Sehdev was almost there. After crossing out his calculations and diagrams more times than he’d care to admit, it seemed this time he was finally going to get it right. Oh yes, here it was, Jupiter in the sixth house—
“What the fuck?!” Nakul’s sudden exclamation made him jump almost ten feet into the air. His focus was broken, and now he’d have to this alignment all over again. Damn his idiot brother to Paatala.
He turned around to yell some obscenities at him but had barely opened his mouth when Nakul started his little rant, his angry chiselled face lit by his phone’s blue light.
“Again? Arjun gets more likes again? Look at all these thirsty people in the comments. ‘Ooh, all that blood and sweat only makes you hotter. I’d take a blow from the Brahmastra just to—‘ “ Nakul was reciting in a mockingly shrill voice before he stopped, apparently disgusted by whatever came next.
“Calm down, Nakul, it’s just—“
“You don’t get it, Sehdev.” He threw his phone to a corner of the bed and shifted to the edge closer to his brother’s workstation. “It’s not just about likes. It’s about all the undeserved attention this fucker gets. Gandhari and Dhritarashtra would agree that I’m the more handsome one. Yet, you’ve got all these people simping after his slightly-higher-than-average looks.”
“Uh… well, you get more likes on your pictures than me, Bhima and Yudhisthira, at least,” Sehdev said, trying to be helpful.
Nakul blew a raspberry and huffed. “Even Draupadi thinks he’s hotter.”
“She loves him, dumbass.”
“Well, what about all these other people, then? In everyone’s eyes, those three are the heroes and we’re just—” he waved his hands around, searching for the perfect phrase.
“Twin lamps with swords?” Sehdev supplied.
“Lamps with swords. Exactly.”
“And I don’t even use a sword that much! My weapon’s a bloody axe!” Sehdev bellowed.
“Come to think of it, why axe? I mean, who uses an axe besides Sri Parshurama?”
“Oh come on, a lot of people use axes.” Sehdev tried to sound as casual as possible and shifted his chair slightly to better hide the stack of serial-killer novels under his worktable.
“Like?” Nakul pressured.
“Lumberjacks, for instance.” He was definitely reconsidering confessing to his brother how he got to be so good at astrology.
“Bravo. What a perfectly valid answer.” He clapped mockingly and then peered at him. “Are you sweating?”
“Weren’t we talking about Arjun?”
“That bloody overhyped lead singer of the band.”
Phew. At least that got him distracted for the moment. “I know,” he said, and he meant it. Arjun was overhyped. “I mean, I get that he’s good with a bow-and-arrow, and he killed off big players in the war, but—”
“I killed Shakuni’s son!” Nakul howled.
“I killed Shakuni and no one even remembers it!” Sehdev howled louder.
“Wait– what? You did?”
“See? This is exactly what I’m talking about. I took a pledge, you know, like a lot of the others did? And yet Bhima gets the limelight for pledges.”
“Dude, he literally drank Dushasan’s blood. He’s scary.”
“That is the general consensus, yes.”
“Okay, so Arjun’s the archer guy, Bhima’s the muscle man, but what I don’t understand is, why does that lame excuse for a human being get attention?”
“Of course. Draupadi would’ve done well to rip his throat out in the first place.”
“Yep, rip his throat open, then pull out his vocal chords and tie his hands up with them, gouge out his eyeballs and stick ‘em in that throat cavity, chop his knob off and shove it in the hollows of his eyes, then—”
“Wait wait wait. Hold on.” Nakul seemed terrified. “Dude, what the fuck?”
“What?” Sehdev shrugged. “I’m not finished yet. So then, she’d—”
“Sehdev.” There was genuine horror writ large on Nakul’s face. “What– why– how does someone come up with something like that?”
“I thought both of us agreed Yudhi’s a jackass,” he pouted.
“We do, but not this… graphically. Seriously man, I’m concerned about you.”
“Look, I’m just saying, it won’t do you any harm to go see Krishna once.”
“Krishna? That guy needs therapy himself.”
Nakul chuckled. “True.” He paused for a moment. “How about Vidur?”
“Nakul, I don’t get why you think I need therapy. Murderous fantasies towards someone you hate are a totally normal and healthy thing.”
“Do you… hate… me?” He said carefully.
“Of course not, man. We’re the twin lamps, remember? Lighting up each other’s lives.” Sehdev leaned forward and pulled his brother into a hug. Nakul awkwardly patted him back.
“Murder or no, that’s the lamest joke I’ve ever heard.”
“Oh come on, it made you laugh.”
“Smile, at least.”
“God, you are such a bore.” Sehdev whirled his chair around and tried to get back at his work.
That’s when it struck Nakul.
“Hey, listen, I was thinking, you’ve been into astrology since before the war, right?”
“Mm-hmm.” He drew another line on his notebook.
“So, you would’ve known stuff beforehand.”
“I… uh… wasn’t as good back then.”
Sehdev didn’t reply and tried to concentrate on the work at hand. Where the hell was Shani? He chewed the rubber on the back of his pencil and spat it out. It wasn’t one of those nice scented ones.
“Why didn’t you tell us anything? All that bloodshed needn’t have—“
“I didn’t tell anyone anything. Krishna made me do a pinky promise. Also there was the minor problem of my head exploding if I revealed stuff about the war.”
“Pinky promise.” Sehdev couldn’t see him but could feel Nakul roll his eyes. “How could you live with all that knowledge?”
“I guess I just… forgot about it.”
He heard his brother smack his forehead. “I don’t even know what to say.”
“Then don’t.” He continued looking for Shani on the paper.
“So you told nothing to nobody?”
“Not even a single cryptic clue?”
“Not a whisper.”
“Not good or bad muhurats, simple things like that?”
Sehdev couldn’t keep himself from inhaling sharply at that question. “Of course not,” he managed.
