|Source: The internet.|
I am not sure who has created this. Do not sue me, whoever you are.
Inform me. I will give due credits. If there is still an issue, I will take it down.
They saw him emerge. The white robe was smeared with enough dust for the screen to freeze and run multiple Tide commercials. The grime-coated mane looked so shaggy that it seemed he would go into a “rose, rose, Nima rose” dance the moment he would come in contact with anything remotely similar to water.
The tired legs, refreshed by inexplicable magic that only grim determination is capable of producing, marched on. The boys heard his footsteps and turned around, one by one. His feet were clad in paduka of the make that echoes on wooden floors, but refused to do the same on loose, soft of dust of Haryana.
The man looked at the princes. The question in his eyes was unmistakable.
“The ball has landed in the well, Sir,” Yudhishthir told him. The great man believed him the way everyone has always done. Years later, this trait would lead to his downfall, but that is another story.
“Hm, but that is not a serious issue. That can be resolved. You can throw something inside and get the ball in the well,” boomed the voice.
"But we do not have anything with us! And what on earth can be long enough to reach that deep inside a well?" asked Arjun with genuine curiosity.
“Why don't you show us how to do it, Sir? We are hungry,” growled an irate Bheem.
“He cannot. All he has is a paduka, not a bazooka.”
“This is no time for puns, Dushshasan,” Duryodhan shut him up.
“Look at what I do,” announced the great man, and threw his own ring into the well.
Dushshasan reacted immediately: “The ring will be having a ball down there.” Duryodhan gave him a glare, but not very seriously. Encouraged, Dushshasan added: “He thinks he retrieve get the ball by giving him a ring.”
This time even Duryodhan smirked. If the ring is made of gold we can always call it a golden retriever, he told himself, but did not say it out aloud. The Duryodhans of the world are all about glum personalities and fragile thighs.
“Look at what I do,” the great man spoke. “You may laugh today, but one day I will have a prestigious award named after me.”
“Is he Alfred Bernhard Nobel?” Arjun asked Yudi.
“Nope, does not seem so. Nobel will be born much later. This is probably Dronacharya,” an eavesdropping Sahadeb responded, “the son of Bharadwaj and Gritachi who was born in a pot.”
Dron picked up a handful of dry grass from the dusty ground. “He seems to have moved on from pot to grass,” Nakul interrupted, celebrating silently the fact that he had beaten Dushshasan to the pun by a millisecond.
The princes watched in marvel as Dron uttered a few mysterious words that could well have been in Hebrew. Then he took up a blade of grass, which, by some magic, had turned dart-like; he pierced the ball with the blade, went on to hit the first blade with the second, the second with the third, and so on till he formed a well-length rod of dried grass converted into darts.
Then he pulled the ball out of the well. Then he did the same and pulled the ring out as well. A confused Duryodhan tried to ask him why dropping the ring was essential, but he was interrupted:
“Go, kids. Tell Bheeshma that Dron has arrived.” And Arjun ran
, for Dron was impossible to find despite
the fact that he was searched by the police of as many as eleven nations.
And Dron was recruited. He was given a village, which later got the name Gurugram, and is usually referred to as Gurgaon these days, but that is another story.
[Note: The etymology of Gurgaon, as mentioned in the paragraph above, is generally accepted. It is for a reason that the metro station between Delhi and Gurgaon is called Guru Dronacharya. However, the tale serves no purpose to the story. I used it here only to show off my knowledge of Delhi metro, which is probably the most efficient thing the National Capital Region right now. It also has a station called Ghitorni, where you put a hard stress on the Gh while pronouncing. Try saying it.]
We all know what followed: the famous incidents involving Dron’s leg, Arjun, and the crocodile; Arjun’s pitcher and Ashwatthama’s pot; Arjun and the bird’s eye (an incident that has made its way into classrooms); Ekalavya, a significant chunk whose life was spent without the ability to give a thumbs-up; the Pandavs defeating Drupad’s army in a violent battle; and Dron taking control over half of Panchal.
The others became experts at combat as well. Bheem and Duryodhan, for example, showed became Aces with Maces, and were sent to complete their PhD under Balaram. There was much else that happened, but everyone knows about all that.
Let us now get back to that fateful summer day (I am assuming it was summer; it adds to the effect, with dust and a near-dried-up well; basically the entire package) when Dron arrived in Hastinapur, the Pandavs and Kauravs were left bewildered.
Despite being outnumbered by a hundred to five, the Pandavs had always been the stronger of the two sides. Dron’s appearance tilted the scales even further. Not only were the Kauravs bashed up by Bheem, but they also had to be very, very scared of the prowess of Arjun.
Dushshasan was affected the most by the incident. He had kept the ball as a memento. As the young princes lost interest in ballgames and moved on to bigger things (ballgames were not, after all, everyone’s ballgames), Dushshasan grew more and more interested.
Ballgames meant a lot to him. They played ball every day, and for longer hours every winter. An annual contest between Pandavs and Kauravs typically marked the advent of spring. Reduced to five members a side, the contest was inevitably won by the Pandavs, who were led by their ace player Bheem, who could muscle the ball anywhere.
The matches followed a familiar course. Dushshasan could hurl the ball really, really fast, and could even move it in the other. The other four Pandavs, terrified of his pace and foxed by his wiles, succumbed one by one till Bheem came along and plonked him all over and even outside the ground.
It was the same story every time.
Nobody seemed to care for the contest this time, but Dushshasan kept hoping. He urged Duryodhan to go for it one final time. “I will bowl us to victory,” he gloated. Duryodhan seemed amused, took some cajoling, but went ahead with it. He loved his brother too much.
