A short extract from Yudhisthira - The Unfallen Hero by Mallar Chatterjee
The Unfallen Pandava
By Mallar Chatterjee
The forest was eerily silent. Only my voice was audible. Each time I shouted for Vidura, flocks of birds were taking off from treetops creating a flutter that immediately subsided back into silence.
Suddenly, I heard a strange sound. It sounded as if someone was rushing through the jungle bushes. The sound was moving away from me. Curious, I chased the sound. I was so desperate that no fear of danger could cross my mind at that time.
I saw a strange being—obviously a human—run away. The man was shockingly thin. His bones were sharply jutting out from beneath his skin. He was completely naked. His long, unkempt, dirty hair-strands formed natural braids dangling from his head. His emaciated face was almost fully covered with anarchic beards, most of which was whitish. The whole body of the strange man was covered with scums and dirt. His hips were covered with faeces, evidently excreted from his own body.
He was not a good runner. Or, he did not have anything left in him to run a good distance. I was catching up with him even running with half-speed. He was panting and coughing. I recognised the coughing sound—I had heard it many times!
That ghost of a man was none other than our Uncle Vidura—the wisest Kaurava ever born!
‘Uncle Vidura, why are you running away from me? Can’t you recognise me? I am your Yudhisthira. I have come to see you.’
He stopped. He had no other option though as he had run out of breath. He tottered towards a big banyan tree and leaned against it to rest. I looked at him carefully. What my venerable uncle had reduced himself to! He too was staring at me. His complete transformation could not change his eyes—to my pleasure. But was he struggling to
recognise me? Had he forgotten his Yudhisthira? Or, had he reached a different spiritual echelon that blurred his worldly memories?
Though his expression did not change, I noticed a momentary flicker in his eyes. Vidura recognized me! Would he say something to me?
I waited, holding my breath. I knew if he would say something in this condition, it would be very very special. But nothing came from him. In order to make him talk, I said again, ‘I am Yudhisthira. . . Yudhisthira. . . don’t you remember me?’
Almost immediately I remembered what Dhritarashtra had said—Vidura had stopped
speaking or eating, as a part of an extremely punitive meditative exercise he was following. It dampened my spirits to some extent. If he would not talk to me, what was the use of meeting him?
Dejected, I cast my glances to him for one last time before turning my back.
The light had already started to fade away. The dense forest looked dusky, mysterious. A deathly silence was reigning in the place. It seemed that the place was far away from the usually boisterous planet we were familiar with.
But I could not turn back. Vidura’s eyes made me motionless. They were shining like two brilliant sapphires as if all his vigour, wrenched out from his skinny frame, found last refuge in his two eyes only.
Did he mean to convey any message through his eyes only? I felt so captivated that even my eyes forgot to bat lids.
Suddenly, I felt quaked by a stir. It came from an unknown depth of my body. It was like a gentle commotion that briefly shook my limbs, my ego, my senses, my intellect and my belief. The feeling subsided quickly.
To my great surprise, I found my eyesight strikingly improved! Even in that dim light of that surreal twilight, I was almost seeing through that impregnable jungle. I could even see the mole on a squirrel’s back that was climbing down a mahogany tree at some distance.
Perhaps due to my much improved vision, I noticed another thing that sent a chill down my spine. A very thin smoke-like mist was spiraling out of Vidura’s skeletal body and disappearing into mine—as if something was being transferred from Vidura to me! With an ordinary eyesight, I could not have witnessed the bizarre phenomenon for sure.
I was hearing much better too. I could even hear a spider alight on a leaf from a tree branch! I felt much stronger and fitter also. I sensed that my knowledge, wisdom and physical abilities were suddenly increased manifold by some strange magic.
That curious mist stopped emitting from Vidura’s body. He was still standing aslant, leaning against the tree with lips slightly gaping. His eyes were not shining anymore; rather they now assumed a dull, stony look.
I rushed towards him and shook him with my arms. His lifeless frame fell on my chest with two frail arms dangling over my shoulders. He died after having passed on to me his legacy in a manifest manner. What an unbelievable gift that was for me!
I had heard Vyasadeva often say that Vidura too was an incarnation of Lord Dharma—just as I am believed to be one. Was that why he had always had special interest in me? On our first entry to Hastinapura, Kunti introduced me to Vidura. Then she went on introducing my other brothers to him. But Vidura’s stare curiously did not leave my face;
neither did mine from his. His smile was miserly, as usual, but his happiness was too copious to miss. We got along almost immediately as if we had known each other for long. He always made me feel special in his company. He was to me the closest thing to
Why was he always so desperately in support of me? I did not know what he had found in me. Was he impressed with the popular belief that I too carry a special relationship with Lord Dharma like him? Or, keeping any divine reference out of
consideration, was it just mutual love between two ordinary mortals—a virtue not yet extinct from this troubled planet?
Vidura had always been a curious chapter in my life, but with his final gift to me, he became literally inseparable from me.
Though the Kuru family survived on Vyasadeva’s seeds, he never belonged to the house. Moreover, being an ascetic, he was even exempted from obligations of the complicated dynamics of human relationships. This armed him with a ruthless dispassion and he could go on telling his stories with stoical detachment, free from any bias and uncontaminated by quintessential human dilemmas.
But had any of his characters given his own account of the story, would not that have lent a different dimension to the events seducing ordinary mortals like us to identify, if not compare, our private crises with those of our much celebrated heroes?
The Unfallen Pandava is an imaginary autobiography of Yudhisthira, attempting to follow the well-known story of the Mahabharata through his eyes. In the process of narrating the story, he examines his extremely complicated marriage and relationship with brothers turned co-husbands, tries to understand the mysterious personality of his mother in a slightly mother-fixated way, conducts manic and depressive evaluation of his own self and reveals his secret darkness and philosophical confusions with an innate urge to submit to a supreme soul. His own story lacks the material of an epic, rather it becomes like confession of a partisan who, prevailing over other more swashbuckling characters, finally discovers his latent greatness and establishes himself as the symbolic protagonist.
About the Author
Born in a suburban town in North 24 Parganas in West Bengal, in a family of academicians, Mallar Chatterjee’s childhood flame was mythology, especially the Mahabharat. The Unfallen Pandava is his debut novel. Mallar is a central government employee, presently posted in Delhi.
Yudhisthira - The Unfallen Pandava is available online at Amazon.