Bhimsen: Episode 61

[Episode 60] [Archives]

The mist rolling in off the river added a layer to the darkness of the night.

It was Drona’s decision to continue the battle beyond dusk. The Kaurava commander was under increasing pressure from Duryodhana who, our spies told us, had accused the acharya of pulling his punches, of not attacking flat out against his favorite disciples.

The heralds had signaled a cessation of hostilities when Jayadratha fell, but there was barely time to replenish our quivers and tend to our wounds before the blare of trumpets summoned us back onto the field.

A sudden, blinding ball of flame exploded in the air a little ahead of me. Close on its heels came the unmistakable sound of Ghatotkacha marking another kill – a shrill, ululating cry that pierced the ear and paralyzed the mind.

My son hadn’t exaggerated: he owned the night and already, an hour or so into the fighting, there was enough indication that Drona had blundered badly.

For once, Ghatotkacha was fighting in formation. His chariot was in the lead, flanked by two others on either side. Around them were ranged his small but highly effective band, fighting on foot the way they liked to.

I had gone up in support, but I really had very little to do. The men slipped in and out of the shadows at will, dealing death with sword and bow and spear and melting away before the enemy could react to their presence. But even this silent, deadly assault paled in comparison with what Ghatotkacha and his four companions were doing.

Every so often, one of them would toss a ball of pitch high in the air; another hit it with a flaming arrow and as the pitch exploded in flames, they went to work, brutally massacring the stunned, blinded Kaurava forces.

It was a scene straight out of hell: the screams of the dying mingled with the panic-stricken yells of their fellows who found fire raining down on them from above.

A messenger arrived from Krishna to put me on guard. Drona, Krishna warned, might use the cover of night to try to kill or capture Yudhishtira.

Visokan drove headlong towards that part of the field where my brother was stationed. We arrived just as Ashwathama launched a ferocious assault on Yudhishtira’s position. Satyaki and Nakula had already come up in support; as I slipped into a defensive position in front and covered my brother, Drona and Kritavarma drove up to join Ashwathama.

Fighting in the dark of the night was, despite the massive torches both sides had deployed, nightmarish. Without a clear view of the field, it was difficult to assess the situation tactically and deploy counter measures. We surrounded Yudhishtira on all sides in a defensive formation, but it seemed to me that we were vulnerable to a flat out assault from any one point.

Visokan brought my chariot up close beside my brother’s; amidst the din of combat I argued for discretion, and finally persuaded Yudhishtira to leave the field.

It was not that my brother was lacking in courage. Though not as skilled as Arjuna and I, he was in fact a better warrior than either Nakula or Sahadeva, especially when fighting from a chariot. But it would serve no purpose for him to be felled by a stray arrow, or to be captured, I pointed out.

With the immediate danger averted, I ranged the field looking to inflict damage where I could, and came upon Sahadeva staggering around in the dark. His armor had been shattered; he was bleeding from multiple wounds, and seemed on the verge of collapse.

“Karna!” Sahadeva told me, once I had lifted him onto the deck of my chariot and settled him down. “He destroyed my chariot, broke my bows, cut my sword to pieces… he humiliated me, he had me completely at his mercy – and when I was disarmed and defenseless, he flicked me in the face with his whip and told me to go tell our mother that he had sent her another gift. And then he drove off!

“What did he mean?”

“Who knows!” I pretended disinterest as Visokan drove back at speed towards our camp. “Never mind that – we have to get your wounds tended.”

We pulled up outside Yudhishtira’s lodge, and I carried Sahadeva inside. Visokan changed to a single-horse chariot, and drove back onto the battlefield to see what was going on. I called for some Sura and, with Yudhishtira for company, sat awaiting the reports of our messengers and spies.

