Purpose

A Playlet of Ekalavya

These scenes and words you'll see and hear,
I've seen and heard before,
As king or priest, poltroon or peer,
Somewhere... Somewhen of yore!
- Kailasam

"TO EACH his suffering! All are men
Condemn'd alike to groan!
The TENDER FOR ANOTHER'S PAIN;
Th'UNFEELING for HIS OWN!"
- Gray


DEDICATED
IN
ALL HUMILITY
TO
MY YOUTHFUL BROTHERS
OF
MY MOTHERLAND
IN
HAPPY MEMORY
OF
MY YOUTHFUL YEARS



"IF Youth but knew!
If Age but Could!"



Personae:
BHEESHMAThe Patriarch of the Royal Kuru House
ARJUNA, 
NAKULA and SAHADEVA
Bheeshma's Grandchildren
DRONAACHAARYAPreceptor to the princes
EKALAVYAA Nishaada (Non-Aryan) Boy

Period:
The Aadi Parva of THE MAHAABHAARATA


ACT I

Place: THE ROYAL ATHLETIC GROUNDS: HASTINA

DISCOVERED:In the Background: Stalwart Youths at Mace and Sword exercise
In The Mid-Ground: Arjuna practising with bow, his target swung by a tree-branch
In The Fore-Ground: Dronacharya with Nakula and Sahadeva; the former with a riding whip and the latter with a bow taller than his own self.

Sahadeva:(With a wry face) Gurujee! I cannot use this bow! It is too big for me! I  c a n n o t  even lift it!

Drona:(Feigning astonishment) Bow too big for you? But my little man, you seem to forget you are a Kshatriya! Why, no bow in the world is really too big for a Kshatriya -- not only to lift, but to bend, string, and shoot with!

Sahadeva:(With a more pinched face) I AM remembering I am a Kshatriya, Gurujee! But (Straining at the bow) this is too big and I canNOT lift it!

Drona:Oh! You mean YOU are not big enough to lift it?

Sahadeva:(Puzzled) It is the same thing, I suppose?

Drona:"Same thing"? By no means! For, if it is the bow that is too big for you, no one can make that BOW smaller; but if it is YOU that is not big enough and strong enough to lift and use that bow... you can make yourself big enough and strong enough... can you not?

Sahadeva:(Stragglingly) I  s u p p o s e  I can.

Drona:"Suppose"? Why, of course you can: Look at your big brother yonder! Last week he made out that his GADA was too big for him. But now it turns out it was HE that was not strong enough then to lift it! For look, he is wielding the SAME gada as it were a flower! And you know where Bheemasena has been these past eleven days?

Sahadeva: I know! The Vyayaamasaala!

Drona: Yes. And and that is where you will spend your next eleven days. (Looks at Nakula for a moment and looks away) YOU will do the same too, Nakula!

Nakula:(Startled) I, Gurujee! Why?

Drona: (Still looking away) You thought perhaps that I was not watching you this morning whilst you were riding at day-break! But I was!...The MANE of a horse, Nakula!... (Nakula bites the tip of his tongue guiltily)  is not meant for the rider to hold on to... unless he be a... (meeting Nakula's eyes) FRIGHTENED HORSEMAN!

Nakula: (Scandalised) "FRIGHTENED"! I was NOT frightened, Gurujee! It was not fright that made me...do...what...I...did.

Drona: What was it then made you...do...what...you...did?

Nakula: I held on to the mane because...I did not want to slip off that very very big horse!...the horse was really much too big for me, Gurujee!

Drona: (Feigning disgust and anger) "Horse much too big"! And you are a Kshatriya! And to think I have just told your little brother that...I mean...

Nakula: (Interrupting) I KNOW what you mean...Gurujee...!

Drona: And what do I mean?

Nakula: You mean, Gurujee. I must never forget I am a Kshatriya! And that no bow in the world...I mean, no HORSE in the world is really too big for a Kshatriya to lift...I mean, to RIDE without holding the mane; that it was not the horse that was too big...as no one can make that horse smaller...but it was I that was not big enough and strong enough...so a MANDALA for me too in the Vyaayaamasaala...and when I come back...

Drona: (Suppressing a smile) Yes...It is CHATHURTHEE today; and even as you can watch the MOON wax bigger and brighter every night—so must you watch your limbs and frame grow bigger and stronger everyday... and on, POORNIMA DAY—when your Royal Grandsire comes to visit us—you, Nakula, will be riding his big big, very very big, but—“never never much TOO big” war-horse DEERGHAKESHA, (adding significantly)—without holding the mane! And you, (to Sahadeva)—my little hero, will not only be lifting this bow, but bending it, stringing it and shooting with it!

Sahadeva:(Clapping his hands) Will I, Gurujee!?

Drona: Of course you will. Now, my little men, run away and start your SAADHANAAS this very now!


(The two start to leave by the exit on the right)

Nakula:(Out of ear-shot of Drona, looking over his shoulder at Drona...speaks in sulky notes) "FRIGHTENED" am I? Why, POORNIMA DAY will show what I really AM! Whilst riding Thaathaajee's Horse I shall make Gurujee gaze aghast!

Sahadeva:Why, are you going to ride(dropping his voice)without holding the mane?

Nakula:(Indignantly) "The Mane"! Why you silly! I am going to ride without holding the REINS! "Frightened", ...AM I?   


ENTERS BHEESHMA ON THE LEFT

Bheeshma:(With palms together and interlaced fingers) Prostrations Aachaarya!

Drona:(Slightly inclining his head) God's Blessings on you, Gaangeya! Out at this hour? Why, what brings you away from the Sabhaa so early?

Bheeshma:What was there ever in the Sabhaa to keep me in at all! (Casting a look at the fore and mid grounds) How are your pupils?...Learning?

Drona:M' yes; S'steadily...but...S'slowly...

Bheeshma:(In a sudden fit of impatience) "Slowly"? But it must not be "slowly"! Forgive me, Aachaarya but the sooner they are fitted for the purpose which is no more than a haze to me, the sooner shall we both earn the rest that I at least crave for! I am tired, Aachaarya, tired of body, mind and soul! I want rest! A long and final rest!

Drona:(With knit brows) The  p u r p o s e  of all this training, no more but a "haze"?

Bheeshma:Aye, a "haze"...what else? To realise the purpose is to realise HIM... (Raises his eyes aloft) for He knows the PURPOSE of it all, not we! We know but the USE of all this training. As for the FINAL PURPOSE of it all...we can only guess!

Drona:"Use"? "Purpose"? "Guess"? I do not understand!

Bheeshma:You do not? (Sweeping the mid and fore grounds with his arm) Then look, I beseech you! Only a few more years under you, Aachaarya, and those soft little shoulders of SUYODHANA and BHEEMASENA will in time turn to mighty masses of muscle ever itching to crush the skulls of thousands! Only a few more years under you, Aachaarya, and those creeper-soft arms of Arjuna, will turn to bands of steel ever thirsting to send out fiery shafts to slake their thirst in the blood of thousands! Thus under your care and training, each one of these tender striplings will in time turn to potent powers of DESTRUCTION! THIS and only this, is the USE of all this training! As for the Purpose, the final PURPOSE of it all, we may only guess! And in guessing, fear to guess aright!

Drona:"Fear"!, to guess aright? And what does your guess foretell?

Bheeshma:Aachaarya, it foretells EXTINCTION! The total extinction of the whole House of Kuru at its OWN hands! You are amazed, Aachaarya! Then list, I beg of you: "GNATISCHET-ANALENA KIM?" is a saying which truthfully foretells the fate of every house on earth! And of my House too!

WITH THESE POOR CHILDREN CURSED WITH THE CRADLE-DOOM OF COUSINLY HATE...WITH THEIR FOREBEARS AND FATHERS TAKING SIDES IN THIS FATAL FEUD, WITH THE SABHAA ITSELF SERVING BUT TO SEVER AND NOT SECURE THEIR BOND OF BLOOD, TO INFLAME AND NOT TO INHUME THE EMBERS OF THEIR JEALOUSY!, and over all these, WITH THIS TRAINING OF YOURS FITTING THEM BUT TO GIVE FREE VENT TO THEIR FEELINGS OF HATE,...What else may my guess foretell, Aachaarya, but the total extirpation of the whole Clan of the Kurus...at the hands of its own scions! Brooding night and day over this dreaded end, my one prayer now is to realise how far, I, whose ONE task in a long life HAS BEEN THE PROTECTION of my House—whose one plea for a dragged out life HAS BEEN THE PERPETUATION of my House, have none the less been a CONSCIOUS HELPER in this HOLOCAUST THAT HANGS over my HOUSE! (Hangs his head down and buries his agonized face in his hands)

Drona:(Consolingly) But, Gaangeya, this is all but a guess! And this disaster...this danger that you speak of is by no means a CERTAINTY?

Bheeshma:(Bitterly) No, Aachaarya, it is by no means a CERTAINTY! And yet, it is the very UNCERTAINTY of it leaves one standing helpless, inert. In the NOONTIDE of CERTITUDE one can calmly face the direst peril, for danger has least terrors when it is SEEN, KNOWN, UNDERSTOOD: what dread one feels, dies out when at death grips with danger-burns out in the fire of fight! In the DARKNESS of NESCIENCE even with the danger UNSEEN and UNKNOWN, one can still sally forth bravely in blind faith and desperate Hope! But what chills one's blood—numbs one's limbs and deadens one's WILL to fight—is the helpless hopeless groping in the GLOAMING of UNCERTAINTY in which the danger neither reveals its true form, nor shuts itself fully out of sight, nor does it yet refuse to assume whatever shapes our fear gives it! This, Aachaarya, is the "haze" I spoke of...The haze of UNCERTAINTY in which is shrouded the PURPOSE of all this training, the USE of which alone, we know! (In a tone of summing up) We are play-acting in scenes, Aachaarya, whose every line we KNOW without knowing the PURPORT of THE PLAY! We are walking on paths, Aachaarya, every step of which we KNOW without knowing the PURPOSE of THE JOURNEY!

Drona:And yet, Gaangeya, it is not for ME to remind YOU that before all (raising his eyes aloft)—HE knows the Purpose of it all, not we! We may, at very best, but labour...no more...and leave the rest to HIM!

Bheeshma:(In impassioned tones) I was not forgetting it, Aachaarya! But feeling as I do, that the fulfilment or frustration of MY object in my life's labour...the sweetness or bitterness of the fruit of My labour...runs hand in hand with HIS PURPOSE IN MY LABOUR...it is hard Aachaarya, to stifle my qualms for the one and my fears of the other...and give my heart and mind to my labour alone! As for LABOUR by itself! I am no stranger to work...hard work! You do not know my life, Aachaarya!, you are young yet! But you mayhap know OF it: It has been nothing but work, work, work, ALL MY LIFE! Work of no PROFIT to my own self, work of no JOY to my own self—and even the frail delusion that my work has at least been of use to my House—even that is broken!

The arduousness of my task hath never yet deterred my hand from my work: The joylessness of it hath never yet abated my ardour in my work; And now even the helplessness of all my efforts ever averting the carnage of cousins that awaits the Kuru Clan, cannot by itself hold me back from my work! But to have inordinately dragged out a hapless life with the avowed purpose of placing my house on a permanent plinth, only to realise at this stage, that every single brick I lay to STRENGTHEN the plinth serves but to DISLODGE several others already laid—and to have yet to continue a task which can end only in razing my House to the ground—is hard, Aachaarya, hard!

TO FEEL THAT ONE'S LABOUR IS IN ITSELF THE VERY CAUSE THAT EMBITTERS THE FRUIT OF ONE'S LABOUR AND STILL TO HAVE TO CONTINUE TO LABOUR—is hard, Aachaarya, hard!

And yet I somehow feel, that hard as it all is...I must blind my mind to the end of it all and... work... work... work to the very last! You did well in reminding me what I had NOT forgotten: that before all...HE KNOWS THE PURPOSE OF IT ALL! Not we!

