Poetry

The Teetering Balance of the Mahabharata

He was never meant to die;

His life snuffed out at a premature age.

Yet he was slain;

For he had sinned;

A transgression that was unpardonable.

His manner of demise;

Was but fiendish;

To say the least;

For his executioner;

Was inhuman, abominable and devilish.

O Karna, famed for altruism;

Yet guilty of misconduct;

What will you place;

On the balance scales?

Inequity or savagery?

Which side of the pair of scales;

Tilts and inclines?

Or are they counterbalanced;

Offset and nullified?

      ***

Infringement of the code of warfare;

He was never meant to discharge.

Yet days later;

His rectitude he preserved;

Labelling it his ethics.

Taking up the baton;

He abused not his authority;

For he defended his fidelity;

Displaying his legitimacy;

On the battleground.

O Karna, famed for honour;

Yet guilty of lawlessness;

What will you place;

On the balance scales?

Decency or disorder?

Which side of the pair of scales;

Tilts and inclines?

Or are they counterbalanced;

Offset and nullified?

      ***

Non-intervention and indolence;

He was never meant to accept.

Yet he was coerced into it;

By someone with greater leverage.

Submitted to mortification;

He had no choice but to back away.

O Karna, famed for solemnity;

Yet guilty of pronounced pride;

What will you place;

On the balance scales?

Shame or vitality?

Which side of the pair of scales;

Tilts and inclines?

Or are they counterbalanced;

Offset and nullified?

      ***

Prey to insensitivity;

He was never meant to become;

For his greatest trait lay in sanctity.

Yet his heartless parent;

Self-serving, sought to tempt him;

Crushing his soul into a thousand tiny pieces.

O Karna, famed for dedication;

Yet guilty of your bloodline;

What will you place;

On the balance scales?

Recognition as Radheya or Kaunteya?

Which side of the pair of scales;

Tilts and inclines?

Or are they counterbalanced?

Offset and nullified?

      ***

Subject to exploitation;

He was never meant to be;

For he was ever so selfless and kind.

Yet perceiving that he would be hoodwinked;

Succumbing to the avidity of gallantry he could not resist.

O Karna, famed for courage;

Yet guilty of a death wish;

What will you place;

On the balance scales?

Self-sacrifice or an urge to self-destruct?

Which side of the pair of scales;

Tilts and inclines?

Or are they counterbalanced;

Offset and nullified?

      ***

Certified as inferior;

He was never fated to be.

Worthy of sovereignty he was;

Apt on an adorned golden throne;

He seemed fit to bear the weight of a kingly diadem.

Disregarded and scorned;

His valour unsung;

Unappreciated he is.

O Karna, famed for fortitude;

Yet guilty of pique;

What will you place;

On the balance scales?

Regality or bitterness?

Which side of the pair of scales;

Tilts and inclines?

Or are they counterbalanced;

Offset and nullified?

      ***

Misdeeds and errors;

He was never meant to commit.

Yet he violated his righteousness;

To please his only comrade.

Visually impaired he was;

To the deportment of his friend;

Despite his regrets.

Susceptible to love he remains;

For, missing in life, it was.

O Karna, famed for ideals;

Yet guilty of impropriety;

What will you place;

On the balance scales?

Courtesy or defiance?

Which side of the pair of scales;

Tilts and inclines?

Or are they counterbalanced;

Offset and nullified?

      ***

Rejected at birth by this world;

He was never meant to be born.

His existence ostracized;

His head was always down.

He lied in order to be taught;

For his mentor disdained his caste.

Only one man lifted his chin;

But brought out the worst in him;

For turpitude curtained his transcendence.

O Karna, famed for supremacy;

Yet guilty of paltriness;

What will you place;

On the balance scales?

Intimacy or allegiance?

Which side of the pair of scales;

Tilts and inclines?

Or are they counterbalanced;

Offset and nullified?

      ***

                                                                      ~ Dibyasree Nandy

                                                                     Kolkata, India

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