“You’re a shameless man, brother.”
Vidura was never known to mince words. And also one who always aligned with the truth. When no one spoke at the shameful and dishonorable incident of the attempted disrobing of Draupadi, only Vidura had the guts and strength of character to challenge the assembly.
It is a testament to Vidura’s character that when Bhagavan Shri Krishna was concluding his Leela (Human incarnation) on the planet, He thought of Vidura and even left Him a message. Poets and saints have also immortalized how Krishna chose to have a simple and humble meal at Vidura’s house, rejecting Duryodhana’s fancy offerings devoid of love.
Vidura was one of the most venerable and iconic characters of Mahabharat. As a (step) brother and friend to the blind King Dhritarashtra, Vidura always gave the best and, often, unpalatable (as perceived by the blind king) advice to Dhritrashtra.
Mahabharat war is described to be one of the most gruesome wars to have ever been fought among humans on earth. In more than one way, there was divine intervention involved as well. (A certain chariot driver who was there in the war is popularly known as God in Human form in the land of Bharat)
Before the war, Vidura had renounced the kingdom, for he couldn’t bear to witness the injustice, blatant idiocy, and war-mongering by the Kauravas headed by Duryodhana. He went on a pilgrimage as the eighteen-day war was planned, fought, and concluded. Once he returned, Vidura was shocked to see Dhritrashtra finding comfort and joy now in the company of the very people he wanted to eliminate at one time!
“How can you be so shameless? You did everything in your power to try and kill the five brothers. You allowed their wife to be mistreated amidst a full assembly. In the war, Bhima single-handedly killed all of your sons. Yet you continue to live amongst them. Now when he drops you food, you lap it up like a dog. Oh, I wonder how strong is this Maya (material energy) of the Supreme Lord Vishnu that even at the fag end of one’s life, one cannot let go of the attachment to material comforts.”Paraphrased from Srimad Bhagavatam,1.13
A modern mind may wonder what is so wrong about an elderly man living with his surviving family at the end of his life. However, in the context of that era, Vidura was spot on in admonishing his elder brother.
Unlike our modern-day generation, which is confused about genders and the filters to apply to their digital photographs, the Mahabharata-era folks were supposed to have more refined standards.
The people in that era followed what was called वर्ण- आश्रम dharma. This dharma propounded one to follow a natural progression from student life to a householder and then, at the right time, relinquish your daily duties, cut your attachments to family and move away to engage in austerities and meditation. The essence of following this code was that human life is meant to achieve four goals, namely, Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth, material goals), Kama (fulfillment of material desires), and Moksha (liberation). Separating yourself from family was to cut distractions in the quest for moksha or liberation.
Vidura, as an ever-well-wisher of Dhritrashtra, was pained to see that despite such terrible losses that occurred in Dhritrashtra’s life, he was not ceding control over the palace. Though Dhritrashtra had a lot of affection for Vidura, earlier, more often than not, he used to ignore the sound advice of his brother. However, after years and years of counseling, Vidura could FINALLY get through his elder brother. Through the bitter medicine of Vidura’s words, Dhritrashtra finally awakened to the reality of his mortal existence. He and Gandhari sneak out of the palace without informing Yuddhisthira (so that he doesn’t stop him from leaving) and move towards the Himalayas to attain liberation. (The texts of the Srimad Bhagavatam reveal that they ultimately did)
An Icon (Diva) In Decline
I started watching football after getting addicted to a video game. FIFA’04 will always remain special, for it not only made me fall in love with Football but also helped me gain my best friend, Poorak.
I remember watching bits of Euro 2004 and falling in love with two teenage footballers, namely, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney. Both coincidentally played for the same club: Manchester United.
I started following United and thus began a tumultuous, passionate, and emotional love affair with one of the iconic football clubs of all time. My love-hate relationship with Manchester United has lasted longer than any other romance in this lifetime!
