I started Prajwalita, the sequel to Pradyutita, and here’s a snippet for anyone interested!!
Vidura shivered as he made his way down the hallway to the chambers allotted to the minister for his work. Somehow, this part of the palace was always cold, and dark despite the torches burning overhead and the braziers at regular intervals. He had never questioned when he was told this was where the pm did his work, but perhaps he should have. Not because they might have been lying, but just because this whole place was far away from the sabha and thoroughly inconvenient to boot.
Dasas and dasis bowed as he passed, and he had a vision of his mother standing like this against a wall, bowing to whichever official or royal who passed by. Of course, his mother’s lot hadn’t been that simple. She had been personal maid to Queen Ambika, and so her standing was higher than that of other dasis. Yet, she was a maid, a servant, and she had never been made to forget it.
And when the Queen needed someone to take her place in the bed of the great Sage Vyasa, she hadn’t hesitated to send her mother. Vidura stopped, gritted his teeth against the onslaught of the knowledge that had been drilled into him from childhood. The great Sage Vyasa! Ultimately he was nothing more than a rapist. Raping the two queens first and then their maid. All in the name of duty.
Just because they didn’t say no didn’t make it any less rape. He knew how both the queens had pleaded with Queen mother Satyavati to not force them into it, but they might as well have been talking to a statue. He waited for two of the dasas to push open the doors to his chambers, and he entered, while they shut in behind him, staring at Bheeshma.
“Uncle,” he said, even as it struck him that he was not at all related to this man. Not by blood. Bheeshma was the last of the Kurus, born of the blood of their royals. And yet, the throne of Hastinapura was denied him by a promise made by his besotted idiot of a father, and by a rash vow spoken by himself when he was possibly grieving. Though, if as the rumours said, Bheeshma had caused the death of his wife, he couldn’t have been. Yet, there was no other explanation for that vow, and Vidura had given it a lot of thought.
“Vidura,” Bheeshma’s face held a scowl.
“Did she beg, I wonder,” Vidura said as he moved towards the sidetable where the wine was kept. “My mother,” he clarified at the confused look on Bheeshma’s face. “When the queen forced her into the sage’s bed in her stead, did she beg her? Not to do it? Did the sage know he wasn’t actually bedding his brother’s widow? Or did he not care by that point? I guess he must have been used to the screams and the struggles after two nights.”
He knocked back the wine, the burn just what he needed right now.
“You will not talk of your father that way!” Bheeshma growled. “The Great Sage did the dynasty of the Kurus an honour by agreeing to Niyoga.”
“Why didn’t you do it?” Vidura asked, curious. “I don’t think the queens would have been so reluctant had it been you.”
That was a jab, and they both knew it. Ever since the rumours about Amba’s death started circulating in the palace, the two queens had hated Bheeshma.
“I don’t know why you must dredge up the past now,” Bheeshma said, his brows meeting together in a fierce scowl. “And that too before you started drinking.”
“Oh, you know me, uncle,” Vidura sat down on one of the armchairs, sprawling. “Always sentimental. Why are you here anyway?”
Bheeshma took a seat on one of the other chairs, sitting with his back ramrod straight. “I do not like the Gandhara Prince.” He declared.
“King,” Vidura corrected, malice dripping from his voice. “We had his father killed, remember? He’s the King of Gandhara now.”
He so enjoyed the irked look on Bheeshma’s face. His uncle was so easy to rile up when it came to the people he didn’t like or approve of, and there were such a lot of them including himself. Anyone who didn’t dance to his whims was persona non grata to Bheeshma. At least, he wasn’t killing them off like he did his half-brothers. Vidura supposed he should be grateful that he was still alive despite all the taunting he did.
Which again brought him back to the old grievances. Of his mother, now. He knew it was rather hypocritical of him to complain when he had jumped at the chance to do it himself, when Pandu had asked. He was honest enough to know he wouldn’t have been so eager if it hadn’t been Kunti who was offered.
She was willing.
Just like the two queens were willing, and like his mother was willing. Willing because they didn’t have a choice, because they lived in a world where without a son, they were deemed useless, not worth even keeping alive.
“One would have thought your step mother would have been kinder about such things considering how she was forced when barely a girl,” he mused now. Everyone liked to pretend it didn’t happen, that Sage Parasara didn’t rape her, that Sage Vyasa, his own father was not the product of a rape.
Like father, like son.
How fitting that that was the legacy of the Kurus now, children born of rape sitting on the throne and perpetuating more of the same thing.
“Will you just keep quiet about the past?” Bheeshma snapped, eyes flashing in fury. “What is it with you today?”
“Sure, let’s all pretend that the Kurus are all a family of good, righteous people, shall we?” he said drily.
Bheeshma glared at him, but Vidura just quirked an eyebrow in response. He sighed, rubbed his face. “What did the King of Gandhara do this time?”
The sooner he allowed his uncle to gripe, the sooner he would be out of his hair. He briefly considered talking to him about Yudhishtira, but abandoned the idea. Bheeshma was not in the right frame of mind at the moment.
“Why is he here?” Bheeshma gripped the arms of the chair tight. “He should be in his own Kingdom. We got rid of his father so he would stay in Gandhara, but he is here. Again. Filling Dhritarashtra’s head with all sorts of nonsense.”
Vidura suppressed an eyeroll, but said, “And what nonsense is he filling the head of my beloved brother with now?”