What a book! What a book! What a fantastic work of art! It is about Krishna, Sri Krishna if you like, but not about the God Krishna, but about the man. The man who went to calling on Gandhari soon after the Kurukshetra War was over only to be told: “Krishna, I have lost ninety nine sons. My feet are still soiled from the blood that spurted out of Duryodhana’s injured thigh… Krishna, you did not do justice. You will die like a beast, alone and in anguish”. And so he did, lying under a peepal tree, his foot pierced by an arrow shot by a hunter, Jara, who had mistaken Krishna’s body for that of a deer. Death was soon due even as the Lord was in a reminiscent mood, spiritually engaging, forgiving Jara and thinking of the long and meaningful life he had lived, the women he had married and the love he had for Radha!
What a life had he led! There were four women in his life. Rukmini and Satyabhama he had married, Radha with whom he had dallied and Draupadi—dear as a friend—he was to provide succour to as Dushyasana tugged determinedly at her sari before a princely audience. With all these four, Krishna had an intense relationship. But what was that relationship like? The point to remember even as one reads this enchanting work is that Kaajal Oza-Vaidya has not borrowed a single line from the scriptures. What we have is a luminously imaginative work out of outstanding merit.
What the scriptures tell us are some bare facts. What Oza-Vaidya has done is to embellish them with passion. Think of those moments when Krishna has to part with all four, each at a time. Oza-Vaidya describes those moments, the words exchanged and the emotions aroused like raging fire. Krishna has made up his mind to part with Radha. They are standing under a dense tree, Radha’s eyes flowing with tears, bitter tears. The conversation between the two is alternately hard and tender. Says Krishna in the end: “Radha, I have to go… it is imperative that I take this journey….”. Finally, Radha concedes: “Go go away and don’t ever come back again. I release non of all your bindings with me…”. Krishna responds. “Thathastu!”. The parting with Rukmini was just as—if not even more—painful. Krishna tells Rukmini: theirs has been a life-time relationship. “Devi, it’s time for me to depart. May I take your leave?” Rukmini is choking. Says Krishna again: “Beloved, don’t stop me for a moment now… there is no escape from a path pre-determined”. Wracked with pain, Rukmini finally concedes: “As you desire, my Lord!”. With Satyabhama it was different. Krishna in his time had spent hours pampering and pandering to her. On her part Krishna meant everything to her . Happiness for Satyabhama commenced and ended with Krishna. How could she ever part with him? But that, in the end , had come to pass. Krishna had told her: “Beloved, even when you are not beside me, you are always inside me… I am always carrying you with me…. Devi, we have to part….”.
In the end, Satyabhama had to accept the inevitable. Krishna had a job to do and he had no option but to fulfil it. He had to part with Satyabhama’s company. It was then that she remembered what Krishna had once told her: “Yo maam pashyati sarvatra sarva cha mayi pashyati, Tashyam na pranashyami sa cha me na pranashyati”. (One who turns to me and searches for everything inside me, I am never far away from them and they from me!”) For Krishna, Draupadi was sakhi; for he was sakha. Krishna wanted Draupadi to go see Karna and persuade him not to fight the Pandavas as he was truly the eldest of the brothers, elder even to Yudhishtira. But Draupadi would not oblige.
Actually prior to her marriage to the Pandavas she had insulted Karna as sutputra. How now can she go to him to plead Krishna’s—and, by definition—Pandavas’ cause? She frankly told Krishna so, at her last meeting with him. She told him: “I am not part of your politics and don’t desire to be”. She was about to leave him, but for a moment she turned her head, folded her hands, and looking directly into his eyes, said: Twadiyam vastu Govinda tubhyamev samarpyate! Oza-Vaidya recreates Krishna’s last moments as he lay dying. Around him, surprisingly, sat Draupadi, Arjuna, Daruk, Rukmini and the hunter Jara. There was a strange tranquillity in the surroundings. Far away, the sun was preparing to depart from the sky. Between the sky and the river was a splash of orange colour. Those sitting beside him suddenly heard him say, softly, oh so softly: “Now there are no bindings, no yearnings, no expectations and no debts. There are no questions, no responsibilities, no conflict and no waiting for anyone. I feel stronger than earth, lighter than air, brighter than light, purer than water and bigger than the sky. I have determined my path. I’m finally adequate to embark on my journey. I can sense the flood of lights eager to lead me to my destination”. It was a tense, yet soothing moment.
All five felt as if numerous pandits were performing a yajna saying: “Mamaivasho jeevloke jeebhottah sanatanah, Manah shashthanindriyani prakrutishthani Karshte”. (When I am no more, the surviving part of me will prevail amongst the five ingredients of Nature. The sixth will be the heart of human beings… anyone who pulls me to himself and gives me space in his heart….” Finally, the time has come for Krishna to depart. Only one thing is missing. A signature tune befitting the occasion. And then came the sound of a cowherd playing the flute. That was it. The end was perfect.
Reading this book is reading sheer poetry. If an English translation could be so highly poetic, one wonders how the original in Gujarati must sound. Bhawana Somaaya has done splendid justice to her work. Krishna comes through as a caring brother to Balaram, a devoted husband to Rukmini, and ideal friend to Draupadi and one with an attachment to Radha that is so pure and intense that even today we go beyond the society and norms and revere Radha Krishna as deities to be worshipped. Few have ever done justice to Krishna as the Ultimate Man. Kaajal Oza-Vaidya has done just that. And Bhawana Somaaya has followed benignly in her footsteps. Let praise be.
(Pustak Mahal, J3/16, Opp.Happy School, Darya Ganj, New Delhi-110 002)