United, during those days in 2004, was in a mini-slump. Many of the old stalwarts were leaving or fading. Chelsea under the Russian Billionaire Roman Abramovich and the enigmatic Jose Mourinho had stormed the premier league. However, within two years, Sir Alex Ferguson created one of the most dominant footballing teams the English top tier had ever seen.
Oh, the joy and sheer exhilaration that United and, in particular, Mr. Cristiano Ronaldo brought along. I have shrieked and screamed in ecstasy, jumped up and down (often much to the shock and chagrin of my parents in the other room) as I watched United take the league by storm. I was heartbroken and devastated when Ronaldo decided to leave United for Real Madrid. My loyalty was to United, but I kept a close and envious watch as Ronaldo smashed records, won record-breaking champions leagues, and became the most iconic football player of this era along with Lionel Messi.
When Cristiano Ronaldo unexpectedly returned last summer, it was a carnival! The fans were psyched to have arguably the best player they had ever seen in a United shirt back home. So what if he was 36? I can’t tell you how many times I have jumped around doing the man’s iconic SIUUU celebration. (Should record a video someday)
Spoiler alert: this reunion or homecoming didn’t have a happy ending. 💔
Re-signing Ronaldo was supposed to catapult United as serious contenders. However, last season turned out to be one of their worst ever in the premier league era. While Ronaldo scored the most goals for the club in the season, the team suffered. Many pointed fingers at Ronaldo’s extraordinary stature and a lack of suitability to the fast-paced premier league as a clutch for the football team. As the season ended, reports emerged that Ronaldo wanted to leave the club. What seemed like a dream come true turned sour swiftly.
Ronaldo, who earned half a million pounds per week (read that again and do the arithmetic) at United, couldn’t find another club to match his extraordinary wages. Media reports also suggested that most of the elite clubs in world football rejected overtures by Ronaldo’s agent as they, along with any reasonable football fan, understood: The Icon is in decline.
The new manager of Manchester United, who seems like the smartest appointment the club has made post the legendary Sir Alex refused to indulge in the diva, oops, icon. Once again, anyone with even a modicum of football intelligence could see that the team played much better without Ronaldo than with him. Only Ronaldo and his army of internet fans refused to believe so.
Just before the start of the FIFA World Cup, Ronaldo did an interview with the controversial Piers Morgan. In that interview, Ronaldo hit out at his critics, calling out names and insults to ex-teammates who dared to criticize him. He also launched an attack on the club (in parts rightly so) and the manager (uncalled for). As it stands, his contract and reunion with United ended sourly.
Time: The Ultimate Power
Bhagavan Shri Krishna while revealing His universal form to Arjuna in the 11th Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita says:
कालोऽस्मि लोकक्षयकृत्प्रवृद्धो (11.32)
“Time I am, the great destroyer of the worlds..”
Kassius Klay, whom we know as the legendary boxer, Muhammad Ali, was known for knocking out his opponents with a single punch. He proclaimed he was the greatest. And so it seemed when he was young and at his peak.
But, as the Joker in Nolan’s Dark Knight said, “everything burns.”
The same Muhammad Ali who could knock out opponents with a single punch faced a struggle to light up the Olympic torch at the 1996 summer Olympics as he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome.
We can be the greatest like Mr. Ali, Mr. Ronaldo, or just about an ordinary person, time humbles us all.
Some may argue, though, that the relentless pursuit of greatness mixed with a bit of cockiness makes these athletes reach dazzling heights. But then there exist stars like Sachin Tendulkar and Roger Federer, who are venerated more than others not just due to their immaculate sporting achievements but also their humility and arguably timely exit from the top level.
It is a sobering thought that if such great personalities end up seeing a decline in their powers, what to speak of us, ordinary mortals?
The idea is not to compare ourselves with stalwarts or poke fun or judge a legend’s downfall. The intent has to be to learn that while gifts may be taken away, talents may wane, the thing that ultimately matters is inner growth and that of your character.
May we be inspired to cultivate, harness, and ideate the facets that have longer durability than fame, possessions, and attachments.
P.S. The Smiling Panda recommends watching the Dark Knight Trilogy.