And now, I will do well to remember what I HAD forgotten; that after all... BITTER OR SWEET, THE FRUIT OF ALL MY LABOUR IS HIS; not mine ! AND WHAT HAS BEEN—WHAT TO THE VERY LAST WILL BE—REALLY MINE IS BUT THE LABOUR... NO MORE!

I am now clear, Aachaarya, that it was the pre-assumed ownership of the fruit of my labour—my fancied right to the harvest of my toils, that harboured in me THESE FEELINGS OF JOY & SORROW, HOPE & FEAR, PRIDE AND DESPAIR—FEELINGS that have now perished of themselves...since I have discovered that, IT IS HIS and HIS ALONE TO REAP and MINE BUT TO TILL AND SOW! No more! But whatever be the end of it all, Aachaarya, let it be soon! Do expedite your part of the task! I am tired and want a long and final rest! Now you know, why I was irritated at the tardy progress of your pupils! (His eyes wander and suddenly alight on Arjuna; In a tone of annoyance) Look at Little Arjuna! With his trunk still and stiff as wood he will never shoot without tiring soon! He (Checks himself and smiling apologetically to Drona) Forgive me, Aachaarya, for decrying the efforts of him whom my grandchild SUYODHANA speaks of as your FAVOURITE PUPIL!

Drona:(Smiling but obviously disturbed) "My Favourite pupil"? But I have no favourite pupil! I have never given the others the least cause to... but... Gaangeya... you understand!

Bheeshma:I understand, Aachaarya, but I did mention it to point out to you the difficulties in YOUR task! (Laughs and Drona joins)

Drona:Quite so Gaangeya. you did right!

Bheeshma:I am wondering, Aachaarya, what upset me this morning! I seemed to have quite lost my temper this morning!

Drona:(Smiling and feigning astonishment) "Lost your temper"? I did never know that you ever did possess a temper to lose at all!

Bheeshma:Nor did I, Aachaarya! Yet I seemed to have suddenly grown one and lost it quite as suddenly too! (Both laugh boisterously) I suspect it was The Sabhaa that disturbed my mind this morn!

Drona:What happened in the Sabhaa this morning?

Bheeshma:What is it does happen EVERY morning? Talk, talk; nothing but talk; ceaseless senseless, talk and all out of ONE MOUTH all the time! Aachaarya, when a sightless man ever intent on making up for his failing by ceaseless talk insists on his hearers being dumb just when they want to be deaf, it provides an excuse even for a very very old man like me to newly grow a temper and to lose it before he ever makes it his own! (Both laugh)

Drona:Yes, Gaangeya, that is the Sabhaa today!!

Bheeshma:(Sighing sadly) Yes, Aachaarya, that is the Sabhaa TODAY! (Stepping back, brings his palms together) Prostrations, Aachaarya and with your permission, I shall join my little ones for a while!

Drona:(Bowing) Certainly, Gaangeya. You know you are welcome!


BHEESHMA MOVES TO THE MID-GROUND AND JOINS ARJUNA

Arjuna:(Turning round advances and prostrates himself before Bheeshma) Prostrations, Taataajee!

Bheeshma:(Raises the boy; throwing both arms round him draws him to himself; kissing his forehead holds him at arm's length, looks him in the eyes and addresses him in breezy notes) Blessings, my budding bowman! But you will never bloom into a better until you better the bearing of your body whilst at bowcraft! How long have you been at it to day? All the morn?

Arjuna:I started practice but a few ghatikas ago.

Bheeshma:What? A few ghatikas of practice, and you are gasping for breath already! (Admonishingly) This will never do, Paartha?

Arjuna:Perhaps Taataajee, I am not strong enough yet to practise longer without tiring! I am sure I'll do better and better each day!

Bheeshma:No. You will not! At least not while you lay the brunt of your work on just your arms! That's what wearies you so soon!

Arjuna:But, Taataajee, surely it is the arms that do the work at archery!?

Bheeshma:Yes, little one, the arms do the work, but not unaided; You must use the weight of your body to save your arms from the full strain of your work.

Arjuna:(Musing aloud) "Use the weight of my body"? I wonder how?... (With a sudden light of enlightenment in his eyes) I seem to remember Gurujee telling me something about it! But I could not follow him...

Bheeshma:"Could not follow your Guru"? Perhaps you did not listen to him as closely as you should have done. Do not forget to ask him again, for he can explain far better than I even can! Anyhow, the way to use the weight of your body is not to stand still and stiff as you do whilst at work: you must swing, little one, you must swing, (Taking Arjuna by his shoulders and suiting action to word, swings the boy to and fro) to and fro! The perfect archer's body—whilst at work—swings apace with each draw of string and throw of shaft, as gracefully as a LOTUS NODS SYMPATHY WITH EACH BREATH OF WIND THAT SIGHS ACROSS THE LAKE! You WILL remember this, will you not?

Arjuna:Yes, Taataajee! Why, I shall HAVE to remember it, as it is my personal ambition to be the most famous archer of all time!

Bheeshma:(Startled at the word "Personal": With pained face and stern voice) My child, you must avoid altogether all ambitions of a "personal" kind! The man with a personal ambition, brings OUT OF HIMSELF only such and so much of the POWERS WITHIN HIM as will serve to achieve his selfish ends—leaving the rest of the powers within himself to lie still, to lie behind, to lie waste!: He limits, bounds, the work of powers within him, the possibilities of which for the world's good are really boundless limitless! But a thirst for achievement, without any "personal" ambition, when fully staked, brings out all the powers within one's self into full play and to the full profit of the world! The "PERSONALLY" ambitious man, while enriching himself by but a LITTLE that will not be his for long, doth really rob the world of MUCH that is the World's OWN by RIGHT! And that, Paartha, you know, is unrighteous! Is all this clear to you?

Arjuna:Yes, Taataajee, quite clear. Perhaps I should have been right if I had said that I want to attain perfection at archery?

Bheeshma:(Smiling) No. you would still have been in the wrong! One never ATTAINS perfection, Paartha! One becomes PERFECTION ITSELF! If perfection existed as something WITHOUT you, OUTSIDE you...you would be right in wanting to run after it to overtake to grasp it, to ATTAIN it! But PERFECTION, Paartha, is WITHIN you, within ME, within EVERY ONE OF US LIVING BEINGS! And knowledge, TRUE KNOWLEDGE, is the means to realize this perfection, to BECOME it, in fact! And the ONE ONE man in this WHOLE WHOLE world who can EDUCATE this... perfection OUT of you—LEAD this perfection OUT of you—into your fully BECOMING it and to the FULL PROFIT TO THE WORLD... is your GURU! (Pointing at Drona) Love HIM; Obey HIM; hang on HIS lips; follow HIS lead! TRUE KNOWLEDGE is too vast and too deep an ocean, Paartha, to fully tread and to fully traverse unaided and unguided by a GURU! Hence, never forget that LOVE TO ONE'S GURU IS THE SOLE WAY TO BECOMING PERFECTION! Am I clear, Paartha?

Arjuna:Aye, Taataajee!

Bheeshma:(Stroking the boy's head) That's right, little one! And in the meanwhile, what you do learn... you must learn quickly! And here again LOVE TO ONE'S GURU, WHILST IT WIDENS AND DEEPENS ONE'S LEARNING, ALSO HASTENS THE LEARNING OF IT! So you will so love your Guru as to lose your own self in him, will you not?

Arjuna:Yes, Taataajee, I will.

Bheeshma:That's right, my little one; now I must leave you to your work and see what my other little ones are doing!

Arjuna:(Prostrating) Prostrations, Taataajee!

Bheeshma:God's Blessings on you, Little one! (Raises the boy; kisses his forehead; sighing deeply and smiling sadly, releases the boy; turning slowly round, stalks dignifiedly towards the background where he is lost to sight amid the crowd of royal youths there.)

Arjuna:(Raising his voice) GURUJEE!

Drona:What is it Paartha?

Arjuna:(Dolefully) I am in trouble, Gurujee!

Drona:(Irritated) You usually are! What trouble is it this time?

Arjuna:The old old trouble, Gurujee! Tiredness of my arms very soon after start of practice! Taataajee Bheeshma said something about using the weight of my body to hold my arms...

Drona:(Stepping up to Arjuna addresses him in a strident voice) "Taataajee Bheeshma said..."! Why, you forgetful boy, I have been dinning the very same thing into your unheeding ears all these months and spent whole days together explaining it all to you and you forget every bit of it and stand before your target just as much of a novice as you were the day you started your archery!

Arjuna:(Plaintively) Forgive me Gurujee, but I really cannot make out how all the lessons you so kindly teach me... slip out of my mind...

Drona:YOU CANNOT... Paartha! But I CAN! The true trouble with you is that your AIM is wrong, altogether wrong!

Arjuna:"My aim wrong"? But I always aim at my target, Gurujee, straight at it!

Drona:Oh! I am not talking of your aim at your target! I mean the AIM... the MAIN AIM... the MAIN PURPOSE with which you are learning... THAT is what is at fault!

Arjuna:"My main aim in learning Archery"?... Well...!

Drona:Your AIM, Paartha, is just this: TO ATTAIN FAME AS AN ARCHER! No more! Every moment you spend at work, your mind is FULLER of thoughts of the DAY WHEN YOU'LL BE ACCLAIM'D AS THE VERY GREATEST ARCHER OF ALL TIMES, than of thoughts of the work itself! Be honest now, and confess that I am right!

Arjuna:(Dropping his eyes) Yes, Gurujee, you are right.

Drona:And that is why you're making poor progress: Your mind BRIMFUL OF THOUGHTS OF BUT THE GUERDON FOR YOUR WORK HAS LITTLE ROOM FOR THOUGHTS OF YOUR WORK ITSELF! In sooth, you are a "KAARMI" in the adhama sense of the word!

Arjuna:(Reiterating) "Kaarmi"...in the adhama sense! What sense, is that Gurujee?

Drona:KARMANAA SWAARTHAHA... a man whose labour is no more but MEANS to GAIN HIS SELFISH ENDS! If I had started MY bowcraft at the feet of my Guru with that aim... I should have never learnt to lift a bow, let alone how shoot a bolt!

Arjuna:But Gurujee, I seem to remember having heard you speak of your own self as a "Kaarmi" too?

Drona:Yes, but that was in the 'madhyama sense'! KARMA EVA ARTHAHA; He whose labour IS IN ITSELF THE END AND AIM of his labour!

Arjuna:And even that is only the madhyama sense? Is there then, an uttama sense to the word, Gurujee?

Drona:Yes! KARMANAA PARAARTHAHA: He whose one aim in his labour is that OTHERS MIGHT REAP THE HARVEST OF HIS TOILS WITHOUT THE LEAST PROFIT TO HIMSELF! This, Paartha, is the RIGHTEOUS AIM.

Arjuna:I quite understand, Gurujee! And yet I cannot but feel and think that for one to toil and moil all one's life only that others might reap the harvest WITHOUT THE LEAST PROFIT TO ONE'S OWN SELF...however righteous it sounds...seems so unreasonable...cruel...does it not, Gurujee?

