Sunday, 30 May 2010


It was going to be another hot and humid day at the office. The place hummed with the static electricity of nearly a thousand employees going about their everyday work. The sun was shining and the skies were blue, despite predictions of summer showers later in the day. But for now, the air-conditioners were working overtime as were the computer screens. In short, everything that was about to come crumbling down was at peace.

“New Cabinet Minister Oversees Clean-up Personally”, screamed the local news headlines – recurrent theme over the past few months. Not a single side story complaining against the damned man. And he had a charming smile too, quite photogenic and yet not – that man LOOKED like a real champion, not quite ugly and neither too handsome. He was believable and almost impregnable in his spotless reputation. God knows he had tried to dig up dirt on the Minister, man and boy, but that damned Boy Scout came up squeaky clean. No one noticed him coming into the town armed with his foreign degrees and anglicized and accented vernacular. Nobody could predict that he would create a new way of entering politics through a suspiciously technologically forward marketing model and yet he did, despite much opposition. His established pedigree worked to his advantage and worse, the people liked his sly, earthy humour, never mind that vote-earning smile which projected honesty and dripped sincerity.

“Your coffee, sir”

The coffee was a special Malabar blend that he especially got from an old college friend who owned a coffee plantation. But, today even that enticing aroma could not distract his attention from the various newspapers which were confirming his worst fears and reports. The new sheriff in town seemed hell bent on an early elevation – either to the funeral pyre or the Chief Ministers chair. And considering that the man travelled without any guards or security was an openly thrown gauntlet, a welcome mat to assasins. And therein lay the problem – killing such a man would not only ruin the game, but upset the whole damn board!!!

The computer screen beeped, demanding instant appraisal. As he looked up into the flashing flatscreen, he noticed that his secretary was buzzing him on the intranet com-system.

Suravi: Your 10.30 am is here. Alone.

He typed back,

Send him in

Everything has its run and it was foolish to try to outrun destiny, he muttered as he got up to welcome his visitor.

Up close, the shaven head, the trimmed French beard….even the corpulence suggested the solidity that was evident in the newspapers and TV interviews. But they did not quite capture the Minister’s palpable hyper-active aura and avuncular affability or his youthful vigour. They just high-lighted his charm and presence, he noted with growing disquiet. They were meeting by appointment, very properly requested by the Ministers office to his aides and granted with alacrity. What was quite against accepted protocol was that the Minister had come alone, carrying a leather satchel slung like another executive across his shoulders. But that again, like his trademark Fabindia Kurta’s, Jeans and clunky sneakers image, another part of his unique man of the people thing.

He could hardly offer to meet the Minister on less equal terms, as he welcomed the man in and motioned towards the corner sofa suite which was reserved for dignitaries.

“Can we sit at your table? I find sofa’s a bit hard to sit in, with my bulk”, asked the Minister as he headed towards one of the chairs. He smiled back in return and went to his side across the table, preparing mentally for battle royal.

“Could I offer you some coffee? Its my especial brand…”, he gestured towards the porcelain service on the table.

“…from Malabar. Not really, but thanks”, finished the enigmatic young Minister.

“I am really here to create a disturbance for you, I’m afraid”, the Minister continued, “You see, you really cannot carry on like this and after following up all the leads in my 8 month campaign against mis-utilization of state and central funds, we have finally been led to your organization as being the source of all evil!!”

The man behind the desk could hardly stifle the smile that came out in answer to the Minister’s sunny visage which belied the words. Truly, this man had the charm to actually walk into the CM’s chair and more importantly stay there.

“Evil is a very strong word to use in an accusation, sir” he countered.

“Misappropriation of public funds, intended for social work and community development with a mile long trail of confusing paperwork, siphoning of monies meant for disaster relief, widows and child welfare, non-compliance with government directives, to mention a few of your present activities allows me the freedom to use that word” stated the Minister, lounging easily in his chair, satchel on his lap.

