My Name Is Aradheya

Before I wrote that short story “My Name Is Duryodhana”, what I actually wanted to do was writing a short story about Karna from his own point of view. It turned out to be a very difficult thing to do. I only managed to finish one paragraph before I stepped back and wept. I just could not go on. Too much me in that story

Then I had several WA chats with my doppelganger. She showed me a beautiful drawing of Karna, and suddenly the pain returned, and the abandoned unfinished story resurfaced. Last night I told her I would complete the short story. And now I have. More or less.

And here it is:

MY NAME IS ARADHEYA

Aradheya

My name is Aradheya, or Radheya. Yes, Aradheya. Not Suryaputra, not Karna. Just plain and simple Aradheya, the son of Adhiratha, a simple and honest charioteer, and Radha, a loving mother and simple housewife, who had raised me to be the man I am today.

I spent my childhood just like other children of my caste, the caste of the commoners. We played in the field, we swam in the river, we explored the forests, we wandered through the common markets, we helped our parents with daily tasks. When my younger brother Shona was born, I decided to be a role model for him, young and uneducated as I was. I lived a happy and ordinary life; a contented life of a common ordinary child.

Then one day I saw him, a young prince wandering through the villages in simple clothing of the commoners, alone and unescorted. Despite his simple attire, he couldn’t disguise his royal blood, much as he tried. I did not know exactly why he disguised himself as a commoner, but I guessed he was just playing around. And this idea enraged me. Here I was, working hard to help my father cleaning up the barn, and there he was, that young and rich prince, wandering aimlessly as he pleased at leisure. It was not fair, and it changed me forever.

From then on I was no longer a naïve son of a commoner. I became a dreamer, who dreamed of leaving the rank of the commoners and entering the caste of knights and kings. The dream gave me such a pleasure that I told my friends about it and asked them to join me in the dream.

I should have known better. Instead of sharing my dream, they mocked me. They said I was born a commoner and would die a commoner, just like them. They told me only a freak would think of changing the nature of his own caste. To them I had become that freak, and they started to avoid me until I had no friend left. No one, except my younger brother Shona who remained loyal to me. Little Shona encouraged me to keep the dream. It was his firm belief that one day I would achieve my goal, and it was that belief that made me even more determined to pursue my dreams. I would never let my loyal little brother down.

I came to the conclusion that only a warrior would have the chance to change his own destiny, so I decided to become one. I started sneaking into the royal palace training ground, watching the young princes being trained by Guru Dronacharya. I paid attention to whatever he said to the princes, and at home I trained myself based on his teachings. For a year I trained in secret, and one day I became confident enough to seek audience with the guru and even asked him to accept me as his pupil. Guru Dronacharya asked me what I could do, and I showed him my new-found prowess with bow and arrows. The guru was impressed and asked me my lineage and also who taught me the art of archery. I replied honestly that I was the son of Adhiratha, and that I learned by listening to the guru’s own teachings from a distance. He was amazed and disappointed at the same time. He told me he would only teach those of kshatriya class, so he could not accept me as his pupil. At the same time he also expressed his admiration. He said that from then on he acknowledged me as Karna, the one who listen, because I had admirably trained myself simply by listening to his teachings.

I was elated by his acknowledgment, but was also disappointed by his rejection. Fortunately, my little brother Shona came up with a brilliant idea. He suggested me to apply to be the pupil of Parashurama, the renown warrior brahmin who was also one of Guru Dronacharya’s teachers. The only problem was that Parashurama vowed to teach only brahmin. Shona came up with the idea that I should present myself before Parashurama as a brahmin. I was not too comfortable with the idea of tricking the warrior brahmin, but I saw no other option. I did it, and Parashurama became my teacher of all martial arts. I studied and trained hard, to the joy of the warrior brahmin. Soon I became his favorite pupil, and he taught me everything he knew.

However, all good things must come to an end sooner or later. Parashurama found out that I was not a brahmin at all, and he expelled me with a curse. Still, he was kind enough to give me his very own bow called Vijaya, for being such an apt pupil.

I returned to my parents’ home, and I told them I would try my luck by enlisting into the Hastinapura army. I told them that I would surely rise in ranks and become a high-rank officer, and by then I would be able to give them a better home, a better living. To my surprise, my mother burst into tears. My father then told me about a terrible secret they had been hiding all my life. He told me he found me as a baby in a basket afloat in the river. Inside the basket he also found a golden chainmail and a pair of golden earrings, so he deducted that I came from a noble kshatriya family. He apologized in tears, saying that he should have told me the truth but he just could not bear the possibility that I would leave them if I found out about it. He said, “We know we could not give you what was rightfully yours as the child of a noble kshatriya class, and we could not ask for enough forgiveness from you. We loved you so much, even though you are not our blood. You are the son of our hearts.”

