“Krishna, Thank Mahadeva you are back! I am now short of hating this city!” The man threw a bundle over a mat and landed himself beside it. His sight fell on Viraja and Vrinda. “Who are these?”
“Viraja, Vrinda.” Krishna smiled and then pointed to the man and told the girls. “And he is Lord Kamadeva, the God of Love” and stifled a chuckle.
“And you are someone worse than Mahadeva when he was heartless enough to burn Kama to ashes.”
“Now, why this anger on me?” Krishna laughed even as the two girls tried to guage what was happening. Exchanging a meaningful glance, Krishna turned to Vrinda and Viraja. “We shall be back soon with some food. You shall not leave this room. And don’t be afraid.”
Saying that both the men left the room. A couple of their attendants stood guard outside. Vrinda turned to Viraja. “You still did not recognize who he is?”
Her companion did not look at her but kept staring at the curtain, half parted. “I am just not able to believe it. We shall have such a tale to tell at home!!!”
“Now Arjuna, you were the one singing praises of Varanasi, Vishwanatha, Ganga and what not.” Krishna remarked as he and Arjuna reached the backyard of the guest house which opened into another Ghat which oversaw one of the canals of Ganga.
Making sure that they were not being over heard, Arjuna started. “Never mind my outburst. You would like what I found out. And you might not like some of it too.”
“Arjuna, tell me everything without bothering my likes and dislikes.” Krishna was still amused.
“Well, I saved a woman from being abducted by two unrecognized miscreants. One of them ran away. The other fell to my arrow. Other than my dancers, nobody could even guess the source of the arrow. At least I thought so. But,…”
“Bravo for saving the woman, cousin. Go on.”
“There was this maiden who caught me shooting the arrow. And she insisted I go with her to the guesthouse where she stayed. I was partially happy that the subtle act did not completely go unnoticed. So I went with her.”
Krishna raised a brow in reaction but chose not to speak and signed to his cousin to continue.
“The woman was also in a disguise. She was actually the princess of Koshala. She echoes our concerns of trading women in Varanasi. She also claims to have found some clues about where the women go. And she put a condition about revealing that information.”
“She knew we meant well? Then putting conditions on extending helps seems unbecoming of a princess of Solar dynasty. Did you say Koshala? ” Krishna asked in a partly stern tone. “And Arjuna, I thought you did have your way with women. Even you could not negotiate?” His smile turned naughty.
“Yes, all I need is you rubbing salt on my wounds! But by Mahadeva, don’t you want to find out what her condition is?” Arjuna asked. Without waiting of Krishna’s reply he continued. “Her swayamvara is to be held, three months from now. And she wants you to content and win it. And she wanted me to convince you.”
Arjuna spent the next minutes hearing to uncontrolled laughter. Had it not been Krishna, he knew he would have torn the other person apart. But all he could do with Krishna is to put up his sulking best and the latter would bring him back to normal plane quite effortlessly.
“Well, dear cousin, if you want to contest, I shall gladly watch you win. This doesn’t mean I shall defend your case in front of Draupadi and Subhadra.” Krishna added achieving a final control on his laughter.
“Watch me win, or die? The test of swayamvara one only mad people would contest. Though I know you in all probability will succeed, I shall not let you contest. Nor shall I contest in that. By Sankara, our lives have other purposes that wrestling with seven mad bulls at a time for another insignificant princess of a kingdom which revels in its mythological past and has no practical future.”
Krishna’s tone turned serious. “Every Kingdom looks insignificant. No kingdom shall have an independent future. Wasn’t Rajasuya planned to gain on each other’s advantages? To normalize the wealth and resources? To ensure an invasion free sustenance to all of AryAvarta?”
“Does this mean we shall bow to the whims of every King, Noble and kshetrapala? Convert our households into warfields between rivaling wives and in future, their sons. Krishna, this would only postpone the skirmishes which are today between two kingdoms to a fractricidal war tomorrow.”
“That depends upon how happy and involved we keep our women. If you want your wives to be submissive to every whim of yours without a sound reason, you would be encouraging a suppressed cyclone in her heart which shall ultimately pass on to your children by her and breed hatred within the family. Instead, if you can empower her to share your vision, burden, pleasures and miseries, the same women turn into fortresses that are ready to take the first blow so that you are protected and successful. They would make faithful soldiers of your children and strengthen your Kingdom of Dharma.”
“Krishna, you do have a successful way with women. Not me. As for me, I only hope Srutakirti and Abhimanyu are equally talented and excel equally in all respects. If only one excels, the mother of the other is going to blame me of being partial to her co-wife. Well, in a way I am happy that my next few years would go in leading the Northern conquest for Rajasuya. Aiming at an unpredictably moving target from a fast moving chariot is by all gods, simpler than the constant fight on the edge to balance all wives.”
Krishna stopped himself from retorting. As long as men see women as someone demanding or someone servile, they would struggle endlessly with balancing their purpose and families. Why was it so difficult for someone to involve his sahadharmacharini in his purpose and give er the due she deserves? What made it so complex to recognize the merited position of a woman? He sighed, deciding now is not the time to debate with Arjuna over household issues. He saw Arjuna restless.
“Krishna, I don’t mind you winning any number of wives. But this Swayamvara is ridiculous. If she wants you as a husband, let her seek you out. Her demand that you take on seven raging bulls seems more a conspiracy than the request she presents.”
“What request did she present, Arjuna?”
“She says that her Kingdom is a warzone between warring provinces in the east. The death of Jarasandha has awakened the slumbring lords and each of them want to announce his dominion. An alliance with Koshala shall empower one of them to gain an edge and she does not want to marry any of them. Being the only child of her father, she actually prefers to take a husband only to produce a heir to Ayodhya. In exchange she is ready to help us with some crucial information about the women, common, noble and royal who are being abducted and whisked away to secret places and used to Adhaarmic activities.”
“That makes things much clearer.” Krishna remarked. When is Bhima planning to start his eastern Conquest? ”
“That would be after one of Sahadeva or Nakula return back. What do you want to do?”
“For now, We shall head back to Indraprastha tomorrow and convince Bhima to start his campaign soon. Yours should wait till the winter is over. By then Bhima would be mid way. Both Nakula and Sahadeva would have returned. And you have a fairly daunting job Arjuna. You might need all the rest you are going to get.”