“Tonight is good for us,” Yudhishtira said. “Satyaki killed Somadatta, hadn’t you heard? But it is your son who is winning us this war. Duryodhana sent the rakshasa Alayudha at the head of a large force to attack Ghatotkacha – your son and his men slaughtered them all; Ghatotkacha cut off Alayudha’s head and in the dark, drove up to Duryodhana’s chariot and threw it at him! He is fearless, that boy…”

Visokan walked in just then – and it seemed that he, too, couldn’t stop talking of Ghatotkacha’s deeds this night.  “If this goes on for much longer, the war will be over tonight,” Visokan said. Drona had sent his son, supported by a force of about one thousand troops, against Ghatotkacha.

“It was something to see! Ghatotkacha had his men with him – some two hundred of them, I think. The way they fight, oof! They slip through the shadows, and the only sign of their presence is the bodies they leave behind. The Kaurava troops were slaughtered; Ashwathama has been wounded, badly I think – I saw him in headlong retreat.”

Messengers came in with fresh reports. Out on the eastern side of the field Drona and Dhristadyumna were locked in fierce combat; Karna had joined in, a messenger reported.

Krishna walked in just then with Arjuna. “Where is Ghatotkacha?” Krishna asked. “Send a messenger to him – let him go in support of Dhristadyumna. Ghatotkacha is a peerless warrior, even more so at night – if anyone can stop Karna, it is him.”

Visokan drove off to deliver the message.

I decided to return to my lodge – it was nearing midnight; the fighting wouldn’t last much longer before the trumpets called a halt and before you knew it, it would be dawn and the killing would begin all over again.

For how much longer could this war go on, I thought as I walked. Already both sides had taken grievous losses – the Kauravas far more than us. But the major warriors remained undefeated – Duryodhana, Drona, Karna and Ashwathama on the Kaurava side; Arjuna, Dhristadyumna and I on our side. And until the leaders fell, the killing would go on…

I sat on the little stoop outside my lodge, taking occasional sips of the goatskin of sura I had provided myself with.

A blaze of light caught my attention. I jumped up and looked out in the direction of the field. An enormous fireball lit the night sky; over the din of battle I heard the voice of my son — fierce, triumphant.

And then, suddenly, silence – punctured a few moments later by the trilling call of the trumpets crying truce for the day.

I stretched out on the bed, trying to ease the aches and pains of a long day. Outside, I heard the clatter of hooves. Visokan came running into the room.

“Karna almost died today,” he said. “He was forced to use the Shakti to save himself. Ghatotkacha is dead.”

I ran towards Yudhishtira’s lodge, where the lights still burnt bright. My brother rushed up and hugged me tight.

“I am overwhelmed with grief,” he said. “First Abhimanyu. Now Ghatotkacha. I still remember the respectful boy who came to our help at Gandhamadhana… the eldest of our sons… our heir… “

Nakula and Sahadeva came up to hug me, their faces, like Yudhishtira’s, etched in grief.

I slumped to the floor in a corner of the room. Moments later, Krishna rushed in.

“What is this?! Why the long faces? Karna had one weapon, one chance, against Arjuna and now that too is gone. We should be celebrating. Where are the balladeers – why are they silent, the fools? Have them strike up the music!”

Did Krishna see me in the shadows? I suppose not. I slipped out without a word, but Krishna’s voice followed me, adding fuel to the anger I felt burning deep inside of me, anger I did not know how to vent and on whom.

“He may be Bhima’s son but Ghatotkacha is a tribal, a rakshasa. Which of us kings could rule in peace, knowing he and his men were out there somewhere – a renegade band of tribals who come in out of the forests and raid us at will, and against whom all our war craft is useless? Balarama and I had long had it in mind to go after him, to find and kill him and his men — it was only because of this war that I spared him.”

I heard Yudhishtira say something, but the words were low pitched, indistinct. And then Krishna laughed – a harsh, cruel, triumphant sound.

“Do you take me for a fool? It was not for nothing that I sent that message asking him to attack Karna. I knew no one could stand up to Ghatotkacha; it followed that when faced with the prospect of his death, Karna would be forced to use his Shakti.

