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By Anand Neelakantan

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He paused to listen. There was a rustling of clothing and he sensed somebody waiting for him within. His wounded body tensed. The toy in his hand had become a burden. ’ he wondered. But now he did not now wish to throw it away. With the tip of his sword, he slowly pushed at the half-open door. The General entered the room, his tall and broad silhouette throwing dark shadows into the dim room. Once his eyes had adjusted to the darkness, he saw her; partly veiled by the shadows that cloaked the room.

Gandhari: Princess of Gandhara, Bhishma forcibly carries her off to marry his blind nephew, Dhritarashtra. She voluntary chooses to bind her eyes to share her husband’s blindness. She is the mother of Crown Prince Suyodhana and his brothers, the Kauravas. Her brother is Shakuni. Shakuni: Prince of Gandhara, Queen Gandhari’s younger sibling, and maternal uncle to the Kauravas; his only ambition is the destruction of the kingdoms of India in order to avenge himself against Bhishma for sacking Gandhara, killing his father and brothers, and abducting his sister.

Duryodhana’s story includes those of Karna, Aswathama, Ekalavya, Bhishma, Drona, Shakuni, and many others. It is the narrative of the Others – the defeated, insulted, trampled upon – who fought without expecting divine intervention; believing in the justice of their cause. Perhaps Ajaya is my belated answer to the villager, who stumped me with his simple question on the humid afternoon when the procession honouring Suyodhana was marching through the green paddy fields of Poruvazhy: If our Lord Duryodhana was an evil man, why did great men like Bhishma, Drona, Kripa, and the entire army of Krishna, fight the war on his side?

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