The Modern Day Ashwathama

The raging battle heaved its dying breaths, gasping and clutching at the last bits to be consumed. The all consuming fire of rage, ignorance, hatred, resentment, malice, vengeance and above all ego, blazed its inglorious last. It lapped at the last one available – Ashwathama.

A warrior to be reckoned with, Ashwathama had fallen prey to his own shortcomings. Dhritrashtra’s blindness was contagious, it passed from him to his son Duryodhana to Ashwathama. In his blindness and incompetence, he let lose the Brahmastra on the Pandava’s unborn grandson- Parikshit, who was saved by Lord Krishna.

Lord Krishna cursed Ashwathama with living hell – his wounds would never heal and would ease puss and blood, he would never be the recipient of anyone’s love and affection, he would cry for death, but death would elude him, and rot till the end of Kaliyug- living hell indeed!

One wonders, why? Why was he cursed, why not killed? What are the other versions of this story? Does Ashwathama still roam in some part of the world? Could he truly still be alive?

There are many answers, I found a few on Quora. Mythology is pregnant with symbology. Stories with morals, hidden meanings to be derived at an appropriate time, changing their import with changing time. An interesting perspective is offered by Devdutt Pattanaik on this incident – Ashwathama was cursed because he did not use his power with responsibility.

Using Power Without Responsibility.

So many cases come forth every day when this happens. Abuse of power is common. Why should it be limited to a public officer entangled in a corruption charge? Or to an Army General committing heinous war crimes?

We do it too. We – the mango people, the aam junta.

We take – bribe, dowry, petty favors; because we can.

We defile – environment, people, thoughts; because we can.

We kill – trees, animals, people, hope; because we can.

We take for granted – privileges, friends, money; because we can.

We neglect -ourselves, parents, responsibilities; because we can.

When did we stop taking responsibility for our own actions and started playing the blame game?

We are as much accountable and responsible for our own actions, as are the officers misusing and abusing the power vested in them by the people. The world rots because of our deeds, and all we do is point fingers at others.

I am not talking from the perspective of a tree-hugging environmentalist. I am just as narrow-minded, conceited and myopic as anyone else. I am talking about the world that we live in, the one that we have created around us – our family, our friends, office, etc.

It has become infected like the wounds of Ashwathama. We take that little power that we have and use it to manipulate our surroundings in our favor.

Nothing wrong in that – apparently.

True to Kaliyug tradition, we do it without thought of consequences. Consequences that other people will face because of our actions. We have adopted a nonchalant approach – either no-profit-no-loss or preferably me-profit-you-get-lost.

I believe that Ashwathama is alive. He lives in hearts of the progeny of Kaliyug – the MODERN man.

The rage, the cowardice, the malice, the hatred, the resentment, the jealousy, the arrogance – the ashes of Mahabharat still hang in the atmosphere. The infected blood and pus that seeps from Ashwathama infect this world.

Who are we to point fingers at him? We lead our daily lives on the very premise – power without responsibility.

I hope we, as people, can change. Bit by bit, step by step. Let’s attempt at least to cast away the Ashwathama within us into the isolation he deserves. One person at a time, let us start being responsible towards the people in our lives.

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