Now Arjuna is safe – what is the life of a tribal compared to that?!”

I fought down the surging anger that threatened to overwhelm me and headed in the direction of the field. The chandalas were hard at work, piling the bodies of the dead onto their ox-wagons. I walked towards where I had seen that last fireball, and finally I found him.

My first born – sent to die so my brother could live.

My son – born to the woman who one magical evening in the forest had stilled my doubts, who had proved to me that I was not impotent like my father.

Hidimbi — the first woman I had ever had; the first woman I had ever loved…

Loved?!

A sense of shame engulfed me. I had enjoyed my time with her, but when my brother decided it was time to move on and my mother said I had to leave her behind, I had turned my back on her and walked away without a backward glance. In all these years it had never occurred to me, obsessed as I was with Draupadi, to go looking for her.

Even when Ghatotkacha came to me that evening eleven days ago to tell me he had come to fight for me, I never once thought to ask after his mother…

And now he lay there at my feet, this child born to a woman I had loved and left, his chest split open by an enormous iron javelin the likes of which I had never seen before. Around us, head bowed, faces streaked with tears, stood the few dozen members of his tribe that had survived this night.

Vultures wheeled high overhead; in the shadows surrounding us I sensed the gathering presence of jackals sensing a feast.

I had thought, as I stood beside Arjuna earlier that evening, the most heart-breaking thing a man could do was perform the funeral rites for his son. I now knew a greater sorrow — here I stood, a father looking down at the slain body of his son, knowing that he did not even merit a proper funeral.

Ghatotkacha was a Nishada; a tribal. The rules that governed us prohibited cremation for such as him – rakshasas were just so much fodder for the scavenging beasts that roamed the battlefield.

A sudden revulsion swept over me – revulsion for a war that would win us a kingdom in return for the lives of our young.

I pulled the javelin from his chest and hurled it far into the night. Lifting Ghatotkacha’s lifeless body in my arms, I strode through the blood-soaked field and headed for the cremation ghat.

I would not leave my son for the jackals and vultures to prey on. He would get a proper funeral, even if I had to build his pyre with my own hands.

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43 thoughts on “Bhimsen: Episode 61

  1. Have to admit I am getting my deep dive dose of Mahabharata thanks to Prem, have only read the abridged version when one cannot “feel” the ebb and flow of all the emotions and people dynamics that Prem has wonderfully portrayed.

    Shocked that Krishna- a God avatar belittles G -one would have though a figure like him will be careful with his words and would be all inclusive in his thought process. I get the fact that G was a Rakshasa but he did help the “good guys” and then he gets sacrified and belittled-something about this does not feel right- is there is a “lesson” the epic is trying to send here?

  2. The description of war got a bit Hollywood with the balls of pitch being thrown and ignited etc. Anyway, there was no pitch in India to throw, unlike say during the Crusades or Roman Empire wars. Gum/lacquer or oil soaked projectiles would be more logical in the Indian context, specially since Tribals are involved.

    The sensibility behind this interpretation of the Mahabharat is focused on the rather modern themes of racial discrimination and cynical pursuit of power. While allowing the validity of such interpretations, one must keep in mind that reducing the Mahabharat and Ramayan, or the Illiad for that metter, to cynical tales of conquest is to do them a disservice. After all, these are tales that have lived for centuries, and still appeal to us today, because of the thematic richness of the narrative. There is something more to them than power hungry maneuvering, that gives them such wide ranging appeal. I don’t think any story with such shallow underpinnings as this one is made out to be, canhave legs to live on through the centuries. I have enjoyed your retelling of this story as an interesting viewpoint. It must be said however that at some points it feels a bit too sensationalistic and small minded – more interested in attacking holy cows than in offering an alternative retelling. Rather like the National Enquirer version of the Mahabharat, if you will.

