Readers Write In #179: Khandavaprastha: The Illusions of Reality

Posted on May 17, 2020

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(by Sundaresh Raja)

(This short-story is loosely (I mean not-so loosely) based on an episode from Mahabharatha, the greatest story ever)

They asked for Khandavaprastha. Nobody would have seen that coming. They pleaded to be given that barren land in the outskirts infested with snakes, and known as Khandavaprastha. In reality, their rightful property was actually well within city limits; in fact, it was at the heart of the city, in the plushest of localities. Their late father had left behind many acres of land, a mansion, and loads of wealth. But as you might know, property disputes often occur in India, and sometimes can take a sinister turn. They did not want any trouble with their cousins, and hence requested their venerable grandfather to give them rights over that barren land far away from the city and civilization. Yogesh was the one who made that decision to ask for Khandavaprastha; his four younger brothers Angad, Bhairav, Naren and Saket did not object, and were by his side as always. As the five brothers stood before the grandfather in the hall of their huge mansion, it was apparent they were prepared to start a life of hardships.

Dhruv, their cousin, laughed uncontrollably. He was jubilant at Yogesh’s request. Never had someone given up their rights so easily, he thought. There was no dispute whatsoever. Of course, Dhruv had a hint of a doubt that Yogesh might have some ulterior motives, some secret plans, but he dismissed such a possibility. While Dhruv taunted his cousins, they could hear many approaching footsteps and roars of indistinct laughter from across the hallway. As the sounds became less indistinct, one could decipher that they were Dhruv’s own brothers coming to celebrate the situation. There were too many of them. An outsider would have thought, How could someone have around a hundred brothers?

It is said that the mindof a righteous person is one which accepts all the predicaments of life without any complaints. But Yogesh was not just righteous; he took upon troubles that seemingly never existed. By asking for Khandavaprastha, he was consciously asking for a life of hardships for his entire family who was always ready to do his bidding. He chose such a life in order to let his virtues shine forth, and in order that something worthwhile manifests out of his relentless efforts to overcome all that life could possibly throw at him. Who thinks like that these days? Moreover, his hundred cousins who would be living in the mansion at the heart of the city, were not likely to cause any harm to the five brothers who would be living far away in a barren land infested with snakes. Or so he thought.

The grandfather was not too happy with the ‘stupid’ request, albeit a selfless one. Nevertheless, he granted the land known as Khandavaprastha to them and wished them success for their upcoming endeavors. So,they took their belongings, some camping tents, and the usual insults from their cousins, and proceeded to that wretched piece of land. As they reach Khandavaprastha, they are shocked at the conditions and the environment that they witness. Even if given a million dollars, one would not have chosen to set up a residence there. Moreover, they were to set up their tents amidst rumors that there were umpteen number of snakes almost throughout Khandavaprastha. Not knowing what to do and in what direction to cast their efforts, the five brothers gazed into the horizon as the Sun set for the day,thinking that itprobably hadset over their lives too.

Enters Madhav, out of nowhere. Madhav who? The one who always shows up at odd times, especially during dark times. Maybe he literally liked to come at the time of sunset, or as they say he liked to turn up when people need him the most.

Madhav was almost like an elder brother to Yogesh and his four brothers. Angad, the third of the five brothers, was especially close to Madhav; he had found a dear friend in Madhav who always seemed to exhibit wisdom while being at his playful best.Was he following them all along the road to Khandavaprastha? They could never know that. Yogesh and Angad immediately set up their tents and welcomed Madhav inside for a hot cup of tea. The atmosphere had transformed into one of fun and frolic; they made merry inside their tents while throwing stones at the snakes nearby. Madhav’s company had cheered them up to such an extent that they forgot their predicament, or probably knew that living through the predicament with Madhav by their side was going to be far more worthwhile, than without him. After eating dinner, and talking merrily for hours on end, the brothers fell asleep in their tents.

The morning came. They woke up in a royal bed in a huge palace, surrounded by vast green lands. Their tents were nowhere to be seen. ‘And where is Madhav?’, they asked themselves. They searched the entire palace, but he seemed to have disappeared, just as he had come. The new-found prosperity at Khandavaprastha seemed like a dream to them. It is not often that you sleep in one world and wake up in another. Their hearts were filled with joy and gratitude towards destiny’s pleasant surprise.

Elsewhere, in the heart of the city, Dhruv had let out a cry of anguish. News had traveled quickly, like wildfire as they say. He was someone who was pained at another’s prosperity, more so if it was Yogesh’s and especially if it happened overnight. The wicked plans to rob the five brothers of the prosperous Khandavaprastha,had now begun. Little did the five brothers know that destiny was set to change its course again. Nobody could comprehend the illusions of reality.

Madhav was still nowhere to be seen; but as they say, he was still around. Probably waiting to turn up some day,probably after the sunset, when it was getting a bit dark.