The Night before the Seventeenth Day
Chapter 1- Memories
A/N: This story is mostly based on the Mahabharata, and some parts of the book "Mritunjaya. I have taken a bit liberty in some parts based on the TV shows Mahabharata in Starplus and Suryaputra Karna in Sony TV. (So don't hate me, ok)
With the sunset, the sound of Krishna's horn echoed across the field of Kurukshetra. The battle had ended for the day. Well, at least for tonight.
It was the worst day for the Kauravas. Guru Drona had fallen, so did most of Duryodhona's brothers. Once mighty warriors were now lying lifeless on the ground, eyes wide open, lips parted, as if they were asking for forgiveness in their final moments for everything that had led to this horrible battle.
Cautiously, Vrushali made her way through the mess, though the bodies of the dead soldiers. The path was muddy with blood, the air was thick with the pungent smell of rotten flesh. She almost stumbled over a headless body, and covered her mouth to stifle a scream. Bile rose in the back of her throat, an unknown fear threatened to halt her pace. She averted her gaze and kept walking. A few moments later, Vrushali finally found herself standing in front of the tent where the king of Anga was supposed to live in the Kaurova's camp.
Heart beating wildly in her chest, she raised the flap of the small tent. Her husband was still there, lying on his bed, eyes closed, his chest rising and falling gently with each breath. He was alive. She let out a sigh to escape, that she did not know she was holding all the time. He had not become one of the lifeless bodies lying in the battle field.
The orange glow of the burning candles filled the inside of the small tent, still could not take all the darkness away. A single ray of the candlelight fell on his sleeping face, making his usual bright complexion glowing brighter. She sat beside him and gently rested her hand on his chest, feeling his heart beating beneath her palm. The terrible dream that drove her from the palace of Anga to this battlefield, threatened to cloud her thoughts. What if she could feel his heart beat again after tonight? She shook her head disapprovingly. No, it will never happen, will it? She was a pious woman. She followed every rule of dharma in her life. Could fate be so cruel with her?
She stared at his face, his brows were drawn in a frown even in his sleep. Why could not he rest peacefully for a while? After so many years together, still she was not able to take her eyes off him.
How many years had passed since they met for the first time? Five... ten...fifteen...twenty... thirty... Vrushali lost count.
He hit her accidentally with his chariot, and she angrily emptied her water filled pitcher over him.
He was stunned by her haughtiness, and opened his mouth to say something, but she did not give him any chance. "You broke my pitcher. You better get me another one, or, I will complain to your father.
"Really? Instead of being afraid of her threat, he looked into her eyes. His eyes were light, with hint of gold around the iris. His gaze was intense, yet mixed with sarcasm, and playfulness. "Do you know who am I?
Color rose to her cheeks. She did not know anything about him.
"I don't care who you are. She tried her best to hide her embarrassment, and returned his gaze haughtily.
"If you don't know anything about me, then how will you complain to my father? He was trying hard not to smile, his younger brother was already giggling behind him. Her friends were also trying not to giggle. Vrushali realized there was no point of arguing. She bit her lips hard and bent down to collect the broken pieces of her pitcher, her cheeks still burning. Out of the corner of her eyes, she tried to see his face, but he had his back already turned at her.
"I am Karna, son of the Charioteer chief Adiratha. He winked before driving his chariot away, "In case you want to complain to my father.
She had lost the game that day. But her sleep was lost for the night. Next morning she sneaked out of her house before sunrise with an excuse to fetch water from the holy river Ganges, where she found him again, offering his prayer to the sun god. She stood there spellbound, watching his beautiful solitude, framed by the golden rays of the morning sun. She saw the way sunrays reflected from his golden earrings.
Gradually , it became a kind of ritual. But she could never gather the courage to meet him face to face. Whenever his morning rituals were finished, she fled home without fetching water.
One morning she found him shooting arrows towards a tree. His usual dreamy eyes were filled with anguish. She wanted to know what was caused him so much distress. She wanted to run near him, hug him tight, until he calmed down, but she never gathered the courage.
That night Karna's parents came to her parents with the proposal of her marriage. Her future mother in law Radha blessed her with a golden bangle. "You will be perfect for my Raheya. She kissed her forehead affectionately. She blushed, for she knew that she had already fallen in love with Vasusena. She could not wait for the day for come.
She heard them talking from a distance, and learned that his parents wanted to hurry the marriage, because they thought it was only a way that could tie their son to home.
Suddenly she remembered the pain she saw in his eyes in the morning, the anger in his face when he shot the arrows. She wanted to have him to as her husband too, but she never wanted to become an obstacle in his way to fulfilling his dream.