    • The epics that have outlived time and appeal to you even today, Gaurav, will only get richer, not diminish, for the many interpretations they permit. The Mahabharat itself is a tapestry woven by many over time, not a work that was spawned in one mind, in one flush of inspiration.

      In that sense, subsequent narrators took the original story of two families in context and added to it various elements — beginning with the divinity of Krishna — that transformed what was a gripping, but merely human, story into a larger, religion-themed narrative.And that is fine, too — just as reducing that larger narrative into a more reductionist retelling is equally fine, and valid.

      The Mahabharat will as you say live through the centuries in a way that MT Vasudevan Nair’s Randaamoozham, or Shivaji Sawant’s Mrityunjaya, or PK Balakrishnan’s Ini Nhaan Urangatte, or Pratibha Ray’s Yajnaseni, or any of the dozens of interpretations might not. So what? Some literature lasts lifetimes; others assume currency during particular periods, and fade away. Surely there is room in the imagination for both? In putting forward an alternative version of an epic, no writer has thus far said his or her version should replace the original.

      As you say — this retelling is a viewpoint. Period.

  3. Hey Prem,
    Good write and I enjoyed it very much.
    However, you seem to be focusing a little too much on the caste/tribal configurations….
    Krishna himself by all accounts was a Yadava and in some versions (especially Telugu) he is insulted by Kauravas and others on the basis of his birth. That however did not deter him from being a central actor (or puppeteer, if you may) and then elevated to Godhood.
    The Pandavas and Kauravas both are descended from a fisherwoman, definitely not of “pure” Kshatriya lineage. They are led by a Brahmin general in war…the only historical instance of that is Pushyamitra Sunga… and thats one over 5000 years.
    However, all these were of the 4 main varnas while the Rakshasas did not fall into this 4-fold order. Maybe that is what you were referring to.
    I am not denying our ancestors’ capacity to treat people badly, but maybe Krishna’s scheme to send Gatothkacha to a certain death might have more to do with his objective of protecting the Pandavas from Karna than anything else.

    I live in US, and unfortunately anything/everything about India is reduced to caste. Folks here are so enchanted with caste that they try to correlate and view everything about India in terms of caste. Why did the chicken cross the road in India? Maybe it was being discriminated on basis of caste, just as an example……..however both you and I know this is not true. Hope you are not falling into this anglicized trap in your retelling of a great story.

    Either way, I read all 61 episodes so far and will read them again (and maybe again), for I like your retelling.

    • Hang on a minute, mate. There is nothing in this telling to suggest that Krishna sent Ghatotkacha to die because of his caste — very clearly it was a tactic to force Karna to use his greatest weapon, and thus not have it in reserve for Arjuna. Equally, Krishna spells out his concern vis a vis Ghatotkacha — that they are tribals owing allegiance to no one, with no fixed base; they raid any kingdom they fancy, at any point, and that for kings is a threat to peace.

      No, I am not falling into the trap of shading a story towards a particular viewpoint, anglicized or otherwise — I am merely telling a story. Incidentally, as I have mentioned many times over, this story being told here is pretty much on the lines of the *original* Mahabharat — ironically, while everyone gives the nod to Veda Vyasa for having written the epic, his version is pretty much discounted and a considerably later retelling attributed to him. Weird.

  4. Saw your question about the style for this episode.
    I think this is more like a somber/ inward looking incident so the style chosen suits it better than the anger provoking incident (many great warriors surrounding a teen ager) in the case of Abhimanyu’s. There the action movie like fast pace was apt and effective.
    Also, yes it would have been repetitive if done the same way, though, as you already said, this one didnt match that in intensity – but for me this episode didnt need intensity.

  5. One technical/logic question – The Shakti was explained as a canon like mechanism where you shoot a projectile from a base. I think there should have been a more stronger point to make it so special that only one can be carried around. May be if the explanation was along the lines of say – the Shakti is kind of a rocket launching mechansim in which the base is also shattered and destroyed in an effort to launch it? – so that one cannot reuse the base to shoot another projectile?

