Dateline Hastinapur

BEEN THINKING, a lot, about how the media narrate war how war stories play out on front pages and television screens.

Been thinking, a lot, also about Epicretold  suppose, just suppose, there were newspapers then, the equivalents of The Times of India and The Sun and The New York Times and the BBC. How would they have narrated the Kurukshetra war and the events that led to it?

I guess my interest in such a narrative is driven in the main by my fascination with ‘war journalism’. It is not difficult to see war coverage as serialised storytelling: episode after episode of drama, over weeks and months and years, with conflict, escalation and resolution, the same major characters weaving in and out accompanied by the same minor actors – all coming together to form an overarching narrative, which, I dare say, pretty well follows the shape of Freytag’s pyramid.

Interesting to think, then, of how the Mahabharata can be told as news. Can the story be strung together as a series of media reports? Would such storytelling make sense to a reader, particularly one not familiar with the storyline? Would it help him/her create own narrative of that reality?

Solely in the spirit of experiment, here’s a take. I see this as appearing in an ‘international’ newspaper  call it what you will (and drop me a line if you come up with an interesting name):

Pandu family returns
King welcomes Kunti, sons with open arms

By Our Royal Correspondent

HASTINAPUR:  The family of King Pandu, the renunciant royal who died in the Shatashringa forests in a mysterious accident last week, returned yesterday to a grand ceremony that spilled out on to the streets of the capital city.

The royal widow Kunti and her sons – Yudhishtira (7), Bhima (6), Arjuna (5) and the twins Nakula and Sahadeva (4) – were met at the city gates by Bhishma, the patron of the royal clan, and driven through the high street in a chariot drawn by seven horses at the head of a ceremonial procession.

Accompanied by a select group of palace officials and personal maids, Queen Gandhari welcomed Kunti at the palace gates.

“It is good to be in Hastinapur again,” Kunti said, wiping away tears. “My sons are finally back where they belong.”

At the palace, the family were taken straight to King Dhritarashtra for a private meeting. A palace official present on the occasion said the king was overcome with “tears of joy”.

“I welcome my brother’s family with open arms,” the king said in a statement released later. “This is their kingdom and I am glad they have returned. Now I have five more sons.”

While reports about the cause of Pandu’s death remain sketchy, palace sources confirmed that Madri, his second wife, had opted for the practice of Sati, stepping into his funeral pyre, as “befitting a princess and loving spouse”.

Pandu, though second in line to the Hastinapur kingdom, had ascended the throne 11 years ago, superseding his elder brother Dhritarashtra, who, owing to his blindness, had been deemed unfit by his elders. However, seven years ago, for reasons not yet clear, Pandu had renunciated the kingdom while on a hunting trip to the Shatashringa forests.

He had lived there since, fathering five sons – Yudhishtira, Bhima and Arjuna with Kunti, and Nakula and Sahadeva with the younger Madri.

The Kuru Kingdom, which lies north of the Vindhyas bordering Panchala, is one of the largest in the region, and has been traditionally ruled from Hastinapur, ‘the city of elephants’. Though under King Dhritarashtra the kingdom has seen relative stability and peace, his ability to rule has always been questioned. The king, born blind, is seen as ‘unfit to rule’ by many, including Bhishma, his grandfather. Queen Gandhari’s self-imposed blindness – since the day she found out her betrothed was blind, the former princess of Gandhara has chosen to wear a black blindfold – has not helped his case.

The death of King Pandu and the unexpected return of his family have brought a feeling of unrest in the palace. A highly-placed source, who did not want to be identified, said the king had to be persuaded by Bhishma to invite Kunti and sons to Hastinapur.

“The royal politics is likely to be murkier in the coming years, the source said.

Treat this as the equivalent of an ‘establishing’ shot, the beginning of this narrative. The next take could be from a Hastinapur-based newspaper – a human interest story perhaps, on the five little boys, the Pandavas. And, yes, there could a political commentary or a news analysis, which would expand on the last quote of the report above.

Guess I will be back with more.