Drona:(Shocked) "Unreasonable"? "Cruel"? Paartha... RIGHTEOUSNESS is ruled neither by KINDNESS nor REASON!
(Stares at Arjuna for fully a moment, sighs deeply and resumes in a most earnest voice) Perhaps it is yet too early in your life for me to speak to you of this... but... but... nevertheless mark my words and indite them indelibly in your mind! If ever in your after life it is given to you to creep close enough to RIGHTEOUSNESS, you will then r e a l i s e , Paartha, that when RIGHTEOUSNESS rules rampant, REASON grovels in the dust! When RIGHTEOUSNESS sits the Throne... A KING!,... REASON starves, shamed and unmanned: An EXILE! You will THEN realise, Paartha, that RIGHTEOUSNESS is neither Right nor yet Wrong: neither Kind nor yet Cruel... but that RIGHTEOUSNESS is BUT JUST STRONG—IMPREGNABLY... INEXORABLY STRONG!
(Carried away by the intensity of the emotion that has apparently mastered him for the moment, he grasps Arjuna by the shoulders and shaking him in the manner of a lion...an impudent... fox... thunders out) YOU POOR SELF-OBSESSED CHILD, YOU WILL THEN REALISE THAT RIGHTEOUSNESS IS GOD!
(Overwhelmed by Drona's outburst, Arjuna shudders in fear: Drona gradually recovers his equanimity, releases hold of Arjuna and steps back a pace; Affected by Arjuna's object and cowed mien, resumes in a palliative tone) I am sorry, Paartha, if I have bewildered and overwhelmed you! But then, it teaches you the sacrilege of speaking lightly of subjects far far above your yet young head! Now, let us to work. If you have grasped now at least that to excel in archery... you must give your ears entirely to my words, your eyes to your target, your frame and limbs to your bow and shaft, and your unruffled mind to all the three... all this talk of mine will not have been in vain! Now, let me watch you shoot as you have been doing all this morning... that I may see all your errors that want correcting. And once again, do not forget: your whole mind is drowned in archery; your eyes are riveted to the target and your ears glued to my voice and your frame and limbs feel but your bow-bowstring-and shaft! Now start!


[Arjuna starts on his task, his torso and limbs as stiff and taut as before; Drona is engrossed in closely watching him; UNNOTICED BY EITHER, EKALAVYA enters on the left at the foremost part of the fore-ground]

Ekalavya:(Looking all around him) This DOES look like the place Mother spoke of: "A wide vast grassy play ground with bejewelled and beautifully dressed handsome young princes at bow sword and mace exercises... being taught their lessons by a tall and noble looking Brahmana" is how SHE described it! And it all fits in every bit!
(His eyes rest on Drona and Arjuna; Startled at the sight, he speaks to himself in notes of consternation) Oh! Surely THAT cannot be the Great Dronaachaarya who is to help me become the greatest archer in the world! Why, his pupil is shooting in worse style then even a novice, and the tutor is watching him without a murmur of protest. No no! He IS saying something!!
(Inclines his ear to catch Drona's words to Arjuna)

Drona:As you are now shooting, Paartha, you are holding your body stiff; toe to neck, stiff... inert... as IRON! whilst most of the time it must be pliant... supple as STEEL! Now listen: With your feet fixed firmly on the ground, but your heels off it your two legs must pass and re-pass the weight of your body from foot to foot which while your frame should swing fore, back, and fore again timing ITS swings with throw of body weight, draw of string, and release of shaft. Now try and put my words into practice. (Arjuna tries with but indifferent success; Drona watches him with an annoyed look on his face)

Ekalavya:(With a fascinated look) Oh! Wonderful! It might be HE after all! (Stops and stoops to listen again)

Drona:No, Paartha, you are not righted yet! Let me go over it all once again in detail!
(Approaches his pupil and resumes in a slow and convincing manner particularising each practical detail at length) Now first stand with your left foot in front!
(Ekalavya in the foreground—out of earshot of the other two—still unnoticed by them, follows the whole series of the movements as dictated by Drona as faithfully as Arjuna himself)
Raise the heels of both feet: now rest the whole of your weight on on your fore foot – the left; and now bend your head, neck and body forward that is right! Extend your left arm, the hand grasping the bow firmly; extend the right arm, the thumb grasping the string firmly, the fingers gripping both the string and the butt of the shaft placed in position on the string. Now retain that position until you have fully memorised it.
(Pauses for fully a minute) You have? Now then, instead, as you have hitherto been doing, of bending JUST your right arm to draw the string, SWING BACK YOUR TRUNK, NECK AND HEAD as you are drawing the string—TIMING BOTH THESE MOVEMENTS WITH THE PASSING OF YOUR WEIGHT FROM YOUR FORE-FOOT – the left TO YOUR HIND FOOT – the right! (Arjuna—before Drona's eyes, and Ekalavya—behind Drona's back strictly follow Drona's instructions) That is correct! Now repeat the movements over and over again till you have mastered every detail and made it all your very very own!
(Arjuna does accordingly)

Ekalavya:(As he—unnoticed—follows the movements; in tones of ecstasy) Of course, this MUST BE THE GREAT DRONAACHAARYA! Who else could in a few moments and with a few words turn a novice into a good archer! That boy, Paartha, looks a skilful archer already! Why, I am better myself for listening to him and following his w o r d s!
(Instinctively following Arjuna's suit, goes once again through the movements... desisting... with a ring of conviction in his voice) HOW EASY HE MAKES IT ALL! YES, THE SWINGING OF ONE'S BODY DOES HELP THE ARM AND TIRES IT LESS!! One can shoot almost a whole day without tiring! Hark! The great man speaks! I must not miss a word!

Drona:(Watching Arjuna with a satisfied look) Yes, that is faultless. Now, tell me, Paartha, how big is the tree that your target is swung from?

Arjuna:(Without looking up and still going through his movements) Tree? I see no tree! I only see a black spot... the centre of my target.

Drona:Does the clash of swords from your far side disturb you at all?

Arjuna:(Still intent on his work) Clash? I hear no clash I only hear a voice... your voice...

Drona:Is this strong Sunshine tiring You?

Arjuna:(Still absorbed in his work and without looking up) I do not know! I cannot tell! I only feel the smarting rub of the bowstring on my arm!

Drona:(Clapping his hands) This is splendid! You can stop now and rest awhile! (Arjuna leaves his practice)

Arjuna:But tell me, Gurujee, what made the tree invisible to my eyes whilst I was practising? I can now see both the trees and the target!

Drona:(Smiling) Do you not yet know? Well then, what made you deaf to the loud clash of swords from yonder? You can hear them now! Again, what made you callous to the powerful sun rays that are scorching the very ground we stand upon? IT IS NO LESS A THING THAN CONCENTRATION!; AN ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY ELEMENT TO ONE'S PROGRESS IN ANY STUDY. And the perfect archer, if he is really CONCENTRATING can see nothing but his target; hear nothing but the swish of his shaft; feel nothing but the rub of bowstring on his arm; think nothing but thoughts of his Guru! THIS IS CONCENTRATION! Paartha!

Ekalavya:(Reiterating with effort) CON... CEN... TRA... TION... is it? I must remember that! He speaks! (Listens again)

Drona:Now that you have mastered the correct movements in archery and also proved your ability to concentrate, I am more hopeful of making a useful archer of you than I ever was!

Arjuna:"Useful Archer"? Why, Gurujee, I want to become the greatest archer in the world!

Ekalavya:(Sotto Voce) WHAT, HE TOO? What is his reason... I wonder?

Drona:I do not see why you should not become the greatest archer in the world, Paartha!, as hereafter, it is all in your own hands.

Ekalavya:(Sotto Voce) If in his own hands... perhaps in mine own too!

Arjuna:You mean, Gurujee, that with correct movements and with ability to concentrate, anyone can become the greatest archer in the world!

Drona:No, Paartha, a deep and fervent love for one's guru is also an essential element!

Arjuna:Of course you know I love you, Gurujee!

Ekalavya:(Unhesitatingly) And I adore him too!

Drona:In your own interests, Paartha, I hope that you do love me!

Arjuna:Then Gurujee, these three things ensure perfection in archery, do they not?

Drona:By no means, Paartha! There is yet another element equally essential; but in your own case it goes without saying that you fully possess it!

Ekalavya:(Bewildered) YET ANOTHER ELEMENT? And that boy fully possesses it? I wonder what it is! Perhaps I possess it too!

Arjuna:What is the fourth element, Gurujee?

Drona:The fourth necessary factor, Paartha, is a whole-hearted willingness on the part of the guru to teach his pupil! In your case you have fully possessed it since the very moment you started tuition under me; (stroking Arjuna's head) You know, I love to teach you! Now that you are equipped with a complete mastery over the GROUNDWORK of archery, a full command of concentration whilst at work, a fervent devotion to your Guru and his love to teach you... practice, assiduous practice, will complete your bowmanship!

Ekalavya:(Dolefully) So it is not all in my hands after all! His love to teach me! That is the 'element' I want! "A whole-hearted willingness on the part of the guru to teach his pupil" is how he described it! Hark! (Listens again)

Arjuna:Oh yes, "Practice" of course! And in the manner that you taught me just now!... Is that what you call "THE GROUNDWORK" of archery, Gurujee?

Drona:Yes, the GROUNDWORK! The FOUNDATION to be prescribed for the pupil and instilled into him under the guidance of his Guru; and it involves: a correct stance of the body at the outset; a correct mode of addressing the target; a correct sequence of movements of the trunk head and limbs in drawing the bowstring; and lastly a correct poise of delivering in the aiming and release of the shaft, there, you have it all! And you have laid for yourself the necessary foundation by your work this morning.

Ekalavya:(With a wry face) SO HAVE I... for that matter! But of what use is it all to me if I do not win his love to teach me! "Necessary Element" he called it!

Arjuna: Now that I  p o s s e s s  all the elements necessary, you will make me the greatest archer in all the world, will you not, Gurujee?

Drona:(Smiling) I will, Paartha!

Arjuna: Is that a promise, Gurujee?

Drona:Why, of course it is!!

Arjuna: (Clapping his hands) That is splendid! I must run away and tell the good news to everybody! (Prances triumphantly away towards the crowd of boys in the background)

Ekalavya: (Sotto Voce) His “love to to teach me"! That is the "element" I lack! The rest is all in my hands!
(A look of doubt overspreads his face) But I fear he will never take me as his pupil! He will mayhap think that I am not fit to be a fellow-pupil of these princes! (Looks around and watches the princes who are all departing for their mid-day ablutions by an egress in the background) Why, I myself FEEL too ragged and small for this big beautiful place! And I am sure I LOOK it too!, amidst these gay-dressed and jewelled princes! But SOMEHOW I must win his love to teach me! Frightened as I am, I MUST WALK UP TO HIM AND ASK HIM! (Looking tremulously at Drona) I wonder how I DARE! He looks so big and so noble! (His face gradually assumes a determined look and his eyes harden) BUT I MUST DARE! I MUST DARE ANYTHING TO SAVE MY POOR LITTLE FAWNS! (With a sudden gleam in his eyes) I HAVE IT! I shall tell him WHY I want to become the greatest archer in the world! He has a kind face and I am sure he loves poor harmless and helpless animals! Who does not? The reason of that boy Paartha, whatever it is, cannot be nobler than mine! (In a decisive voice) I shall speak to him! He is alone...and fortunately... smiling! (Approaches Drona somewhat "gingerly"; on Drona's turning his way prostrates himself at Drona's feet) Prostrations to you, sir!

Drona: (Bending and raising the boy) God's Blessings on you, little man! What can I do for you?

Ekalavya: (Encouraged to almost elation) A SMALL FAVOUR, SIR! Are you not the GREAT Dronaachaarya, Sir?

Drona: I AM Dronaachaarya; but why "The Great"? (Smiles broadly)

Ekalavya: I do not know, Sir. But my mother called you "Great"!

Drona: "Your MOTHER"?... Well, what is this "small favour" that you spoke of?

Ekalavya: Will you kindly help me become the greatest archer in the world, sir?

Drona: (Startles at the question; the palpable naivety of the boy amuses him) What? A rival to Paartha? (Laughs outright) It seems to me that every boy on earth wants to become the greatest archer in the world!!! (Bursts into a loud guffaw)

Ekalavya: (With earnest eyes and tremulous lips) Why do you laugh, Sir, may I ask?

Drona: You may, little man! I am laughing at the easy, simple manner you are asking for what certainly is NOT THE SMALL favour you first spoke of! Surely you are not serious?

Ekalavya: But, Sir, I AM serious! MOST SERIOUS!!

Drona: (Studying the boy for fully a minute) I daresay you are! But anyhow who are you? What is your name? Who is your father? Of what caste are you?

Ekalavya: (Draws us his little form proudly) My name is Ekalavya, Sir. My father was Hiranya Dhanus, the chief... the great chief ... the greatest chief that ever was of all the Nishadas...

