Vermillion. Rust. Flame. Garnet. Ruby. Crimson. Wine. Red. Blood red. The horizon is a calico of shades of red mirroring the war field of Kurukshetra. The Great War is over and done. The just and the brave have won. After years of suppression and tyranny the people of Hastinapura will wake to a new morning – a precursor to a new world, a world of rights and no wrongs. A land of equality, justice and happiness. A land ruled by sons of Pandu; the Pandavas! Yet this sunset is far from beautiful, far from enjoyable.
Vultures sweep down in hordes and their cries fill the otherwise silent war field. The faint distant laments over the loved ones slowly drift over the lifeless bodies. The stink of carrions hangs in the listless air. And Suyodhana? “Who Suyodhana?” One might ask brows knitted in confusions as the brain searches in vain for a face.
Suyodhana, the first-born of the blind regent king Dhritharashtra of Hastinapura and Queen Gandhari, Princess of Gandhar! Now we remember, lips curling in much distaste, about the wayward son of Kurus, scion of Kauravas!
Born to a regent king, forever shadowed by his glorious cousins who never even seemed to pause before they stole the limelight at each opportunity, Suyodhana would’ve unquestionably made it to the Hall Of Fame for the overlooked princes; if one existed. Ah! The vagaries of life! Born to riches, brought up amidst pomp and splendor, Suyodhana earnestly believed in his right to be the crown prince and future king of Hastinapura! Alas! Life dealt him an unfavorable hand leaving him to a dastardly death, which was now taking its sweet time to arrive and embrace him. Suyodhana lay half dead, half awake. Unhinged yet aware, life force ebbing away, slowly. Hallucinating.
“O Bhanumathi, my beloved Bhanu! Love my life, the light of my eyes that was doused too soon. How I had rejoiced at the prediction of that vagabond astrologer Brahmin! He had predicted the death of the puthra-vadu of Kuruvamsa and the future ruler of Hastinapura before the new moon! I knew my mercenaries would finish off Princess Draupadi and Prince Dharmaputra! Little did I know that along with you Bhanu, puthra-vadu of Kuruvamsa I was going to lose our unborn son on that wretched Amavasi! Our son, Bhanu, could’ve been a king! A King! Our son Bhanu! Our son! “ Suyodhana let Bhanumati wipe away the uncontrollable tears he had held for years. He watched Karna sit down at his feet.
“Oh Karna, is that you my bosom friend? How resplendent you look in your golden armor. Just like a radiant sun! ” Suyodhana smiled sadly.
“Karna, you fought for me, died for me. You were one of the Pandavas yet you chose to be by my side. You chose me over your family. If you listened to Krishna and joined the Pandavas, you could’ve been the king of Hastinapura. You could’ve rule over Bharat with the beautiful daughter of Drupad by your side and your able counsel of brothers standing around you, heads bowed in respect, awaiting your orders!
“Karna, Karna, stop smiling at me like that. And stop shaking your head in playful reproach! I know you couldn’t, or should I say wouldn’t, have made a different choice. You fought your brothers for me. The entire world knows that but for your presence in the Kaurava camp the 18-day war would’ve ended in 8 days. No, for me the war would’ve been over even before it started if you had left me to join the Pandavas!
Suyodhana laughed out aloud coughing up spittle of blood, “ Oh Karna, you are one of a kind I must say. To stand by a friend when the entire world divided their allegiances based on obligations and Dharma, you chose me because I was your friend. When kings and warriors fought for Hastinapura you alone fought for this Suyodhana!“
Shaking his head, Suyodhana continued, “ Friendship over bloodlines! Friendship over Dharma! Friendship over every single dictate of the world! These noble follies to this wretched world, my friend, are singularly your contributions! You are the first one in the history of time to commit them and undoubtedly the last one too! ”
“Bhanu, do you remember the day of our graduation from Guru Dronacharya’s academy? Off course you don’t! I didn’t even know of your existence then. Surely you remember the stories I have told you about out Gurukul days and the graduation ceremony.”
Suyodhana closed his eyes reminiscing, blood rushing to his pale face at the memory of his beloved friend’s public humiliation!