So, the next morning she let go all the shyness, and confronted him.
"Vrushali. Karna was startled to see his future bride standing right in front of him, bathing in the morning sun. "So it was you. His lips turned up in a smile, the smile that he gave her in the day they met. "It was you who was stalking me.
Color rose to her cheeks. So he knew. He always did, but he never let her know. Suddenly her heart filled with an unknown affection for him.
"Tell me what makes you to reveal yourself today? He gazed into her eyes softly.
"What is troubling you? She told him boldly, knowing it was not in her authority yet. "I mean if I can help... She could not finish her words.
Karna did not say anything, only gazed down at her. She lowered her head, not having enough courage to meet his eyes. Hesitantly he moved forward to touch her hand, and she let him.
"You can always have my secrets. He finally smiled.
From that day they became each other's secret keeper. And still they remained the same. They had their ups and downs, but she never stopped loving him.
She had seen him breaking down when Guru Drona refused to give him advanced training in weaponry because of his lower caste. She watched his soft gaze becoming harder and harder, and his anguish turning into determination. She held him close when he fumed with unknown rage for not being able to abolish the rules of the society, not being able to get the chance despite having merit. And the dreamy eyed adolescent slowly molded into a cold, bitter man.
Vrushali sighed and looked down at her husband's face. He looked so young when he slept. Sometimes she missed the playful boy who used to tease her mercilessly in front of her friends, she miss their days of shyness and hesitation.
Sometimes she wondered why the fate was so cruel with him. Everything he achieved in his life came with a price. Everything...his honor, his wealth, his kingdom...everything...
His education with Guru Parsurama ended with a curse; his blind loyalty to his friend Duryadhona led him to this horrible war. Finally the truth of his identity shattered his world into pieces.
Never in his life had he showed his vulnerability to anyone, never did he bow down to any challenge. But one day he did, after the fateful confrontation with the queen-mother Kunti. She found him kneeling in the bank or river Ganges, his head in his hands. He shivered when she touched his arm, and he collapsed her embrace.
"Kumar Radhey, She whispered his long lost name in his ears, and he looked at her with his tear stained eyes. "Tell me everything.
He told her the truth about his birth, and he was one of the Pandavas, whom he always considered as his enemy.
"Do I really deserve this Vrushali? He asked her that day, "I know I made so many mistakes in my life, but do I deserve this kind of punishment? Is it the punishment for my silence in the court when everybody disrobed Drupadi and her honor? Tear rolled from his eyes, and he shivered in her arms, "Is it the reason I have to choose between my friend and brothers in the battlefield? Tell me Vrushali, what I must do now? He grasped her shoulders and shook her eagerly, waiting for her answer.
Vrushali did not know what to say. Yes, he had done so many wrongs in his life; he supported many of Duryodhona's misdeeds out of blind loyalty. She hated him so many times for that, but this time she held him close to her chest, hushed him gently as he cried in her arms.
Vrushali had never seen her husband cry. But that day his tears soaked the edge of her sari, she held his trembling body in her tiny arms. She ran her small fingers though his curls and whispered, "Arya, whatever you do, I will always support you.
Finally he decided to stick with his friend Duryadhona. Vasudeva told her to keep her husband away from the war. He warned her that this war will only bring death and sorrow for everyone. Vrushali could feel that too. But she respected her husband's decision. She let him go.
This war had already claimed so many lives. Great worriors like Grandfather Bhisma and Guru Drona had already fallen. The war had already taken away the lives of their sons, their brothers. Maybe tomorrow the war would bring same fate for her beloved. She could feel it. Vasudeva was never wrong.
His eyes were moving restlessly behind his closed lids, a small moan was almost threatened to escape from his lips. Vrushali lowered her head and pressed her lips on Angraj's forehead.
"Hush, She soothed, running her fingers over his clammy forehead. A moment later his frown eased, and his right hand came up to hold hers in his sleep.
Vrushali gasped but did not shy away from his touch. She simply sat there, staring at their joined hand. He looked so peaceful now. Why could not they stay like this for rest of their lives? What was the point of this war? She had already had lost so much, she did not want to lose the last person she had on this earth.
Slowly the darkness began to fall across sacred field of Kurukshetra . The warriors of both sides were getting ready to rest for the night. Tomorrow another violent war would begin, and her husband would lead the Kaurava army.
It was going to be a long night.
I am not good in English. So errors are all mine, consider them nicely.
This is a two parter based on the night before Karna's death through Vrushali's POV. Karna is always my favorite character, and the actors played the role (both Aham Sharma and Goutom Rode) nailed it perfectly.
Leave your comments if any of you read it.
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