Page 15 - Litterateur August 2020
P. 15


         was  a  soldierish  air  about  him  and  I  vaguely         We were silent for a while.
         thought  he  was  a  retired  military  man  from           “Where do you live?” I asked him. I felt I had to
         somewhere  north  who  had  settled  here.  But  he   ask him something as an apology for my disbelief.
         didn’t  say  anything  to  me,  and  I  didn’t  ask  him         “I come here between wars. I like it here. This is
         anything either.                                      a peaceful place.”
               It must have been after about a year or so of         “Wars?”
         this  that  he  spoke  to  me  suddenly  one  day.  The        He said, “I wander the world searching for war.
         Americans were bombing Afghanistan again and          I’m  a  warrior;  there  is  nothing  else  I  know.  I  join
         the television channels were full of the carnage.     every war I can find.”
                 He  said  with  a  smile,  “These  Americans  think      He took a sip and said,  “I’m  immortal.  An  old
         they can bring peace with their bombs.”               curse.”
                His voice was surprisingly soft.                     “You are lucky; it is not much of a curse. I would
               “Well,”  I  said,  “what  else  can  they  do?  These  give anything  to live forever. But you don’t seem
         jihadists  are  crazy.  They  understand  only  one   too happy about it.” I said.
         language, that of violence.”                               “Happiness and despair are fleeting, my friend.
                   He  said,  “No  one  understands  that  language,  They  occur  only  to  a  mind  sure  of  its  mortality.
         my  friend.  I  have    lived  with  violence  for  a  long  Take  away  death  and  what  remains  is  dreary
         time  and  I’m  yet  to  see  someone  who  really    existence. What interests me now is death. I try to
         understands it. These bombs, they hit the ground      find it in the battlefields of the world. You do not
         and shatter into a thousand pieces and from each      begin to understand the problem of immortality.”
         piece    arise   a    thousand    more     bombs,           “I can imagine.” I said.
         like asuras when their blood spills to the ground.”       He  didn’t  seem  particularly  interested  in
               He spoke cryptically and I was intrigued. There  convincing  me.  He  was  just  talking.  I  ordered
         was  mystery  about  him,  a  hint  of  places  visited  another  drink.  Let  us  hear  out  the  fellow,  I
         and  people  known  and  sights  seen  which  few     thought. He  didn’t look dangerous.
         men had. I introduced myself.                             “So  you  came  here  after  the  –  the  incident?”  I
               “I’m Aswathama,” he said.                       asked.
             “Unusual  name.  Like  the  character  in  the         “The War.” he said. “Like I said I have fought in
         Mahabharata?”                                         many wars, before and since, but Kurukshetra was
               “Yes. As a matter of fact I’m him.”             the  War.  I  won  it  finally,  you  know,  single-
               “Oh. You are like him, you mean?”               handedly.  When  I  finished  there  were  less  than
             Had  he  murdered  people  in  their  sleep,  I   twenty  of  them  standing.  Perhaps  I  shouldn’t
         wondered.                                             have done it. But I thought of everything they did
               “I  am  Aswathama,”  he  said  looking  at  me  and how they had lied and cheated through it all.
         straight in the eye. Guy is a nut-case, I thought. I  I wanted revenge. They would hunt me down and
         shouldn’t have started this. I  finished my drink.    kill  me,  I  thought.  I  didn’t  expect  this,  this
                “Well, I guess I must be going home.” I said.  immortality.
                “You don’t believe me, do you?”                       “I torched their tents while they slept but they
                 I laughed softly. “You will admit it isn’t exactly  didn’t die. Their sons died- all of them. I felt great
         believable,  won’t you?”                              then. Everything went badly for the Pandavas

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