EKALAVYAChief of the Nishaadas
KRISHNAChief of the Vrishnis

Eve of Kurukshetra

A Forest-Glade

A Glade in Ekalavya's Forest

[Time : Noontide] 

FOUND: Krishna seated on a fallen tree-trunk.
[All around him a number of fawns are gathered, some nestling up close and some—the tiniest of them—even resting their heads on his shoulders and knees, and all nodding in synchrony with the rhythmic lylt of swell and fall of liquid notes—now sharply spurting, now softly dribbling—out of his flute of bamboo reed.]

Ekalavya:(entering precipitately and astounded at the uncanny tableau) Hai! What are you doing to my fawns?
Krishna:(unperturbed) Your fawns?
Ekalavya:Aye. My fawns!
Krishna:(glancing significantly over the fawns resting on him in a dry tone) Looks like it, does it not?
Ekalavya:(bursting into a guffaw) Ha! Ha! Ha! 'Deed, it does not! But it did amaze me seeing them nestling up to a stranger, a thing they have never done afore! I wonder why? I know! 'Tis your music! (coming close to Krishna) And your face too! (approaching closer) handsome... beautif... why! I like you myself! I wonder why?...'tis your eyes... weird... wondrous... eyes! (with the eerie limbless grace of a king cobra Krishna raises and drawing himself up to his full height meets Ekalavya squarely in the eyes. Ekalavya fascinated into drawing closer, gazes for moments together into Krishna's eyes and almost breathes his words) Do you know, there is a something about you that makes me feel that I have seen you before, somewhere! Known you before, somewhen! Wh'... Wh'... Who are you?
Krishna:(almost roughly pushing aside the fawns in his way, walks full three paces away from Ekalavya; with stiffened neck and averted face; in harsh, haughty and almost grating accents) You are the barbarian bowman, the thumbless nishaada, Ekalavya, are you not?
Ekalavya:(with frame suddenly stiffened, limbs taut and eyes hardened and in a voice subdued with obvious effort) Stranger though you are, you seem to know me! (sardonically) Yes! I am the barbarian Ekalavya! The thumbless bowman! And yet (with furious voice and look) thumbless as I am, I am the greatest bowman on earth, not even well-born aryans excepted! As for my being a nishaada, I am the lord of all the nishaadas in the land as was my father before me who died battling for his king, as I shall too for mine!
Krishna:The king your father fought and fell for, was a righteous man; the creature you are bent on depraving your bow for, is an adharmi!
Ekalavya:(with chin raised on high) It is not for me to dispute the dharma of my king; my dharma is to draw bow at my king's behest and slay his foemen.
Krishna:(facing Ekalavya; in a sneering tone) And the while you go forth to do it, 'tis nothing to you that you leave behind you the mother that bore you, brought you forth, brought you up, and made you what you are! The ingrate who, in his search for vain glory, leaves his old mother behind, a prey to the fury of forest wolves is a coward unworthy of the name of man, let alone, bowman!
Ekalavya:(with a supercilious smile) Whoever you are, you look as though you know everything; and talk like it too! But you do not know everything; you do not know my mother! (with fists clenched till the knuckles stand out and eyes blazing, thunders out) Listen! Long long ago, with me yet a wee mite hugging at her knees, she sent my father out to battle, with a smile on her lips, though her heart was breaking; "Go, my love" she said, "Go and battle for your king! It is for you men to go when the call comes, and for us women to let you go, nay, send you forth, and await bravely, praying for your return: and, if you do not, to lump our grief and bring up your little ones to tread the path their sires did tread!"... Having brought me up all my life to follow my father's lead in life and in death, would she now let me laze at home when my king has need of me? You called me coward! Why, if I lagged behind, She would call me coward! She would deem me no man! And that would be worse! (laughing hysterically) And you thought my mother a helpless hag affrighted of a few wolves! You do not know my mother!!
Krishna:(with his fingers twitching impatiently) Will nothing stop you from your mad resolve to bring your hand into a fray of no concern to you?