Drona: (In an undertone) The chief of Nishadas? So you are a Nishada? No wonder you are serious about your bowmanship! (Casting a casual glance almost unconsciously at the mid and backgrounds) But my little man... (Shaking his head unmistakably) I am afraid I cannot...

Ekalavya: (Suddenly interrupting him... and in a piteous tone) Forgive me, Sir, but I think I know what you are afraid of! You are afraid, Sir, that because I am a Nishada, I want to hurt innocent people for plunder and kill innocent creatures for my food... with the archery that you may teach me! But believe me, Sir, ever since father was killed, Mother and I live in a lone forest and though it is full of birds, deer and fawns... we live only upon grains, milk and fruit!

Drona: (In a kindly tone) No, my little man, I was not thinking of quite all that! (Affected by the boy's woe-begone face approaches him and stroking his head gently) Poor little man! So you lost your father so early in life! And you live alone with your mother in a forest? Poor little man! But then why ARE you so anxious to become the greatest archer in the world? You spoke of your father as having been killed! Is this archery you want to learn, by any means to help you avenge his death?

Ekalavya: NO, Sir, NOT AT ALL! Father was killed in fair fight whilst battling bravely for his king! EVERYBODY SAYS HE DIED A GALLANT WARRIOR'S DEATH!... But I, Sir, I MUST become the greatest archer in all this world... because... because... (Looking into Drona's eyes with pleading light in his own) It is all a long.. long... sad... sad story sir... and you seem and speak so kindly. Sir, that I feel I must tell it all to you, Sir... if... if you will only give me a few moments of your time! It means... much... so very much to me, Sir!

Drona: (Overcome by the boy's manner) Why certainly, my little man, tell me your story by all means. But first let me see? (Looks around and notices the NOW empty playground) Yes, my forenoon's work is over and my time is my own for quite a while... and it is all yours too... but first, let us find a shady place to sit (Leads the boy to a neighbouring shady tree and seats himself) Sit down. little man! (as Ekalavya squats on his knees) There, that's better! NOW, for your long, long, sad, sad, story, little man! (Smiles benevolently)

Ekalavya: (Anxious and excited) It is all like this, Sir... (sotto voce) Where was I?... (Aloud) Oh, Yes! As I told you before, sir, mother and I live by our two selves in a little forest a long long way from here... three days and three nights of walking, to be exact. Now, next to our forest sir, is another little forest in which in a hermitage lives a Rishi. And wolves, sir, hundreds of them cruelly maul and slay the deer and fawns in our forest and meanly run for shelter into the Rishi's forest; and there, sir, would you believe it Sir... Instead of killing and hurting the deer and fawns THERE, they actually play with the fawns and suckle them too! When I spoke to mother of the cruelty of the wolves to OUR deer and fawns and their KINDNESS to the deer and fawns in the Rishi's hermitage... mother said that all this was through no kindness at all of the wolves whose cruel nature was always the same, but that it was the power of the "tapas" of the Rishi that curbed the cruel nature of the wolves for JUST THE TIME THE WOLVES WERE IN HIS FOREST! And when I wondered if this Rishi could be begged of, to use his power in our forest to free OUR deer and fawns from hurt, mother said that his power could NOT act OUTSIDE HIS OWN HERMITAGE! And when I again asked her... (suddenly dropping his voice) Am I boring you, Sir?

Drona: (Starting... and striking Ekalavya's head) No no! you are not! Go on! I am interested! Do go on!

Ekalavya: (Sighing relievedly) Thank you, Sir! You are very kind! But where was I? Oh. Yes! And when I asked mother how I could myself acquire this wonderful power... she said "not in this life of yours... as you are a Nishaada by birth! But if you live this life of yours as befits your caste... then you may in some future life be born as an Arya like our neighbour – and acquire Tapas like him"! And when I asked her if the deer and fawns in our forest should keep on being killed until I was born an Arya in some future life she said "No! You may, if you can, in this life of yours protect your deer and fawns as befits your caste by slaying the wolves... and you will be storing Tapas as well"... RAKSHAA YOGA – she called it sir... the merit of protecting the helpless weak against hurt and death from the strong and cruel! she explained it to mean, Sir! Then, Sir, a wonderful thought came into my head and I said "Why then, if in this life alone, I slay all the wolves in all the forests in the whole world... then all the deer and fawns and all other innocent creatures will be free from fear of hurt and death; and besides I shall in THIS life even as a Nishada, be greater than any Aryan rishi who can protect the weaklings ONLY in his forest!!" She said: "You will! But to be able to kill ALL THE WOLVES IN ALL THE FORESTS IN ALL THIS WORLD, you will surely have to be THE VERY GREATEST ARCHER OF ALL MEN ON EARTH! And there is only ONE MAN that can help you become that! And that is the GREAT DRONAACHAARYA"! And she told me too, Sir! how to get here to get at you! Now you see Sir, why I want to... Will you... help me... sir?

Drona: (As Ekalavya relates his story, Drona's face assumes successive looks of: Curiosity-interest-solicitude-pity-admiration-amazement, love and finally of DEEP REVERENCE! As the boy comes to the end of his story Drona gazes for moments together into Ekalavya's eyes... and mumbles under his breath) KARMANAA PARAARTHAHA! AND HE, A NISHAADA! WONDERFUL!!!!!

Ekalavya: (Overhearing the last two words) Yes, Sir, I AM a nishaada! What is there wonderful in it, sir? (On getting no reply from Drona) Forgive me, Sir, but, may I ask what you are thinking of?

Drona: You may, little man! I am thinking of YOU... YOUR CASTE... and YOUR AMBITION!

Ekalavya: (In tearful despair) Do not think of ME sir! For if you only think of me... and my low caste... and my ambition as being above my blood and birth, sir... you may perhaps not want to teach me! BUT THINK OF THE POOR FAWNS, Sir! Think of them... night and day in terror of the wolves! They go hungry many a day as they dare not go far in search of grass for fear of the wolves! When they are parched with thirst, they dare not go near the brooks for fear of the wolves that lie in wait! Even at night, sir, the wolves steal into their midst under cover of darkness and steal away the little ones! Mother and I hardly rest at nights as the death cries of the fawns and the helpless groans of the mothers keep us awake all nights! (Breaks down in grief; looks away for a few moments and manfully driving away his tears, resumes) It was all different Sir, when father was alive! HE COULD KILL THE WOLVES AND KEEP THEM ALL AWAY! But he died, Sir, before he could teach me to use a bow! I HAVE TRIED HARD... EVER SO HARD, SIR, TO LEARN BY MYSELF... BUT IT DOES SEEM NOT POSSIBLE, SIR, TO LEARN ALL BY ONE'S OWN SELF! IF you will only think of the poor poor deer and fawns, Sir, I am sure you will make up your mind to teach me! Besides, I have forgot to tell you Sir, that when I told mother that you may not like to teach me, a nishaada, when you had rich princes for your pupils, she said that you would gain more by teaching me than you would by teaching the princes... as a good part of the "TAPAS" I would be storing all my life, would of right go to you as my Guru... and that being a Brahmana, you would prefer "TAPAS" as fee to all the rich jewels and wealth your prince-pupils may give you! (Anxiously) So... will... you...? (Seeing a thoughtful look in Drona’s face lie leaves the question unfinished; at this stage unnoticing these & unnoticed by these, Arjuna enters and resumes his work with bow and shafts.)

Drona: (Sighing deeply and in a tone of intense regret) I am very sorry, my little man, but I have now well over a hundred pupils on my hands! And I have undertaken their training! Perhaps when I have finished here...

Ekalavya: (Whose eyes have been wandering over the mid-and back-grounds suddenly interrupts Drona in a cry almost of despair) Finish here! But, sir, you NEVER WILL FINISH HERE! Why, look at that boy you called Paartha! (Points at Arjuna) He has got his heels DOWN!!, while they should really be OFF THE GROUND!

Drona: (Startled, looks round and annoyed at sight of Arjuna) Yes, you are right! But why do YOU think the heels should be OFF THE GROUND!?

Ekalavya: Why else, Sir, but to pass and re-pass the weight of the body from foot to foot... this wise! (Goes through the movements)

Drona: (Amazed at the boy's performance) Why, my little man, you are well-grounded in archery already! You certainly are not the novice you made yourself out to me to be! Now, if your poor father was slain in battle before he could teach you archery you surely DID NOT LEARN ALL THIS BY YOUR OWN SELF?

Ekalavya: No, Sir, of course not! I did not know any of it when I came here a while ago! I came in while you were teaching that boy Paartha... and over-hearing your words I almost unknowingly followed the movements – (anxiously) I... hope... I have done no wrong Sir!

Drona: (Sotto Voce) WONDERFUL! (Aloud) Wrong? No, No, not at all!

Ekalavya: (Pointing out Arjuna again) Look, Sir, he is bending far enough back! And besides... well... you will never finish here, Sir, for the boy Paartha will never improve!

Arjuna: (Reiterating what he heard of Ekalavya's words) "The boy Paartha will never improve" !!! (Looking around) Who said that?

Ekalavya: Why, I said it!

Arjuna: (Walking up to Ekalvya) How do you know that I will never improve?

Ekalavya: (Smiling) Why, easily! Your Gurujee said that CON-CEN-TRA-TION is necessary to improve in archery! And you were NOT concentrating!

Arjuna: How do YOU know I was not concentrating?

Ekalavya: Easily again! Your Guru said, if an archer is really con-cen-tra-ting he can hear nothing but the "swish" of his shaft! If you had been concentrating, you COULD NOT HAVE HEARD MY WORDS! (Arjuna winces) And besides you have forgotten all he said about the groundwork of archery!...Why, you kept your heels DOWN whilst they should have been raised UP!...besides when you went back, your weight was still on your forefoot...and besides...

Arjuna: (Peevishly) OH! STOP IT! (To Drona) Who is he, Gurujee? And what does he want here!


Drona: (Dryly) Ask him ! (Recedes a few steps and turns his face away)

Arjuna: (Curtly to Ekalavya) Who are you? And what do you want here?

Ekalavya: I am a nishaada. I came here to beg of your Guru to help me become the greatest archer in the world.

Arjuna: (Laughs outright; Derisively) "Become the greatest archer in the World", indeed! How can you even for a moment think it possible for a NISHAADA to become what is almost impossible even for an ARYA?!

Ekalavya: (Unperturbed by Arjuna's Laughter) What does it matter if I am a nishaada? How does it help you in your archery that you are an Arya? If you will only give up this silly laugh of yours and recall with care all that your Guru said, you will remember that FIVE, and ONLY FIVE "elements" are necessary to help any man of any caste to become the greatest archer in all the world: (As he reels off the "elements" he ticks them off on his fingers) A PERFECT MASTERY OF THE GROUND WORK OF ARCHERY; A POWER TO CON-CEN-TRATE; A DEEP AND FERVENT LOVE TO ONE'S GURU; HIS WHOLE-HEARTED WILLINGNESS TO TEACH; And lastly, ASSIDUOUS PRACTICE! Now, I am well-grounded in archery; I can concentrate; I love and adore him; I shall practise day and night! I ONLY WANT HIS LOVE TO TEACH ME! AND when I have won that I KNOW I WILL become the greatest archer in all the world! He said nothing about an Arya's chances at archery being greater than a nishadaa's! It seems to me to think that BEING AN ARYA IS A SIXTH NECESSARY ELEMENT is but a sign of your silly pride in your caste and your mean scorn for mine!

Arjuna: (Stung to the quick) What do yon mean by my "Silly pride" in my caste?

Ekalavya: (Calm and smiling) "What do I mean"? Why, just what I said! When I spoke of your pride in your caste as being silly, I meant that you are proud of your caste without knowing what there is in your caste to be really proud of!

Arjuna: (Sneeringly) How do you know that I do not know it?

Ekalavya: Well then, if you really do know what there is to be proud of in being an Arya that there is not in being a nishaada... tell me!...I am a nishaada and you are an Arya; And yet I am as strong as you; I can become as great an archer as you ever can – if your Guru wills it; and I have all that I want in my beautiful forest as you have all you want in this big city of yours!...Tell me how you are any better than I for being an Arya ?

