‘You will suffer a beastly death—die lonely, helpless and aggrieved.’
In Kaajal Oza Vaidya’s Krishnayan, translated from Gujarati by Subha Pande, Gandhari’s curse comes true. Near the confluence of the Saraswati, Kapila and Hiranya rivers, Krishna lies under an Aswattha tree, fatally wounded by Jara’s arrow. In his final moments, he reminisces about his time in the mortal world, and the women in his life — Rukmini, Satyabhama, Draupadi and Radha — appear before him.
The following is an excerpt from the book.
‘But, prabhu, in all these years, I am not sure if my words ever reached your soul and helped me understand the real you. Whenever you met me, only some part of you met me, as if you were divided into many fragments. Even when you were in my arms, you were preoccupied with the problems, questions and troubles of other people … you were never completely alone, my lord. There was always someone present even in your solitude. Someone whom I couldn’t see, couldn’t know, couldn’t touch but could always feel the presence of. You could never be completely mine.’
Krishna burst out laughing. ‘Women can be so transparent! Men can never be like that. It is said that it is impossible to fathom a woman’s mind. Women’s minds are like rivers; the water runs very deep, and yet, it is clear and pure. One can see the smallest of the pebbles at the bottom. Do you believe that I will understand your pain and your passion only when you express them in words?’ ‘But my lord, you have never spoken about this. You never gave me the time I needed. Tell me, what did I ever ask for? The status of a queen, a place on the throne, clothes, jewellery? I could have got all that in Shishupala’s palace as well. I didn’t write to you for all this. I risked my reputation and wrote to the greatest man in Aryavart because I wanted to live with him. I wanted to live with you as your wife, devote every moment of my life to you, merge my existence with yours, forget myself and become Krishna.’
‘Then why this remorse? What are all these misgivings for? You have lived as Krishna, my love. And living as Krishna means to forget one’s ego and identity. Even otherwise, everyone has a right over my time, anyone can meet me, anytime. That is the purpose of my life. You don’t love any particular person—you just love, and gradually become love yourself. Sweetheart, when love becomes restricted to one person, it becomes like stagnant water or a locked room that becomes stale and dirty with time. That someone is mine or I belong to someone is nothing but ego. And love has nothing to do with ego.’
‘But, my lord, is it too much for a woman to expect that the time she spends with her husband be totally hers? Was it too unreasonable of me to have expected you to remove all your worries, responsibilities and apprehensions like a crown and leave it outside my room?’
Krishna was moved on seeing Rukmini’s tears. He thought, what do women ask for after all—love. Nothing but boundless, ceaseless, undivided love. It is really very easy to make women happy. Their expectations are minimal or trifling. Perhaps men are incapable of understanding this.
Krishna looked at Rukmini and said, ‘My dear, what you are describing is bondage, whereas marriage is not bondage but consonance. My responsibilities, my worries and my apprehensions are a part of my being. Did you want me to come to you as an incomplete being? My completeness is possible only because of these questions, responsibilities, and the people who have surrendered to me. If I remove all these, I myself will become incomplete. Devi, two people love some precious, invisible object, which they bring to life through words. They are mutually independent and therefore capable of opening up to the other. There is no room for fear. They are like seeds that are closed and hence cannot merge into one another, unlike blooms that can be together.’
While Krishna and Rukmini were speaking to each other, Daruk ran and gathered some medicinal herbs. He pounded them with a stone and made a paste. He was about to pull out the arrow and apply the paste on Krishna’s wounded toe, when Krishna said, ‘Let it be, bhai, it’s of no use. Let the arrow be there. I will be able to keep my body and soul together only until the arrow remains pierced in my toe. It is now time for me to transcend pain and move to formlessness. No amount of herbs can cure the wounds on my body.’
‘But, my lord …’ Daruk wanted to say something. ‘You have obliged me greatly by bringing Rukmini
here. If I hadn’t met her, my soul wouldn’t have been fully free. You have been my charioteer all your life. I am indebted to you,’ Krishna said with folded hands.
‘I am grateful to you, my lord, for giving me the opportunity to serve you. My life’s purpose has been accomplished.’
‘You are a pure-hearted and virtuous man. You have been with me till my last moments. You have been faithful. You are free, Daruk. Go on your own path.’
‘My path is with you, my lord. Where else will I go?’ Daruk broke down.
Krishna placed his hand on Daruk’s head. ‘May you live long, Daruk. May all your wishes come true! God will take care of you.’