I dropped to my knees and kissed their foot. I said, “You are my father and mother. You have been, you are, and you will always be. And Shona is my little brother forever. I will leave and seek my fortune, and I will return as your son. As long as I live you all will have a place with me.”

My father gave me the golden chainmail and earrings he found with me and I put them on. Soon I bid them farewell and went to the royal palace. I heard that there would be a friendly martial art tournament held by Guru Dronacharya and I decided to compete in the tournament, hoping to prove myself and gain recognition. The golden chainmail and earrings changed my appearance a lot. They made me look like a noble prince and this helped me gaining admittance to enter the tournament. I competed fiercely and tirelessly, until I finally found myself competing against Arjun. There were only two of us left, and I won the first part of the final tournament. However, right before the second part began, the royal weapon master Kriphacharya demanded to know my lineage. I answered truthfully, “My name is Aradheya, son of the charioteer Adhiratha and his wife Radha.” The whole audience in the arena burst into laughter. Arjun’s older brother, Bhima, stepped forward and mocked me, saying that his chariot needed some repair and he could use my help.

Tears of shame and rage welled in my eyes. I fell to my knees, and would have remain in that position if a pair of firm and warm hands did not grab my shoulder and help me stand. I looked up and saw him, the same young prince I saw several year ago; the same young prince who changed my life forever. He helped me up, and gave me a warm embrace. He glared at Bhima and said, “Shut your mouth, Bhima! Men are like the rivers, and you can never tell where your blood truly came from. While you see Aradheya only as the son of a humble charioteer, I see something else. I see a flaming spirit, a great potential. Royal blood or not, he has proven himself to be more noble than most of us in a fair competition. You objected to his presence here just because he is not a kshatriya, so I will make him one. Herewith I gave my fief of the Kuru’s Anga to him.”

There was a monstrous silence over the crowd in the arena, and even I was stunned by his words. He embraced me again and said, “Guru Drona told me about you. He told me he named you Karna for your unbelievable diligence. Let that be your name from now on.” Then, facing the crowd, the prince said, “From now on, he is the King Karna of Anga. A kshatriya. No one is to doubt his legitimacy in the tournament anymore.”

The prince, Duryodhana, led me to the place of honor. I grabbed his arm and asked, “Why did you do that? Why did you do something like that to somebody you don’t even know?” He smiled and replied, “But I know you, my friend. I have been watching your progress for years. The first time I saw you was when I explored the kingdom in disguise, trying to find out how my people really live, what they truly need. When I saw you, I was impressed by your determination. I have been keeping my eyes on you ever since, and today you have proven that I was right all along.”

I was deeply touched by his words. I asked him, “What can I do for you, what I can I give to you in return, after all that you have done for me?” to which he replied, “Just give me your friendship.”

And of course I did. Apart from my parents and brother, Duryodhana was the only person who ever saw me as I am. Not for my blood, not for my lineage. Just as I truly am. Such a man deserves my loyalty, totally. And when I said totally, I meant without reservation. I would give my life for him.

So I became the king of Anga. I took my parents and brother to my palace, where I could give them luxurious comfort to repay for their kindness and unconditional love. And to Duryodhana, I gave him my total loyalty. I supported him in all his enterprises. I helped him during the feud with his cousins the Pandavas gladly, for those are the people who mocked me when I was still a humble son of a charioteer. After Duryodhana managed to exile them, I used my time and energy to enlarge his empire. I helped him establish Hastinapura’s dominance over the existing mahajanapadas. With my help, he managed to reduce to submission the Kambojas, the Shakas, the Kekayas, the Avantyas, the Gandharas, the Madarakas, the Trigartas, the Tanganas, the Panchalas, the Videhas, the Suhmas, the rest of the Angas, the Vangas, the Nishadas, the Kalingas, the Vatsa, the Ashmakas, the Rishikas and numerous others including mlecchas and the forest tribes. I was content to see that I have repaid my savior Duryodhana by making Hastinapura the greatest nation of the known world, and to see that the Pandavas would no longer be a problem.

But apparently the gods had a very strange sense of humor. The Pandavas survived the banishment, and demanded that Duryodhana return their share of the empire; the empire I have helped to build!

From the very beginning it was my firm belief that no negotiation would solve the crisis, and I was right. A state of war was declared and both sides prepared for the final showdown that would decide which one would rule once and for all. It was during this stage of preparation that King Krishna, the main adviser of the Pandavas, approached me. He gave the shocking revelation that I was truly the son of Lady Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas, and that made me the eldest of the Pandavas. He revealed to me that Kunti conceived me in honor of Surya, the god of the sun, but as a princess couldn’t bear the shame of being an unwed mother and set me afloat on the river. I was elated to learn that I was Suryaputra, son of the god of sun, and enraged that my own mother could be so cruel and heartless as to abandon me to save her honor. Krishna asked me to join the rank of the Pandavas and I firmly refused. I said, “They may be my brothers by blood, but Duryodhana is my true brother by his deed.” To this words we parted, as he knew I meant it.