Arjuna: (Cogitates for a minute; a confused and unequal to a coherent and cogent reply, snaps back sardonically) You may be all this and even perhaps become as good as I in archery – if Gurujee takes you on as his pupil! And yet, after all is said and done... AN ARYA is AN ARYA! And a NISHAADA is only a LOW-BORN NISHAADA!

Ekalavya: (Bursts out laughing) You make me laugh!

Arjuna: (Curtly) What is there to laugh at?

Ekalavya: I am laughing because it seems to me that according to you the only thing that one has to be proud of in being an Arya is THAT ONE IS NOT A NISHAADA! If then, there were no nishaadas at all in this world... you poor Aryans would have nothing to be proud of in being born as Aryas?

Arjuna: Is that what you really think?

Ekalavya: Of course not! I know what there is to be proud of in being an Arya! It is you that do not! If you care to hear me and learn I shall tell you! In the forest I live in, cruel wolves maul and kill harmless deer and fawns; and THE ONLY WAY THAT I CAN SAVE THE DEER AND FAWNS IS BY KILLING THE WOLVES! In the forest next to mine lives an Aryan Rishi and HE PROTECTS HIS DEER AND FAWNS BY THE POWER OF HIS "TAPAS" WITHOUT KILLING THE WOLVES! Now MY way of guarding my deer and fawns spells not only the death of the wolves, but also makes little wolf-cubs who have as yet done no harm, become fatherless and motherless!! And I who know both the loss of a father and love of a mother can feel for the poor little cubs! Thus, you see, that the power an Arya has, of doing the same thing as a nishaada BUT WITHOUT HARM OR HURT TO ANYONE, is a thing to be really proud of! YOUR silly pride in your caste ONLY BECAUSE YOU WERE BORN AN ARYA is but a sure sign of your WEAK HEAD!

Arjuna: (Scandalised; and with ill suppressed rage) My "weak" head?!

Ekalavya: (Smiling) What else? Mother always says that PRIDE IN ONE'S CASTE MORE THAN IN ONE'S POWER TO DO GOOD is the surest sign of a weak head! Why, the very manner in which you said: "a nishaada is only a low-born nishaada" shows that you are not only weak-headed, but faint-hearted too! Mother always says that contempt for another's caste is born only of cowardice!

Arjuna: (Boiling over with impotent rage) "Weak-headed"? "Cowardice"? "Faint-hearted"? I am not weak-headed! I am not a coward! I am not faint-hearted!

Ekalavya: (Decisively) Of course you ARE! EVERY ONE of these! If you are not really faint-hearted..., why are you afraid of me?

Arjuna: (Sneeringly) "Afraid of you"? I AM NOT!

Ekalavya: You are not? Then do you mean you... really... like me?

Arjuna: (With disgust in his face and voice) "Like you"? I DO NOT LIKE YOU! I DISLIKE YOU! VERY MUCH!

Ekalavya: (Laughing triumphantly) There you are! Your dislike shows that you fear me! Mother says HATE IS ONLY ANOTHER NAME FOR FEAR! (Softens face and voice and resumes suavely) Now, I do not dislike you at all! I really like you; and I am so sorry for you too!

Arjuna: You!? "Sorry" for ME? Whatever for?

Ekalavya: Why, sorry for you that you should have had the Great Dronaachaarya for your Guru all these months and that you should still be...what...you...!

Arjuna: (Snapping at Ekalavya) It is nothing to YOU what I "Still AM"! (Turning to Drona and with a wild gesture of his arms pointing to Ekalavya) What is all this, Gurujee!!?

Drona: (Taciturn of face and dry of voice) What is all what, Paartha?


Arjuna: (Upset beyond all control, speaks in incoherent spasms) All this...I mean...this... mad talk...of this...this...forest...person! (Raising his voice almost to a frenzied shriek) Who is he, Gurujee? And what does he want here?

Ekalavya: Why do you ask him? I have told you who and what I want here!!!


Arjuna: Yes, but have you told HIM!?

Ekalavya: Of course I have! And I have begged of him too to take me as his pupil!


Arjuna: (Leering at Ekalavya) Gurujee!...to take YOU!, A NISHAADA!!...as a fellow-pupil of US ROYAL PRINCES! You must be mad to think of it! Why, silly impudent boy, you do not know how great and noble our Gurujee is! He has refused tuition to many hundreds of princes who would have given him many jewels and much wealth! And now, would he take as his pupil a ragged nishaada urchin, too poor to give him any DAKSHINA?

Ekalavya: It is you that is silly! And it is you that does not know how great and noble your Guru is! Why, whatever Dakshina he wants, he can teach his pupil to get it for him! (To Drona) You easily can, can you not, Sir? (Suppressing a smile Drona turns away without replying; Ekalavya continues...to Arjuna:) I may be ragged and poor, and yet if the Great Aachaarya takes me as his pupil, a good part of the "TAPAS" I shall be storing all my life by saving the weak and helpless from hurt and fear of death, will go to him for fitting me out for my work! And being a Brahmana, He will always prefer "TAPAS" for his DAKSHINA, to mere gold and jewels! (To Drona) You will, will you not, Sir?


Drona: (To Arjuna) Do you recognise him, Paartha?

Arjuna: "Recognise him"? Why, Gurujee, I have never seen him before!


Drona: Never "seen" him, perhaps!, but we both spoke of him only a while ago! (Coming forward) Why, Paartha, this is the "KAARMI" in the "UTI'AMA" sense of the word! This is a little man who wants to become the greatest archer in all this world AS HIS ONE AIM IN LIFE IS TO SLAY ALL THE BEASTS OF PREY IN ALL THE FORESTS ON THIS EARTH IN ORDER THAT ALL THE DEER, FAWNS AND OTHER INNOCENT CREATURES MAY LIVE FREE FROM FEAR OF DEATH AND HURT!!!

Arjuna: (Sulkily) But that is all very, well, Gurujee! With your mind full of "Noble aims", "Forests and fawns", "Kaarmis", "Nishaadas", "UTTAMA SENSES" and WOLVES...you seem to have altogether forgotten your PROMISE?

Drona: (Startled for the moment) "Promise"? What promise?


Arjuna: There you are! You HAVE forgotten it! Wrapped in thoughts of this rude nishaada boy and his impudent ambitions, you have f o r g o t t e n your promise to make me the greatest archer in the world! If you are going to take him as your pupil...he...do you...not see...Gurujee?


Drona: Surely, Paartha, my promise to you need not deter me from helping him fulfil his Noble purpose?


Arjuna: But you cannot both help him and keep your promise, Gurujee! With you as his Guru, he may perhaps become as good or at least almost as good an a r c h e r as I myself shall...!


Ekalavya: (Laughingly mimicking) "as good"! "at least almost as good"! "may perhaps"! (To Arjuna) It is very kind of you to try and argue how much of an archer I "MAY PERHAPS" become!... If the Great Aacharya will only take me as his pupil, there is no "MAY PERHAPS" about what I shall become, as I am CERTAIN that I SHALL AND WILL become the greatest archer in the world!!


Arjuna: (In a frenzy) There, Gurujee! hark at his impudence! (Sulks in silence for a few moments swallowing many a word he would have liked to utter; resuming, addresses Drona in a voice fraught with a note of warning) Gurujee! I have just heard from my brothers and cousins that TAATAAJEE BHEESHMA, as he left the Grounds, commanded every one of us to make the most of EVERY MOMENT OF YOUR TIME! As it is, you have not enough time to teach all of us...and if you are taking…another pupil...


Ekalavya: (To Arjuna…in pathetic appeal) I shall not rob any of you of EVEN A SINGLE MOMENT OF YOUR GURU'S TIME! If, with his permission, you will only be good enough to let me come here every day…I shall do nothing more than just watch you all at work and without your losing a moment of your Guru's Time...learn all I want...and...


Arjuna: (Interrupting sharply completes the sentence for Ekalavya)...BECOME GREATER THAN I AT BOWCRAFT...! NO!


Ekalavya: (Holding back the tears that are welling up to his eyes) You see, when I beg of you for a chance of learning archery, I am not thinking of myself but of hundreds of poor helpless fawns and deer that are killed by wolves! Do you not love fawns? Perhaps, living in this city, you have not seen one! If you did but come with me to my forest and heard their helpless bleats and looked into their soft pleading eyes. I AM SURE YOU WOULD WANT TO JOIN ME IN MY LIFE'S AVOWED WORK! What harm will it do to you if I do NO MORE but WATCH you all at practice?...and...


Arjuna: The very harm I do not want to come to pass! Why, watching us all at practice and hearing Gurujee's teaching...I somehow feel that you are sure to learn more than all of us! Why, the very way in which you stealthily picked up all about the groundwork of archery, warns me of the danger of letting you come here again! (To Drona) Gurujee you seem to have forgotten all about the promise you have made to TAATAAJEE not to take in any more pupils until you have finished training us! Having sent away many princes on that very score, if you now take this nishaada boy as another pupil...TAATAAJEE may not like it...if I tell...I mean...if he hears of it!


Drona: You are right, Paartha! He may not like it.
(Going up to Ekalavya, stroking the boy's head with his left hand, he lifts up Ekalavya's face by the chin with his right hand; and looking into the boy's eyes, speaks in a voice of intense regret) You see, my little man, there is a great and noble prince... the UNCROWNED KING OF ALL OUR LAND... whom I love and revere. And to him I have made a promise not to receive anyone else as my pupil until... (sweeping the mid-and foregrounds with his left arm)... these his grand-children have all finished their training under me! Now, YOU WOULD NOT HAVE ME BREAK MY PROMISE...WOULD YOU?


Ekalavya: (His breath coming in short and laboured pants and tears welling his eyes looks into Drona's eyes and breathes his words out in a husky voice) I understand, Sir, I quite understand! Believe me, Sir, I love and adore you far too well to want to be cause of your breaking your promise to this other great man whom YOU love and adore! (After a pause, his anguish getting the better of him...he tearfully resumes) But it does seem hard on the poor fawns, does it not, Sir? But that of course cannot be helped! (He hangs his head down and ruminates half aloud to himself) My poor fawns!... but after all...WHAT DO I REALLY WANT... (As he reels off the "ELEMENTS", ticks them off on his fingers) He has told me I am well-grounded! I can concentrate! I love and adore him! I shall practise night and day assiduously! IT IS HIS LOVE TO TEACH ME THAT I STILL WANT! HIS "WHOLE-HEARTED WILLINGNESS TO TEACH" IS THE ONE "ELEMENT" I WANT! (Thinks hard for a moment and his eyes suddenly gleam) But his love to teach me does not mean that I must be here with him. all the time I practise! Of course not! (Smiles through his tears) I only want his "willingness"!; I shall beg that of him; but I must be wary! (Aloud to Drona in anxious notes) Forgive me, Sir, but if you HAD HAD the time and were free to teach me, would my being a nishaada be in the way...?


Drona: My little man, that would not count with me at all! I love all little men of all castes alike.


Ekalavya: I know it, Sir, and need not have asked! And you think well, Sir, of my reason for wanting to learn archery?


Drona: "Think well of your reason"!? Why, little man, I RESPECT it!!


Ekalavya: (Obviously encouraged... but yet tremulously) Then, Sir, will you kindly answer me this my last question, Sir? It means so much...why, EVERYTHING to me, Sir?


Drona: (Smiling benevolently) Ask, little man, ask! Ask what you will!


Ekalavya: ("Serving out” his words slowly and deliberately in a tone of utmost apprehension) IF you HAD HAD the time, Sir, and WERE FREE to teach me, Sir, WOULD YOU HAVE LIKED, the least bit, LIKED to teach me?


Drona: (With his hands resting on Ekalavya's shoulders; bends down and speaks in a tone of utmost love and admiration) "Liked"? "The least bit liked"? Why, my little man, if only I had the least chance, I should LOVE to teach you!


Ekalavya: (His eyes gleam, but only for a moment; an almost cautious look comes over his face; in an anxious tone) But would your "love to teach me" be the same thing as "A WHOLE-HEARTED WILLINGNESS ON YOUR PART", Sir, to teach me?