    Krishna does many things to protect, his best friend, Arjuna. Good that he doesn’t hide his ulterior motives from others. Great stuff – where Bhim first becomes angry but later on feels he himself has been having the same kind of attitude towards Hidimbi and Gatoth.

    • Fair enough, but I already had Arjuna explain why some weapons are limited — in his case the Pasupathasthra. To go into extended explanations [all of which I would have to make up out of whole cloth] would have detracted from the rhythm of the narrative, so as with a few other things across the various episodes, I let some stuff alone, trusting in the reader’s imagination to fill the gaps. 🙂

  6. Oh I think this style was fine. There was foreboding in the initial lines when Ghatotkacha’s success was being watched with pride by Bhim – you could sense schaudenfreude in the words catching his thoughts – even after Abhi’s death, he hasnt got the feeling that all the young ones are going to be consumed by this war – he is going by Ghat’s general success and is not even dreaming of the nightmare to be. If you started with the end and flashed back, that effect will be lost.
    Clearly, it is Ghat’s death that makes Bhim realise the futility of this war. And this is better brought out this way rather than him musing this first and then flashing back to Ghat’s deeds – that way, the narrative will be peppered with his hindsight that little did he know that Ghat’s going to die when he was conquering all like that.

  7. Beautifully written. This narative style that is more linear suits this. Bhima has never shown the depth of emotion towards his son that he showed abhimanyu. In the end Bhima is grieving over the fact that he did not do his duty ti his first born and that actually is the fitting finale to this episode.

  8. Great as usual, Prem!! Since everyone is sharing their thoughts about the narrative, here is my 2 pence as well.

    Somehow I imagined Bhim on a mad rampage after hearing G’s death and esp. the insults by Krishna and then followed by shame. Somehow, for me, that would be the natural reaction from a guy with Bhim’s aggression.

    Excellent, nonetheless!!

    • Briefly considered that ending and discounted it. Always difficult to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, but I found myself thinking if I was in B’s position at the time, I’d have been suffused, paralyzed by a sense of over-arching shame and regret at my own actions of the past — the kind of feeling that cannot be subsumed by a spurt of berserker violence.

  9. Abhimanyu set the bar a bit too high. There was a build up to his death when he suddenly started appearing by the side of Bhim every evening and even during the war. All of a sudden he becomes a regular part of the story and not a fringe player. You could therefore extract the max out of his death.

    Ghatotkach on the other hand had a peripheral presence throughout the story. Coming in briefly. In fact, and strangely, you showed no emotional bonding between him and Bhima the day he arrived at the camp to take part in the war. Why this I am not sure. As a result the tears that Bhim shed at the end of the episode seemed contrived. Bhim’s rage had to propped by the monologue of Krishna.

    I am somehow not very convinced about the entire episode and the Ghatotkach – Bhim relationship. How could he be so cold all along and then do something very filmy at the end.

    • I am not sure whether Prem intended this or not but below is my POV.

      By not showing any emotional bonding between him and Bhima, he is pointing to the age old mindset of considering the Nishadas disposable which is somewhere in Bhima too. As he has mentioned in this episode Bhim never asked about his mother, never enquired about Ghatotkach too. In the last episode too he had expressed something on those lines when Ghatotkach comes and says that Abhimanyu was the only one who treated him as his relation. I am not sure whether the episode climax is filmy. Humans always make mistakes, ignore people, follow unfair traditions and remorse later at such junctures. I would say this is another human side to Bhim.

      • Ravi: Precisely. And it was to set this one up that the Abhimanyu episode closed on G upbraiding his father and uncles for not considering him and his men “human beings”. Actually, MT’s narrative has Bhim leaving G’s body where it fell, for the vultures. I changed that in my own version, because somehow it did not fit against the context of Bhim’s grief and remorse.

