Monday, December 5, 2011

The Friend (Fiction)

The Friend – A Vikram Vetaal Story.

(Set in 18th Century India)

{Italics – Flashbacks;

Regular fonts – Present.}

My Dear Readers, we have all been in situations where we aren’t quite sure whether we are doing the right thing… What do we do then? Typical people like me will follow the herd, doing what is convenient for the moment. The heart and the mind aren’t in the same place, the effort is devoid of all spirit – one only goes through the motions. But then that’s not the way life works… sooner or later one is called upon to live out his true self…

The Vetaal stirred and woke up from its slumber, and noticed that it was being carried by the brave young King Vikram – AGAIN- towards the kingdom of Ujjain. The Vetaal smirked, and started “O mighty King, the road is long and arduous”. “Here we go again” said the King to himself. “To lighten the tedium of this journey, I wish to narrate a simple story to you O mighty king. At the end of the story, I will ask you a question…”

“Ok Ok Vetaal, I know the rules! Now get on with it!”

Vetaal started his story…

Looking back with a certain amount of uncertainly, he saw the big opaque wall of dust ... stirred by his army marching toward the enemy territory. The enemies had a huge battalion, he had heard – with hundreds of horses and thousands of swordsmen. ‘Who is the enemy and who is the friend’, the soldier thought to himself… unable to find a comfortable answer, he drew his sword out and waited for his general’s final order to charge… Cold adrenalin started flowing through his veins, his heart beats went into an overdrive as he waited... With a billowing sound of the conch shell, his general signaled the attack. The change commenced, even as the war cry “Har Har Mahadev, Har Har Mahadev” filled battle field with an insane fervor ... full of doubt, but arrested by the frenzy, the soldier raised his sword and charged with his army… into the heart of the neighboring province.


“We live for the King, we die for him. Our king is our God” boomed the strict looking general… The soldier mechanically repeated the lines – “King is our God”, “King is our God” went the battalion… The solider who was aware of the barbaric tendencies of the king, still repeated anyway. “Some God this guy… He should be called a demon”, the Soldier cursed, he wanted to scream insults to the king– but he repeated the chat anyway…” King is the God”!


“Your king is a most heartless man”, the tall skinny fellow - his friend from the neighboring province, said. “He loots people – whether his own or those from other kingdoms. His lust for money, power and skin are legendary.”

“In that case, I mustn’t serve in his army, should I sir?” enquired the soldier.

“You are a soldier it’s your duty to fight – what you fight for is your choice. Good and bad are generally very fuzzy in this world. Ultimately, every one chooses his own dharma”

“How is your king?” the soldier asked earnestly.

“He is a noble man”…


The greenish yellow coloured guava looked real tasty, especially so because the tall skinny boy who held it hadn’t eaten since 2 days… He was about to have a bite when he heard movement from behind a bush. Inquisitive, he rushed, as fast as his hungry sore body permitted, there he saw a kid… The kid lay almost unconscious. The boy rushed to the kids’ side … perhaps the kid was about to die… This was a sight that he was becoming accustomed to in his draught stricken neighborhood. The draught had claimed his little brother… Could he let this little chap die – could he tolerate another death…? Would he live if he offered the fruit to the kid… he handed the fruit to the kid and passed out.


Charging amidst the frenzy, the soldier heard movement from behind a bush. Inquisitive he rushed toward the bush. There he saw a tall skinny man- his friend – almost unconscious… The peace in the friends put brakes on his adrenalin fueled blood thirst…Perhaps the friend was about to die. This was a sight that he was becoming to in this era of heartless expansionism of his king. His kings’ imperialism had claimed so many lives. He had watched so many people die… Killed so many. But could he let his friend die? Could he tolerate THIS death – of a man who had saved him? Will his king let him live if he dint kill the friend?

“Good job soldier”, shouted his commander, seeing him standing near a near- lifeless body, “now finish him off!”

Filled with confusion, doubt and guilt, the soldier raised his sword… There was no getting away this time, no convenient routes. He had to do the uncomfortable thing – he had to make the choice…

‘I am a soldier – this person is my enemy – I must kill him… He will die anyway

But he had saved my life… he had put his own life on the line to save mine…

My King is a barbaric man … his lust for power; money and skin are legendary… He has killed so many people… This man – my friend – he had saved me.

You are a soldier… It’s your duty to fight… What you fight for is your choice…

Do the right thing…’

Noticing the soldiers’ hesitation to finish off the foe, the commander ordered a foot solider to finish the job. The other guy started rushing toward the friend, even as the war cry ‘Har Har Mahadev’ tore through the car chaos.

‘ Do the right thing… Your king is a bad man; fighting for him you become a part of his crimes.’

The foot soldier was getting closer and closer… The friends’ eyes were all peaceful neutral. He was waiting for the fatal blow.

‘What does Har Har Mahadev mean? Mahadev is the destroyer of evil. Har Har Mahadev means that each of us is a Mahadev – a destroyer of evil. My king is the evil man here. Fight evil. Fight the king. Choose your karma – do the right thing.. SAVE THE FRIEND!’

‘Har Har Mahadev’ yelled the soldier and leaped between the friend and the foot soldier – and killed the foot soldier… He then tossed his water pot to the friend. The friend drank thirstily. This irked the soldiers comrades. Some of them started charging towards him...He banged his chest and yelled‘ Har Har Mahadev’, raised his sword and charged towards his own people …he felt the peace… He felt at rest with his actions. For the 1st time in his life, he felt the power of conviction. He had done the right thing, he was saving his friend.

He saw around him, his comrades were getting beaten by the neighbors. He was fighting on the neighbors’ side now. Soon his comrades will be beaten; he will save his friend and migrate to the neighborhood. His friend will tell everyone how he had been saved, and will help him migrate…

Lost in his thoughts, he felt something sharp on his back... Piercing action… It penetrated his back… deep… a fatal blow ... He turned around to see that his friend had stabbed him… With a confused look on his face, the soldier faded away….

“O wise king”, the Vetaal said, “tell me which of the two friends were on the correct side of dharma and why?”

“Vetaal – in my opinion, the friend – the guy, who killed the soldier at the end, was on the right side of dharma.”

“Give me the reason, O wise one”.

“As a kid, the friend was acting in his capacity of a human being. During the draught, he saved a dying a kid by putting his own life on line. Then on the battle field, the friend did what a soldier should – fight for his king. This is where the other one went wrong. You cannot sit in judgment of your king whilst on a battle field. On the battle field you are just a warrior – and your dharma is to fight.”

“Bravo king, bravo!” Boomed the Vetaal, “As always, you are absolutely right!” Saying this, the Vetaal took off from King Vikram’s shoulder, and flew towards his tree.

King Vikram grit his teeth, and ran after the Vetaal.