Ekalavya:Nothing will stop me! 'Tis no mad resolve to fight for my king as befits the son of my sire. And you call the coming fray as of no concern to me!? Why, with Partha's bow trained against my beloved Gurujee, my place is in the very van of the fray! And you lightly talk of stopping me from fighting for my Gurujee!? Partha, the snake that has set out to sting the very one that taught it to sting, does not know that Gurujee's other pupil is alive. But he soon will! With my shafts will I put out the eyes that irreverently aim arrows at Gurujee! I will slither the arms that raise a bow against Gurujee! (in a final burst of frenzied fury) Stop me!? Nothing will stop me!
Krishna:(suddenly changing his voice to a soft, musical one, and his face beaming with a naive smile) What tree is that? (approaching Ekalavya, gracefully waves his arm pointing some far behind)
Ekalavya:(set back for the moment by the change in Krishna's mien, manner, face and voice recovers himself but partly) Wh'... Wh'... What tree?
Krishna:(still pointing) The one yonder... laden heavy with red luscious fruit.
Ekalavya:Oh, that! That is the Bakula Tree. Mother and I always call it "The Birds' Tree"...but ... why.. do you want to know...?
Krishna:That is the renowned Bakula is it? You see, though I am as fond of trees, flowers, birds and fawns as you are, living most of my life in crowded cities 'tis but rarely I can see the things I love most.
Ekalavya:If you are really as fond of fawns and birds as I am, you cannot be the hard man I first took you to be; my shy fawns nestling close to you proved that with all your harsh words to me, you have a soft heart. Mother always held that no one who loves innocent creatures is really hard-hearted. But believe me, though I love fawns, calves, kine and birds, my heart is not always soft; it turns hard, very hard when I see wolves that hurt the fawns I love, and I kill the wolves without remorse. You do not love wolves, do you? ...but perhaps you have never seen them, living as you do in cities?
Krishna:The wolves, I've mostly seen, are human wolves.
Ekalavya:"Human-Wolves?" Can such things be? 
Krishna:There are! And human-fawns too that fall an easy prey to human-wolves as your forest-fawns to your forest-wolves; and I kill my wolves with as little remorse as you do yours.
Ekalavya:Do you know, it is my life's purpose to kill all the wolves in all the forests in all the land and free all innocent creatures from fear of hurt and death?
Krishna:I know it; and believe me, it is my life's purpose to kill all the human-wolves in all the land and free all human-fawns from fear of hurt and death.
Ekalavya:Then you are not very much unlike me in your purpose in life? But if you hope to fulfil your purpose you must be very very powerful... a king or something?
Krishna:I am very much like you in my purpose, and I am very very powerful... a king or something.
Ekalavya:Tell me what your concern is with the coming fray? Is Paartha...?
Krishna:(interrupting Ekalavya with a burst of laughter, and laying his left arm over Ekalavya and drawing him affectionately to himself) Ha! Ha! Ha! Let us for the moment leave Paarthas and frays and cities and kings alone, and talk of the things that we both love I (with an irresistible smile) You have not told me why you and your mother call the Bakula, the birds' tree!
Ekalavya:(mounted on his pet hobby—the discoursing to his content on the loved denizens of his forest—starts off in gleesome gushing style in manner of an ingenuous boy talking of his toys and pets) We call it the Birds' Tree because, though the fruit it bears are sweet to the tongue, we do not eat any but leave them all for the birds. When other climes on earth are cold and other skies are gray, birds—hundreds of them—flock to our forest and build their nests on the Bakula; they lay eggs and hatch them; mother and I spend hours on end watching the mother-birds teaching their little ones to fly! With the coming of winter, when our clime is cold and our sky turns gray, and the Bakula shorn of fruit, the birds, wee and old, all fly away to warmer climes and brighter skies; and mother and I fare them well shouting to the little ones "Little birds, when the lands you fly to, turn cold in clime and gray of sky, do not forget to come back to us! Our clime will then be warm, and our sky a bright blue, and your tree heavy with fruit. You'll then be big enough to build your own nests, lay your own eggs, hatch them and teach your little ones to fly!"

