Friday, December 6, 2013

Karna - Part 2 of 8

Adhiratha nodded his head as he came out of the palace of Hastinapur. Adhiratha was a fisherman from a charioteer's family, and was a good friend of Prince Dhirdarashtra of Hastinapur.
As was his usual practice, after meeting Dhidarashtra, Adhiratha along with his wife Radha went to the Ganga for fishing.
The two of them went about setting up the nets in the river when an unusual sight met the two of them.
A box was floating on the river. The two of them looked at each other and ran towards the box.
With a sense of urgency, the couple pulled the box out of the river, when they heard a muffled cry of an infant, from inside the box. Bewildered the two of them opened the box and were shocked to find a beautiful child inside...
You cannot have any children....You are not a good wife....The words kept repeating in Radha's mind as she picked up the baby from the box. Ever since she had been married, her neighbours had always said these things behind her back. They thought that she did not heard the words, but she did, but she had never been able to talk back....Because what they said was true, Radha could not have any children. Though Adhiratha never said anything, Radha felt ashamed of herself....What sort of a wife was she, she could not even have any children...
Radha swooped down hugging the child. The child felt perfect in her hands. She turned to Adhiratha. 'This child looks a like a divine child. I have never seen a child with a natural coat of armour and earrings before! I am sure this child was sent here to fulfill our desires.' She looked at Adhiratha with pleading eyes. 'Please let us adopt the child!'
Adhiratha looked at his wife and smiled.

The warrior picked up the bow and the arrow and pointed it straight at the bush. Wait! One second....two seconds.....There! The target was now visible! The warrior let the arrow fly.
Radheya woke up with a start. His mother saw him move suddenly and came near him. 'What is the matter?'
Radheya shook his head tiredly. Why did this dream always haunt him? He was from a charioteer's family, for Gods sake! He could not become a warrior....Radheya tried to be rational about it, but he could not forget. He could not forget the glorious sensation when the bow and the arrow was in the warrior's hands. The weapon had felt so alive and beautiful, like as if it was a part of him.
'Nothing mother!' Radheya said resignedly, as he saw that his mother was still expecting an answer from him. He accidentally brushed against the armour on his chest. He had had this armour for as long as he could remember. It was almost as if it was second skin. Radheya had asked his parents many times about why he had the armour. But his parents never answered. Probing further, Radheya learnt that his parents were very vague regarding any questions which involved his birth. Radheya wondered why.....
'Did you have the warrior dream again?' Radha asked his son. Radheya took a deep breath as he silently nodded his head.
Radha looked at the sharp and handsome features of the boy before her, and shook her head sadly. 'I should have told you this a long time ago! But every time I wanted to tell you the truth....I felt afraid!' Radheya frowned as Radha continued. 'I was afraid that I would lose you! You mean more to me than all my other sons born after you! You are RADHA'S SON!' Radha said vehemently. Radheya looked a little taken aback with the force in his mother's words but he listened patiently.
'I think it is time, I tell you the truth, my son!' Radha said softly.
And she told her son everything. For the first time Radheya came to know that he was indeed the adopted child of his parents. Though he felt a deep sense of despair, he could not extinguish another feeling budding inside him...He was not the son of charioteer. Probably there was a chance, he could still become a warrior! Probably his father was a warrior!
After his mother had told him everything, Karna decided the course his life would take. He realized that he wanted to be a warrior, no matter what....With the blessings of his parents, Radheya or Karna as he was called because he was born with earrings, set out to learn the art of weapons. First he approached the famed royal teacher of Hastinapur – Dronacharya.
Dronacharya, however looked scornfully at the uncouth and shabbily dressed youth. 'What is your parentage?' He demanded from the youth.
'Adhiratha and Radha are my parents!' Karna mumbled.
Dronacharya shook his head mockingly. 'I am the guru of royal princes! I teach the likes of Prince Yudhishtara and Prince Duryodhana! I cannot be found teaching to boys like you who do not have proper upbringing!' Dronacharya's eyes glowed with arrogance. 'Leave before I have you thrown out of here!'
Angry and ashamed, Karna left the place in tears. If only the teacher had seen the raw potential he had....and all Dronacharya was interested was who were his parents! As if Dronacharya was going to teach his parents and not him!
Karna decided that he would teach himself the art of warfare. Considering the Son God - Surya as his teacher, Karna practised archery till he was very good in it. However he realised that he needed guidance to learn advanced warfare techniques, if he ever was to be considered as a good warrior. Dronacharya was obviously not an option....
Karna roamed around the entire country asking around whether anyone would be interested in teaching him. However no one wanted to teach the art of warfare to a person from a charioteer's family. Just as Karna was about to give up, he heard about Sage Parashurama, the Brahmin who was a master warrior himself, but who hated all warriors and kings....If only the sage would teach him....

Karna went to the sage who was sitting in meditation. As Karna saw the stern sage, he began to have second thoughts. What if the sage also refused to teach him, because he was from a charioteer's family....Then he had nowhere else to go...The sage was the last option he had....
Karna was filled with doubt.
Soon...too soon, the sage opened his eyes. The sage looked at Karna enquiringly.
'Sir! I am a Brahmin!' lied the fisherman's adopted son, appalled that he was able to lie so effortlessly. 'I wish to learn warfare! I have gone to the teachers all over the country! However no one was willing to teach me! Please sir, you are the only hope I have!' Karna said desperately.
Still Sage Parashurama did not speak, just studying Karna who was now looking at the sage with open desperation taking in a deep breath, praying....
Finally the sage nodded. 'Fine! I accept you as my disciple! Let us see what you can do!'
Karna was feeling giddy with relief....The sage had accepted him as a disciple! His mind repeated again and again.
Finally Karna's mind gave him one clear thought....The sage had accepted him as his disciple because he had lied. He had lied to the sage! What if the sage ever found that out! What would the sage do? Would the sage understand that he had lied because he was desperate to learn...Karna took a deep breath trying to clear his mind. Right now all that mattered was that he was going to learn....What happened after this, was something he could neither control nor plan for...
And so Karna learnt under Sage Parashurama. He learnt with a passion that the sage found thrilling. In Karna, Sage Parashurama had found a perfect student. Sage Parashurama found that Karna had an excellent grasp of the basics of warfare - And with a bow and arrow, Karna was a class by himself.

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