Drona: (Puzzled but still smiling) Why, of course it would!


Ekalavya: (In a voice of jubilation) That is good enough, Gurujee! I must get home and start my practice forthwith! Prostrations, Gurujee, and give me leave to go home! (Prostrates himself at Drona's feet)


Drona: God's Blessings on you...(raises the boy and noticing his NOW happy face) What does this sudden gladness of yours mean ?


Ekalavya: (Triumphantly) IT MEANS, GURUJEE, from almost this very moment, MY FAWNS AND DEER ARE SAFE! (Walks away towards the exit left.)


Drona: (Following the boy with his eyes) FAREWELL, LITTLE MAN!!


Ekalavya: (Turning round for a moment and with confidence in voice and delight on his face) IT WILL NEVER BE "FAREWELL" BETWEEN US BOTH, GURUJEE! (Exits by the egress on the Left)


Drona: (Still looking after the departing Ekalavya; With knit brows) What did the child mean?


Arjuna: (Who is, and has this while been practising in the mid-ground) Have you turned him away, Gurujee?


Drona: Turned whom away?


Arjuna: (Releasing a shaft and bending forward) Whom else, Gurujee, but that bold, bad barbarian boy!


Drona: (Turning round and stretching his arms out; indignantly) PAARTHA! Is this CONCENTRATION?

Arjuna: (Dropping his bow and quiver to the ground and hanging his head down) Forgive me, Gurujee, but somehow I cannot put that little nishaada boy out of my mind!


Drona: (Turns round and with his eyes fixed at the spot where he last saw Ekalavya, sighs deeply, and his words slowly straggle out of his lips) NOR CAN I, PAARTHA, NOR CAN I!


The Curtain Drops Slowly.


ACT II
[SIX YEARS LATER]

Place: A GLADE IN THE FOREST

DISCOVERED:Dronaaacharya and Arjuna on a path which runs Right to Left along the foreground.

Time: SIX YEARS AFTER THE LAST ACT

Arjuna:(Elatedly) Now that you assure me, Gurujee, that I have completed my training, may I take it that you have kept your promise and that I am the greatest archer in the world, now?

Drona:(Palpably disrelishing Arjuna's "Gush") M'yes, I s u p p o s e so.

Arjuna:Then, Gurujee, I shall be able to vanquish anybody in the whole whole world, shall I not? In a bout of archery, I mean?

Drona:In a "Pariksha", yes.

Arjuna:"Pariksha"? Not only in a "Pariksha", Gurujee...but in a serious fight too! Being the best bowman in the world, I should be surely able to vanquish and slay ANYBODY I might fight against? At archery of course!

Drona:In a pariksha, Paartha, you would vanquish your adversary. But in a serious fight, one may hardly say the same with certainty! (In slow deliberate accents) Skill, Paartha, skill alone it is that decides the victor in a 'pariksha'! But in a serious combat, with lives at hazard and principles at issue, other elements come into play and control the end with scant respect to the mere skill-at-arms of the combatants.

Arjuna:(In notes of consternation) But, Gurujee, in a serious…fair fight...under equal conditions…surely the greater archer MUST win!…MUST slay his adversary?

Drona:(In decided tone) Nay, Paartha, Nay! 'Twere best you realised that no fight if serious at all can be a fair fight and under equal conditions! For in a serious, earnest, grim combat...even as the combatants, thirsting each for the other's life, are at variance with each other...so too are they at variance with the RIGHTEOUS or WRONG side of the cause at issue! And NO SUPERIOR SKILL-AT-ARMS MAY WARD OFF DEFEAT AND DEATH...THE INEVITABLE LOT OF HIM WHO ESCHEWS THE RIGHTEOUS AND ESPOUSES THE WRONG SIDE OF THE CAUSE! Is this clear to you, Paartha?

Arjuna:(Dropping his eyes) Aye, Gurujee, quite clear.

Drona:Then let not YOUR PRIDE IN YOUR PROWESS blind your POWER TO DISCERN THE RIGHTEOUS FROM THE WRONG!
(Suddenly the high-pitched yell of a wild beast is heard) Hark! What is that?

Arjuna:The shriek of an animal! A wild one! Perhaps making for here! (In a trice fixes an arrow to his bow and disappears on the left of the mid ground. He re-enters almost at once, and in a highly excited manner and voice) Gurujee, it is a wolf! It is flitting here for very life! Someone is chasing it and sending shaft behind shaft through just the base of the beast's skull! There it is! Look, Gurujee! Look! (A wolf flashes past LEFT to RIGHT of the Mid Ground; a continuous line of arrows pierces through the head of the fleeing beast as Arjuna has described. Both look on spell bound.)

Drona:(Beside himself with admiration) Look, Paartha, Look! Whoever this marvellous archer is, he hates the wolf so very much that in lieu of mercifully slaying the beast outright with single shaft as he easily can…he is torturing the beast to prolong its agony by SAWING THROUGH ITS BRAIN! Look! He has sent over a hundered shafts ere the beast has covered a bare thirty paces! AMAZING! Paartha, this is BOW-CRAFT beyond the wildest stretch of MY I M A G I N A T I O N!

Arjuna:(Sotto Voce) "Beyond the wildest stretch of Gurujee's imagination"! (Aloud) Why then, Gurujee, he is not perhaps far behind EVEN ME at archery!?

Drona:(In pitiful contempt) "Perhaps not far behind even you in archery"! Why, you self-obsessed child, whoever he is, he is NOT ONLY NOT BEHIND YOU IN ARCHERY BUT SO FAR AHEAD OF YOU AND ME TOO...THAT WE SHALL NEVER IN THIS LIFE COME WITHIN YOJANAS of his bowmanship! Who can he be!? Not a human!?

Arjuna:(To himself) Ahead of me! Ahead of Gurujee himself! (Aloud) Whoever he be!...must see this archer! (Strides precipitately towards the source of the stream of arrows)

Drona:(Dragging Arjuna back) Come back! You foolhardy child! Do you not see it is certain death to anyone who faces him when he is in THIS MOOD!? (Points to the stream of shafts that are still flashing past) Hark! The shafts are hissing sharper and he is nearing us every moment! Let us watch him from behind this tree as he goes past! (The TWO step back behind cover of a neighbouring tree. EKALAVYA enters on the left by the mid-ground almost running and breathing hard; he halts in the centre of the mid-ground and faces and watches the line of exit of the wolf with blazing eyes. The shrieks of the fleeing wolf continue to be heard.)

Ekalavya:Shriek, you beast! Shriek your loudest! And if your shrieks of pain are bringing back to you the dying groans of the fawn you mauled all yester-noon, you have suffered enough to deserve the end of your agony! I shall slay you now! (Fixes an arrow to his how and trains it on the right exit; when about to release the shaft, holds his hand for a moment and in a soft voice) Perhaps you have young cubs awaiting in your lair... (hardens his voice again) But then, you should not have hurt and killed the young ones of the deer! (Discharges his shaft; the dying yell of the wolf is heard behind the scenes. Ekalavya gives out a shout of elation and) ONE MORE WOLF! BUT ONE ONLY WOLF! WHEN THAT IS SLAIN MY FOREST WILL BE FREE OF WOLVES! AND THEN ON TO THE NEXT AND THE NEXT, AND THE NEXT, UNTIL ALL THE FORESTS ON THIS EARTH ARE CLEARED OF THESE MARAUDING WOLVES... (The sound of the "Crunching" of dry leaves on which Arjuna and Drona have inadvertently stepped makes Ekalavya instinctively fix an arrow to his bow and wheel round on the two and train his bow on there; noticing them clearly, lowers his bow) Oh! 'Tis you ! I thought for a moment, it was the other wolf! (Approaches the Two; Bowing to Drona) Prostrations to you, Sir! (Smiling at Arjuna) Greetings, young Sir! I regret I did not notice your presence! It was my eagerness to make certain of slaying that wolf that made me deaf and blind to everything else! I could have slain the beast easily but the brute sat on the back of a tender fawn and with the poor little thing alive all the time, gnawed away at its brain all yester-afternoon! I wanted the wolf to suffer all the agonies that the poor little helpless fawn must have suffered! (Smiles and changes his tone) But forgive my tongue running away with me and making me forget what I owe to mother's guests! But then it always does when I speak of my forest, my Guru, my father and mother, my deer and fawns, and the birds and kine in our forest! You must have walked quite a long way to get here! If you will only walk a few bow-lengths further... mother will welcome you to our homely home and offer you fruit and milk... ripe fruit off our own trees and fresh milk off our own kine! (Drona and Arjuna stare at each other in amazement at the naivete of Ekalavva)

Arjuna:(The first to find his tongue) You are a wonderful archer!

Ekalavya:(Ingenuously) "Wonderful Archer"...am I? I do not know! I cannot tell! I only know that I can hit with my arrow, any thing I want to hit!

Arjuna:But this last feat of yours, sending shaft behind shaft through only the skull of that wolf... (Enthusiastically) ...and at such a speed too...over a hundred arrows before the beast had hardly covered thirty paces!...surely THAT WAS WONDERFUL?!

Ekalavya:(Artlessly) You call THAT wonderful! why, I can easily send out TWICE AS MANY arrows in HALF THE TIME! (Pointing at Arjuna's bow) I can see you are an archer too! But you surely cannot be very much of an archer if you call this simple feat wonderful! (Noticing Arjuna wincing) Forgive me, I was not decrying your bowmanship in foolish pride of mine...because you could have been just as great an archer...as, as you take me to be...IF YOU HAD HAD AS GREAT A GURU TO TEACH YOU AS I HAVE HAD TO TEACH ME! (Drona and Arjuna look at each other significantly)

Arjuna:Who is this Guru of yours!?, "GREAT" as you call him?!

Ekalavya:"GREAT"?  No! He is the GREATEST archer in all this world! And I SHALL BE THAT TOO...the moment he wills it!

Drona:(Sotto Voce) His Guru? "Greatest in the world"?! I wonder who it can be!

Arjuna:(Sotto Voce) His Guru...the greatest archer in the world! I thought I was THAT! (Aloud; and brusquely) Who is this Guru..."Greatest archer in the world" as you are pleased to call him?

Ekalavya:If you know anything of BOW-MEN or BOW-MANSHIP...you surely ought to know that ONE and ONLY ONE IN ALL THIS WORLD MAY BE RIGHTLY CALLED "THE GREATEST ARCHER" and that THE GREAT DRONAA-CHAARYA…MY LOVED GURU! (Both Drona and Arjuna are bewildered at this. In indignation at this apparently impossible assertion, Arjuna roars out)

Arjuna:DRONAACHAARYA...YOUR GURU? YOU ARE A LIAR.

Ekalavya:(In a flash aiming his shaft at Arjuna's face, with blazing eyes thunders out) My father did not live long enough to teach me archery! But he DID live long enough to teach me that the very worst thing that one man may say of another man is to call him a LIAR! And THAT THE ONE WAY OF STOPPING HlS MOUTH FOREVER IS TO KILL HIM! But mother always warns me to remember before I kill anyone that HIS mother will be sorry to lose Him as my mother will be sorry to lose me! HAVE YOU A MOTHER???

Arjuna:(Taken aback for the moment) YES...I...HAVE...!

Ekalavya:If you have a mother let not my fear of making your mother lose her son... embolden you to call me a liar! Think now! Why should I tell you a lie? Mother always said that one tells an untruth only when one is afraid of the TRUTH! Why should I be? When I tell you that all this archery that you admire and even far more than you have seen...is ONLY WHAT I OWE TO MY LOVED GURUJEE...THE GREAT DRONAACHAARYA...I am but telling you the BARE BARE TRUTH.

Arjuna:(To Drona...in an undertone) Why does he lie like this Gurujee? And yet he LOOKS TRUTHFUL!, SOUNDS TRUTHFUL! Did you ever teach anybody but us Kuru princes...Gurujee?

