NOTE: “Aapat Dharma” by Rajen Jani, is a creative piece of fictional writing in the genre of a short story and has absolutely no resemblance to any person(s) or event(s) living or dead.
(Righteousness in Crisis)
After reading the Will to Bharat and his mother, the lawyer took a deep breath and before leaving, concluded, “Bharat, your father Late Purshottam Das, has bestowed his estate comprising of movable and immovable properties to Shri Sheth Lalmohan.”
Bharat was sure that the Will was totally wrong because he knew his father very well. His father could never leave his mother and him penniless. The only Will that Bharat was aware of bestowed the estate to his mother and him. More than losing the estate, what troubled Bharat more was that his father never mentioned he had updated his Will. His father was neither shy nor a secretive person. He was a bold man who had participated in the Independence struggle and followed strict principles. It was only due to the inspiration of his father that Bharat was now pursuing his doctoral studies in world literature. Without letting him or his mother know, his father would never finalize any Will, leave alone donating the entire estate to Lalmohan, who was just a mere business acquaintance and totally outside the family circle.
Bharat sensed foul play but proving it was an extremely difficult task. It was an open and shut case of a deceased person bestowing an estate upon a friend by the virtue of a Will, which was clearly worded, signed, sealed and delivered, leaving no scope for any doubt. The signatures matched, the witnesses testified and all legal formalities had been duly fulfilled. No legal loophole was left unplugged. The Will was deeply thought and masterfully executed by Lalmohan.
Lalmohan placed the Will in the court of law for probate, which Bharat challenged and a legal case was started. Since the properties of the estate were sub judice, Bharat and his mother had to vacate their own bungalow and they temporarily shifted to one of their relative’s bungalow. Lalmohan tried to mentally wear Bharat down by initiating a defamation case against him in another court of law. Bharat even met with an accident on the road, when a truck hit his car. Bharat escaped miraculously with minor wounds but it was rumored that Lalmohan was behind the accident, although no conclusive evidence was found.
It was night and Bharat lay awake in bed. Extremely agitated, Bharat’s angst-ridden mind threw up fanciful suggestions. Bharat thought of selling his soul like Dr. Faustus in return for Lalmohan’s death. Perhaps like Euripedes’ Medea, he could send a poisoned dress to Lalmohan or like Hamlet, stage a play and catch Lalmohan unaware. Machiavellian stratagems were hatched and Kautilya’s saam-daan-bhed-dand (conciliation-donation-division-punishment) was implemented in dramatic dreams of deception and vengeance. These mental escapades gave him some cathartic relief; however, sleep eluded him.
He wondered how Lalmohan appeared to be so content when ill-gotten gains and contentment could never co-exist. Why do evil persons come to gain prosperity while good people languish in poverty? This was not retributive justice. Or was it due to the law of Karma? Shall the problem of evil ever have a practical solution or shall it forever merely remain a rhetorical device for scholars of philosophy to debate upon? What is good and what is bad? Samson conquered the Philistines only after he was blinded and was brought to his weakest with a shaved head. Would he also have to undergo such lengths to claim justice? Or like the Chinese warfare master Sun Tzu, he would defeat the enemy without drawing his sword at all? How could righteousness be established over unrighteousness?
His disturbed mind never stopped thinking and the night darkened with progressing time. Bharat thought of many options. What if he was merciful and forgave Lalmohan? This may cause the guilt of Lalmohan to accept that the Will was a fabricated and an evil act of his greed. If Lalmohan repents then Bharat and his mother could get the estate back and goodness would triumph. But what if Lalmohan feels no remorse for his evil act and considering Bharat a foolish child for forgiving him, continues to happily enjoy his sinful gains without any moral compunction? Bharat was unable to arrive at a convincing resolution of the crisis. But he knew that he had to think because he remembered how in the Jataka Tales, Tathagatha mentioned that within a clouded mind, it is hard to find reason, yet light is born within darkness as the lotus blossoms within muddy waters.
Exceedingly perturbed, Bharat turned in his bed and noticed a sparrow landing on the windowsill. It was daybreak and the sparrow started to chirp. While still lying in his bed, Bharat started to hum Raga Bhairav (classical morning melody) as if to accompany the sparrow’s incessant chirping. He touched the notes, Ga Ma Re Sa, Sa Ga Ma Dha Pa mistakenly not subduing Re and Dha. The sparrow flew away. Bharat smiled and thought experts cannot bear even a single mistake. In the animal world, a mistake is equivalent to death for survival of the fittest is the acknowledged law. But are not humans also animals? Then why should mistakes be forgiven in the human world and not bring death? Or is the forgiveness only guile, a mere smokescreen to disguise the flaming hatred within? Animals either love or kill; everything is simplified into white or black. Whereas humans prefer shades of gray and invent innumerable masks effectively hiding their real motives. Does not this make humans more evil than animals and therefore much more powerful? Is evil always more powerful?
