I wish I were calling on to my son in happier circumstances....Satyavathi thought as she closed her eyes thinking of her first born son.
She smiled to herself as she fondly remembered the times when she was ferrying people across the Yamuna. It seemed like another life time....almost unconnected with her present life. For a second she wondered whether her daughters-in-law would believe the fact that she, Satyavathi, the present Queen of Hastinapur, was the daughter of the head fisherman. Was she still that same woman? Satyavathi mused as she thought of Sage Parasaran. The sage was the one who was responsible for taking away her fish smell and give her this divine fragrance. The divine fragrance which was responsible for King Shantanu to fall in love with her. Yes...Satyavathi thought nodding to herself. In many ways it was Sage Parasaran who was responsible for her present life, as the Queen of Hastinapur.
Satyavathi thought of her son, her first born son. She had but seen him once in her life. She still remembered her disbelief as she saw her son – a baby grow from a young child to grown up male – all within a span of few minutes. 'Mother! Bless me!' Veda Vyasa had said falling at her feet. Satyavathi still could not believe that the dark, grown up man with wild matted locks, was her son. Even then, Satyavathi could see the knowledge of the Vedas which Vyasa had imbibed shine through him. A gentle soul with passionate eyes. Satyavathi knew that as long as she lived she could never forget that face.
In the present, Satyavathi opened her eyes as she heard a rustling noise. Standing before her was Veda Vyasa, her son exactly as she had imagined him. Satyavathi smelt the fragrance of the fish from him, which had once been a part of her. She smiled with tears in her eyes, as she embraced her son.
For a first few minutes, she seemed incapable of talking as she enjoyed the sheer pleasure of being with her child. Veda Vyasa, divining his mother's feeling kept quiet not saying anything.
That was when Satyavathi realized that Veda Vyasa was standing in her inner apartment. 'How did you get in? Did none of the guards....'
Veda Vyasa chuckled. 'You called me and I came directly to you! Nobody knows that I have come here...'Veda Vyasa looked at the closed door. 'I do not think closed doors or guards can keep me out!'
Both mother and son smiled as Satyavathi made her son sit down. Veda Vyasa studied his mother. 'Why did you call me, mother? Something tells me, motherly affection is not the only reason, you suddenly remembered me...'
Satyavathi smiled to herself a little sadly and she nodded her head. 'How I wish I had spent more time with you...' She said musing a little about her past life. 'What would have happened, if I had not come back to my father for ferrying the people across the Yamuna....Probably then none of this would be happening....'
Veda Vyasa raised his eyebrows. 'You are a queen, mother! The mother of the kings of one of the most powerful kingdoms in the world....' Veda Vyasa frowned, as Satyavathi broke out crying as she heard the words of Veda Vyasa.
A mother of kings....Satyavathi felt the irony of the situation as fresh sobs racked her body. 'I am not the mother of kings....not any more..' She said in a broken voice.
Veda Vyasa waited patiently as Satyvathi controlled herself. She took a deep breath and told him everything. Everything from the foolish promise that her father had extracted from Devavratha, Devavratha's promise which earned him the name of Bhishma, the death of Shantanu, the death of Chitrangada, the marriage of Vichitraviryan to the princesses of Kasi and now the death of Vichitraviryan. 'My father took the kingdom away from Bhishma and my sons' have paid the price for this foolishness!' Satyavathi shook her head. 'I begged Bhishma to take the kingdom and marry Ambalika and Ambika....He is Vichitraviryan's brother and he has the right to the throne and he can marry the princesses.' Satyavathi smiled mirthlessly, shaking her head. 'He said his vow is more important to him, and that the vow is his Dharma! He said he would give everything up, but he would stand by his vow!'
Veda Vyasa nodded as his mother continued. 'So now, I approach you!'
'What do you wish me to do, mother?' The sage asked his mother.
Satyavathi told Veda Vyasa of Bhishma's story of Sage Parashurama. 'So a great sage can perpetuate the royal lineage, when the king dies childless. This is a practice allowed by custom!' Satyavathi said looking down, her heart hammering badly, as she clutched her hands in a tight fist to prevent them from shaking. Would Vyasa accept her wishes or would he also....
Veda Vyasa took a deep breath and looked at his mother. 'If this is what you want, I will carry out your wishes!'
Satyavathi's tear stained face broke into a beautiful smile as she heard the words. She kissed him on the forehead and embraced him once more. 'Thank you...Thank....'
'Mother! Please listen to me!' Veda Vyasa said gently as Satyavathi looked at him frowning. 'Your daughters-in-law.....they are princesses! I...I am....' Veda Vyasa took a deep breath and continued. ' I am sage. I have spent my entire life in the forests, performing penance! I have never bothered about my looks and never will! I look wild and have have this smell of fish coming continuously from me....Your daughters-in-law may get scared of me....Please prepare them properly so that they are not caught unawares....!'