Drona:Of course not, you fool! I have never to my knowledge seen him before! (Studies Ekalavya for a moment) And yet, as you say, he looks and sounds truthful! But... (taking another look at Ekalavya's form and features) I am certain...I have never…to my knowledge...taught him his archery!

Arjuna:(To Drona) I know it, Gurujee! I need not have asked you! (To Ekalavya) I do not fear to face you bow in hand...and I will aver that if you are speaking the truth that Dronaachaarya is your Guru...in denying that, it is he that is a liar!

Ekalavya:(Lost to all reason, poises shaft at Arjuna's heart and with flashing eyes) To call my Guru a liar is worse than calling me one! I shall kill you now!

Arjuna:Why, 'tis DRONAACHAARYA HIMSELF says he never taught you archery!

Ekalavya:(Astonished) My Gurujee says it! TO YOU? When?, Where?

Arjuna:(With a gloating sneer) HERE! NOW! BEFORE YOU! Ask him! (Points to Drona)

Ekalavya:(Puzzled) Ask him? A stranger? I do not know him!

Arjuna:(Leering) I thought not! And yet you swore you knew well enough and long enough to have learnt all your archery from him!!

Ekalavya:(Bewildered) Learn my archery from him? A stranger? (Looks intently at Drona. Suddenly his eyes flash with a light of recognition. With a note of apology...to Arjuna) Forgive my rashness, stranger...'TIS HE! MY BELOVED GURUJEE! (Throws himself at Drona's feet and hugging his knees) You will never know Gurujee, how all these years my heart has ached and yearned for you! And longed to see you and thank you for all that you have taught me! (Rising up, grabs Drona's hand and caressing it) Mother will be wild with joy the moment she learns that my loved and revered Guru is now in our own forest! You saw me at work now, with my bow and shaft...and do you feel that you have done well in showering your lessons on poor me? When I tell you that the slaying of just ONE MORE WOLF will fully free this forest from all beasts of prey…you will see how much I have struggled to deserve the lessons you have so kindly given me! (Pointing to Arjuna) This young stranger...called me a "Wonderful Archer"! If a simple feat of archery as the one he saw drew wonder from him...why, he will surely gasp for breath when he sees me seriously at work with my bow and shafts! He seems to know you well...and yet NOT WELL ENOUGH TO SEE THAT ONE AND ONLY ONE GURU IN ALL THIS WORLD MAY TEACH ARCHERY OF THE KIND I SHOWED HIM...AND THAT ONE, YOU! Why, he childishly called me a liar for truthfully owning that I owe all my archery to you! And he called you a liar too! (In a fury, to Arjuna) Mother or no mother, guest or no guest...as true as my Guru is watching me I will empty my quiver through the lips that slandered my Gurujee! Now, fetch out your bow...IF you know the use of it!

Arjuna:(Halfheartedly, but none the less readily fixing a shaft to his bow) If you are hungering for a fight, you shall have your fill of it! But remember IT WAS YOUR GURUJEE, as you call him, THAT SAID THAT HE NEVER TAUGHT YOU ARCHERY!

Ekalavya:He did NOT say it! He COULD NOT! Why should he refuse owning me as his pupil after all the lessons he taught me so kindly...so readily...and all without ever being really near me!?

Drona:(To Ekalavya) Taught you without ever being near you?! I do not understand you!

Ekalavya:(Bursts into a loud laugh) Of course you do not understand, Gurujee! Not now! But soon...you...will!, if you will but walk a few steps this way! (Walks upto a leaf-covered mound nearby; Drona and Arjuna follow him; on their reaching him, Ekalavya delicately removes the leafy twigs from off the mound disclosing a clay image...very coarsely fashioned, but nevertheless unmistakable a true replica of DRONA'S features!) NOW, GURUJEE YOU UNDERSTAND, DO YOU NOT?

Drona:(After a moment's gazing at the image; smiling faintly) Yes, NOW I understand!!

Arjuna:(Intrigued and Irritated) But I do NOT understand, Gurujee?

Ekalavya:I somehow feel I have heard your voice before! And you call my Gurujee..."Gurujee" too! (Cogitates for a moment with knit brows watching Arjuna all the time. His eyes suddenly light up; he speaks in amused laughter) Ha! Ha! Ha! I KNOW NOW!!! You are that Ambitious Arrogant Aryan Boy, Paartha, who was too jealous of me to let me watch you at your lessons for fear of my becoming a greater archer than you! YOU REMEMBER NOW! DO YOU NOT!? (Pauses for a moment to see recognition and chagrin in Arjuna's face) And INSPITE OF YOUR REFUSING ME A CHANCE TO WATCH YOU AT WORK, thanks to my Revered and loved Gurujee...(Touching his bow and Quiver Significantly) YOU HAVE SEEN WHAT YOU HAVE SEEN!

Arjuna:(Ignoring Ekalavya turns to Drona; Peevishly) What is it that you understand, Gurujee, by...(Points to the Image)…THIS!

Drona:The sight of this Image helps me understand, Paartha, how I have taught him all the archery he knows WITHOUT EVER LEAVING HASTINA!!

Arjuna:And yet, I do not understand, Gurujee! Having been ever before our eyes all these years...how you could have...? (Ekalavya laughs inordinately)...

Drona:(To Arjuna; Dryly) Ask him, Paartha, ask him! (Nods at Ekalavya)

Ekalavya:(Breezily) No need at all to ASK me! I am only too eager to tell you of Gurujee's kindness to me (Going up to the image puts his arms fondly around it) Gurujee has perhaps never been out of your sight all, these years...yet he was here all the time with me! Every moment of all these years he has been here, teaching me every bit of the archery that I know!

Drona:(With an incredulous look in face, eyes and voice) Do you want me to believe that that clay image taught you your archery?

Ekalavya:(Hardening his eyes and face) Be wary of the words you use when you speak of my Gurujee! To you, who do not love and adore Gurujee as I do, this may look but a clay image! But to me who owe my everything to him…THIS is MY Gurujee! If you admire, respect and even envy my archery, you must also respect the Guru...(indicates the image) who taught me all that I can do with my bow and quiver!

Arjuna:(Impressed by Ekalavya's earnestness...and still curious) But this clay...I mean this guru of yours...how could it...I mean he...have taught you anything when it...I mean he could not move its...I mean his lips?

Ekalavya:("Gushing") Do you know, that's what puzzled me too! Gurujee never spoke a word...and yet I was learning fast all the time! But mother was not surprised at all! Not for a moment! She said, "It is your deep love for your Guru and his love to teach you, that BOTH help you learn off his silent smiling lips"!!

Arjuna:(Yet not fully convinced) Yet, I am afraid I do not follow you!

Ekalavya:You do not?? Then let me go on!! (Placing his hand on the PLINTH of the image, he runs his fingers lovingly in a niche...a coarse cavity open above and before as though made by battering a blunt rod on the clay) You see this niche? The making of this with just my forehead was TRULY THE ONLY HARD PART OF MY TASK OF LEARNING ARCHERY FROM GURUJEE! The rest was all easy! It was all like this: I used to aim at something and release my shaft; if I did not hit my mark I went up to Gurujee and begged of him to help me! Left him and tried once again; If I failed again...with streaming eyes, I did bang my forehead at Gurujee's feet praying for his help! And MY NEXT TRY NEVER FAILED! I used then to try harder tasks; and every time I failed, my eyes streamed faster, my prayers more piteous and this NICHE GREW DEEPER! And you who thought my slaying the wolf was a wonderful feat, ought to see me REALLY at work with my bow and shaft!; I CAN SHOOT IN THE DARK!: On the darkest of nights or in the day with my eyes closed...I can shoot anything which I cannot see BUT CAN HEAR THE SOUND OF! I can even...

Arjuna:(Interrupting and testily) Oh! It's nothing to me what YOU can or cannot do! (Turns round to Drona...and peevishly) What about your promise, Gurujee?

Drona:(Who has been hitherto wrapt in Ekalavya, starts as if cut of a trance) "P'Promise"? W'What P'Promise ?

Arjuna:(Petulantly) There you are! Wrapped up in this barbarian's bowmanship and your uncanny manner of teaching it...you seem to have forgotten everything and are lost to the "PROMISE" which but a while ago you assured me that you had kept…your promise to make me the greatest...you know what I mean...Gurujee!

Drona:(Obviously disconcerted...helplessly) But, Paartha, having heard and seen what you have...can you not understand?

Arjuna:(Beside himself) OF COURSE I CANNOT understand! (In an ungovernable fit of jealousy throws all decorum to the winds and in a high-pitched hysterical shriek) "Understand"? I understand only this: You promised to make me the greatest archer in the world! And you have not kept your promise! And what is far worse, IN ASSURING ME AS YOU DID A WHILE AGO THAT YOU HAD KEPT YOUR PROMISE, WHILE YOU HAD REALLY NOT KEPT IT...YOU DID NOT LESS THAN TELL A LIE !

Ekalavya:(With his shaft aimed at Arjuna's heart thunders out) TAKE BACK YOUR WORD OR, I SHALL KILL YOU!

Arjuna:(Drawing at his bow) BUT NOT WITHOUT MY TRYING TO STOP YOU!

Drona:(Coming in between them) What madness is this Paartha? Calm yourself, Little man!

(Both Lower Their Bows)

Arjuna:(To Drona) Did you not promise to make me the greatest archer in the world, Gurujee?

Drona:Yes, I did!

Ekalavya:Of course, he did! I was there years ago when he made that promise! But that does not mean that he will not keep it

Arjuna:Now, Gurujee, having seen what you have seen of this nishaada's bowcraft...do you still think that you have kept, or will be able to keep, the promise you made?

Drona:(Restraining the impulsive Ekalavya, and in grave notes) But, Paartha, you know in your heart that I DID MEAN TO KEEP MY PROMISE...WHEN I MADE IT...AND  BELIEVED I HAD KEPT IT WHEN I ASSURED YOU THAT I HAD KEPT IT ! AN UNMEANT UNTRUTH UNWITTINGLY UTTERED... CANNOT AMOUNT TO THE LIE THAT YOU IRREVERENTLY SADDLE ME WITH!

Arjuna:(Still querulous) Meant or unmeant...I only know that you have NOT kept the promise you made! Besides, Gurujee, a moment ago you said, as an archer he is far far ahead of both you and me! If as you both make out, all the archery he knows is only what he learnt off YOU...how can he have learnt from YOU...the archery that has made him a greater archer than YOU...??!

Drona:(With knit brows) That is the puzzle, Paartha, I am trying to solve! Convinced as I am that all the archery that this Little Man knows is what I taught him unknowingly. I cannot see HOW I COULD HAVE HELPED HIM BECOME A GREATER ARCHER THAN MY OWN SELF!?

Ekalavya:(Laughing in a joyous ring) Just what bewildered me at first, Gurujee, and made me ask mother now and again how I could become the greatest archer in the world...when the guru I learnt from, could still wield a bow!? And mother held every time that A PUPIL CAN LEARN MORE FROM HIS GURU THAN WHAT THE GURU HIMSELF KNOWS  IF THE PURPOSE OF THE PUPIL FOR LEARNING IS NOBLER THAN WHAT THE PURPOSE OF THE GURU'S WAS WHEN HE LEARNT FROM HIS GURU!!

Drona:(Amazed) Wonderful!

Arjuna:(Sardonically) I daresay it is all wonderful to you, Gurujee! But all this wonder will not save you from your danger!!

Ekalavya:(Incredulously) "Danger" to Gurujee!! (Laughs) What danger!

Arjuna:Why, the danger of being jeered at by all the world as one who did not keep his promise! (Scoffingly) Being a forest-roving nishaada, it would mean nothing to you of course! But to Gurujee, a renowned Aryan Brahmana, it is a serious thing to suffer the ill repute of being sneered at as a liar...

Ekalavya:STOP! (To Drona) Is all he says the truth, Gurujee?

Drona:(Looking away) Yes, Little Man, every word!

Ekalavya:(In a grief-struck voice) But it should not be thus. Gurujee! Some... how... any... how... you MUST keep your promise, Gurujee!

