamps with oil.

“The queen is pregnant,” Radha replied, her gaze lingering fondly on her eldest son. Vasusena was eight, though he appeared older since he was taller and larger than boys his age. Looking at him, it was difficult to believe that he’d been so sickly once that his parents had despaired for his life daily.

“I see,” Vasushena said, though it was evident he did not. He wasn’t old enough yet to understand why the queen having a child is a cause for celebration. It was doubtful whether any of the citizens of Hastinapura understood why so great a celebration was made, though most of the women thought they understood. The King and the Queen had been married for years. No wonder everyone was excited about the queen’s pregnancy!

Vasushena helped his mother set out the lamps. Next, he helped her hang the flower garlands at the door, and on the windows. Their house had been cleaned for the celebrations. The King and the Prime Minister accompanied by the queen’s brother would be driving through the city, to distribute clothes and rice, though everyone knew that most of it would go to the Brahmanas. But the others would also get something, and since the day was a holiday, and food was being served free to all at the palace, everyone was happy for the royal couple.

Atiratha and Sangramajith came in to the house, bringing more flowers. Vasushena caught his brother’s eye, and the young child nodded surreptitiously.

“May we go to play, now?” Vasushena asked plaintively.

Radha laughed. “Of course. Your father will help me now.”

She hugged her sons and watched them scamper away.

“I hope they won’t get into any trouble.” Atiratha said, as he kept the basket of flowers in the courtyard. Radha was already drawing designs on the soil for the flower arrangements.

“Why should they?” Radha asked. “They’ll be with all the other children. They’ll be fine.”

Atiratha did not think he needed to cause any worry in his wife by informing her that Vasushena had started going into the forest all by himself. He had heard from Madana the previous day, who heard his son Bhadra talking about it with Asmita. According to Madana, the boys were speculating on what Vasushena was doing in the forest. Atiratha hoped none of the other boys would follow his son into the forest. He had meant to talk to Vasushena too, but the day had been just too busy. Of course, it was possible that Vasushena was not frequenting the place, but had simply gone there once out of curiosity. It was natural after all. The forest jutted out to the river bank, and boys would be curious about the tales they’ve heard.

In the meanwhile, Vasushena and Sangramajith had both reached the playground. None of the girls were there today, but most of the boys were. Sangrama moved towards the children near his age while Vasu gravitated to the group of his peers. Veera grinned at him.

“Ready for some lessons?” He asked.

“Always,” Vasu grinned back.

“You’re going to teach him how to wrestle?” Asmita demanded. “He’ll become even more insufferable!”

“Much as I hate to agree with Asmita on anything, I have to say he’s right,” Bhadra said.

“So unfortunate then that Veera doesn’t share your views,” Vasu laughed.

“I agree with the insufferability part,” Veera winked. “But that doesn’t mean you won’t make a good wrestler. And who knows, getting thrashed every now and then might teach you some humility.”

Vasu snorted. “Look who’s talking.”

They walked to one corner of the playground, Bhadra and Asmita following them.

“The first thing you need, is to learn the stance. Just watch me.”

Veera stood with his feet slightly apart and then bent his knees slightly, arching his back, and then brought his hands in front of his body.

“Did you get that?”

“Let me try,” Vasu said, copying the stance. Legs slightly apart, bending his knees and arching his back, and bringing his hands to the front.

“Good,” Veera said. “Stand there for a moment. Now, you have to understand that your opponent is always trying to knock you off balance, and so you have to make it difficult for him. You have to be moving, but your weight is to be distributed evenly between both feet, so you won’t be caught off balance. Keeping your legs further apart will help, but you need to be mobile too, so be on the balls of your feet.”

“This is boring,” Asmita complained. “When are you going to teach him how to wrestle?”

“I’m teaching him how to wrestle,” Veera said. “But if he doesn’t learn how to stand, move, and keep on his feet, he won’t be able to wrestle. It is not just about punching and catching.”

“Doesn’t make it any less boring,” Bhadra muttered as he sauntered off. Asmita followed him, waving to Vasu.

“We’ll just practice the stance today,” Veera said, ignoring the two. He lowered his voice. “Afterwards we can go to the forest, and you can show me your archery.”

Vasushena smiled. “I’ll. I’m not too good at it yet. But my arrows are missing by a foot instead of a mile, so there’s some improvement.”

Veera chuckled. “Keep practicing those stances. And try to move a bit. Sometimes wrestlers forget to move quickly. And sometimes both feet doesn’t move the same way. That gives your opponent a chance to fell you.”

Vasu nodded, as he moved on the balls of his feet, as Veera showed him. Veera showed how to shift his stance while moving, and Vasu moved the same. Soon, both boys were moving the same way, almost like a dance.

“Are you two going to be doing this all day?” Bhadra griped as he came over again to have a look.

“Yes,” Veera replied, not breaking the movement. Both of them moved fluidly, easily, and the initial stiffness of Vasu’s movements had now gone, and he was smiling.

“It’s still boring,” Bhadra shook his head as he walked away again to where some of the others were playing ball.

“Can we go now?” Veera asked softly. “None of them are looking this way.”

“Yes,” Vasu nodded. “We’ll just slip away.”

None of the others noticed the two boys slipping away into the woods.


2 thoughts on “Chapter Seventeen

  1. Wow! Vasu learns to wrestle!😍😍 And he’s growing up. Loved how you portrayed Radha’s affection towards her eldest.😍😍 Awesome chapter. As usual. πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒ

    Liked by 1 person

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