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The Mother's Prayer

32

Prince Duryodhana, the son of the blind Kaurava King Dhritarashtra, and of
Queen Gandhari, has played with his cousins the Pandava Kings for their
kingdom, and won it by fraud.


DHRITARASHTRA

You have compassed your end.


DURYODHANA

Success is mine!


DHRITARASHTRA

Are you happy?


DURYODHANA

I am victorious.


DHRITARASHTRA

I ask you again, what happiness have you in winning the undivided kingdom?


DURYODHANA

Sire, a Kshatriya thirsts not after happiness but victory, that fiery wine
pressed from seething jealousy. Wretchedly happy we were, like those
inglorious stains that lie idly on the breast of the moon, when we lived in
peace under the friendly dominance of our cousins. Then these Pandavas
milked the world of its wealth, and allowed us a share, in brotherly
tolerance. Now that they own defeat and expect banishment, I am no longer
happy but exultant.


DHRITARASHTRA

Wretch, you forget that both Pandavas and Kauravas have the same
forefathers.


DURYODHANA

It was difficult to forget that, and therefore our inequalities rankled in
my heart. At midnight the moon is never jealous of the noonday sun. But the
struggle to share one horizon between both orbs cannot last forever. Thank
heaven, that struggle is over, and we have at last won solitude in glory.


DHRITARASHTRA

The mean jealousy!


DURYODHANA

Jealousy is never mean--it is in the essence of greatness. Grass can grow
in crowded amity, not giant trees. Stars live in clusters, but the sun and
moon are lonely in their splendour. The pale moon of the Pandavas sets
behind the forest shadows, leaving the new-risen sun of the Kauravas to
rejoice.


DHRITARASHTRA

But right has been defeated.


DURYODHANA

Right for rulers is not what is right in the eyes of the people. The people
thrive by comradeship: but for a king, equals are enemies. They are
obstacles ahead, they are terrors from behind. There is no place for
brothers or friends in a king's polity; its one solid foundation is
conquest.


DHRITARASHTRA

I refuse to call a conquest what was won by fraud in gambling.


DURYODHANA

A man is not shamed by refusing to challenge a tiger on equal terms with
teeth and nails. Our weapons are those proper for success, not for suicide.
Father, I am proud of the result and disdain regret for the means.


DHRITARASHTRA

But justice----


DURYODHANA

Fools alone dream of justice--success is not yet theirs: but those born to
rule rely on power, merciless and unhampered with scruples.


DHRITARASHTRA

Your success will bring down on you a loud and angry flood of detraction.


DURYODHANA

The people will take amazingly little time to learn that Duryodhana is king
and has power to crush calumny under foot.


DHRITARASHTRA

Calumny dies of weariness dancing on tongue-tips. Do not drive it into the
heart to gather strength.


DURYODHANA

Unuttered defamation does not touch a king's dignity. I care not if love is
refused us, but insolence shall not be borne. Love depends upon the will of
the giver, and the poorest of the poor can indulge in such generosity. Let
them squander it on their pet cats, tame dogs, and our good cousins the
Pandavas. I shall never envy them. Fear is the tribute I claim for my royal
throne. Father, only too leniently you lent your ear to those who slandered
your sons: but if you intend still to allow those pious friends of yours to
revel in shrill denunciation at the expense of your children, let us
exchange our kingdom for the exile of our cousins, and go to the
wilderness, where happily friends are never cheap!


DHRITARASHTRA

Could the pious warnings of my friends lessen my love for my sons, then we
might be saved. But I have dipped my hands in the mire of your infamy and
lost my sense of goodness. For your sakes I have heedlessly set fire to the
ancient forest of our royal lineage--so dire is my love. Clasped breast to
breast, we, like a double meteor, are blindly plunging into ruin. Therefore
doubt not my love; relax not your embrace till the brink of annihilation be
reached. Beat your drums of victory, lift your banner of triumph. In this
mad riot of exultant evil, brothers and friends will disperse till nothing
remain save the doomed father, the doomed son and God's curse.


