Today's Beautiful Gem: Second Part of "The Last Illusion"-- An episode from
the play "The Mahabharata" by Jean-Claude Carriere.

" *** Yudhishthira follows the Messenger who draws him into ever
deeper darkness. ***

Yudhishtira (Y): Where are you taking me?
Vysa (V): To where your brothers are, Come.
Y: Where is this pathway leading? The stench is dreadful, it's
all black, the mist smells of putrefaction.
V: Follow me.
Y: I see scraps of flesh, blood...
V: Be very careful, one can meet enormous bears here and birds
with iron beaks.
Y: They're like amputated limbs, bleeding guts. Where are we?
Where are my brothers? V: Farther still. I'm stopping here.
Go on a bit. If the smell upsets you, you can turn back with me.

*** Lamentations rise from the shadow. Yudhishthira listens. ***

Karna's voice: Yudhishthira, don't go.
Draupadi's Voice: Stay with us!
Bhima's voice: You bring us a fresh breeze.
Arjuna's voice: Stay!
Draupadi's Voice: Our pains are lighter when you are here.
Y: Who are you? Who's speaking?
Karna: Don't you know me? I'm Karna. Your brother.
Arjuna: I'm Arjuna.
Bhima: I'm Bhima.
Nakula: I'm Nakula.
Sahadeva: I'm Sahadeva.
Draupadi: I'm Draupadi. Were all here.

*** Yudhishthira sees them, recognizes them. ***

Y: You! Here! Tortured! In this rotten smell of corpses! Who
decided this? Am I awake? Am I conscious or unconscious?
Is this a disorder of the brain? What act have these beings
commited to be thrown down into Hell? I will stay here, since
I've seen that my presence brings comfort to my family. I
condemn the Gods, I condemn Dharma. Tell the Gods I will never
go up there again.

*** Vyasa gently goes to Yudhishthira while Ganesha reappears with
his writing materials. ***

V: Then the keeper of the last dwelling said to Yudhishthira:
`Stop shouting. You've known neither paradise nor hell. Here
there is no happiness, no punishment, no family, no enemies.
Rise in tranquillity. Here, words end, like thought. This was
the last illusion.'

*** Ganesha repeats as he finishes writing. ***

Ganesha: This was the last illusion.

*** Yudhishthira looks around him in astonishment. He sees his
brothers, Draupadi, and Kunti smiling, intact. The other
characters reappear, calm and relaxed. Dhritarashtra has
regained his sight and Gandhari has taken off her band. For
an instant they wash in the river, then sit beside the musicians,
who play as the story comes to its end. Refreshments are handed
around. They are slowly enveloped by the night. *** "

Om Santih! Peace! - J. K. Mohana Rao