Krishna’s Guru Dakshina: Pirating Away The Pirates
Last week, we saw how Krishna promised his Guru Sandhipaani, that he would find and rescue his son, who had been kidnapped by pirates. This week, we look at how Krishna boards the pirate ship, and with guile and charm, commandeers the pirates.
Read all the episodes in the "Krishna's Guru Dakshina" series.
Krishna was armed only with his smile, so he put it on and said, “We have come here because our brother Punardatta was taken away by you. Take us wherever you took him and leave us there. We can’t be away from our brother.”
Bikru was very amused by this. He thought these were just a couple of local thieves who had come to take something from the ship and go. He said, “You come and sit here in front of me. You should not move.” He wanted to make sure that the ship moves into the deeper ocean, and see what these boys would do. He thought they would get desperate and jump off the ship when it sets sail.
But the boys just sat there happily chatting with him, making inquiries about navigation, where they go, where they come, and making small talk. Krishna asked, “Would you teach me navigation? I would like to learn how to navigate a ship.” All this was very amusing for Bikru who had been navigating this crime ship for a long time. He had never seen anyone sitting on the deck and smiling at him, making conversation all the time. Such a thing had never happened in that place. It was always rob, kill and murder; that had been his life. He wondered if there was something much more diabolical in these boys that he had not understood and thought it was better not to take any risk. So he asked someone to bring a rope and tied up their hands and legs and just put them there in front of him. He didn’t want them to go out of his vision for a moment.
Lying there with hands and legs bound, Krishna continued to make enquiries about navigation, about the stars with which Bikru guided the ship. So what if your hands are bound, you can still learn! Their ears weren’t plugged so he continued his conversation. This was too much for Bikru. Slowly, he started liking the boys. They were so sincere and they just wanted to know about navigation. This man had been navigating the ship for over 50 years. He said, “My father also navigated the same ship. After he died my uncle navigated this ship and I have been navigating it now for fifty years.” For the first time, someone was showing so much interest in navigation, wanting to know. He was a treasury of knowledge about navigation and he got the opportunity to share his knowledge and he talked to them the whole night. By morning they were great friends, but their hands and legs were still tied up.
The chief of the ship, Panchajana, was a hard man. If anything was out of the way from the way he wanted it, people were severely punished or killed. So, Bikru reported to Panchajana that they had two boys here. Panchajana came and looked at them, sized them up and thought, “This is good cargo. This blue boy can fetch us a real good price somewhere. And the other fellow is not so bad either.” So he told Bikru, “Don’t give them any hard work. Feed them well, let them just be here. We’ll sell them somewhere. At the next port we are going to, we will definitely fetch a good price for boys like this. I don’t want them all sun-burnt and bruised. I want them the way they are. Keep them this way.”
So, Krishna and Udhava were given good food and taken care of. Krishna went about freely in the ship making friends with everyone. Panchajana watched this. He didn’t like friendship. Friendship is danger. He wanted the whole ship to be on the alert constantly and in fear of him. When he saw that people had started talking to Krishna and laughing with him, he said, “This is too much. Come into my cabin and sit in this hold, don’t go out.” Krishna sat with Panchajana and started long conversations with him. Unwittingly, Panchajana couldn’t help answering the boy’s questions and getting involved in conversations and arguments with him.
Krishna made enquiries about where they were headed and Bikru told Krishna that the next destination was Kausthali. “Our master would like to sell you there but if you don’t fetch a good price there, we will take you to Vyavasthapuri, the next port which is a much longer journey. There you will definitely fetch a good price and that is where we sold Punardatta. So Krishna said, “That’s fine I would like to be sold there.”