Satyavathi nodded, leaving the room. 'Do not worry! I will prepare my daughter-in-law to receive you!' she said leaving the sage alone.
Satyavathi first approached her elder daughter-in-law Ambika. 'Ambika! I know that you grieve for your husband....' Ambika broke out into fresh sobs as Satyavathi held her tightly. She then looked at her. 'However all that is past! We need to get on with our lives....' Ambika felt scared as she saw the almost single-minded determination in Satyavathis' eyes. Satyavathi took a deep breath continuing. 'The throne of Hastinapur cannot be vacant....The kingdom needs a heir!' Ambika wondered what her mother-in-law expected her to do about it, when Satyvathi continued. 'I have convinced your husband's elder brother to come here....' Ambika frowned some more. She knew only Bhishma as her husband's elder brother. She obviously had no idea as to who Veda Vyasa was and that Satyavathi was referring to him. Ambika wondered how Satyavathi had managed to convince Bhishma to break his vow but she did not say anything....
'He will be coming to meet you!' Satyavathi said continuing completely unaware of the confusion in her daughter-in-law's mind. 'Please be prepared to receive him...Do not be scared of him!' Alarm bells were ringing in Ambika's head now. Why would her mother-in-law expect her to be scared? However Ambika was even more scared of the almost ferocious expression in Satyvathi's face and decided not to ask any questions.
When Ambika first saw Veda Vyasa, she was shocked. The man looked....wild and the smell of fish....Ambika was not able to think anything and closed her eyes tightly as she saw the sage, wishing she never opened them again.....
Satyavathi looked at Veda Vyasa happily, the next day. 'The child which will be born to Ambika....he would be the future king of Hastinapur, won't he?' she asked a hint of desperation in her voice.
Veda Vyasa smiled sadly as he looked at his mother with pity. 'Why did you not tell your daughter-in-law that it was me who was coming to meet her? She got scared of me....she closed her eyes tightly....' Veda Vyasa said sadly. Satyavathi was numbed as she heard Veda Vyasa. She blinked as she tried to think of her conversation. Slowly....slowly she understood her daughter-in-law's confusion and cursed herself for her stupidity. Ambika had not expected to see Veda Vyasa and had obviously been scared out of her wits on seeing him....
Satyavathi blinked as Veda Vyasa continued. 'The child born to Ambika would be strong....Phenomenally strong! But he would be blind!'
Satyavathi looked at Veda Vyasa shocked unable to make sense of her thoughts as they spiraled out of control. 'Ambalika!' She whispered finally. 'I will ask my second daughter-in-law to come and I will tell her everything...Please do not say no to me....Please!' She begged Veda Vyasa.
Veda Vyasa sighed as he finally nodded his head.
Unfortunately for Satyavathi, Ambika had already spoken to Ambalika about the wild man who was Satyavathi's eldest son. By the time Satyvathi spoke to her, Ambalika was so scared of Veda Vyasa that she wanted nothing more than run away from there. But then Satyavathi was the queen of Hastinapur. How could she say no to her?
The next day, Veda Vyasa looked at his mother who was looking at him hopefully. 'Ambalika did not close her eyes, mother....but she got scared....She almost became pale in fear!'
Satyavathi made a chocking voice as Veda Vyasa continued. 'The son of Ambalika would be a brave and bold price....but he would pale....the same colour that his mother went, when she saw me....'
Satyavathi sighed, then she brightened. 'Please son....Come back after the princesses have had the children.....Then....they would not be so scared of you...Probably the child born later on, would become a perfect king of Hastinapur!'
Veda Vyasa almost chuckled looking at his mother. But then he nodded and went away from there.
As Veda Vyasa predicted, Ambika's son was born blind. He was named Dhirdarashtra and he ferociously strong. A day later, Ambalika gave birth to the pale Pandu.
A year later, when Veda Vyasa came back, Satyavathi again approached her daughter-in-law to go to the sage. But Ambika were so completely unnerved of the sage and her mother-in-law that instead of going herself, she sent her maid to the sage.
Satyavathi was disappointed because the son born to the maid was perfect in every way but could never ascend the throne.....because he was not the from the royal lineage....The son of Veda Vyasa and the maid was called Vidura, who was considered by many as the embodiment of Lord Dharma....
When Satyavathi requested Veda Vyasa to approach the younger daughter-in-law, for the second time, Veda Vyasa firmly refused. 'Mother, I am a sage! I cannot be here.....I have done what you asked me to do....My work here is done!' So saying Veda Vyasa walked away from Hastinapur without a backward glance.