    • Vikas, I didn’t show much emotional bonding because there was none. That however would not discount the grief Bhim and even his brothers felt. Often, you tend to value something when it’s gone. Also, G’s death would do something his life would not — force Bhim to introspect on the way he treated Hidimbi. In a sense, the tears he sheds would be for himself as much as it is for his son.

      What the hell — my dad and I had a stormy relationship; towards the end, months passed where we never talked/wrote. Yet, when I flew to Calicut and saw his body lying there, prepared for cremation, I broke down and bawled my heart out. I’d have hated for someone to suggest at the time that my grief was not genuine because look what our relationship was like.

    • Oh and incidentally, I wasn’t trying to jump over the Abhimanyu bar — that would be pointless and contrived. Not every incident can, or even has to, be more emotive than the previous. In every narrative there is, Abhimanyu’s death is the most gut-wrenching moment of the war, nothing, not even Karna’s death, compares. So didn’t even bother to try and “write” this to match or exceed some other standard — that would have produced some ridiculously over-written prose.

      • Prem and Ravi, Thanks for your response.

        Prem:

        I was not even suggesting that you were trying to jump over the Abhimanyu bar. In a story like this each character deserves his/her glory and end. It can not be the same for all and it should not be.

        I also understand what you say about your relationship with your father. The important aspect (I assume) was that you had a relation to begin with. You lived under the same roof. I can not say this with personal experience but for a child to have a parent, however nagging, is possibly more comforting than having an absentee parent. Caste, I guess, would not impact the way a child responds.

        Bhim (and Pandavas) never had any relation with G to begin with. Where do you bring so many tears/grief from then?

        You mention that ‘often you tend to value something when it is gone’. Did they ever have him? Or did they really value him?

        From the tone Krishna adopts in Yudhishtir’s abode it seems he was nothing more than an expendable commodity and Krishna had the buy-in of the Pandavas (other than Bhim) to treat him like one. A fighter like many others, peripheral to the story, fighting for either side.

        Maybe it is the way you have told the story, but Bhim’s grief is highlighted in contrast. Just as you paint a page black leaving a crescent in the center and it starts to look like the moon. Similarly Krishna’s cold and harsh comments are used to bring out the grief felt by Bhim. And why not? What relationship did he share with his son to grieve for him? Nothing.

        I believe MT’s ending was more in tune with Bhim’s life philosophy. All his life he did not do anything for Hidimbi and G, other than curse himself from time to time for, well, not doing anything for them.

        Aside:
        I just love this story and your way of presentation. You are translating from Malayalam to English and I do it from English to Hindi for my 6 year old daughter. At least the parts she can understand and relate to 🙂 It has been a fantastic experience going on this journey with you.

        • Not having a relationship is one thing — but it need not preclude grief for the passing of a young man who shares your blood, and who during 11-odd days has contributed more perhaps than most to your war effort, no?

          Krishna saw him as expendable [there is even a version where Krishna sees Abhimanyu as expendable, incidentally], but that is not to say the others had to go along with it, or buy in. HIs comments are post facto — earlier, he only asks that G go to help Dhristadyumna, which the others bought into.

          I am not suggesting the Pandavas would have held back had the necessity of sacrificing G been sold to them — merely pointing out that it hadn’t, so they react to the loss of another young life.

          Bhim’s grief, as I argued earlier, could be as much for himself as for the son — also, fueled at least in large part by the regret that when that son was alive, he did nothing for either son or mother, a fact brought home to him only by the sight of the body, and the realization that it was all too late.

          MT’s ending was what I initially considered, but its coldness didn’t go with the rest — if that had been the reaction, then why go to the battlefield in the first place to seek out the body? Why get angry over Krishna’s words? Against that, the ending didn’t make sense for me, so I changed it around.

          Thanks for the kind words, mate, hope your daughter some day grows up to appreciate the beauty of the world’s great epics

          • A curious thing about the endings.

