This is interesting. Engaging. I often find myself musing over this incident; or rather I should say series of incidents, which has managed to weigh upon and occupy my mind many a time in the recent past – much to the annoyance and disappointment of my dear wife who is always devoted to me and engaged in my thoughts. I don’t blame her. I do find it increasingly strange that something so trivial and unimportant amongst other events of the big picture is continuing to fill my mind with deep thoughts. Sometimes, however, I find it anything but trivial; as an event very essential to my study of the big process.
Since the instance I conceptualised the idea of time and let it flow through the four undulating plains– namely the Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dwapar Yuga and the Kali Yuga – the Lokas all have seen remarkable and noteworthy changes; especially the Bhuvar or the Madhya Loka that I take special interest in. This may partly be because even the very people born out of my Srishti are becoming progressively more unpredictable. The previous universe created by my associate, Brahma – bless his patience – in his Padma Kalpa, was what that saw the remarkable incident I am now thinking about. It was an incident that ran for two cycles of time and had repercussions that would drop the jaw of a mortal. My over-thinking mind has now digressed unnecessarily to the lesson I taught my staunch friend Hanuman (and will continue to teach for cycles of time to come) regarding the concept of time running in a circle – how as King Ram I had asked (and will ask) him to go search for a ring purposely lost in the deep recesses of my palace, leading him to find a mountain heap of rings in the underground Nagaloka, and making him understand that it has been happening in all the cycles of time and that it will continue to happen for cycles to come. Whatsoever, let me now muse over this particular series of events while Lakshmi is away – for just one last time, I tell myself.
Bookstore, Meerut district Sep 15, 2015 (of the Kali Yuga)
I was answering the questions posed by small-time journalists and general readers when the cardboard box was carried to the table before me. It was a rectangular box with a poster of my Hindi translated version of The Krishna Key novel, released two years back, stuck on one of its sides. I didn’t know what was so captivating about it that my eyes only rarely turned from it. I did love my work in that; the Mahabharata tale unfolding in the beginning of all the chapters, and my own story written for the novel following it. But that wasn’t the reason for my attention towards it now. The box was in no way peculiar looking, and it presumably had only stacks of my novel in the Hindi language. But why did I feel a sign of presentiment?
The manager of the bookstore – a sexagenarian – came and whispered in my ear that I was to distribute the novels in the box to the five children occupying the last row of seating. I shot a glance at them. They seemed underprivileged to me, and thus suddenly the manager looked like a caring and magnanimous old human. But these tender feelings did not replace the presentiment I had formed. They only exacerbated it.
The questions all answered and new books signed, the audience brought their hands together for a minute and rose to leave. Only one or two photographers remained to cover the book distribution event that they had obviously been priorly informed of. When the first of the five children (all in ragged clothes) approached my table for receiving the books, and when the manager of the bookstore approached the sealed box with a knife in his hand, the earth shook and all hell broke loose. It seemed as if Pandora’s Box had been opened with all fury. The floor beneath my feet trembled and I fell down after colliding with the chair I had been sitting on. Blood trickled out of my elbow where I had hit the metallic edge of a placard stand flaunting the text ‘Ashwin Sanghi Speaks’ in burning red. I could see the children all panicking and some even crying. The vibration lasted for a whole minute and the earth just before the table in front of me opened wide. I felt a chill run down my spine and instinctively backed against the wall behind me. I couldn’t see the old man anywhere. I rushed to the aid of a poor child about to fall into the wide crack of the floor when I tripped the cardboard box unintentionally. It fell into the dark abyss of the wide crack. I saved the child.
Kingdom of Hastinapura 3139 B.C. (in the next cycle of time)
It was serious. Serious and important. A Kurukshetra war! Destruction of the kauravas! Death of millions of Kshatriya warriors! It was difficult to digest it all in. How could I have believed this… this thing? No one had given it to me. I had obtained it while tilling my agricultural land. A worn out box with many such things. The leaves of all the things were ruined except those of this one copy. Strangely the language of the leaves was also familiar. The first portion of all new sections had the story of what had happened in this kingdom and an account of the events supposedly yet to happen – that which I was not able to believe. The other story was, however, very absurd. About someone called Saini running from people throughout the story. It seemed very baffling with many of the terms looking incomprehensible. I had a feeling this story didn’t matter.
Upon thorough examination, after taking heaps of notes while translating the familiar looking language into my own tongue, and much extrapolation it did look true; very much believable. ‘What should I do? Must I alert the Pandavas, who have just returned from thirteen years of exile and are getting ready for talks with the Maharaja and his son Duryodhana regarding the split up of the Hastinapura throne? No, that is useless. They are only about to ask for what is their rightful share,’ I pondered aloud.
