Another piece of kAvya by the muni

The muni and me, who are like one atmAn in two different sharIra-s; hence I took the liberty of posting another of his literary productions. Unfortunately the muni has neither used Itrans nor unicode.

Asthapada and Kesin, being an ode to Rati and Manmatha

There lived in a dusty corner Asthapada.
Silent, unnoticed, and brooding, like a monk
in his cave, did he bear out his days in the dusty, grey lair.
Many passed that way everyday, rounding the corner,
hurrying on towards the call of duty, their minds fully occupied.
Thus it happened that none saw Asthapada, crouched in his web.
And in a way this was all for the good, for if they saw him
they would slay him with a broom, as is the wont of men.

Only one among many did see that which escapes men’s eyes.
For he was a bard who saw, by putting mind and heart together,
that which lies beyond the dull glare of shrouded objects.
It is indeed destined by the gods that from the eyes of a few
shoot forth radiant lances that pierce the surrounding patina,
striking the weak spot in Virinci’s armour, as it were,
and exposing the hidden wonders of his cavernous realms —
not just by tors and tarns, sedges and swards, but even in the grey dust.

And thus it was that he saw the hirsute Asthapada, in his grim, grey corner.
In no hurry was he, nor any oppressive thoughts clouded his mind.
So, time was all his to talk and make merry with all creatures, big and small.
He was the friend of them all, the knower of their language and their minds.
He addressed Asthapada thus : “O Asthapada of fierce aspect, how is it that thee livest
in such a place, where Pusan’s rays scarce enter, and not to speak of food.
For, all the masterful insects prowl by the lights. What will you get here?
Besides, the delights of women this lair can’t give, for none pass by this lonely spot.”

“Tell me Asthapada, are you a Sanyasin or what? Have you no need for food and love?
Come outside and look at the wide world — all buzzing with bees and wasps,
their sentries guarding the fortresses of madhu, the whirring flies, droning dung beetles,
Silent moths, mosquito hordes and dragonflies, the streaming lines of soldier ants,
as warrior band sets out to conquer, just as the Bharatas in search of cattle,
Teeming centipedes or fireflies, beneath crevice and under log or upon tree and by street-lamp
Every corner of the rich earth they occupy, where prey is plenty and women abound.
Take your own cousins, Asthapada, in the fur of dogs and horses they make merry.”

“Beneath the damp rock lies the Deadly One, with sting held aloft,
Verily like the club of Yama, waiting to slay curious adventurer.
Asthapada, you have not seen the deadly mantis, concealed amid the green blades.
Although lost in prayer he seems, he is a knight of valor beyond compare.
Yet you live on in this remotest of lairs, Asthapada,
and what chance have you of feasting and mating like them?
Even the all pervading Matarishvan seems not to care for your dark, lonely world. “
Asthapada heard all this in silence, as if to say, “Wait and see, you stripling”

The next day he passed that way again, and wonder of wonders :
In Asthapada’s web lay entangled something, furiously struggling.
But the swift Asthapada nailed him in trice with his powerful legs.
Sucked dry, the carcass was hurled, a few hours later.
And seeing the wonderous sight, he thought to himself,
“How is it that some quarry should chance to wander
into that realm which seemed so totally uninhabited, and of all things,
fall into Asthapada’s den? What propelled him there?”

Many days passed on and the incident was forgotten.
Ascetic Asthapada lived on, his monastic ways unwavering,
Absolutely unconcerned about anything, just waiting and watching.
One gloomy day when the clouds mounted the heavens and all
was dark, and even the vibrant bard despondent he addressed his friend thus :
“Your life is a waste, Asthapada, as is mine. Here we will bear out our days
util Yama takes us. And we will leave behind nothing — not even our memories.
Sometimes fate plays tricks by placing people in such stations

It would seem that Rati and Manmatha in highest heaven heard these words.
For, Manmatha, of floral bow, glancing at his doe-eyed consort said :
“Let’s have fun, Rati. Surely, Asthapada deserves better luck. Come.”
So they mounted their chariots and set forth towards the dark realm.
But on the way they met Dharmaraja riding on his buffalo.
“Salutations, O Kama. Wither are you going?,” says Yama.
“To give meaning to Asthapada’s life.” said Manmatha and hurried on.
“But his time is up, O Manmatha.” said Yama.

The next day the poet happened to pass by the desolate corner.
And lo behold! But what should he see in the lonely monastery of strands?
Asthapada was not alone. But now there were two more like him.
There was the beautiful Kesin, prancing about the silver strands,
with her hairy legs, like an impatient charger prancing about before a charge.
Besides her, was her other suitor, Sahasraksha, with his many eyes jutting out from his forehead.
The sight filled him with both joy and surprise.
“How on earth did they get there? How did they seek him out here? ” he wondered

But there was no time for wonder, for soon a most fierce duel broke out.
Asthapada was the larger, and the fiercer is true,
But Sahasraksha was not to be left far behind, for he was deft and virulent.
Asthapada lunged forward and tried to hold Sahasraksha in his grip.
But he nimbly veered away, and struck out at Asthapada.
Kesin watched on breathlessly : the stronger, better one would win the day and her hand.
Asthapada reeled and retreated to a farther corner.

The whole silvery web seemed to throb as the mighty contestants clashed,
Just as Suyodhana and the son of Kunti, with their maces, in the days of yore.
Asthapada presently made another rush and speared Sahasraksha.
Even as Sahasraksha was thus impaled, Asthapada came down heavily upon him.
A decisive blow it was– Sahasraksha’s limb was severed and it fell, throbbing in the mesh.
Still the valiant, inexorable Sahasraksha fought on, hobbling on seven now.
Finally, Asthapada held him firmly in his iron grasp and shook him vigorously,
like Anjaneya shredding a tree. Sahasraksha fell lifeless.

His deflated corpse, sucked dry of all vitality was hurled away in disdain.
His maiden having thus been won, the bard left the spot,
expecting him to celebrate his victory by throbbing in nuptial frenzy with Kesin,
inevitably struck by Manmatha’s dart, deluded utterly by her charms,
and falling head over heels in his own web!
A fairy tale ending : a great duel, victory, a wife, and then living happily ever after.
But Yama was right afterall : an utter shock was to greet the poet’s eyes.
The next day, came the bard as usual, his old friend to meet.

But what should he see at the now familiar resort? All empty and desolate!
Both Sahasraksha and Asthapada lay dead in the web —
a great resemblance in their grey lifelessness,
only, Sahasraksha’s corpse more decayed than Asthapada’s.
The bloated Kesin had slain Asthapada, her sole work having been done.
She deposited a large sack and left. Such are the ways of the impregnators.
By sheer chance did Kesin come across Asthapada.
Impelled by Kama did Asthapada finally defy even Yama: a hundred Asthapadas in that sack!

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