“We have been accused before, if I may remind you….unfruitfully and at great legal cost. We are merely a social organization which works as an interface for grass-root level programmes and projects. In fact, as our history in the past two decades shows, following liberalization we have aided and helped over a million people within the region and state” he replied calmly.

“Indeed, you did and made many more millions through your vast network of NGO’s and CSO’s, not to mention the unimaginable amounts you and your organization have made out of political lobbying and leveraging. No, you have made social development into an art form of money laundering and politicking. And this stops now” rumbled the Minister, lapsing into the clipped British accents which came up whenever he was interviewed on an important issue, on air.

“Minister, you are making rather strenuous accusations. I do hope you can substantiate those claims before you try to prosecute on any of them. In fact, this is my cue to ask you if you would like our lawyers to be present at this juncture?” he asked, holding onto all his reserves of calm composure.

He would be damned if this over-educated ass would rob him of his calm and longed for the hoodlum politicians of olden days.

“To do so, we would require access to your private documentation and records. Something that is not available on your public domain and the pack of wolves which serve as your legal counsel would never allow me or my team to argue for any warrants from any court in the land” said the Ministers, now leaning forward and placing his beefy and hairy forearms on the pristine glass tabletop. There would be smudging to be cleaned after this meeting, his anal retentive brain recorded for future reference.

Taking a minute to consider the dancing black eyes staring at him with frank animosity, he considered his options. Finally picking up the heavy black and steel sheffer pen on his leather blotpad, he replied,

“When you are aware of the pitfalls in that course of action, why would you come here?”

This time, he noted with interest, those glinting eyes had locked on to his own as the words came out, measured and slow;

“I was hoping that you would listen to reason before I move irrevocably against you and your people”

Irrevocably. He wondered if the man in front of him understood the term and its connotation. It was such a final word and in his work, there was no such thing as a final solution or termination. Everything moved on a cyclic wheel and everything would come back or go away.

“And if I were to say, thank you for the kind offer, but sorry?” he asked quietly

The Minister opened his satchel for the first time and took out a document. Quite a fat document with embossed seals and stamp papers in it, he could see through the plastic file folder covering.

“An offer to your firm by the State to buy out your firm and develop it into a Public-Private Partnership wherein the State would run this organization like an extension of the government. A public sector undertaking type, if you will. The settlement is quite generous and we promise not to press charges as long as you agree never to try forming another organization of this sort in the State or engaging in similar activities” offered the Minister.

He could not restrain a small smile at this. The utter gall of the man to offer Money to HIM?!! It was just too funny for words, considering the amounts he had disbursed within and outside the State. He bought and sold people, structures and ideals for a living.

The smile was answer enough for the Minister who left the document on the table and fished out an official looking walky-talky next and placed it on the table.

“I also have a 200-strong Rapid Action Force awaiting orders, to set supposed fire to your outer walls. Declaring a state of emergency within the premise, the police and fire-chief’s are within their jurisdiction to seal off the building and all its floors till the fire is contained and the building is declared safe for civilians. Quite a different window of time there, I would imagine” chopped out the next strategy.

As he considered the man before him, he blessed his stars in investing so much for having a paper-less office with a main-link having a self-destruct code set into the operating system itself. Everyday’s work was transcribed into the mains and copies transferred outside of the State and even the country. The infrastructure cost was just going to justify itself, he thought with obvious pleasure.

“Interesting, but not really. Sorry” he countered with a suitably grave face.

The Minister was clearly not expecting this answer as he felt those steady eyes measuring his resolve and they again took a minute to fully accept the answer just delivered.

Finally, the Minister fished inside his satchel and came up with a snub nosed revolver which he handled with disturbing ease. It was a blued steel and wood affair, clearly a police issue side arm and it was cocked and pointed languidly in his direction.

“Then, I must advise you to call for your immediate subordinate within your structure as I am taking you hostage and demanding release of said documentation. This is not legal, I realize, but you can prosecute me once my people have finished their work”, enunciated out slowly and clearly, impressing upon him the need for no sudden moves.