In the meantime, a young carpenter who was working as a crew on the ship happened to sleep off on his job because he was not well. The report went to Panchajana. Panchajana did not take this kindly. The boy was dragged and brought on the deck. Panchajana constantly had two gigantic bodyguards named Hukku and Hullu. These huge men always carried cattle whips, and anyone out of line was punished with a whipping. Panchajana wanted to make a demonstration out of the boy, so he asked Hukku to take the cattle whip and give him six lashes. The boy was held down and this giant of a man using the whip, left bleeding wounds on the boy’s back who passed out. Krishna did not like the situation at all. When night set in, Krishna and Udhava went to the boy and took his head into his lap. Krishna took a cloth, and using what they could save of their little quota of drinking water, he cleaned all the boy’s wounds and applied some medicine that was available on the ship. Krishna and Udhava sat there with him till he fell asleep.
This was a strange situation on the pirate ship. It had never happened before that one human being had reached out to another and expressed love and care. So, the whole crew very stealthily came and watched this event of one man caring for another. They had always lived as every man for himself. But these two boys, without caring for the punishment that would invariably be given to them, were nursing this boy till he fell asleep. After he fell asleep, they left.
The next morning, this news slowly spread among the crew. The next day, another boy of 17 happened to steal something, and was also given the same punishment but with 12 lashes. His whole back was ripped off. Again that night, Krishna and Udhava sat up with this boy through the night, cleansed his wounds with their own drinking water, making him alright. The boy was in such pain so they sat with him through the night.
Then, a huge hulk of a man appeared at the door. Hullu had come. He couldn’t believe that these young boys dared to sit with this man who had been punished and were nursing him.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
Krishna said, “We’re just putting him to sleep.”
Hullu said, “You cannot do such things.”
“Who says so?”
“Our master says so. Panchajana says so. You cannot do such things.”
“But this is what I do. Someone is in pain, I reach out. Your master cannot stop this.”
Hullu, though he was a great hulk of a man, did not have answers for these kinds of statements – especially when someone was smiling and talking to him. He had no answers for such a face. He had always been used to faces that were terrorized the moment they saw him. But this young boy was looking up at him, smiling and talking to him, and asking him questions about the fundamentals of his job. He didn’t know what to do. He said, “You come with me. Let me take you to the boss. You talk all this with him.”
He took Krishna and Udhava to Panchajana. Panchajana was furious, “What were you doing?” he asked.
Krishna said, “We were just helping him sleep. Is there any problem about that?”
“You don’t do such things on my ship.”
“This is my dharma, nobody can stop me from doing it. If I see suffering, I reach out.”
“What is this dharma nonsense? I am the law on this ship. I say ‘no’!”
“That doesn’t go with me. Wherever I am, I follow my dharma. My dharma is I reach out to people no matter what the law is.”
Panchajana thought, “It looks like they need some ‘treatment.’” But then he looked at the boys and he saw they were such good merchandise. If he whips them and strips off the skin on their backs, they may not sell well. So he said, “Hullu, lock them up in the wooden cage in the hold. Give them food, don’t let them out. There is no point using the whip on them. We will lose the price.” So, they were taken and locked up in the wooden cage.
By now, many stories about these two boys had spread among the crew and they didn’t know what to make of these strange people who were so puny and small compared to them, but they go about doing their own things in their own way. Never before had another man survived the wink of an eye after having dared to stand up and speak in front of Panchajana, and not follow his orders. So, slowly, among the illiterate crew, stories spread that there was something about them. Maybe they were spirits, not real human beings. Especially, Hullu and Hukku the whip men had been brought up in desert lands where the fear of evil spirits was really put into them. They sat down and prayed that these evil spirits who had come on the ship should not touch them.
Later that night, Bikru the navigator, came down to the hold and told Krishna, “We are changing direction, we are not going to Vyavasthapuri. We are going much further away.” Krishna immediately asked Bikru, “I want to get to Vyavasthapuri. Get me out of this cage, or I will break it and come out.”
Bikru went and brought the carpenter whom Krishna had nursed. Krishna broke out of the cage and the carpenter fixed the cage as it was. Then, Krishna and Udhava started walking freely about the deck. Panchajana came to know of this and asked, “Who let them out?”