When the Kurukhshetra War began, Lord Bhisma was appointed commander-in-chief and led the Hastinapura force. He refused to let me join the battles. Before the other generals, Lord Bhisma said that could not allow me to fight any battle because I did nothing to prevent the Kauravas from humiliating Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas. I was silently enraged because I knew Draupadi got no more than she deserved; she insulted Duryodhana for being the son of a blind man, and she unfairly refused to acknowledge my achievement to win her hand in an archery competition on the ground that I was not of noble birth. It was later that Lord Bhisma explained to me that he knew about my lineage all along and could not bear to see me fight to the death against my own brothers. I was touched by the old man’s kind gesture and promised him not to fight as long as he was in command.

On the eleventh day, Lord Bhisma fell in battle against Arjun who was aided by the presence of Shikhandi. Thus I was released from my vow and entered the battle. On the fourteenth day I managed to slain one of the Pandavas’ best young generals, Ghatotkacha, the half-Asura son of Bhima. Such a victory had to be paid dearly, though, for I lost my Vasava Shakti, the one weapon I saved for long to kill Arjun. On the night of fifteenth day, an old lady suddenly appeared in my quarter. I recognized her immediately. It was Lady Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas. My mother.

As I expected, she asked me to abandon Duryodhana. She said she was desperate to keep her children, myself included, alive. I firmly refused, and she burst into tears and said, “My son, my Suryaputra. please forgive this mother of yours for putting you into such a devilish situation. Were I not so selfish, I could have seen you grow into the man you are. I would not have to see you preparing for battle to the death against your own brothers.”

I still despised what she did to me, but I also knew that she was sincere in her apology. So I told her, “Mother, this is the first time I call you that. Ever since I found out that I was not the natural son of my father Adhiratha and my mother Radha, I have been longing to find you. Yet, when we first met during the tournament, you did not acknowledge me as your son although you must have recognized me from the golden chainmail and earrings you put into the basket with me. You could have saved me from humiliation that day, but you did not. However, I will honor your request partially, as my first and last gift to you as your son. I will not try to kill any of the Pandavas but Arjun. No matter who won, I will see to it that you will keep five sons alive. As to which son will have to die, we will soon see.”

I saw her leave in tears. And after she disappeared into the darkness, I was unable to contain myself any longer. I fell to my knees and wept for everything that had never been in my life, for the motherly love I have never received from her, for the brotherly love I would never get from the Pandavas, for the cruel joke the gods had played upon us.

And I kept my promise. Today, on the sixteenth day I fought all of the Pandavas but Arjun and defeated them all one by one, but I did not kill any of them. Later that day I encountered Arjun and we fought. We waged a rough war against each other. I have cut the string of Arjun’s bow many a times with my well-aimed arrows, and yet he fought on bravely. My heart was filled with admiration for this younger brother of mine, he really fought well. My heart was also filled overwhelming sadness, knowing that in the end one of us must die by the hands of the other. We fought on tirelessly and we both survived the day, knowing that tomorrow we will finally see that only one of us will survive.

Now, alone at night in my quarter, I can not help asking myself the same question again as I lay waiting for the dawn of the day when my final fate will be decided. Am I doing the right thing? And as always, the answer is yes. All my life I have been fighting for myself and for those who have accepted me for what I am, for who I am.

Who am I? I am Aradheya. Not Karna, not Suryaputra. Just the plain and simple Aradheya, the son of Adhiratha, a simple and honest charioteer, and Radha, a loving mother and simple housewife, who had raised me to be the man I am today.

I am Aradheya….

April 6, 2014

Dedicated to Adya Prakriti Lestari, a friend I’ve never known, a friend I wish I had…

Stamp

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~ by edwinlives4ever on June 3, 2015.

6 Responses to “My Name Is Aradheya”

  1. Masa kanak-kanak yang selalu menyenangkan. (awalnya)
    Emmm memperjuangkan mimpi itu memang berat ya. Tapi tetap tidak ada sesuatu yang sia-sia. 😀

  2. Waktu kecil suka banget sama drama India yang diputar di tivi swasta itu. Sayang sampai hari ini saya nggak pernah tahu akhir dari perang mahabrata itu

  3. […] kekonvensionalan benda yang saya miliki ternyata gugur hanya karena pertanyaan santai Mr. Edwin. Lalu setelahnya, ada banyak peristiwa yang terjadi. Itulah rangkaian […]

  4. aaa…baru tahu kalau Karna puna adik
    di buku mahabharata nya nyoman s pendit ga ada cerita itu
    ntar cari komiknya RA Kosasih aah

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