Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Arjuna is the great love of my life. Small surprise that I wrote an entire book on him :)  I never miss an opportunity to discuss the Mahabaratha in general and Arjuna in particular and now is as good a time as ever to talk about him at length. Especially since my kid sister has been on my case about my lack of self - promotion genius. Read on for 10 obscure and fun facts about the great man and be prepared to fell in love.

            Arjuna and Krishna were cousins who were also the best of buddies. The duo achieved great things together. Krishna was Arjuna’s charioteer during the battle of Kurukshetra and he saved Arjuna from death on many occasions.
            Theirs is a tale of timeless friendship not to mention the original bromance! Krishna loved Arjuna so much, he actually helped him abduct his own sister!!
            Arjuna was the most famous warrior of the age and this coupled with his magnetic charisma and sex appeal made him quite irresistible to the ladies of the land who all wanted him with hardly any exceptions. Some of the most beautiful maidens of the age lost their hearts to him and he must have resisted their charms as best as he could but wound up marrying them anyways. Draupadi, Uloopi – the Serpent Princess, Chitrangada, and Subhadra were the lucky ladies whom he married.

Draupadi may have been the common wife of the Pandavas and sworn to love them all equally but to her dying breath she loved Arjuna more than the others. At her swayamwara (an ancient practice whereby ladies of royal blood got to choose their grooms from an assortment of men of equally distinguished birth from all over the country who would gather and pray for the honor of being the one garlanded by the Princess), it was Arjuna disguised as a poor Brahmin who performed a near impossible task to win her hand. However, thanks to her mother – in – law who being annoying in the manner of mothers – in – law across the ages put paid to her chances of a happily ever after with him by unknowingly (please!) instructing her sons to share her equally when they brought her home thinking she was nothing more than a dole of alms. And so it came to be that the bride Arjuna won was to become the wife of his brothers as well. Draupadi nursed her forbidden love for Arjuna in the innermost recesses of her heart and pined away for him for the duration of her natural life.

            Urvashi was an apsara (heavenly nymph) famed for her matchless beauty. It was said that her hotness was such that even those sages who practiced the harshest of austerities and had gained renown for their mastery of the senses were transformed into quivering masses of lustful desire in her presence.
            However when this exquisite creature decided to indulge her desire for Arjuna and condescended to offer her carnal skills to him for the duration of a night, he spurned her. Arjuna refused to sleep with her because he felt their union would be incestuous since Urvashi had been married to an ancestor of his and she was in effect his great (many times over) grandmother.
            Arjuna’s reasoning was lost on Urvashi and since women then and now do not take kindly to being left high and dry she cursed him to become a eunuch and become a eunuch he did if only for a brief spell.

            Arjuna’s skill with bow and arrows is legendary. A lesser known skill is his expertise in dance and music. It served him in good stead during his stint as the eunuch, Brihannalla. He dazzled all who had the good fortune to watch him with his dance moves which would have put even Prabhu Deva and Hrithik Roshan to shame! In fact his brother, Bhima was so impressed, that he even considered sending Brihannalla into battle to dance for their cousin and enemy, Duryodhana believing there was a distinct possibility he would laugh himself to death and spare them all the bloodshed that was otherwise inevitable.

            In his quest for excellence and unrivalled supremacy with a bow, Arjuna exercised a ruthlessness that had tragic consequences for a blameless soul named Eklavya. Sensing a potential rival in the making he coerced his Guru, Drona into asking the lad to chop off his thumb and offer it to him as gurudakhshina. Not surprisingly, Eklavya hated Arjuna for his actions which had left him with a missing thumb. He nursed his grudge, biding the right moment to have his revenge and for that he lost his life to one who would allow no harm to befall Arjuna.

            Arjuna was given the name Bibhatsu for his fairness and ethical conduct on the battlefield. However, there was an occasion in the battle of Kurukshetra when he behaved in a less than noble fashion.
            Bhurishrava, a mighty warrior had at his mercy, Arjuna’s dear friend Satyaki who had fallen unconscious. As Bhurishrava made to cut off Satyaki’s head, Arjuna intervened and lopped off his sword arm though it was against the rules of combat. He was censured for this act, though he argued that Bhurishrava was wrong to attempt a decapitation on a fallen foe. It was just too bad neither of them had a handbook on the proper ethics pertaining to lopping off heads or limbs!

            While on exile with his brothers, Arjuna decided to perform penances and win the favor of Shiva, the destroyer. Pleased with his dedication, Shiva himself appeared before him in the guise of a hunter. Not recognizing the truth, Arjuna got into a fight with the object of his worship and was pummeled to within an inch of his life. But when he found out the truth he apologized and mercifully was forgiven by the three – eyed God.

            The Serpent Princess, Uloopi loved Arjuna with all her heart but the Serpent Prince, Ashwasena hated Arjuna with an intensity that defied belief. The latter tried his darndest to kill him and came within an inch of succeeding. Uloopi saved Arjuna from the flames of hell and if that were not enough she brought him back to life after he was killed in battle by his own son whom she had trained for this express purpose.