Drona:How can I, Little man? I am helpless in the matter! After all it is but just that I must pay the price for rashly, nay, arrogantly making a promise without forethinking the hardness of the task I was promising to perform!

Ekalavya:But, Gurujee, you who are so great...so wise...?

Drona:"Wise"? Little Man!, NO MAN IS WISE AT ALL MOMENTS OF HIS LIFE! And I must suffer for my UNGUARDED MOMENT OF UNWISDOM!

Ekalavya:But if you could teach me as much as you have with YOUR SILENT SELF?!  (nodding at the image)... YOUR LIVING SELF can surely teach him far more than you taught me...and that should help you keep your promise, Gurujee!!?

Drona:Little man, IF TEACHING AND LEARNING WERE ALL IN THE HANDS OF THE GURU ONLY, I COULD MAKE HIM GREATER THAN YOU! BUT AS YOU YOURSELF HAVE SHOWN, THE PUPIL MUST FULFIL HIS part of the work!

Ekalavya:I think I know what you mean, Gurujee! You mean, of course his love and respect for you! But earnest as he is to excel in archery...I am sure he will revere...

Drona:You do not know all, Little Man! It is not only Love and respect for the Guru that counts... but the PURPOSE... the MAIN PURPOSE with which the pupil learns, DECIDES HOW MUCH HE learns! You have said it yourself a while ago. With his purpose for learning... far beneath yours,... all his efforts and mine to help him even to EQUAL you, will not avail!!

Ekalavya:What then... has been...his purp...?

Drona:(Looking away) His purpose from the very outset has been to acquire personal fame as an archer! To be acclaimed the greatest archer of all times! And with you working body and soul, heart and mind... to free harmless creatures from fear of marauding beasts... the hardest of his efforts will not land him within yojanaas of your archery!! And I shall never keep the promise I rashly made!

Ekalavya:(Hanging his head down) And I have been the cause of it all!

Drona:You little man? How?

Ekalavya:Why, Gurujee, If only I had never come to you at all! If only I had never practised archery at all... he surely would have been the greatest archer in the world. would he not, Gurujee?

Drona:Yes, but...?

Ekalavya:So you see, 'tis I have been the cause of your not keeping the promise you made!

Drona:(Mollifying) Not WILLINGLY, little man! Not willingly!

Ekalavya:(To Arjuna) I WILL NOW PROMISE TRULY NEVER TO HANDLE MY BOW AGAIN ALL MY LIFE! That ought to make you the greatest archer in the world and help my Gurujee keep his promise to you!!

Arjuna:HARDLY! Even if you never more handle your bow and shaft for the rest of your life...whereever...and whenever I handle MY bow and shaft...I shall somehow feel that somewhere in some forest-corner of the world THERE IS A NISHAADA WHO IF HE WANTS TO...CAN WIELD BOW AND ARROW BETTER THAN I!! And THAT hardly is REALLY "being" and "feeling" the greatest archer in the world...and will certainly not save Gurujee from the ignominy of being known as a L I A...

Ekalavya:(Interrupting) S T O P!

Arjuna:(In a Frenzy) "Stop"? Why should I stop? That is the truth! And the whole world shall know of it! You said you were not afraid of the truth! Why fear it now? I shall tell everybody... and no one will stop me!

Ekalavya:(Wringing his hands helplessly) SOMEBODY SOMEHOW MUST STOP HIM!!!

Arjuna:(Obsessed by a fit of jealousy) Stop me!? Stop me from telling the world the truth... that the Great Dronaachaarya failed to keep his promise?... I SHOULD LIKE TO SEE SOMEBODY STOP ME! (The last words of Arjuna sting Ekalavya into a fit of fury; with jaws set hard and with a wild look in his eyes he thunders out.)

Ekalavya:YOU will SEE SOMEBODY STOP YOU! (Sharply to Drona:) Tell me Gurujee, if I had not learnt archery would he have really been the greatest archer in the world?

Drona:Yes Little Man, but...?

Ekalavya:And you would have kept your promise?

Drona:Yes, little Man, but...?

Ekalavya:(With flashing eyes and decisive voice) GURUJEE! YOU WILL KEEP YOUR PROMISE and I WILL STOP HIS MOUTH FOR EVER! (He walks up to the image and lays his right hand on the plinth; with the left he reaches for, and draws a crescent shaped arrow from his quiver; with an unflinching look on his face with one deft Sharp Stroke of his left arm, severs his right thumb; unheeding the gush of blood, picks up his severed thumb and walking back to Drona lays the thumb at his Guru's feet and stands mute! The other two have been too spell-bound to either follow or arrest Ekalavya's movements!)

Drona:(Aghast at the maimed hand of Ekalavya) Little Man! What have you done?

Ekalavya:(Holding hack his tears with great effort and pointing to the severed thumb at Drona's feet) "Done"?, Gurujee? I have done no more than paid my Dakshina to you in poor token of my love and respect for you! Years ago. Gurujee, when I came to you, this noble Aryan Prince (points at Arjuna) said: "You, are only a nishaada...too poor to pay your Guru's dakshina!" (To Arjuna) I am still the same poor nishaada! And yet, poor as my dakshina is...it is good enough to stop the mouths of you and such as you from slandering my Gurujee's good name! My Gurujee has kept his promise! And you are now without doubt the greatest archer in the world! (POINTING OUT HIS THUMBLESS HAND) YOU SEE? EVEN IF I WANT TO I CANNOT SHOOT ANY MORE! (The effort of controlling his pain and his tears has been enormous; biting into his nether lip he makes a supreme effort to hold his tears back. Drona is so deeply affected that with closed eyes and trembling lips, he turns his face away. Arjuna, also genuinely affected, speaks to Ekalavya with real sorrow and sympathy in his voice.)

Arjuna:I hope you are not sorry you did this brave noble thing!

Ekalavya:"Sorry"? Why should I be sorry?... It is the least I could do to help my Guru... (A sudden look of ALARM flashes on his face).. GODS! I HAVE FORGOT MY FAWNS! SORRY!? I SHALL BE SORRY EVERY MOMENT OF MY LIFE I DID THIS MAD THING! EVERY TIME I HEAR THE GROAN OF A DEER OR THE DYING SHRIEK OF A FAWN I SHALL FEEL IT IS THE ECHO OF MY OWN DEATH-CRY! EVERY TIME I SEE THE MAIMED MAULED MANGLED REMAINS OF A DEER OR FAWN, I SHALL FEEL ALL THE AGONIES OF MY OWN HEART BEING TORN ALIVE OUT OF MY BODY! OF COURSE I SHALL BE SORRY EV'RY MOMENT ALL THE REST OF MY LIFE I DID THIS MAD MAD THING!! (With face buried into his BLOOD BEGRIMED HANDS SOBS convulsively. Arjuna approaches him and placing his hand on Ekalavya's shoulder, speaks in a soft voice.)

Arjuna:I am sorry... to... have... been... the cause (Without looking up, Ekalavya shakes off Arjuna's hand, appeals in a pathetic voice: WITHOUT LOOKING UP)

Ekalavya:WILL YOU ALL PLEASE LEAVE ME TO MY OWN SELF? (Drona drags Arjuna back and pushing him ahead of him crosses over to the exit on the RIGHT and pushing Arjuna OUT OF THE SCENE...turns to Ekalavya...and in the kindest of voice)

Drona:God's blessings on you, Little Man! Farewell! (Ekalavya raises his NOW blood-smeared face; intensely anguished in look and in a heart-rending voice.)

Ekalavya:YOU KNOW, IT WILL NEVER BE FAREWELL BETWEEN US, GURUJEE. (DRONA EXITS RIGHT. Left all alone, Ekalavya looks helplessly around him; He then looks himself up and down; the sight of his own thumbless hand brings on fresh sobs! His eyes then instinctively look for and rest on the severed thumb, lying on the ground. Mastering his feelings, his face takes on a determined look; with teeth set hard, he fits an arrow to his bow and tries to draw back the bowstring finding his maimed hand unequal to the task bursts into tears; bow and shaft slip from his hands; with his left hand empties his quiver in his right shoulder shaft by shaft.)


[SUDDENLY THE HIGH-PITCHED YELL OF A NUMBER OF FAWNS IS HEARD ON THE RIGHT - INSIDE THE SCENES]

Ekalavya:(In a voice of terror and impotent despair) GODS! MY FAWNS IN DISTRESS! AND I TOO HELPLESS MYSELF TO HELP THEM! (The yell of the fawns continues. Ekalavya resting his eyes on the spot on the Right of the scene where he last saw DRONA before the latter left the scene) GURUJEE! DO YOU HEAR MY FAWNS! DO YOU SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE! DO YOU SEE WHAT YOUR DAKSHINA HAS COST? I HAVE BETRAYED MY FAWNS; GURUJEE! I DARE NOT LOOK INTO THEIR EYES NOW! (A few fawns rush in and at sight of Ekalavya move towards him, he recedes avoiding their touch and turns his face away to avoid their eyes) DO NOT TOUCH ME! I AM STAINED! I AM SOILED... IN MIND AND BODY! I AM NOT FIT TO TOUCH YOU! I AM NOT FIT TO FACE MY OWN FAWNS! I HAVE BETRAYED YOU ALL! FOR ONE ONE SINGLE MOMENT OF MY LIFE, I PUT YOU ALL OUT OF MY MIND, OUT OF MY VERY HEART. AND IN MY MAD LOVE FOR MY GURU, GAVE TO HIM WHAT WAS Never Mine to Give! WHAT WAS always Yours! ONE MOMENT OF MAD LOVE FOR MY GURU, I FORGOT YOU ALL AND Forgot too the whole whole purpose of my archery! I NEVER KNEW WHAT I WAS DOING! I NEVER KNEW! I NEVER KNEW! (His eyes, hitherto blinded by his tears, now clear, and a look of almost mad rage creeps into them; turning again to the spot that Drona left by) BUT HE KNEW! GURUJEE KNEW! HE MUST HAVE KNOWN! HE MUST HAVE STOPPED ME!

(In a mad frenzy turns and walks up to the IMAGE of DRONA; with all the muscle, of his body taut, his fists doubled, and his blazing eyes emitting flashes of RAGE, TAKES UP A THREATENING ATTITUDE before THE IMAGE and thunders at it.) HOW DARED YOU GURUJEE? HOW DARED YOU SIT STILL AND WATCH ME WITHOUT ONE LOOK OF WARNING! AND LET ME WHO LOVE YOU... SACRIFICE THE SAFETY OF ALL THE FAWNS IN THE WORLD... TO SATISFY THE SELFISH WHIMS, TO PANDER TO THE SELFISH AMBITIONS OF ONE ARROGANT PUPIL OF YOURS? HOW... DARED... YOURS? (In blind mad rage raises his maimed fist to strike down the IMAGE!... BUT A SOMETHING IN THE FACE OF THE IMAGE SEEMS TO STAY HIS HAND AT THE VERY LAST MOMENT! HIS EYES SUDDENLY ASSUME A LOOK OF HORROR... AS IF OF FRIGHT AT THE THOUGHT OF WHAT HE WAS ABOUT TO DO.) GODS! WHAT am...I doing?

(HIS LIMBS SUDDENLY TURN LIMP AS IF PALSIED, AND HIS KNEES GIVE WAY AND HE CRUMPLES TO THE FOOT OF THE IMAGE! HUGGING THE IMAGE FONDLY WITH HIS ARMS... HE REPEATEDLY ROLLS HIS FOREHEAD IN THE "NICHE" IN THE PLINTH whimpering helplessly to himself AMID CONVULSIVE SOBS.) FORGIVE ME, GURUJEE! I DID NOT KNOW WHAT I WAS DOING! BUT YET, HOW COULD YOU! HOW COULD YOU I HOW COULD YOU!


Curtain Drops Slowly


[Note: Kailasam wrote a play called"Fulfilment" as a sequel to "Purpose," which you can read here: http://tpkailasam.blogspot.in/2011/08/fulfilment.html]

1 comment:

నాగరాజ్ said...

nice playlet. Thanx for sharing it here.