[As Ekalavya engrossed in his story is speaking with eye and mind fixed on the Bakula Tree, Krishna cautiously draws out a dagger from its sheath swinging at his jewelled girdle; with Ekalavya's body held firm in his left arm with one lightning sweep of his right he buries the blade in Ekalavya s left breast as the latter is reaching the end of his story; Krishna tenderly catches the collapsing nishaada in his arms and lowering himself carefully to the ground, squats, with the dying Ekalavya laid across his knees.]

Ekalavya: (fruitlessly trying to reach at the dagger still transfixed to his breast) You Coward! 'Tis you that is no man! Coward! To stab an unarmed man from behind his back! Why did you do it?
Krishna:(in a firm, dispassionate tone) You said nothing would stop you from joining in the coming fray; this has stopped you!!
Ekalavya:(groaning in agony) Oh! 'Tis hard to die like this!
Krishna:It seems to me you are afraid to die!
Ekalavya:"Afraid!" Why, you fool, fear is not in my blood!
Krishna:Then why do you grieve, so?
Ekalavya:I am grieving because my mother will have nothing to love, nothing to live for in all this world when I am gone!
Krishna:If your mother will have nothing to love and nothing to live for when you are gone and will still have nothing to love and live for in this world when she herself goes, it will be really good for her as she will have nothing to be born again for in this world.
Ekalavya:(intrigued) Then if one loves something in this world and wants to live to love this thing, but in the meanwhile dies, is one born once again in this world?
Krishna:Yes. If one loves something in this world where everything dies, and wants to live to love this thing, but in the meanwhile dies, it is but fair, it is but just, that one should be born again in this World to have this thing that one loved to live for. And God—who is always just, who is always fair—grants every man his wish! He grants every wish of every one.
Ekalavya:That is of course, only if one wishes for something that is good?
Krishna:"Good"?... What is it that you call "good?"
Ekalavya:Do you not know? Why, good is something that brings happiness, pleasure, to one's self and to ones round one; God grants it, does He not?
Krishna:Yes. If one wishes for the thing you call "good" and wishes WELL enough, God grants it.
Ekalavya:But you said He grants every wish of every one! What if one wishes for something bad?
Krishna:"Bad?" What is it that you call "bad?"
Ekalavya:"Bad?" Why, something that is not "good!" Something that brings, not happiness, but misery; not pleasure but pain. What if one wishes for something bad – not for one's own self of course, as one would never wish for that, but for ones round one, God would not grant it, would He?
Krishna:If one wishes for the something that you call "bad" and wishes BADLY enough, God grants it.
Ekalavya:Then He treats good and bad alike!?
Krishna:Yes, He treats good and bad alike.
Ekalavya:But why?
Krishna:Because, in a way, He is too helpless to treat good and bad apart.
Ekalavya:God "helpless"!? How?
Krishna:God cannot tell unlike things apart.
Ekalavya:Why not?
Krishna:Because He has nothing to live for in this world where everything dies; He has nothing to be born for in this world where everything dies. He does not live in this world as of this world, and cannot tell the unlike things of this world, apart. But though not in this world as of this world, He watches this His world, with His loving eyes from afar far off. And to the far far off distant watcher of this world, all things of this world look alike: man and beast! wolf and fawn; friend and foe; forest, tree, shrub, leaf and blade of grass, hill, dale, mountain, sand-dune and sand grain; ocean, sea, river, brook, cloud and dew drop, all look alike to him. And loving this whole world as His world He grants every wish of every one. After all, happiness is only misery; pleasure only pain.
Ekalavya:Happiness only misery! Pleasure only pain! How?
Krishna:If happiness is the having of the thing one loves, misery is the losing of it; if pleasure is the owning of the thing one loves, pain is the losing of it. Your mother had the happiness of having a husband like your father and that is why she suffered the misery of losing a husband like your father; your mother has had the pleasure of owning a son like you, and that is why she will suffer the pain of losing a son like you. Other sons were born to other mothers, and other sons of other mothers died, but their birth gave her no more pleasure than their death gave her pain. It is the owning of you in your life that gave her pleasure and it is the losing of the thing she owned that will give her pain. Happiness and pleasure enjoyed sometime in this world really spell misery and pain to be endured some other time in this world.
Ekalavya:But, cannot one be happy for ever?
Krishna:Yes. If happiness is the having of the thing one loves, and misery is the losing of it, the having of the thing one loves without ever losing it, would be happiness for ever.
Ekalavya:And what is that thing the having of which would bring happiness for ever?
Krishna:No thing of this world where everything dies; as your happiness of having it must change to the misery of losing it when it dies leaving you behind or you die leaving it behind.
Ekalavya:What then is the thing not of this world that would bring happiness for ever?
Krishna:Did you want to live for something in this world?
Ekalavya:Yes; I wanted to live long enough to kill all the wolves in the world and to see all fawns freed from fear of hurt and death.
Krishna:With your mind brimful of things of this world wherein is there room to think of anything not of this world?
Ekalavya:But when will I be able to think of anything not of this world?
Krishna:Only when all things of this world look so alike to you that you cannot tell unlike things of this world apart: When, man and beast; friend and foe; wolf and fawn; forest, tree, shrub, leaf and blade of grass; hill, dale, mountain, desert, sand-dune and sand grain; ocean, sea, river, lake, brook, cloud and dewdrop, all look alike to you, the having of any of which giving you no happiness and the losing of any giving you no misery: Only when this world looks to your eyes as to a far far off distant watcher of this world.
Ekalavya:"Looks as to a far off distant watcher of this world"? I do not... quite... understand!

