Chapter Twenty Three

Vyasa sat in the lotus pose, his eyes closed. Normally, he would have been able to shut out the world as he immersed himself in meditation, but today he found himself unable to do so. Thoughts kept coming, tumbling one over the other, refusing to recede to the background. Usually, he was able to ignore them while he focussed inward. All thoughts receded to the back of his mind, while his mind remained calm and still, like a river whose surface remained unmarked by the smallest ripple even though currents swelled in the depths. But today, the river of his mind was churning and no amount of focus was bringing any serenity. The sage opened his eyes, frustration filling him. His eyes went to the other room where Gandhari lay exhausted from her labour. It had been touch and go, but fortunately he and Suka were able to save the queen and her children.

He frowned as he rose. The children were still not out of danger, and the specially made jars he had brought with him were keeping them alive for now. They were too weak and too premature. Which was only to be expected. He wondered if the queen herself was aware she had given birth to eight children. Probably not. It was not a normal birth anyway. He had to induce her to give birth so as to save the babies from the poison that someone had fed Gandhari. The antidote would also have been fatal to the unborn children. It was certainly providential that both Suka and he were in Hastinapura. The old priest had fallen ill, and Suka had agreed to fill in for him which had necessitated their prolonged stay. Otherwise, they would have been on their way weeks ago. And probably Gandhari would have miscarried again, and the effect of the poison would have ensured she would have no more children. Vyasa shivered, though the night was not cold. It was truly destiny that had been instrumental in his being here at this time. That realization was what caused him to shiver.

He glanced into the room. Gandhari was asleep still. Her maid was sleeping on a pallet on the floor. The jars were behind a partition and they were undisturbed. He turned and went into the third room of the hut where Suka was already asleep on his pallet. Vyasa envied his son. There was nothing bothering Suka. He was not plagued by realization of destiny or by thoughts of who it was that attempted to kill the heir to the throne of Hastinapura. Vyasa sat down on his own pallet. That thought was not all that disturbed him, though it was at the forefront of his mind. Who could have done such a heinous deed? To kill an unborn child was the worst of sins, and yet, someone had attempted it with impunity. The most probable answer was some other Kingdom with a grudge against Hastinapura, and the most probable candidate was Panchala. And that was the thought that disturbed the sage the most. That this could have been arranged by Panchala was a possibility he did not want to even contemplate. Of course, there was no proof, but if he knew Vidura, he would be moving heaven and earth to find out what happened. And if it turned out that Panchala was behind this attempt… Wars had been fought for less.

Vyasa remembered the promise he had given his mother years ago. That promise meant that he had to avert a war between Kuru and Panchala at any cost. That meant that he had to ensure that whatever Vidura found would need to remain a secret. And it also meant that he would need to enjoin Suka to silence too. No one should be allowed to know that Gandhari had been poisoned. She had already suffered one miscarriage. He could say that the strain of carrying eight babies had causes her to almost miscarry this time too. Now that both she and the babies were safe, no one needed to know about the poisoning.

His gaze fell on the sleeping form of his son. Would Suka agree to keep this secret without knowing why? It was unlikely. Yet, he could not break his promise to his mother. So, where did it leave him? He could command Suka’s obedience, and Suka being who he was would certainly obey, but Vyasa did not like to do it. But in this case, he might not have a choice.

The sage lay down on his pallet, his mind still troubled. Was it wise to command secrecy when he did not even know for certain if Panchala was behind the poisoning? And if he did keep it secret, what guarantee was there that there would not be another attempt? And even if there wasn’t, was it right of him to keep this secret? Didn’t Dhritarashtra have a right to know the truth? But there was still the promise he gave his mother. The promise he should never have given. For, in giving that, he’d betrayed his brother. What mattered that Bheeshma was not his brother by blood? He was the only brother he had and he had betrayed him when he promised his mother to keep a secret that was not his to keep.

But what was done was done, and could not be undone now. All that remained now was to ensure that no war happened between the Kurus and the Panchalas. He would need to speak with Vidura. He would send Suka to Vidura in the morning. Once he learned what Vidura had uncovered, he could make his decision. It was unlikely that Vidura might disturb the King with any news whilst the Queen was still in danger. That made it all the more imperative for him to talk to Vidura.

The sage’s eyes fell on the thatched roof of the hut. The frame for the roof was made of wood and was fixed to the walls. The walls themselves were made of mud and polished with cowdung, as was the floor. The thatch was made of leaves and straw and the top was covered with a thin layer of leaves coated in wax that insulated the roof from rain as well as from termites. The bottom part of the thatch was new, and had been replaced the previous day. Suka had insisted on doing it himself, and the guards under Kanika had kept a watchful eye as Suka had re-thatched the hut, room by room. Vyasa was grateful that it was not yet Varsha, for once that started, it would be difficult to stay in the hut, no matter how well thatched it was.

Between one heartbeat and the next, the sage fell asleep, the thoughts that kept him from meditating falling silent.


2 thoughts on “Chapter Twenty Three

  1. The way you have described Sage Vyasa’s mind is incredible 👏 The great Sage is always portrayed like a God…one who is all knowing and has no weakness at all.
    The way you have described his worries and fear made him the Great Vyasa to.a human of blood and flesh 😊
    Loved it..loved it a lot 😃
    There is lots of suspense in this chapter..loved it very much..
    Sorry for late reading.

    Liked by 1 person

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