He observed with detachment and the final shreds of his legendary calm the cannon like mouth of the service issue revolver held rock steady with the forearms still resting on his table, smudging the polished sheen of the reflective glass top. Slowly, without even the slightest tremor, he willed his hand towards the desk intercom set and clicked the first button.


“Yes Sir”, he could barely make out the tremor in her voice. Good girl, she had been listening in on his conversation with the Ministers. He was betting half the office was glued to their sets, which made his task easier.

“Could you ask my brother to step into the office, please?” he intoned gravely

His brother walked into the office barely a minute later as his office was parallel to his and most likely aware of the proceedings, and came to a stop slightly beside his chair as the revolver still covered him.

“Minister, I do believe you might know my brother – M?” he courteously offered, as if they were all in a party and not under a gun with the exposed brass shells glinting off the morning light coming in from the bay windows.

“The pleasure is entirely mine, sir” his brother fell into perfect step with his cadence and poise. Good.

The gun remained steady on his shirt pocket.

“I am taking over your organization as of this moment and my people will come inside at my command and you will assist them in a comprehensive handover of ALL your documentation. You will stand your people down or else I will put a bullet into your brother’s heart and take my chances with the judicial processes” delivered the Minister crisply, confident of holding all the aces.

“I am very sorry to hear that sir, but I am afraid I really cannot allow that to happen. Your intentions are in direct contravention of our protocols of security and client confidentiality. And that we will not allow, under any circumstances” said his brother, matching the Minister’s crisp delivery.

The gun finally moved from him to his brother. Slowly.

“Fine, call your secretary. You brothers might not listen to reason, but I am sure your staff will respond correctly”, the Minister ordered.

Suravi came in, all 45 kilos of her. Not as poised as his brother but definitely in control.

The Minister repeated his demand, now covering both brothers with the gun and told her to get on with it. She refused. He offered her official security and protection. She smiled at him and asked him if she could get him some good Darjeeling tea.

Finally, the Minister put down his gun on the table and leaned back in his chair and asked,

“Impressive. So tell me, how do I go about becoming your client?”

The man behind the desk simply asked, “How about some coffee? This Malabar blend is especially good…”


Monday, 17 May 2010


It had been a long war. The stench of the dead, the cries of the carrion birds and the earth reddened with blood was commonplace now. There was no more wailing from the tents for those bereaved and death was a factor to be efficiently managed. Even the skies have been awed and struck dumb by the carnage unfolded on this field now known in infamy as Kurushetra – “the killing ground of the Kuru’s”.

The chariot was a simple affair of two fast horses moving in tandem, yoked to board and three rope bound poles on the running board for the riders to hold on to. Later poets and ministrels would wax eloquent of the dazzling array of THE CHARIOT which broke the ranks of the kaurava’s wherever its wheels turned. They would sing of golden harnesses and silver caparisoned might, arrayed for children and for adults with children’s dreams for victory and glory. They would sing of its god-like charioteer and mighty warrior bestriding behind ravaging whoever was arrayed against them, regardless whether human, demon or god.

The real chariot which turned armies into jelly, warriors into corpses by its mere presence had never existed. It had been merely another fiction of the charioteer’s agile mind which had honed war craft and strategy into something almost akin to supernatural power. Such a chariot would never have been able to breach the cordons to Jayadrath’s inner circle or fight great Drona into a standstill, much less dodge mighty Karna’s arrow showers. Such a gaudy chariot would never ensure surprise, that most important element of victory.

Such a chariot is fit only in dreams and stories, not in battle, thought the dark-skinned charioteer as he clicked his tongue to the high strung horses trotting amongst corpses and battle debris dotting the fields for miles in every direction. The clicking tongue, equally effective with restive cattle in the far reaches of Vrindavan, calmed the horses on the killing grounds as they slowed down towards a broken barricade.

The moon was full and no insects cried or birdsong broke the eerie calm of the night as the horses swung by the barricade and the charioteer leant out and touched them.

