Threads of memory

My dear Radheya,

That’s what everyone calls you, right? I remember how you stood tall and proud that day in the arena.

I recognized you instantly. I was overjoyed, surprised, ashamed of myself, but very very proud of you.

When the gurus Drona and Kripa asked your name, you proudly declared yourself son of Radha.

You looked resplendent in your gold armour and earrings. The maids told me later you’re officially known as Karna.

My apologies, I realize now that I have been rambling like the old woman I am. That morning, I noticed how you went toe to toe with all the Kuru princes assembled for graduation. I daresay even that you bow sang better than the Gandiva. The elders too noticed your talent, for that is when they demanded to know your family and heritage. Your face fell, and you confessed you come from a family of charioteers.

“Sutaputra!” they all jeered. He’s not even a Kshatriya, they said. Some openly wondered how you learnt the ways of skilled warriors so beautifully. I’ll tell you, Karna. Battle skills are your legacy, child. You have Kshatriya blood in your veins. You are my flesh and blood, after all.

What I am about to tell you in this letter is a secret I have never even uttered out loud, let alone share with another soul. But you deserve to know you too have two mothers, just like the Dark One they call God.

Many years ago, when I was a mere girl of sixteen, I childishly used a boon Rishi Durvasa gave me. I got involved with the sun deity, Surya, and the inevitable happened. I ended up an unwed mother.  I gave birth to a beautiful baby with golden earrings and breastplate. The same earrings you don now, my boy.

I loved you with all my heart, but I was immature and scared and did the only thing that seemed right for the both of us at the time. I bundled you up and set you afloat in the river, hoping you’d be found by a loving family with a better mother. I moved on with my life and duties as a daughter, wife and mother, but with a piece of my soul ripped away from me.

Time heals all wounds, say the wise. I told myself I’ll be whole one day. I gained solace in the fact that at least I was not as heartless as my grandmother-in-law who drowned seven of her own children. I heard how Urvashi left her child to get back to her duties; and hoped I’d be equally matter of fact about giving you up. But the threads of memory are woven of enduring atoms, my son. I know now that I will always regret losing you. I will never stop loving you. I will go to my grave dying to be called “Mother” by you.

Whenever I am asked how many sons I have, I falter slightly before saying “five”. People assume it is my slight hesitation in accepting the sons of my sister wife. They do not know I first mutter “six” under my breath, before saying “five” out loud.

Yours with all my heart,

Mother Kunti

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This letter was my entry to Women’s Web Muse of the Month April 2019. Posting it here now. What do you think?

P.S. HAPPY MOTHERS’ DAY