The Pandavs accepted the challenge, especially Nakul and Sahadev: it was their only opportunity to be treated as equals.
The big day had arrived. Six long sticks were placed on a bare strip, three on each side. The princes had arrived with well-polished planks of wood, specially obtained from the beautiful mountains up north.
The ground was covered with spectators. They knew it was going to be the last of of its kind for the current generation of princes. The next fixture may have to wait for decades.
Yudhishthir and Duryodhan walked to the strip at the centre, accompanied by Bheeshma, the most eligible bachelor of the era. It was decided that the Pandavs would get the first share of the ball.
Duryodhan and Dushshasan were, of course, there in the quintet. The others were selected randomly: Chitrasen, Durmukh, and Vikarna made it. Duryodhan sent Chitrasen and Durmukh in first.
Arjun started proceedings with nagging accuracy, and soon the sticks went flying, sending Chitrasen back to the makeshift tent. Duryodhan walked out and smashed a couple here and there.
He had managed to cross ends before Arjun was through. It was Bheem’s turn now, and he hurled a missile that hit Duryodhan straight on the thigh. Duryodhan yelled in agony. It would not be the last time that it would happen.
Bheem soon hit Duryodhan’s paduka, and went into a war cry. Vidur raised his finger spontaneously. Dushshasan walked out and glared back at Bheem.
“I will rip your chest apart and drink your blood,” warned Bheem.
“Who do you think you are, Count Dracula?” mocked Dushshasan.
Bheem did not answer. He grunted, and sent down one that was too fast to be encountered. The ball took the bat, the sticks, and Yudhishthir (who was standing behind the sticks) along with it. Ripping his chest apart and drinking blood had to wait.
Had he played a few centuries later Dushshasan would have had a zero against his name on the giant scoreboard. Unfortunately, Aryabhatta had not yet been conceived, so the spot remained blank.
Vikarna and Durmukh ran about a bit, and when Arjun pitched one to Vikarna’s left he went for it; the ball grazed the edge of the plank and went to Yudhishthir. The Pandavs needed to score only nine.
The Kauravs had half lost the battle there. Had the Kauravs scored 50 they would have stood with a chance of a fight, but eight? It was a matter of two hits from Bheem!
Duryodhan took first ball, and Nakul and Sahadev played him out cautiously. They had run four times, twice when each was facing Duryodhan. Devoid of all hope, the eldest Kaurav threw the ball to Dushshasan.
Dushshasan ran in. The paduka made a soft, characteristic plonk-plonk when he reached the crease. Sahadev knew the ball would leave him and acted in anticipation: only that it did not.
The ball swerved in, as if by some magic, and knocked one of the stumps straight out of the ground. Arjun followed, same fashion, next ball. Bheem walked out.
Dushshasan had bowled to Bheem before. He knew the strongest of Pandav brothers had little technique, but whenever he connected, it cleared the ground irrespective of whether he had timed it well. Bheem was all about power.
It was a dry day — reminiscent of the one when Dron had stepped into Hastinapur. Bheem took guard. Dushshasan took his time. He had apparently bruised a finger. The attendants ran in with random medicated oils.
Then Dushshasan ran in to hurl the ball again. He knew exactly what he had to do.
Bheem saw the ball early. He went for it. He simply waited for that sweet sound that would send the ball soaring over the marquee, resulting in victory for his side.
[Note: The cliched phrase “into the stratosphere” would have sounded a lot cooler here. However, the term “stratosphere” had not been coined till then.]
He was wrong. This time the ball swerved almost absurdly. The movement made absolutely no sense as the ball crashed into Bheem’s paduka and rolled on to the stumps.
Duryodhan was the first to celebrate. He ran in and embraced his younger brother. The Kauravs rejoiced: this was, after all, their first chance at beating the Pandavs.
It took them one more ball to decide the match. Dushshasan’s ball grazed something on the way and Vikarna flung himself to his right to pouch the ball in spectacular fashion. They shouted only half-heartedly, but Yudhishthir — being the person that he was — walked.
Once the festivities were over, Duryodhan cornered his second brother: “How did you do it?”
“Move the ball into the Pandavs. That is what I do. You move it the other way round. I have seen your grip. You bowled with the same grip.”
“Oh, that. Remember the day when Dron arrived?”
“Remember the ball he recovered? It still had that long rod of grass sticking out from it. As all of you went to the palace, I sat idly, next to the well, scratching the ball absent-mindedly.”
“I started playing with it since then, hurling it randomly, the way I had always done. The ball started swerving — you have to believe this — in the other direction!”
“Yes. Then I started making marks on one half of the ball, leaving the other intact. All balls behaved that way. In fact, it worked better in dry days. Then I asked myself, why not use something like oil to smoothen up the other side? It will simply increase the difference in smoothness levels between the two sides.”
“Makes sense; and all this time I had used oil to smoothen...”
“Let me finish. Oil had the same effect. It was just that the ball swerved the other way. Now, for Sahadev and Arjun, I had already scuffed up one side. To be doubly sure for Bheem, I thought of applying oil on the other. But I did not.”
"Because I have never practised with an oiled ball. It struck me that a much better alternative would be to scruff up the already soiled side more, and more, and more. I used this dagger..."
Somewhere in the 20th century a fast bowler woke up with a start. He told his colleagues: “I had this strange dream, you know. Will someone give me an old cricket ball and a soft-drink bottle?”