“Sleep well, invincible one, your son will rule as I promised you and I will have my revenge” the charioteer intoned silently, as he touched the broken wooden barricades still stained brown with the blood of his only nephew, his dearest sisters son.

A boy he had loved more than his own lost son and trained under his own hand, killed by eight warriors. A mere boy, defying them to the last and leaving his mark on each of the great ones before spilling his heart blood on the wooden barricades of Drona’s Chakravyuhu. A true hero, of great Karna’s ilk, equally cursed by blood and fortune, to be remembered only for his mad dog glory.

One of the only deaths he had grudged in this war and beyond. It was needed and he had fulfilled his duty and more when he led his friend, the father, away, knowing that the cowardly advisors he had planted would ensure that his eldest paternal uncle would gamble, as always and lose, as usual. But it suited his needs and so he had made his peace and sworn his vow to his dead nephew’s bloodline.

The charioteer was lost in his thoughts when another voice broke the silence from beyond the broken hulks,

“The moon holds sway in the night….”

The voice was instantly recognizable for its earthy nasal twang of Mathura’s dialect and resonance instead of the high speech of Sanskrit, but years of training and living a double life could not be set aside easily,

“…..only when the sun has set and the dark is nigh.”

Completing the first line of the code exchange, the charioteer swung down from the running board. As he swung down, he adjusted his plain dhoti and palmed the first of his throwing knives smoothly as he turned towards the speaker who had arisen behind the barricades.

“The years with the high-born’s have not robbed you of your gokul training, cousin” said the man arising from his defensive crouch, his sword also openly bared but hanging loosely at his side.

The charioteer relaxed slightly as the second coded exchange went smoothly, but his nape still tingled and he did not cache away his knife and scanned the surrounding environs silently till his eyes found a bump on the ground that did not meld with the usual churned up earth of the killing fields. And then he waited looking around for more discrepancies till the first man coughed and the hump moved to show an armed wiry man flattened on the ground underneath a dust-coloured cloth liberally smeared with the red earth. Bowing to both men, the wiry man crept off into the dark.

“You couldn’t really expect me to come alone into THE killing grounds where the only thing constant is Yamraj on the sidelines reaping souls like its harvesting season, cousin”, stated the first man, still holding on to the sword lazily like it was an extension of his body, “especially after you hacked off Sishupala’s head with that accursed discus of yours to show solidarity with those damned five, earlier”

“We needed to provoke Jarasandh and take him out of the equation or this war would have been for naught – I have explained this to you cousin, earlier” stated the charioteer easily, still scanning the landscape for anything that did not fit in, anything that tingled his senses.

“so you have, so you have… fact, I was one of the last to accept that the great deception started so many years ago is finally coming to fruition and you have managed to deliver each and every one of your targets as promised to King Ugrasen as payment for killing Kansa the Just. In fact, people believe that you killed an evil monster now, less than 30 years later – I have trouble accepting that you ensured even regicide would be forgotten – that too regicide of a popular and good king.”

“Gokul was a good training ground, cousin and Kansa WAS a monster to my mother, regardless of how good he was as a king to the populace. My father was promised the throne and Kansa had no right on it. The Kuru’s are merely a continuation of my revenge since they aided him then. My promise to King Ugrasen was nothing that I did not wish to achieve myself.” said the charioteer, pacing around the chariot now, looking for something that still tingled his scalp and screamed danger in seven dialects.

“So Vasudeva, are you satisfied now? Has your blood thirst been appeased with the vermillion & blood of so many including that of your only nephew being part of the red rivers you have caused to run on these killing grounds?” asked the first man, squatting on his haunches, sword held protectively before him nonchalantly.

The charioteer noted the sword position and smiled inwardly at the respect given to a seemingly unarmed and single man. True respect that was tinged with awe at the enormity of the battlefield, all caused directly or indirectly by him alone. He was surrounded by corpses of men now dead due to him and the very earth owed its colour and name to his efforts.