Bharat was feeling confused, dejected and uneasy. His overworked brain had become hot and he was feeling a slight headache. He got up from his bed and while still in his nightdress, he stood under the shower in his bathroom, silently letting the cool soothing water calm his mind. The rays of the sun fell obliquely from the small bathroom window and made the water shine like falling diamonds. Bharat felt good. Yes, this was true wealth. Nature has given priceless treasures in the forms of the elements, flora and fauna. If only we could utilize it properly then there would be no need of any strife or any war. The whole world would be enveloped in a beautiful all-encompassing blanket of love and peace. In an idealistic and serene state, while humming Raga Bhairav, Bharat undressed, applied soap and completed his bath.
Thereafter he came out of the bathroom, took out his white kurta pyjamas from the wardrobe and wore them. He began to comb his hairs while looking in the wardrobe mirror. In the mirror, he saw the reflection of his father’s framed photo resting on top of the cabinet. The photo surged a wave of fond memories that flooded tears in his eyes. The reflection now appeared blurred as if behind a watery veil, yet he could distinctly see that his father had a soft smile on his lips. Trying to imitate his father’s smile, Bharat wiped his eyes with his kurta sleeve and finished combing his hairs. Then he took out an incense stick from the incense box that was lying in front of his father’s photo. He lit the incense stick and placed it in its holder, which was also lying in front of the photo. A mild breeze was blowing through the open window and the sway of the soft curtains made the smoke emanating from the incense stick move in a rhythmic fashion. The wavy smoke seemed to gently caress his father’s photo before melting away in the air, leaving only its sweet and fragrant aroma behind. Bharat lovingly remembered how his father narrated the Mahabharata and Ramayana to him and explained the salient aspects of Dharma (righteousness), Adharma (unrighteousness), and Aapat Dharma (righteousness in crisis).
His father had said that if evil increases then extraordinary means might be adopted to restore justice and normalcy. It was an extraordinary act when Sri Krishna placed Shikhandi in front of Arjuna so that Bhishma could be killed, Shikhandi could have her revenge and righteousness may be established. It was an extraordinary act that Sri Rama killed Bali hiding behind a tree so that Sugreev may have his revenge and justice be restored. Crises demand extraordinary, critical and unconventional methods and they may be used to reinstate justice and normalcy. At such times, the means may not be questioned, even if they apparently seem unjust or unfair, as long as the end is just and fair. These means may not be considered to constitute Adharma, but may be considered to constitute Aapat Dharma because the end was to establish Dharma.
As a blind man is able to see with the gift of sight, similarly Bharat’s mind was able to see the resolution of his crisis with the gift of knowledge. His mind was calm but was racing with a new thought. He had read somewhere that poison lies not in the medicine but in its dosage. If the dosage of a medicine is exceeded, then instead of helping, it harms the body. Bharat knew that Lalmohan was a heart patient and thus he surmised that Lalmohan might be used to taking isosorbide dinitrate, a common drug that is given to heart patients. Now, if an exceedingly high dosage of this medicine is given to Lalmohan, then chances are that the result may prove to be extremely harmful. He could invite Lalmohan and could put few tablets of isosorbide dinitrate in his tea. Slowly a plan was developing and being highly excited, Bharat could not keep still.
He paced the floor thinking about all the pros and cons of his plan. Numerous questions tormented his anxious mind and he tried to find convincing answers to each one of them. How will he get the medicine without any prescription? What would be considered an overdose? Would three tablets suffice or more would be needed? How would he drop the tablets in the teacup without anybody noticing him? What if the tablets do not fully dissolve? Should he crush the tablets into a powdered form and then put it in the tea? What if Lalmohan became suspicious of the taste? Would more sugar hide the taste of the medicine? What if Lalmohan refuses to drink this exceedingly sweet tea? What would happen if Lalmohan does drink it? How would he react if Lalmohan begins to feel ill? Drugging somebody’s tea is obviously an evil act in natural circumstances, but in unnatural conditions when good fails to suppress evil, should evil be resorted to vanquish evil? Should an unconventional method be adopted if all conventional standards fail? What is more important, the means or the end? Can unjust means justify themselves if the end is just? What if the dosage proved fatal? Would he be suspected? What if the police questioned him? What will happen if traces of the medicine are found in a medical examination? What if Lalmohan survived? Will Lalmohan take his revenge by killing him and making it look like a road accident or something like that?