[Ekalavya in look and voice is sinking]

Krishna:You will not, not now; do not try to.
Ekalavya:(with a far away look in his eyes) My father died battling bravely for his king, and I am dying helpless... stabbed from behind!
Krishna:Your father died in battle, and before he died slew a good few foemen and made many wives lose the happiness of having their husbands, and many mothers lose the pleasures of having their sons; but you spent all your life in the forest freeing innocent fawns from fear of hurt and death; and you regret it!? Would you like to slay a few foemen before you died?
Ekalavya:...and make a few mothers lose...no! If I must die... 'tis best I die... like this! But my poor mother had set her heart on my following my father's lead! ... Do you know, coward as I know you are, I cannot dislike you, hard as I am trying to! Who are you?
Krishna:I am your big brother.
Ekalavya:If I were strong and not dying, I should laugh! Call yourself my big brother after slaying me! How can you be my big brother and still kill me?
Krishna:Why may I not? The fawns that were all born in this forest as you were too, you have been their big brother, have you not?
Ekalavya:(his eyes brightening; with a sad sigh) The "big brother of my fawns"! I hope I have been their big brother!
Krishna:Now, the wolves that were born in this forest, if they had not hurt your fawns, you would have been their big brother too, would you not?
Ekalavya:Yes, if they had not hurt my fawns!
Krishna:But if after some time of not hurting, they had started to hurt the fawns, you would have killed them, brothers or no brothers?
Ekalavya:Yes. I would have!
Krishna:There! You see, one very big brother may kill his little brothers to free his still smaller brothers from hurt and death.
Ekalavya:But I have not hurt or killed any of your little brothers...
Krishna:You are a human-wolf that will kill my human fawns if not stopped! 
Ekalavya:But my king...
Krishna:You, your king and his friends are wolves that hurt my human-fawns, and you shall all go.
Ekalavya:(with a weak smile) And Paartha, with his bow and shafts... is a feeble fawn perhaps!
Krishna:Your king, his friends, are wolves that hurt my fawns; Paartha and his friends are wolves that might hurt my fawns, and they shall go too.
Ekalavya:But why kill me unfairly with a dagger whilst I was unarmed?
Krishna:My killing of you was no more unfair than your killing of your wolves with steel shafts whilst you stood yards beyond the reach of their fangs. It is the purpose for the killing and not the manner of the killing that decides the fairness of the killing.
Ekalavya:It is hard to talk with you! You are far too clever for me! And yet you sound truthful...
Krishna:I am truthful!
Ekalavya:If you are, can I trust you to truthfully do something for me?
Krishna:You may trust me.
Ekalavya:I do not know how you will do it, but I feel you are clever enough to do it... Will you somehow... anyhow... spare my poor mother from even a moment's misery and pain of losing a son... like me?
Krishna:(earnestly) I truthfully promise you that I will somehow... anyhow save your poor mother from even a moment's misery and pain of losing a son like you!