“Liar, liar, pants on fire.”
“I’m not lying.” Why was Shani eluding him?”
“Then face me.”
“I’m working. I need to find Shani.”
“You want Shani? Wait a sec. I’ll give you Shani.”
It was Sehdev’s turn to roll his eyes. “Nakul, this isn’t a game. I’m a master of astrology and I’m having trouble with it. How will you—”
“Hello, Shani! Yeah, good to hear your voice too, man.”
Sehdev put his head in his hands. His brother had literally called up fucking Saturn.
“Yeah, the bros are good. How’s life up there?”
Sehdev turned around, frantically gesticulating for him to hang up. Nakul simply extended a palm towards him and continued listening.
“Ah, that’s not good. Must be getting tough for you. Tell you what, I’ll send some sesame seeds and mustard oil to you straight from Indra.”
Sehdev was silently shouting, jumping up and down for Nakul to shut up. Nakul simply ignored the dancing monkey in front of him.
“So text me your house address, huh? Yeah. Yeah. Oh, it’s no problem at all. Yes, Sehdev’s here too.”
Sehdev leapt onto the bed and hid inside a blanket.
“Oh, of course, sure. Can’t ignore the wife. Text me, okay? Bye!”
Sehdev wrestled his brother down as soon as he hung up. “You absolute buffoon.” He snatched his phone. “What’d you do that for?”
Nakul’s phone chimed. “Looks like I got you his location, buddy-boy.”
He allowed him to sit up. “That’s not how astrology works, you idiot. You don’t call up the planets and ask them where they are. It messes up the whole—”
“I’m not gonna listen to your geeky little lesson.” He snatched his phone back, unlocked it, and shoved Shani’s text in Sehdev’s face. “Here ya go, nerd. You’re welcome.”
Sehdev facepalmed. “I’m stuck with an asshole.”
“Now,” Nakul rubbed his palms excitedly. “Tell me who you revealed some simple harmless muhurats to.”
“I told you, no one.”
“I can see your neck veins throbbing.”
“I’m tired from all this work.”
“You are one heck of a liar,” he said dryly.
“Well, uh, if you must know—” Sehdev stroked the back of his neck. “It’s Bhratashri—”
“No, the other one.”
Sehdev coughed. He needed some air. “On the uh… other side.”
“Duryodhan?” Nakul’s voice was laced with contempt.
Sehdev nervously wet his lips. “May or may not be. In this ever-changing world, one cannot know anything for certain.”
“It’s Duryodhan, isn’t it?”
“As I said, in this—”
“God, Sehdev. You never told your own twin brother a single thing and you just… up and mingled with the enemy?”
“He– uh– asked me.”
Nakul shook his head. “I can’t believe this. Why in the world would you reveal shubh muhurats to the opposing side, you traitor?”
“Hey! I’m no traitor. It’s just… honesty is important to maintain in your profession.”
“Now you just sound like Yudhishit.”
“Krishna made you promise, didn’t he? Then why… oh. I know.” Nakul clicked his tongue.
“You’re soft on him, aren’t you?”
“What?” Sehdev’s hands took over speech, trying to defend his heterosexuality. “No, no, of course not, why would you—”
“I knew it.” He cried in triumph. “You’re gay for Duryodhan, and you liked being his favourite Pandav.”
“I— of course I’m not gay. I’ve got a wife. Two wives.”
“You’re bi, my dude.” He slapped his brother’s arm. “I knew it.”
“Well… I… uh…” Sehdev was really in deep shit now. Would Nakul ‘beat the gay out of him’, as they said? Or denounce him in public? Or—
“But I gotta say, you have shit taste in men.”
Now this was something he hadn’t expected. “What?”
“Duryodhan, really?” he huffed. “You could’ve crushed on anyone else in the entire world and you chose Duryodhan?”
“At least Arjun has a decent boyfriend. Krishna’s pretty cool.”
Sehdev was still stunned.
“You, are the definition of a disaster bi.” Nakul shook his head affectionately. “You do know that Duryodhan’s into Karna, right?”
Now that broke Sehdev’s heart. “What? Really?”
“Painfully obvious. But don’t worry, his crush is unrequited too. Karna’s not really into the whole romance stuff.”
“Yo, don’t worry, I’m gonna be your wingman.” Nakul reached out and fixed Sehdev’s hair. “There. That’s better. You’re not a bad-looking guy, I’m sure you can get a man. How about Vikarna? Or Yuyustu?”
“Nakul, I have two wives. I’m not gonna cheat on them.”
Nakul cocked an eyebrow. “Really?”
Sehdev finally let out a laugh and winked. “I’m kidding.”
And after a month long break, the Factory’s back up and running with a bang! Thank you, thank you. Very clap. Much smile.
Now as you might’ve guessed from the title, this is a new series, and not just any series; it’s a series of little Mahabharata fanfics/drabbles. And what makes it even more special is that it’s collaborative: the collaborator is none other than my plucky little sister, Anushka. This series will be posted on her blog too, so you can go ahead and keep up with it on the blog of whichever sister you like better. (Hint: me).
If you don’t speak Hindi, you might not get the pun in the title, so let me ruin it by explaining it. ‘Mahamari’ means pandemic, so the title is basically a smooth slide of that word into Mahabharat, as we came up with this during the pandemic. I’ve never been much into fanfic, but one night while talking both of us randomly started coming up with these twisted modern-ish Mahabharat AU drabbles, and decided to make a series out of it. We don’t yet know how many parts it’ll have, but it sure will be an enjoyable ride, what with both of us writing together and Anushka dabbling in prose, which is unusual for her, since she’s mostly a poetry gal.
Let’s see where this heretical series takes us (hopefully not jail). Oh, and Happy Pride to all of you!