So engrossed was Bharat in his thoughts that when the grandfather clock announced the time, Bharat became aware that several hours had passed since daybreak. He resolved to put his plan to action. Bharat phoned Lalmohan and with affected remorse said, “Uncle, I am sorry for all the trouble that I have caused you. I do not want to contest the probate case. I am mentally and physically extremely tired. Please come in the afternoon with your lawyer and I shall sign all the necessary papers.” Thereafter, he called his personal physician and requested the doctor to visit him since he was not feeling well.
The doctor arrived in the afternoon and after examining Bharat, informed that there was no fever but due to exertion and stress, Bharat had become weak. The doctor advised rest and prescribed a multivitamin. By this time, Lalmohan along with his lawyer arrived and Bharat told everyone present that he was extremely sorry and desired not to contest the probate case. While the lawyer took out the documents to be signed, the doctor was preparing to leave. Bharat requested the doctor to have a cup of tea before leaving. The doctor obliged and Bharat called the servant to bring tea. The lawyer handed over the papers to Bharat. Lalmohan smiled at Bharat and in a reassuringly way, nodded his head while placing his hand on Bharat’s shoulder. Bharat looked at him, smiled weakly and started to read the documents before signing.
The servant brought the tea and placed it on the table. As a matter of courtesy, Bharat offered to pour tea for them. He first offered tea to the doctor who requested only one cube of sugar as he was a borderline diabetic. Bharat did as requested and gave the teacup to the doctor. Thereafter, Bharat began to prepare a cup for Lalmohan. With a masterful sleight of hand, Bharat picked up a spoon that was partially hidden between the newspapers lying on the table and managed to put it in the teacup. The spoon contained the contents of three tablets in a powdered form. Bharat quickly glanced at Lalmohan, the doctor and the lawyer. Nobody noticed it. Lalmohan was observing the decoration of the room, the doctor was sipping his tea, and the lawyer was busy arranging papers in his briefcase. During this time, Bharat put four cubes of sugar in the teacup in order to hide any unpleasant taste of the powdered medicine. Without letting the spoon hit the sides of the teacup, without making any sound, Bharat vigorously stirred the steaming hot tea to ensure that the sugar cubes and the powdered medicine dissolved fully. Thereafter, he offered that cup of tea to Lalmohan, who accepted it. He poured tea into another cup, offered it to the lawyer, and subsequently poured one cup for himself. Throughout Bharat remained calm and normal.
While savoring the majestic muscatel flavor of the excellent Darjeeling premium tea, Lalmohan looked at Bharat and said, “This tea is extremely sweet. My relationship with your father was also very sweet. Purshottam Dasji was a close friend of mine. We had spent many memorable moments together. Bharat, you are like my son. Do not worry. I shall take care of you and your mother.” Bharat meekly attempted to smile and joined his palms to show his gratitude. With the winning flourish of a conqueror, Lalmohan finished his tea and drew out his handkerchief to wipe his thick moustache. Bharat noticed Lalmohan was beginning to blink as if he could not see properly. Bharat glanced at the doctor and the lawyer. They seemed to be unaware and were busy exchanging verbal social niceties while sipping their tea. Soon, Lalmohan placed his palm on his forehead as if having a headache. Bharat saw that the doctor noticed it. About a minute later, Lalmohan slumped in his chair as if he was dizzy. Lalmohan somehow managed to take out a bottle of isosorbide dinitrate from his breast pocket, and taking out one tablet from the bottle, he placed it under his tongue. It seemed Lalmohan was feeling extremely uneasy and had difficulty in breathing. The lawyer started to press Lalmohan’s forehead while Bharat opened all the windows to let in fresh air. The doctor quickly examined Lalmohan and advised to immediately admit him in a hospital.
Without delay, Bharat, the doctor and the lawyer took Lalmohan to the nearest hospital, where he was admitted as a patient having heart problems. At the hospital, he was given an oxygen mask and while other emergency procedures were being employed, Lalmohan lost consciousness. Few minutes thereafter, he went into a coma. His laboratory reports revealed the presence of isosorbide dinitrate, which Lalmohan had himself taken in the presence of the doctor, the lawyer and Bharat. Nobody suspected anything wrong. Four days passed and Lalmohan could not recover from the state of coma. On the fifth day, Lalmohan was no more. His death was declared as a death due to cardiac failure while comatose. Since Lalmohan was a bachelor, his brother performed his last rites. Bharat, the doctor, the lawyer, the extended family of Lalmohan, along with many others attended the funeral and all paid their respects to the departed soul.
The probate case for the Will was closed, as Lalmohan had no heirs to contest any claim. The estate of Late Purshottam Das went to Bharat’s mother, since she was the lawful and unchallenged successor. Almost after a year of this incident, Bharat presented his doctoral thesis titled “Aapat Dharma as explained in the Mahabharata, Shanti Parva“. He passed with distinction and was awarded a gold medal.
~ The End ~