[With a faint smile on his lips Ekalavya drops his head back, dead. Krishna gazes into the dead eyes and tears trickle out of his own; raising the body, presses his lips on the bleeding breast and forthwith lets the body drop with a thud, muttering, "Clay! Clay!! Clay!!!"]

Krishna:(With the most intense disgust a human face and voice can muster) If I am not very careful I shall have some thing to love in this world where everything dies! I shall have something to live for in this world where everything dies. I shall have something to be born for in this world where everything rots! Clay! Clay!! (to the body) Yes, little brother, you shall be born again to kill all the wolves that hurt your fawns!

[Rises up. Drawing himself up to his full height, with eyes blazing and face grim as death itself, hisses his words between clenched teeth.]

Krishna:And now to kill the wolves that hurt MY fawns!
A Voice:(from behind the trees) Where are you, Ekalavya? If you wander about hungry in the hot mid-day sun, you will soon be too ill to battle for your king; where are you ?
Krishna:His poor old mother! Mother? (his face suddenly takes on a grotosquely humorous expression; he bursts into an unearthly guffaw of laughter sounding less of a human than of a hyena) HA! HA!! HAA!!! MOTHER! BROTHER!! SISTER!!! ... HA! HA!! HA!! BALABHADRA! SUBHADRA!!! SUYODHANA!! PAARTHA!! HA! HAA!! (bending down lays hold of the body by a leg and drags it into the cover of a bush nearby ... Whilst about to exit) But my promise to you to... somehow... anyhow... save your mother from even a moment of the pain of losing a son like you! Yes, little brother, I will keep my promise!

[Slipping his hand into the bush draws out the dagger from the body.

With the blood-stained dagger clenched in his right hand he crouches and silently creeps towards THE TREES FROM WHENCE THE VOICE CAME with all the caution and grace of a panther stalking its prey, and is lost to view.]

The stage is empty and silent for fully a minute.

Suddenly, a piercing scream of anguish is heard from behind the trees.

Curtain drops forthwith

A NOTE on Fulfilment
'Fulfilment', a sequel to 'Purpose', was created on the spur of the moment when Kailasam declaimed his then half-written-typed play 'Purpose' to Dr. (Sir) C. R. Reddy (Founder of the Andhra University and later Pro-chancellor of the Mysore University) who naively asked Kailasam after the Recital, "Well! What becomes of Ekalavya then?" Kailasam's answer was, 'Fulfilment!', the play full-fledged, of three Acts; In the last act Ekalavya meets his end by Krishna's hands. Needless to say, that Reddy was struck by this recital. He said simply "Kailasam! you must write the whole series!"

According to Kailasam,
"Jaraasandhaha Chaydi-raajo mahaatma
Mahaabaahuhu Ekalavyo nishaadaha
Ekyckasaha twaddhitaartham hataaha MAYAIVA"
— The Mahaabhaarata
which he could recall at that moment lent support to his creation and there the episode ended.]

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