            When I read the MT’s version, his ending seemed natural, blended with the flow. Bhim leaving the body there did not jar with his thoughts and actions till then.

            Prem’s version also feels the same.

            Masters with the words here.

            • Thanks, mate. The thing is, if you try re-reading that bit in MT where he deals with G’s death, you find that the pacing and structure of his narrative, and most importantly the mood, build inevitably to that point when Bhim abandons G’s body to the vultures and walks away.

              In his case, though, that is not the end of the chapter, so that is not the final image you are left with.

              In the case of my retelling, I am forced into an episodic style — so the final image I leave the reader with becomes of paramount importance. Having written it the way I did, with the mood I used, if I had opted to have Bhim walk away, it would have been an uncharacteristic [from the point of view of characterization] image to leave you with, hence the need to change.

              One of the things I’ve learnt from doing this is that at all times, you have to have a very clear idea of the character of your protagonists — and that no matter what direction you chose to take the story in, every word and action has to stay true to that pre-determined character. Get it right, and it works for the reader — miss a beat, and it immediately reflects in the feedback.

  10. Well written, as usual. The writing may not be as gut wrenching as the one on Abhimanyu, but it is still much better than the conventional melodramatic ones. Loved your interpretation of Krishna celebrating after Ghatotkacha’s death. The conventional excuse has always seemed lame.

  11. Hi Prem,

    Another brilliant episode, but not as intense as Abhimanyu’s death. May be it could be the style, as you mentioned.

    Also, I was expecting this episode to be more about the contrast between Krishna’s reaction to Abhimanyu’s and Ghatolkacha’s death (from Bhim’s perspective, of course).

    Of course, it is merely my expectations colouring my views. Your writing, as usual, simply rocks.

    • I thought that part did come out. Krishna asking for the balladeers to sing and rejoicing that Arjuna was saved.

      • It did. But I was expecting that (the differing attitudes) to be the highlight of this episode and Bhim’s reaction to that to be more agonizing.

        As said earlier, my POV.

  12. It was only in this episode that I understood the meaning of “chandalas” as the people who clean up the battlefield at the end of the day. The last time you used it, in the Abhimanyu death episode, I thought you were referring to the Kauravas!

  13. This worked perfectly fine too. In fact, I was wondering how Karna will end up killing him. Then when Krishna sends Ghatotkacha to fight with Karna,the plot was well set. I knew you will come back that Krishna plotted this to save Arjuna from the Shakthi.

    But you did paint Krishna as a scheming villain here 🙂

    • Scheming, yes. Villain? Not so sure — Krishna’s goal is to win the war by whatever means is necessary and he always remains true to that. Even in the “conventional” narrative, he resorts to underhand tricks where necessary [even before the war itself, vide the killing of Jarasandha, for instance]

      • Well!! If Krishna had expressed remorse at what he had done – sacrificing Gatotkacha for Arjuna – then he would have been just a scheming man. But by being insensitive to the issue and asking for the balladeers and asking everyone to rejoice, it gave dark shades to Krishna’s character.

    • He was never acknowledged and reared as Bhim’s son — outside of briefly with the immediate family, Hidimbi never appears and is acknowledged as Bhim’s wife. To the hidebound people of the time, he would have been the son born of a brief dalliance between the Pandava and a tribal girl.

      Yudhishtira’s slighting reference to him in the forest, and Ghatotkacha’s own recriminations the previous night following the death of Abhimanyu, foreshadow this.

      • agree with the above points.

        The only hitch in this episode was it was not gut wrenching. for Abhimanyu, you felt the pain. With Gatotkacha, I did not. Maybe, having Bhim in the center of the action and witness his killing at Karna’s hands would have been more effective.

        • Except that it would be difficult to write why and how Bhim, who already once had the measure of Karna, stood by and did nothing during those fatal moments.