He continued checking the chariot and then the horses, softly singing to them, always more comfortable with animals than with humans. Even that sea serpent that mistakenly came up the Yamuna on a tidal wave had been easy enough to befriend and control with fish and offal. Something that added to his legend, but its death too was necessary like his nephew’s and he had dried his tears inwardly at both times.

So much death caused, so few regretted or even considered, how else could, people not consider him alien and at times god-like for the ability to twist events to his purposes. He had been requested to stay away from Yadav lands after King Ugrasen had ascended the throne and the court advisors had seen to it that he did not return for any significant amount of time.

He had been dispatched to build island fortresses, to overthrow challengers to the yadav clans, to win away foolish princesses whose alliances could be dangerous and more and finally to the culmination of his great efforts into this battlefield of bones, picked clean by carrion.

Was he bloodthirsty or satisfied?

The charioteer stopped grooming the off-side horse and looked at the man on the ground directly for the first time. They had studied together, played together and they had worked together for many years – but now, the man on the ground was in awe of him and his actions.

“I, Krishna Vasudev, born to the moon dynasty, sworn to action and deed, thought and belief to the night that succors us. Sworn by birth to the wishes of the Yadav clan wishes, for which I exist and for nothing else.” He softly intoned in the sacred oath of the clan. Nothing could be more profane or sacred on the killing grounds.

The first man who had swung up at the first syllable of the clan oath, grounded his sword and bowed on bended knee and said,

“I see and bow to you, great divider, narrator of war, greatest of friends, most bitter of enemies who has urged the dogs of war to the very brink of destruction and beyond. Order me, my lord, what else is left for us to do”

The charioteer looked at his old playmate, who was bowing to him and replied softly,

“The house of Kuru is extinct and the only heir is my grandnephew who is of our bloodline and therefore sacrosanct. We have created strife where none existed, brought about intercine rivalry of the worst kind. Brought to throne illegitimate offspring who have no claim, set against each other the famed chariot wheels of the clan kuru which had drank of the blood of every house and clan which have opposed them.”

Aye, we Yadavs, have broken the armour of invincible might of the scions of the sun dynasty and brought about the great schism between warring cousins leading to this great war which decimated the great house of Kuru, Paurava’s, Shantanu, thought the dark-skinned charioteer.

“We are done here, old friend. Its time for us to go home.”

Still on bended knee, his old playmate remained silent, only a slight tremble and flutter of the fine Kamchatka steel grounded on the earth giving answer. The Yadu clans would not have him back even when he had removed the only obstacle to their being the foremost clan and the greatest in the land without spilling a drop of precious yadav blood. He was still the regicide who could not be allowed peace and settlement in his own lands and amongst his own people.

At best, he was the ultimate weapon for them.

At best he could retire to his island fortress and endure the termagant Rukmini

Never return to his childhood lands of Gokul, Mathura, Vrindavan.

Never marry his beloved Radha as it was incestuous to marry his aunt.

Never to belong, only to be feared, famed and called upon in their hour of need.

The clan Kuru, famed and feared as the invincible clan of warriors who had dominated Bharat for ages tied by blood and forged through the chain mail of their allies was no more but there was no exultation, no happiness at the completion of the task – only a barren mind and heart. He had repaid friendship and warmth in blood. No wonder his elder brother had warned him of this and refused to take part of any of this, despite being ordered by the Yadu clans. But he had hoped to win his way back by gifting them that which they wanted most.

He had given his all to this end but as he looked upon his cousin, his kinsman, his earliest playmate, before him on bended knee sword grounded, the charioteer stood considering the bitter truth of his exile. He now understood the danger signs – his senses were warning him of this itself, not of temporal danger. He advanced upon his oldest playmate who had stood by him all these years, been his conduit to the yadu clans and embraced him.

“Go with God, Sudama. I will walk into Hell… alone” said the charioteer as he slammed the hidden knife into his playmate’s neck and ripped on, stepping aside only when the blood fountained out.

The yadu spies later reported the single chariot leaving and the decapitated body to the clan chiefs and received word which read as follows.

No man is greater than the clan. Send for the poisoned archers and await your chance.