Can love be noxious? Can it be so poisonous that it consumes the one you are supposed to have protected? Can your love for someone be a mere pretense?
This is a tale of hatred and revenge, rather, a love so noxious that like a termite, it kept gnawing at the object of his hatred from within, till it led to his complete destruction.
The gates of the prison had opened.
Sister Gandhaari had managed to convince her son to let him free. As Shakuni limped out the prison gate, he took a deep breath and inhaled the stench. This stench he must not forget. It was the stench of death. The death of his brothers and his dear father. Their death… that was responsible for his life. A life… that would now be committed to revenge.
The pain in his legs was excruciating. Silent tears flowed out them and Shakuni remembered how his father had dealt that severe blow and broken his leg. Even the memory of it was traumatic. Each step was torturous.
“Let this affliction keep reminding you of the suffering of your brothers and father,” his father had said. How could he forget?
As he took another step, a scream of pain rose to his throat but died down before it could escape his lips. He could not let his nephew see the agony on his face.
His nephew stood smiling at him. Was he mocking him? Was he mocking the way he limped? Laugh away my dear nephew, laugh away.
“How are you, Mamasri?” asked Duryodhana.
Very well, my dear nephew. Life in prison is great. And especially, when you have seen your brothers and father die before your very eyes.
But he just smiled back.
Gandhaari hugged her brother and wept. “I am sorry Bhratasri, I am so sorry,” she kept repeating. “I should never have told Duryodhana that father married me off to a goat and slaughtered it before marrying me off to Arya,” she said amidst sobs. “I did not know he would do this to you.”
Blood rushed to Shakuni’s eyes with such enormous force that they turned purple. A sinister smile was beginning to form on his lips, his jaws tensed, and his whole face assumed demonic proportions. His grip around his sister’s body was beginning to tighten and if she could see his face, she would have collapsed from fear if not from suffocation.
“Mamasri…” his nephew’s voice broke the spell, and Shakuni released his grip and let the moment slip.
“Yes, my dear nephew,” he said in his inimitable style, smiling as he turned to face him.
“Lunch is served, come let’s eat.”
“Ah! Lunch…yes, let’s eat.”
A bowl of rice…that had fed him through the months in prison, while his brothers and father starved to their deaths. The food, that they sacrificed for him, so that he may live. The food that had given him strength to hold on in the hope that one day he would avenge all that.
Did Duryodhana’s hands not tremble when he sent a mere bowl of rice for his 100 uncles and an old grandfather? Did he really think they could survive on that?
His father Subala’s hopes were pinned on him. He would never let his father down. His sacrifice would not be wasted.
“Pass this thread through the tiny hole in this bone”, his father had said, “Whoever can do that, will be my chosen one… the one to avenge our plight.”
Where all his brothers had failed, Shakuni had won. That had been easy, hadn’t it? He had tied a grain of rice to the thread and fed it to an ant. Then he had guided the ant through the hole in the bone! And he had won his father’s trust and the bowl of rice.
He looked at the plate of food before him, and then he looked at Duryodhana’s plate.
Mentally, he injected the most venomous poison into it and imagined Duryodhana choking and withering away.
No, he could not die so easy. He deserved to die a slow, painful death. A sugar coated poison that would kill him slowly.
Be ready Duryodhana, he said to himself, your countdown to destruction has begun!
This day...last year...N for Nonchalance