No one was surpised at office, when I suddenly popped up a question. Maybe they are accustomed to me and my questions by now. But I had to ask, for I didnt want to answer that now, and I was trying to escape.. So I asked Zakir to begin with..
Zakir, say now you know that you have only one more month to live, exactly one month from now you will die.. How would you like to live your life?
Zakir went on about cancer patients who face their death and live.. blah blah and blah.. But he missed the whole point.. What if he knew he is going to die within a month.. what will be he doing, how will he live for one month?
I didnt get answer to my question from anyone, except some blabbering.. Hmm.. maybe death is still an alien subject to humans. I wanted to ask each and everyone I meet, How would you live, if you know you are going to die in exactly one month? Yes.. I was running away from that question myself. But I am not afraid of death, and it has been my favourite topic for a long time now.. I have apparently read books about death more than about life!!
Interestingly while taking a walk during afternoon, I remembered a story from the epic of India, the Mahabharata.. where one yaksha(one category of ghost) asks question to Yudhistir, the eldest of the pandava’s(sons of King Pandu) This episode happens, when the pandava’s who are banished for 12 years of life in jungle is nearing its end. They are staying at a ashram with some sages along with their wife Draupadi. One day the arani(firesticks) is stolen by a deer, with its horns.. the inmate informs this to the Pandava’s and they go in search of the firesticks deep into the jungle..
Needless to say they get lost and soon all the five brothers, Yudhistir, Bheem, Arjun, Nakul and Sahadev get tired and thirsty. Yudhistir instructs his brothers to look for the source of water and one of the brother climbs the tree and see’s a pond at a distance. Sahadev goes to fetch water from the pond, while others take rest. When Sahadev, the youngest of the pandava’s reach the lake and is just about to drink water, a voice suddenly comes out of nowhere, and asks him to halt.
It says the sahadev, that the lake belongs to the bearer of the voice and if he can answer the questions asked by him, Sahadev can get water from there. Sahadev ignores that and drinks water and falls dead. The other brothers after long wait, sends Nakul to see why sahadev is getting late.. Nakul also reaches the same place and the same event happnes.. he too falls dead.
Arjuna(the Great Archer) goes next and find his younger brothers dead, and challenges any one who had done this.. the voice again comes and says the samething to him.. that he should answer the questions and then only the permission to get water can be given.. Arjuna disobeys that and threatens the voice and goes ahead and fetches water only to have the fate of Nakul and Sahadev.
Bhim (the magnificient wrestler) goes next to get water for Yudhishtir, and he too hears the cautionary words. Bhim being more short tempered, and more tempered after seeing his brothers dead, challenges the voice and he goes on uprooting trees.. but soon gets tired and goes to drik water.. the voice cautions again and asks bhim to answer questions asked by the voice or else the same fate will happen to him also.. Bhim too ignores the voice and follows suit..
Yudhishtir gets worried, as no one has returned.. so he himself goes in search of water.. He finds all his brothers dead on the banks of the pond and laments.. Suddenly the voice comes again.. Yudhistir get back to senses again and listens to the voice.. The voice says to yudhistir that his brothers died since they didnt pay heed to the voice, and same will be the fate of Yudhishtir if he also do the same.
Yudhistir agrees to answer the questions and Yaksha starts asking questions.. The actual questions and answers are philosophical.. I will put up some questions here..
Yaksha: What is faster than wind?
Yudhishtir: Mind is faster than wind.
Yaksha: Who is the friend of a householder?
Yudhishtir: Wife is the friend of a householder.
Yaksha: Who is man’s divine companion?
Yudhishtir: Wife is man’s divine companion.
Yaksha: After abandoning what does man becomes dear to all?
Yudhishtir: After abandoning arrogance.
Yaksha: Who is the most treachorous enemy of man?
Yudhishtir: Anger is the most dangerous enemy of man.
Yaksha: Which is the animal which keeps eyes open even in sleep?
and our question..
Yaksha: What is the most surprising thing in the world?
Yudhishtir: Every human hears about death of dear ones, and he knows that death is inevitable.. still they go on living as if they will live all the eternity, there is nothing more surprising than this..
The question answer session goes on for a while and then finally the Yaksha becomes happy with the answers, and says to Yudhishtir that he can have water and the yakhsa will make one of his brothers alive, and asks Yudhishtir to choose one.. Yudhishtir chooses Nakul. The Yaksha is surprised., that he didnt choose Bhim – the Greatest Wrestler nor Arjuna, one of the greatest archers. Moreover, yudhishtir may have to fight for his kingdom, and one of these two will be more helpful than Nakul. Yaksha asks Yudhishtir why he chose Nakul and not Bhim or Arjun.
Yudhishtir says, “My father Pandu had two wives, my mother Kunthi and Nakula and Sahadev’s mother Madri. Though Nakul and Sahadev are my half brother as per dharma(righteousness) to my father Pandu and my mothers Kunthi and Maadri, I should ask for Nakula who is eldest of the two. Their survival is more important to me than my kingdom.” The Yaksha becomes happy at this answer and make all the four brothers alive..
Suddenly Yudhishtir asks Yaksha, “You are not an Yaksha, for an yaksha cannot kill any of my brothers, you are some one more divine, please reveal thyself”. Yaksha is pleased with this observations and reveals himself… Yaksha was none but the God of Death, Yamadharma, who is also half father of Yudhishtir. Yamadharma blesses all five of them and gives them the arani(firesticks) which apparently was stolen at his instruction and leaves..