When I woke before dawn today, I wasn’t alone for a change who looked out of their windows to usher in a new year… a new era altogether.
Approximately 2290 kms from my house, I could see a young lady like me waiting for the sun to rise. Nah, while it is only some of us in India and Thailand who are today celebrating new year, that young lady at the Korengal Valley is perhaps celebrating more – a new life.
Approximately 400 B.C saw the brewing of the war of Mahabharata which lasted for 18 days leaving the grounds of the Kurushetra marred with blood and dead bodies. When it ended people could not rejoice thinking its over, for all that loomed in front of their eyes was the young and betrayed Draupadi screaming in the midst of the huge kingly courtyard that she would not let her hair down till Yudhisthir brought to her a container filled with the blood of all deceased Kaurava’s to wash her hair with!
2001 saw the brewing of the war which the US had declared against Afghanistan, which lasted almost ten years leaving the grounds of the entire country wet with so much blood, that no the locals even think that the oil that lies below has a layer of blood floating on it! When yesterday it ended and the troops started their retreat march, there wasn’t any reports of people rejoicing, for they had forgotten what it is to live a fear free live, all they remember are the bombings ten years back which till yesterday served as their daily dose of sleeping pills!
Why do I write this today of all days, when almost each and every Bengali sitting across the globe, is rejoicing in some way or the other. Nah! I am not a depression addict, neither does melancholy soothe me – in fact they both irk me with their attraction quotient raising across the globe. Today, I write this for a simple reason that somewhere I do not see us tracing ahead in the years life is showing us. Today somewhere it seems that for each step forward that mankind is taking, there 2 steps of retreat!
As Karna lay there helpless and Arjuna contemplated on whether to shoot him or not – Krishna spoke about the concept of war of righteousness. He beckoned him to kill Karna repeating the injustices meted out by him on the Pandavas. Karna, the greatest of all warriors died unarmed!
As Saddam stood there in his cave, now surrounded by the American military forces, US declared that it had caught the mastermind behind the 2001 terrorist attacks. While Saddam sought defence, US hanged him overnight citing righteousness for all the atrocities he had meted out to people across the globe. Saddam, the key information bearer to all attacks died without being given an opportunity to testify!
If we turn the pages of Mahabharata or even glance through the Palace of Illusions for a more comprehensive read, we would find marked in red these lines which Draupadi narrates:
When Bheem returned, he placed in my hand Aswatthama’s most precious possession, a fabled jewel that had been set in his forehead by the gods… Once I would have felt delighted at having acquired an object so unique. I would have placed it in a position of pride in my palace. Today it held no more meaning than a lump of clay. Worse: each of its shiny facets seemed to hold the face of one of my loved ones in the throes of death.”
To read on she can be heard to say:
The battlefield was filled with white shapes. In my confused state they looked like snowbirds… they moved uncertainly, like creatures that have lost their way in a storm and emerge from it to find themselves in a strange, fighting terrain… It took me a moment to recognise what I was looking at; not birds but widows who had travelled from all across Bharat. Who had congregated here to do what nature never required of bird or beast – for it is only we humans that create such tragic duties for ourselves – to identify the dead and perform their last rights.”
Yesterday if you tuned on to BBC you could see interviews and speeches being given by loads of localites of the Korengal valley. One of the news item zoomed in on a walk being taken on by a tribal elder. He spoke about how there were schools, clinics and irrigation projects around the valley. But then whatever they had built all was destroyed by the army. That he has seen so many deaths that now the sight of a spilt skull doesn’t even make him cover his nose. One look at him and you could see the faraway look in his eyes, trying to search for the beautiful valley which was his home a decade back and now carries cries of the widows, the children, echoes of the bombs that dropped on homes and stench of the long disposed rotten bodies.
When Draupadi looked around the battlefield which then looked more like a cremation ground, with pyres burning at each place were the soldiers used to light their cook fires she screamed aloud to Krishna that this was not what she wanted – she only wanted justice for her husbands’. She only wanted the truth to prevail for the good of her loved ones and her loved subjects.
On Wednesday, the fight for Korengal officially ended and the final U.S. soldiers were airlifted, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, was heard to say that he never wished to hurt people and that he cares deeply for all those who might have been. He said that he just wanted to bring stability to the people but now was leaving as his troops proved to be more of an irritant. The valley bore a desolate look sans all that which had made it habitable a decade back and the stone buildings, sandbagged bunkers and jury-rigged plumbing built on the grounds of a former lumber mill, stared back at the departing US helicopter.
After the war as she wept, Gandhari cried out to Krishna – “Forgive me! That terrible curse – I want to call it back!”
Yesterday Gen. McChrystal said: “I care deeply about everyone who’s been hurt here. But I can’t do anything about that. I can do something about people hurt in the future.”
Yesterday Krishna stood there, like he had beside Gandhari to say – “There’s nothing to forgive and feel bad about. Whatever you pronounced even that was a part of law.”
After the war, it was Draupadi, Kunti, her husbands and each member of the royal family decided to shake off their own pity and do something for the subjects of their kingdom. And it was their efforts that even in the later years of Parikshit’s reign when the world had passed into the Fourth Age of Man and Kali the dark spirit had gripped the world in his claws, Hastinapur remained one of the few cities where women could go about their daily lives without harassment.
As the US troops retreated yesterday, the tribe leader stressed that he and his people just wanted to be left alone. That he was sure that their tribes were capable of protecting all his people against the insurgents when the Americans leave.
I don’t know if Afghanistan is yet to see the Kaliyug – and this new year I seriously hope that it doesn’t. As I pray for all the bread baskets of the world to overflow and the wines to spill over the casket, I add a special prayer to all the women who survived this war.
I hope each one of them finds a Draupadi in them to help each other pull through this tough period and settle into a stable life. But as I wish I see Duryodhan smiling and repeating to Yudhisthir – “I’m going to heaven to enjoy all its pleasures with my friends. You’ll rule a kingdom peopled with widows and orphans and wake each morning to the grief of loss and cries of blame. Who’s the real winner, then, and who’s the loser?” I see another figure standing close to him as he speaks this words – Saddam waving at the US flag and repeating “Even the same holds for me here in Hell”!!!!
As for now, let’s rejoice this New Year, new life for as long as the happiness can last and a more horrendous Kali yug ruins our celebrations!
Wishing you all a Happy Baisakhi, Vishu, Bihu, a very Shubho Nababorsho and a Happy New year!!!

And to all those at the Korengal valley – wishing you a Happy Independence Day!!!!
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