Everyone said, “Nobody let them out.”
“So, they have broken the cage. That means the death penalty. Money or no money, enough! Let’s put an end to these two fools. Has he broken the cage?”
Hullu went and inspected the cage and saw that it was not broken. The cage was intact. The lock was right there as it was but the boys had just come out. He was totally terrified. These were definitely some evil spirits! In total terror, he went to Panchajana and told him, “The boys have not broken the cage. The lock is still intact. But they’ve just come out.” Panchajana also felt a little tremor within himself “What kind of boys are these?”
Panchajana decided that this was spreading the wrong kind of situation among the crew and wanted to punish these boys in front of everyone. He called the whole crew onto the deck and had the boys brought up. He told Hullu, “Whip these boys.”
Hullu looked at Krishna. Krishna just smiled at him. Hullu got terrified. “This is some kind of evil spirit. He came out of the cage without breaking it and since he came, he has been doing such strange things.” All the tales he had heard about evil spirits had gone into him. Terror took over and he could not use his whip.
Panchajana saw that things were going out of control. He didn’t want the situation to look like Hukku or Hullu were not following his instructions. So, he said, “Let me do this personally. Give me the whip.” Handling a very long cattle whip needs some skill. Everyone can’t do it. If you try to use the whip, you will most probably end up whipping yourself unless you know how to handle it. A cattle whip is something that you must know how to use.
Panchajana was not an expert in using a cattle whip. Krishna, right from infancy, has lived among cattle. He knows how to use a cattle whip very well. Panchajana tried to whip Krishna but it didn’t really make proper contact. Normally, this whip will peel the skin off but it just left a red welt on Krishna’s back. Krishna caught hold of the end of the whip, took the whip away and really gave the whipping of his life to Panchajana. This big man was whipped to such an extent that very little of his skin was left and he passed out.
Panchajana had a very fine conch with him which he always wore around his shoulder. A conch is used as a signal to order and to sail away and these kinds of things. Krishna saw this conch. It was a most beautiful conch – perfectly made – and when he blew it, he saw that it made a most wonderful sound. Conches were used extensively in India at that time but this was a very special conch which came out with such a powerful musical tone. Krishna helped himself to the fine conch and said, “I take this as a gift from Panchajana. I am going to keep it for myself. The conch remained with him his whole life and he named the conch Panchajanya.” Panchajanya become the symbol of power and victory throughout Mahabarat. It played a very important role.
Then, with the help of Hukku and Hullu, Krishna transported Panchajana to his cabin and nursed him. When Panchajana regained consciousness, Krishna told him, “See, I have no business with you. My business is just that I want to save my brother, my guru’s son, whom you sold. I see that you hold no hatred towards my guru or his son. You are just into some business of your own. You are a thief. This is your dharma. You are doing it. I am doing my dharma as a disciple. Just drop me on that coast and you go your way. I don’t want to have anything to do with you.”
But Panchajana was not made that way. He was groaning in pain but he was burning with the humiliation that he went through in front of his crew. And he knows that if he does not do something drastic, no one is going to take orders from him anymore. He is finished as a captain of the ship.
After they nursed Panchajana, they left him in his cabin and came up. They put the ship back on course to go to Vyavasthapuri. Then, in the night, as Krishna himself was guiding the ship, they saw a big figure approaching them with a short sword. Panchajana was coming to attack them. He was a very big man and fighting him when he has a sword in his hand would be very difficult. Krishna was just looking for a way out. It looked like he would have to jump off the ship to save his life.
When he was just about to do that, Hullu, who had been a slave of Panchajana all his life, suddenly came up from behind, picked Panchajana up and threw him overboard. A skinless man in salt water is not a very pleasant way to go! And they continued the journey.
Read all the episodes in the "Krishna's Guru Dakshina" series.