Enter an Attendant

Sire, Queen Gandhari asks for audience.


DHRITARASHTRA

I await her.


DURYODHANA

Let me take my leave. [_Exit._


DHRITARASHTRA

Fly! For you cannot bear the fire of your mother's presence.


Enter QUEEN GANDHARI, the mother of DURYODHANA


GANDHARI

At your feet I crave a boon.


DHRITARASHTRA

Speak, your wish is fulfilled.


GANDHARI

The time has come to renounce him.


DHRITARASHTRA

Whom, my queen?


GANDHARI

Duryodhana!


DHRITARASHTRA

Our own son, Duryodhana?


GANDHARI

Yes!


DHRITARASHTRA

This is a terrible boon for you, his mother, to crave!


GANDHARI

The fathers of the Kauravas, who are in Paradise, join me in beseeching
you.


DHRITARASHTRA

The divine Judge will punish him who has broken His laws. But I am his
father.


GANDHARI

Am I not his mother? Have I not carried him under my throbbing heart? Yes,
I ask you to renounce Duryodhana the unrighteous.


DHRITARASHTRA

What will remain to us after that?


GANDHARI

God's blessing.


DHRITARASHTRA

And what will that bring us?


GANDHARI

New afflictions. Pleasure in our son's presence, pride in a new kingdom,
and shame at knowing both purchased by wrong done or connived at, like
thorns dragged two ways, would lacerate our bosoms. The Pandavas are too
proud ever to accept back from us the lands which they have relinquished;
therefore it is only meet that we draw some great sorrow down on our heads
so as to deprive that unmerited reward of its sting.


DHRITARASHTRA

Queen, you inflict fresh pain on a heart already rent.


GANDHARI

Sire, the punishment imposed on our son will be more ours than his. A judge
callous to the pain that he inflicts loses the right to judge. And if you
spare your son to save yourself pain, then all the culprits ever punished
by your hands will cry before God's throne for vengeance,--had they not
also their fathers?


DHRITARASHTRA

No more of this, Queen, I pray you. Our son is abandoned of God: that is
why I cannot give him up. To save him is no longer in my power, and
therefore my consolation is to share his guilt and tread the path of
destruction, his solitary companion. What is done is done; let follow what
must follow! [_Exit._


GANDHARI

Be calm, my heart, and patiently await God's judgment. Oblivious night
wears on, the morning of reckoning nears, I hear the thundering roar of its
chariot. Woman, bow your head down to the dust! and as a sacrifice fling
your heart under those wheels! Darkness will shroud the sky, earth will
tremble, wailing will rend the air and then comes the silent and cruel
end,--that terrible peace, that great forgetting, and awful extinction of
hatred--the supreme deliverance rising from the fire of death.

33


Fiercely they rend in pieces the carpet woven during ages of prayer for the
welcome of the world's best hope.

The great preparations of love lie a heap of shreds, and there is nothing
on the ruined altar to remind the mad crowd that their god was to have
come. In a fury of passion they seem to have burnt their future to cinders,
and with it the season of their bloom.

The air is harsh with the cry, "Victory to the Brute!" The children look
haggard and aged; they whisper to one another that time revolves but never
advances, that we are goaded to run but have nothing to reach, that
creation is like a blind man's groping.

I said to myself, "Cease thy singing. Song is for one who is to come, the
struggle without an end is for things that are."

The road, that ever lies along like some one with ear to the ground
listening for footsteps, to-day gleans no hint of coming guest, nothing of
the house at its far end.

My lute said, "Trample me in the dust."

I looked at the dust by the roadside. There was a tiny flower among thorns.
And I cried, "The world's hope is not dead!"

The sky stooped over the horizon to whisper to the earth, and a hush of
expectation filled the air. I saw the palm leaves clapping their hands to
the beat of inaudible music, and the moon exchanged glances with the
glistening silence of the lake.

The road said to me, "Fear nothing!" and my lute said, "Lend me thy songs!"


Rabindranath Tagore