‘No. I must talk to Duryodhana. I must convince him to part with a portion of the kingdom to the Pandavas as promised by him before sending them on the exile. But would he listen to me? I can’t be sure. But I must try my best. A war must be averted at all costs.’
Duryodhana’s chambers The same evening
‘What are you saying, O Vaishya?’ exclaimed Duryodhana when I had reported to him everything – right from how I had stumbled upon the box while tilling my land to all my interpretations of the text and the imminent danger it posed.
‘I mean it, O Valiant Prince! Every word of what I have just said,’ I said, silently praying he would agree to my suggestion.
‘O Vaishya! Even my prime minister is not allowed to counsel me concerning matters of ruling the kingdom. But I have given you that authority; why? Because I regard you highly. I regard you as the foremost among the Mahuri Vaishya clan of my kingdom. O Great Ekghara of the Chandra Muni Ghotra, I know you to be a brilliant strategist and a wise human. But what you are saying now is insane. You say the Pandavas will declare war through Krishna? And that they would win it? And all this you found in that soiled thing you are holding? Absolutely ridiculous!’ His belly shook in his gale of laughter.
I then quoted many incidents from the text, like the Lakshagraha or the wax palace incident, the game of dice and many more, but he shook his head at all of them saying the text might have been composed after the incidents had happened. He simply refused to believe me.
The king’s court The next day
I was summoned to the court of the king. Anxiously I reached the main hall of the court and faced the throne where the blind king was seated. Duryodhana came running to me. ‘Maybe he lost his mind again?’ I expected the worst. But he came to me and shook me by my shoulders, sporting a panoramic smile.
‘O Vaishya! Your words proved worthy yet again. Yesterday evening, after you had left, Krishna – that Yadava – paid us a visit. He said the Pandavas demanded a fair portion of the kingdom after having ended their exile, and when I refused and even humiliated him, he said they would wage war, just as you mentioned he would say. On deeper reflection, I have decided to pay heed to your advice. O Vaishya of the Ekghara family, I have decided to part with my kingdom and avert the possibility of a war. I am going to send a message of consent to that Yadava. After all, didn’t I give my word?’
Odyssey bookstore, Navi Mumbai 2012 AD (of Kali Yuga, the same cycle)
‘No, the entire story line of Lord Krishna, which appears episodically, is not true. It is historically correct only till a certain point in the book,’ I answered the reporter’s question. I was launching my book The Krishna Key here. I continued, ‘In fact after that point in the story everything that comes as Krishna’s story is fictionalised. I took the liberty to do so as I felt the original story was dull. Imagine this yourself. The Pandavas have just returned from exile and not honouring his word, Duryodhana is even ready to jump into a battle when suddenly a Vaishya comes into the picture and prevents the war. I felt my book, a work of art, should need some dramatic conflict.’
‘Yes, I had to be extremely cautious in dealing with this topic as we put a premium on personal belief and faith, but it was a necessary risk. I thus changed the course of events and put a war into the picture. In the end, I dutifully made the Pandavas win. And by the way, I call this war The Mahabharata.’
Thus I have recapitulated all that had happened a million years ago. After recapitulating I would often think if I had my hand in the entirety of the event. Today is no exception. Did I have a hand in what had happened? Did I purposely make the box fall through temporal dimensions and conveniently ruin all but one copy – so that the clever Vaishya could decode the text and prevent a destructive war? I don’t know. I don’t want to find the answer. Let my devotees be under the impression I am omniscient.
I remember being cursed by Gandhari, the mother of the Kauravas, for not preventing the war and thus the death of her dear sons when I possibly could have. I had gladly accepted he curse, saying ‘Tathastu’. Let Gandhari live long with her sons at least in that particular cycle of time, wherein Ashwin Sanghi and the Ekghara Vaishya (who was none but Sanghi himself in a different birth) had unknowingly conspired across generations to prevent the Great War. Let Veda Vyasa and my nephew be relieved of the effort of writing the epic. Let Mahabharata, a book that would have been roughly ten times the length of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined, or about four times the length of the Ramayana, go unwritten. At least in that cycle of time.
Now, as I can see Lakshmi, my loving consort, approaching Vaikunta, I will stop musing over this incident lest I should annoy her. I will settle on to the fact that it is indeed a trivia in the grand scheme of things.
The earth continues to revolve.