Chapter Twenty Five

Kunti opened her eyes slowly. She had drowsed off during the middle of the day. Again. She grimaced as she sat up. The shadows had lengthened, showing it was almost evening. She had felt tired and had meant to lie down for a moment. But the sleepless night attending to her infants had tired her more than she had realized.

It had been a week since her sons had been born. She had been in too much pain at the time to rejoice in the fact that she had given birth to twin sons. But once the birth was over, and she had come to her senses, she had felt triumphant, not least because it meant she would not need to repeat a night with Vidura. Pandu had sent word to Hastinapura immediately, but no message had come yet from the capital. But then, the messenger had gone on foot, and probably could not traverse the distance in a night as a horse could have done. Pandu had been quite proud, and though the birth was premature and one of the twins, the elder, was small and sickly, it was enough that the children were there, and that they were both boys.

The seven months had been difficult for Kunti in spite of Pandu treating her as if she was made of glass, and Madri taking on most of the duties of the household. The first few months, she had been unable to eat anything, subsisting on liquids and herbal mixtures that only made her gag worse than ever. Solid foods made her vomit. And even the smells of cooking had been enough to make her throw up, that they had a new hut built for her, where the breeze would not waft in the smells of cooking to her. But even then, it had been difficult, because the forest was full of all kinds of smells, and some were too intense and made her nauseous. She also had dizzy spells, and though most of her nausea had passed by the time her pregnancy was into the fourth month, the dizzy spells had persisted almost to the very end.

Kunti could remember little about the actual delivery. She could recall the pain, and the midwife telling her to push, and it felt like her life was draining out of her body and she had screamed in her pain. Even when it was over, and she could hear the cries of her children, and the midwife was whispering to her that she had two sons, she was too exhausted to pay attention. At some point, the dasis had brought the children to her, and had laid them at her breast, and they had latched on to her nipples, suckling greedily while she lay there, passive and the babies were supported by the dasis’ arms as they drank their fill.

She was up and about in two days, but she still felt exhausted, though her head felt clearer than it had in a long time. It was as if she was living in a haze for the past few months, and finally she could think straight. Her eldest son was her immediate concern. He was the heir to her husband’s throne, and he was the weaker of the two. She had thrown all her attention on him, ignoring the sturdier younger one, and leaving him to wet nurses. The week was the longest in her life, and she had a feeling that it was going to be a long struggle forward. She would not have her eldest shunted to a side in favour of his younger brother because of his health, not if she could help it. She was determined to make him healthy, and she would too.

She went outside to where Madri was holding the younger twin and crooning to him softly. Kunti’s lips tightened at the sight. Madri seemed to have taken on the role of mother for the second child, and though Kunti was not averse to that- someone needed to take care of the child, anyway- she was not happy either. Her eldest was her sole focus, and though she was not going to let anyone else share the duties of caring for him, that did not mean she wanted them to ignore him either. Which is what Madri did most of the time. Probably because he was not as healthy as his brother, cried a lot, and it was more trouble looking after him. Even in one week, that had been evident.

“Yudhistira,” Pandu had said as he had lifted the infant in his arms the day after he was born. “He shall be named Yudhistira.”

Kunti had said nothing, but she had hoped for a better name. Steady in battle was good, but she wanted him to have a name more fitting to a king. But then, Pandu literally meant the Pale One, and he had been a King too. The Kurus had odd ways of naming their heir-apparents.

“Bheema,” Pandu had turned to the second child. “He shall be Bheema.”

Kunti stopped herself from rolling her eyes. That name was at least apt, considering that for a baby born prematurely, he was large. He might grow up to be a large man too. Which was good. Yudhistira would need Bheema to protect him. She had to ensure that Bheema would ever remain loyal and unquestioningly obedient to his brother. If Yudhistira was to sit on the throne of Hastinapura one day, he would need Bheema, because there really was no one else he could depend on. Among Kshatriyas, all alliances were fickle except the bonds of blood and sometimes marriage.

There was a commotion to the north, and Kunti walked as fast as she could to the place to see a rider dismounting. Vidura did not look too good. He was haggard, and worn, and tired, and it gave her actual pleasure to see him like that. Her smile was tight-lipped as Pandu led him to her. It was the first time she was seeing him after the night she had spent with him, and she could still feel the revulsion coiling in her gut at the memory.

“There was no need for you to have come,” Pandu was scowling as he led his brother into his hut, Kunti following. “What if someone suspects anything?”

“Why should they?” Vidura asked. “You were King once, and I am the Prime Minister, and your brother. What could be more natural than my visit at such an auspicious occasion? The gifts from Hastinapura are following, so no one is going to suspect anything.”

“What is the news from Hastinapura?” Kunti asked before Pandu could start picking holes in Vidura’s argument.

“None,” Vidura said. “The queen still remains in limbo, so to speak. The sage hasn’t allowed anyone to visit her, and I’ve not been able to bribe or threaten news out of anyone.”

“I don’t like this,” Pandu muttered. “Niyoga is one thing, but you trying to cause a miscarriage to the queen- that is dangerous Vidura.”

“If queen Gandhari were to give birth before your beautiful wife here, then your son is never going to be a King. Face the reality, brother. You’ve been gone for a while now. People have forgotten you. Everyone will be wanting Dhritarashtra’s son on the throne.”

“You don’t know that,” Pandu pointed out. “Besides, I’m not certain I want my son to be the King.”

Kunti pressed her lips together, suppressing the angry words that rose to her lips. It would not do to pick a fight with her husband in front of Vidura. Vidura scoffed. “Of course, you don’t.”

“I mean it. I don’t want my children to be anything other than that. They do not need the intrigues and danger and spying and backbiting. They will be much better off without all that. So, please stop trying to kill my brother’s child.”

Vidura’s eyes met Kunti’s, and she saw the same determination in his eyes that was on hers. And she realized that he was her only ally in this battle.


5 thoughts on “Chapter Twenty Five

  1. Oh Goodness Gracious! This is supercalifragisticexpialidocious-ly AWESOME! The intrigue in this particular retelling is worth dying for. As I have said this repeatedly, this particular retelling needs to be read by a larger audience, because of its pragmatic approach to the characters. The portrayal of these characters is just what one comes as humans in real life, expected and unpredictable. And your manner of expression just brings them to life.

    AND I’VE CAUGHT UP! YAY! 🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh My God what a chapter! 😘 As always Vidura made my day 😉 So, Yudhisthir and Bhima both were Vidura’s sons? And they were twins? I am loving this MB more every day 😊


    1. Also Kunti sees Bheema as the king’s protector. She wants to ensure that Yudhishthira has his unwavering loyalty. Now if Nakula and Sahdeva turn out to be Madri’s twins, would she not treat them with indifference, only as the shields to the heir?

      I am enjoying this Mahabharata, a lot. Dude, your story is AWESOME! So good that my fingers run on the keyboard while a saner part of my mind reminds me that I am five years late.


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