          The episode would have had more impact had I chosen to begin it with G’s body, but I deliberately opted out of that.

          • alternatively – this is my POV – is for you to have taken a line where Bhim hears thru a messenger that Krishna had sent Ghatotkacha to fight Karna. Then the plot could have gone as Bhim getting frantic that Karna may kill his son with the Shakthi. So Bhim rushes out to help him but in the dark and given Gatotkacha’s prowess is unable to trace him until he find them both only to see Karna release the Shakthi. Bhim is too late to protect his first born. Maybe, this would have made Bhim in the center of the action, the reader may also feel his heart beat racing till he find his son dead.

            just a line of though.

            • *LOL* Believe it or not, there’s a draft that kind of began on those lines, which I then jettisoned in favor of this more linear structure.

              Most times, I make these decisions on the basis of the impact I want something to have; while doing my first draft from the point of view of Bhim racing around the field trying to figure out where G was, I realized it was getting a bit too dramatic, and not consistent entirely with Bhim’s hitherto neglect of G, which the son had in fact reproached him with just the other day.

              Opted therefore to downplay the whole, and that led naturally to the final image of a man hurt by his own deeds as much as by the death, walking across a battlefield with his slain son’s body in his arms.

              • yeah – makes sense. probably it is my inability to accept the gap between father and son. When I look back, this narration makes a lot of sense, yes.

  14. Hi Prem,

    The narrative was excellent. And you are right, it would have gotten repetitive if you had used the same style as you did when you described Abhimanyu’s death.
    Sorry to do this again but some errors that I found:
    “The men men slipped in and out of the shadows at will,”
    “They way they fight, oof! ”
    “He was forced to use the Shakti to save himself you’re your son”
    “evulsion for a war that was would win us a kingdom in return for the lives of our young”

    So many proof readers, it will be easier for you when you publish the book! 🙂

    • Thanks mate. Wrote this one from office, with a dozen phone calls getting in the way. Really have to find time to myself for this. 🙂

  15. Very quick note, before you guys ask/tell: Was tempted to begin this with Ghatotkacha’s death, then cut back in time to the incidents leading up to it and come right back to the beginning with the bit about Bhim deciding to cremate his son. Opted out because that is close to what I did with Abhimanyu, and a technique used twice in close succession can get repetitive.

    My gut feel is the writing would have more impact had I gone with that instinct rather than this more lineal narrative. Interested in your thoughts [one of the happy by products of doing this is that I get to explore styles of writing, dialog, etc, and from the feedback judge what works and what doesn’t — kind of like going back to school 🙂

    • After reading the Abhimanyu’s death episode, I was pretty sure that you would not follow the same style for Ghatotkach. If you had, I would have written to you about it. Repetitive styles as you know are boring. Perhaps you could have used the flashback for Ghatotkach if you had not consumed it for Abhimanyu. But I think it was optimal to use it for Abhimanyu.

      Another thought: Many of the readers have overwhelmingly praised your writing for Abhimanyu’s death episode. Most have called it the best episode. Many have not found Ghatotkach’s death episode as heart wrenching. Well, I feel that there is a simple explanation for this. Abhimanyu’s death is a heart wrenching story. It would be heart wrenching even if Ramanand Sagar told it. I think you did justice to Abhimanyu’s episode. However I do not think that that was your best episode. I congratulate you more for episode 55. That is where I feel you contributed more.

      The narratives we have know has Ghatotkach as a rakshas who just appears, fights, kills, and dies. You have filled the gaps nicely and evoked admiration and sympathy for his character. That is the best you can do, because that is the best Bhima can do. You are writing this for Bhima. If instead it was a fly on the wall narration, then perhaps you could have written an episode where the characters are at best sympathetic but the reader’s heart gets wrenched. And then one of the readers would have developed lot of respect for the character and hence decided to name his child Ghatotkach! Plausible, but I am sure you are not that good a writer. 🙂

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