            Humility was not one of the many virtues Arjuna was known for. His arrogance almost cost him his life when he entered into a reckless bet with an aged monkey. Arjuna told the monkey his skill with archery was such that he was capable of building a massive bridge across the sea made entirely out of arrows to enable an army to cross with ease. The monkey who was actually Hanuman in disguise politely expressed his disbelief and bet that such a bridge would be insufficient to bear his puny self let alone the weight of an entire army.
            Arjuna did lose the bet and since he had sworn to step into a sacrificial fire should he fail, he prepared to immolate himself. It was the Protector of the Universe, Lord Vishnu who stepped in to save his braggart behind. 

 Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior Prince is available online at:
HomeShop 18
Leadstart Publishing

Bashing Beauty!

There was a news article on NDTV (read about it here) about an Indian student's death in the United Kingdom believed to have been caused by weight loss pills. He was only 18. It made me really sad and I got to ruminating about the insane pressure to look good these days. So I just typed up some of my thoughts on the same and put it up on BI.

        It could just be me, but there seems to be an incredible amount of pressure to look beautiful all the damn time. Earlier, the onus was entirely on celebs and they were and still are expected to hit the loo with pancake and lipstick on. But since they are paid beaucoup bucks to look awesome it is their problem if they get fat – shamed for daring to pile on the pounds post pregnancy like Aishwarya Rai or slammed by the fashion police for daring to wear their exorbitant designer togs twice(Gasp!). Nowadays, however, everyone is expected to sport the celeb look and be perfectly groomed and beautiful even when doing something unglamorous like taking out the trash.
            If that there were not bad enough there is society’s current definition of beauty to contend with. Gone are the days when Rubens used his artistry to convince his peers that pudgy brunettes were the epitome of beauty. In this brave new world, a woman has to be skinny, possessed of alabaster – hued and blemish- free skin, poker straight perfectly coiffed hair, pearly white teeth and a sartorial savvy that includes a perfect willingness to sacrifice comfort for fashion. And it goes without saying that stretch marks, cellulite, bodily hair, junk in the trunk, unplucked eyebrows, uneven skin tone et al are the great destroyers of flawless beauty. Wearing comfortable flat – heeled shoes that don’t aggravate your acrophobia or your favorite pair of baggy pants and oversized tees that actually allows for unconstricted respiration is guaranteed to provoke uncalled for looks of withering scorn and sarcastic comments on how the frumpy, dumpy look is working out for ya.
            The problem with gamely trying to become more beautiful than your maker intended you to be is that it is far too much work to be any kind of fun and it is ridiculously expensive. Agreed that working out is enjoyable and beneficial to good health, but if one is hoping to give Jessica Biel a run for her money or give our very own Bipasha Basu an inferiority complex, then the prescribed three hours a week is not going to cut it. A person would need to clock in the same amount of time in the gym as a regular 9 to 5 job and pay through the proverbial nose to get the desired results. There is a shortcut of course and that is to starve/undergo liposuction/use weight loss pills/steroids/develop an eating disorder/take up smoking and risk certain death or other potentially long – term ailments to get that deliciously malnourished look so prized by fashion designers, model agencies and the rest of the beauty brigade.
            Getting skinny is only the beginning though. There is still the grooming process. Hard earned money has to be blown up on the beauty parlors and spas that have erupted like unsightly sores in every nook and corner of whichever part of the globe you head to, demanding that you enter their portals and subject yourself to the torture devices within so that you may be transformed from the ugly duckling you currently are to a beautiful swan, for the right sum of course. Waxing, manicures, pedicures, hair spa, hair straightening, coloring, oil massages, facials, body polishing are some of the services that have to be availed on a monthly nee weekly basis to keep from looking scruffy or just natural (What a horrifying and utterly revolting thought!) And if all that pampering has done nothing for a slightly crooked nose or smile lines, it is time to look up a decent plastic surgeon who can deliver the goods.
            A girl may have puked for ten days straight before the compliments on her ravishing new body start rolling in or she may have practically beggared herself to pay for beauty treatments and plastic surgery but her quest for beauty is far from complete. The next stop is Fifth Avenue or the Champs Elysees for the moneyed, the nearest mall having a sale, or just about any store selling knockoffs for the hoi polloi. After all, you are what you wear aren’t you? So it is imperative that one invests in clothes, more clothes, accessories like scarves, watches, handbags, jewelry, and shoes, shoes and more shoes and underwear that is likely to asphyxiate your crotch. And it is a fashion boo boo to wear the same thing more than once so that thing we learned in school – “Waste not, want not” has to be unlearned asap.
            I could be way off base here, but surely there are more constructive ways to spend time and money? Why are we all swearing by the adage that in order to feel good you must look good? Isn’t it simpler to feel good about yourself and love whatever the heck you see in the mirror? Even if the creature reflected in front of you has bushy eyebrows, thinning hair, crooked teeth, a double chin, a zit or two and absolutely no fashion sense to speak of? It is long overdue, but we need to paraphrase Keats and start believing that a thing of fugly can also be a joy forever if not for others (who cares about others anyway?) at least for the precious self. 

The original version appeared here