Arjun lit up a cigarette and the first whiff of smoke was enough to jolt Rama’s olfactory and bring him back from a stream of an ongoing thought. Arjun looked at him and offered him a puff. “It is one of those new flavored ones. Seems they are popular these days.” Rama shook his head and let his back rest on a marble bench in this park in the middle of the city, the only object, which over the years had managed to amass a divine benevolence of their posterior. A large crowd of people passed by, unfazed by the presence and the gaze of these two perfect gentlemen, they had been the facilitators of Rama’s thought for quite some time now.
“Thinking about the same old, are we?”
“Yes. And this time it seems that I have found a solution to our problem.”
Arjun flicked the remainder of his cigarette to his side and witnessed a small clump of grass being colored with the same sooty strokes like the rest of them around him had acquired. In an instant, his face contorted to show expressions of a man in agony whose recollection of a vile memory terrorized his present. A jarring shudder brought him back to this reality.
“Well, what is it this time?” Arjun asked.
“A revolt. A demonstration. A spontaneous attack. That should do it.”
“Anyone who decides to fight back.”
“You have an army of ‘his’ faithful and I can rely on some of the fiercest primates to assist us. Mere ghouls and spectres now but they should be enough.”
“Weapon of choice?”
“The Brahmastra. What else?”
Arjun let out a short burst of laugh. It had been a while since he had showed such a jubilant mood. He braced himself and in a swift motion wiped his tears of joy.
“Rama. The compassionate, the righteous and the selfless. You want to wage a war with the humankind?”
“The idea seems fantastic to you, does it?”
“It might be but how did you come to such a conclusion? Makes me wonder....”
“Whatever do you mean? Speak up!”
“Well, humans do not acknowledge our divinity, our sacrifices, our history or even our existence anymore. They are still angry at you because of all of that agnipariksha business which does not go well with this new wave of ‘feminist’ thinking. Rightfully so I think. You really did make a woman jump into fire and then for reasons known best to you, you sent her off into a forest for exile.”
“Watch your words Arjun. You are not the magnanimous warrior people had pegged you to be. Not skillful, not brilliant and certainly not one with the right motives. You were ‘his’ puppet back then. Who was pulling the string on the bow I wonder? And you? You married two women in your life. One you ruined by sharing her with four other men. The other one lost her son because he joined the cause of your clan. ‘Brawns without brains’ as these humans would put it.”
“Perhaps you’re right. Maybe this immortality is a curse of our vices? All this life but no absolute power or privilege. All that bloodshed of the past bears me no fruit.”
“Now is not the time for contemplation but action. Your words however, made me realize that perhaps my plan is not perfect. These humans have their own armies to fight their fights. Weapons that are more efficient than the Brahmastra and a strength in numbers that surpasses ours.”
“Maybe it isn’t the right plan to begin with. Maybe we are doomed to live a life devoid of any action. I think we should join these humans and continue onwards as it is.”
Rama let out a sigh and leaned back on their favorite bench once again.
“What do you think they think when they look at us? How could they just abandon us? Why can’t we instill the same sentiment of respect we once did? I am losing my mind, Arjun. End me.”
Arjun looks at Rama. They laugh heartily. It had been tried before. Each beheaded the other with their faithful Brahmastra. They were brought back to life immediately.
“Should we resume our search for the artifact?” Rama asked.
“The Sword of Kali? Shiva hid it so carefully that no one has even come close to finding it all these years.”
“Do you think it will serve our purpose. Redeem us of our life?”
“Do you doubt Vishnu’s words?”
“Hmmm. Maybe you can manipulate some being into finding it for us? You are after all the glib talker in ‘his’ absence.”
“The last time I influenced a man to do our bidding it drove him to suicide and others to their untimely death. We survived that battle but it gave these humans the very weapons that you fear. Imagine the consequences if they knew we were responsible for that war too.”
Rama got up from his position and with a firmness of mind declares to Arjun, “The next time we meet I’ll have a plan for us.”
“I hope you do” replied Arjun as he laid down to make the bench his bed.
“Stand up and perform your duty and, therefore, fight with peace in thy soul.
Stand up and perform your duty and, therefore, fight with peace in thy soul.”
Arjun woke up in horror to a painful resonance of these words. The voices never seemed to leave his side. Every passing night for the past thousand centuries Arjun had woken up to ‘his’ sound of didactic teachings. He had regretted the ‘master manipulator’s’ charioteering him that day. Too late, for the harm had already been done.
Rama had always been suspicious of Arjun. A man capable of monumental destruction was not to be trifled with for he may put an arrow to your back. The ‘darling manipulator of Vrindavan’ had passed along not only the curse of immortality but a part of himself in Arjun as well. The silver tongued casanova had made Rama feel jealous. And yet, Arjun was Rama’s only companion in a desolate world which had disowned them. Rama did have his moments of glory. With his patience and his steadfastness, he always took pride in shaping his own destiny. The vanvaas was his own concoction. He had placed all the dominos to effect for an ultimate crescendo. With one clever move he managed to rid himself from all the troubles of a domesticated prince's life. The sound of the falling dominos brought back a fresh glow of life to his face as he walked towards a waking Arjun the next day.
“Gather your sena. I will summoned mine. We are going to wage a war.” Arjun told to an introspective Rama.
“Cavalry will be arranged. What about our armory?”
“I will personally see to it. A cargo of ammunition and weapons shouldn’t be difficult to lay hands on. With modern weaponry and our ancient battle techniques the human populace will surrender to our will.”
“Should we announce our revolt?”
“No. We will take them by surprise. Our return will be glorious spectacle. They will see us as the New World Order. We will take away the very idea of free will away from them. They will feel what we feel.”
“You have given it a thought then? Very well. Arms up. I will work on the strategy. We will begin by taking charge of small cities, then the big metropolitans and finally coercing the big man in charge to hand us the reigns of democracy. Every head on its shoulder will fall to our feet, not in benevolence but in terror. ” Rama declared.
‘But will it be worth it?’, asked a sullen Arjun to himself. He had been a witness to the violence and the bloodshed through centuries. An eternity of youth of with nothing to achieve was messing with his warrior spirit. At least with ‘him’ there was some purpose to be realised. Arjun will restore his individuality. By not fighting this war and shying away from his duty he will lose his reputation as a warrior ‘he’ would have said to Arjun. Humanity does not share the fruit of immortality after all. They would have perished anyway without their intervention. Arjun will be the mere instrument. This will be their and his salvation.
“Why the sudden change of heart O’ pensive one?” asked a cheeky Rama, breaking Arjun’s train of thought.
“Simple. We were like Gods once. I want to be one again.” proclaimed Arjun.
- Gautam Aggarwal