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The Ivory Curse: By Riz Mithani

As Pandu hid behind the thicket of trees, he caught sight of the beautiful Madri.

(Resemblance to “Mahabharata” characters is intentional and in utmost respect)

She had been missing for almost a year now, and Pandu could see that she was under the control of this wiry thin man whose eyes could only be described as merciless. Pandu’s judgment was clouded and in a quick rush he charged. Right behind the band of conniving men who had accompanied Madri and her captor, there was a large dugout pit that had been skillfully camouflaged with fallen branches. Needless to say, Pandu fell right into the pit.

Three of the men quickly followed Pandu into the pit. Injured from the fall, Pandu, not unlike a cornered animal, was no match for them. One of the men shot at him while the other lunged with his knife to slit his stomach. It was then that Madri realized this was her Pandu and she went berserk. With strength that could only be considered divine, she flung herself into the pit, and it was in that moment that Pandu’s life flashed before his eyes.

Madri was Pandu’s second wife and the mother of his twins, Nakul and Sahadev. Her long and hard pregnancy with them had not been very long ago, and they could still be considered mere children, just toddling along. It was Kunti, his first wife who had been taking care of them as if they were her own, after Madri went missing. Now she would have to care for them without Pandu. Nakul and Sahadev, even in their youthfulness, were the epitome of kindness and exceptionally playful. Of course, Kunti would not be alone; Pandu was certain that Kunti’s own three sons would protect them from any harm.

Kunti’s eldest son Yudhistir was not only righteous and just, but within his honorable exterior he was still a child. Yudhistir’s walk and his gait belied that his heart was in the trance of a dance. Her second Bheem was the strongest amongst this household of physically powerful brothers. Bheem loved food and he was always excited regarding bananas, pineapples and watermelons; he ate more than one tenth of his own bulky weight every day. And what can one say regarding Arjun with his determination and focus. One day when the brothers were playing along the banks of the Yamuna, they lost their ball. The rest of the Pandu’s sons gave up looking for it, but Arjun returned only after he had located and retrieved the ball.

As Pandu’s eyes begin to close signaling his ascent to heaven, Madri was uncontrollable and her fate was no less brutal, as she was surrounded by the men with their spears and knives.

As Pandu and Madri lay dead, the poachers led by their wiry thin mahout extracted the ivory tusks from these majestic pachyderms. They would fetch a great price in the market to fulfill the dream of someone rich enough to adorn a necklace made of pure ivory that could only have been threaded together with viciousness.

Riz Mithani is a graduate of IIT Bombay. He lives in San Jose, Calif.


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