The maintenance folks of my apartment complex are doing some roof repairs and they’ve been hammering and drilling over my head all day. All this has resulted in putting a very bad roof-related song in my head — chhat par soya thha behnoyi, main tane samajh ke so gayi from Karan Arjun (1995) picturized on Mamta Kulkarni pretending to seduce Amrish Puri, no less. Oh, the sheer joy. By the way, if you have a better roof song to suggest, please do so and I will be eternally grateful. So thanks to how my twisted mind works ..
.. I found myself discussing the Mahabharata with a friend. Don’t look so shocked. I, like every other kid, read a healthy dose of Amar Chitra Katha comics while growing up, so I can sound like I know what I’m talking about, even when I don’t.
So I got thinking about Karna and what a tragic and fascinating story his life was. One of the last few good men. He was a good son, a loyal friend, a righteous man and a skilled warrior. In fact, he is said to be a better archer than Arjuna, but Arjuna refused to compete and find out. Karna’s unknown parentage was used against him. It was beneath Arjuna to fight someone whose lineage and kshatriya antecedents were not known, you see. Total crapola, I tell ya. And thus, Karna never got the respect and glory he truly deserved. A terrible victim of circumstances.
The story of his birth is rather interesting too — Karna was the son of Kunti from Surya, the Sun God. Kunti, while still a young girl, served and cared for Rishi Durvasa with great devotion while he was visiting their kingdom. Pleased with her dedication he taught her a special mantra. If she thought of a God while chanting the mantra, that God would appear before her and she would bear a son with him. The son would have the God-like qualities of the God in question. Immaculate conception, of course, so don’t get any ideas.
But Kunti had her doubts. She thought Rishi Durvasa pulled a fast one on her and the mantra was fake. Plus she was hajjaar curious, so she thought she’d test it out. So she looked out her window, thought of Surya and chanted the magic mantra. Ta-da! The Sun God appeared and .. long story short, Karna was born. Major problemo! Kunti was unmarried, so the fear of social stigma made her go bye-bye baby. Karna was put in a basket and floated off into the Ganga river. Now you know how all those Hindi-film babies end up in baskets in rivers all over. Kunti’s idea. Karna was found by a charioteer Adhiratha and grew up as his son although it’s a miracle he didn’t grow up to be a basket case. Anyhoo, many years later, Kunti married Pandu and re-used the mantra successfully to give birth to more sons — the Pandavas.
Q: So, now that you know the background, what would you call the story of Karna’s birth?
A: A beta-test! (Beta = Hindi for Son)
Yes, you have been taken for a ride (in a chariot, no less). The whole mythology lecture was just a setup for a bad PJ. That concludes our usual quota of mindless nonsense. I shall make myself scarce now. Jaati hoon main ..