Friday, October 29, 2010

Govinda - Book Extract

And here it is!!! - An extract from 'Ch. 5 of 'Govinda'.

"Govinda left Dwaraka before dawn, heading due east. His silver-white Qamboja stallion, Balahak, blazed through the mist-covered fields like a ghost, and by the time the sun came up, they were a good distance from the city.

They pushed on, crossing the Raivata Mountains, and then turning to ride northwards, alongside the River Charmanvati. Around noon, they sought refuge from the burning sun in a shady glen, but were back on the road before long. They stopped again in the evening, when Govinda caught a little sleep. A little after moonrise, the two set off, galloping over silver-blue plains as a wild happiness took them.

At their current pace, Govinda was three days journey from his destination in Central Aryavarta. Balahak, named for his strong legs, would make short work of the leagues that took the common war-horse nearly a week and a pack-horse, much longer. The horse's speed, coupled with his exceptional skill with his beloved steeds, made Govinda one of the fastest riders in Aryavarta; and when he yoked all four of his temperamental silver-white stallions to a chariot, few could keep up with them.

In the misty darkness before the second dawn of his journey, the warrior realised he was being followed. Even before he saw or heard the riders behind him, he sensed them. Closing his eyes, he focussed on the faint hoof beats. Three riders, he concluded, grinning as he guessed who they were. Slowing down, he whispered some calming words to his own steed, and then let out a slow, long-drawn whistle. It rose in a reedy, quavering note before he cut it off short. Within moments, he heard the horses behind him rear loudly.

Govinda stopped and wheeling his horse around; waited.

'Watch out!' a familiar voice cried through the mist, and another protested, 'I am, I am!'


‘You oaf. Oww!'

'No! Not that way! That's me, you cross-eyed idiot! Look out!'

'Steady, steadyyyy! Dumb horse!'

'Stop butting me, Muhira! You fool! Arrgh.'

'Oh Rudra!'

'Oi! Oi! Ohhhhhh…'

The sounds of neighing, jostling, and human expostulation reached Govinda, followed by a deep, rich laugh. One of the pursuers seemed to have fallen off, for a distinctly riderless horse came out of the mist at a light canter. It trotted up to Balahak with the relief of familiarity, and the two horses nuzzled noses in greeting. Govinda reached out to stroke the newcomer, a brown stallion with white markings on its forehead.

'Are you hurt?' a young voice whispered loudly.

'No, I'm dancing with the Nymphs of Heaven, you imbecile. Help me up!'

'You think he heard us?'

'Vathu! Hush, you lout!’

'Of course he heard us,' a third voice said, even as the speaker burst into more laughter at whatever antics were going on in the mist.

Unable to resist any longer, Govinda slowly guided his horse back along the path, the brown stallion following alongside. He could not help but guffaw uproariously at the scene that greeted him.

On the ground, his feet still tangled up in a mess of stirrups and reins, lay Govinda's young cousin and adopted heir, Pradymna. Standing over the youth, unsuccessfully trying to unravel the tangle, was the dark-skinned Samva, the second of Govinda's adopted sons.

'Ack! Not that way, you idiot; you're trying to kill me, you are!' Pradymna shrieked, as Samva tried to help the struggling youth out of the jumble he was caught in.

'I'd do a better job of killing you, if only you shut your troublesome mouth!' his brother expostulated.
Both young men suddenly noticed Govinda, and fell into silent sulks.

Govinda, however, took no notice of them, instead leading his horse over to the third rider, who remained confidently astride. 'Yuyudhana,' he nodded in greeting to a fashionably-dressed man of his own age.

'Cousin,' the man greeted him. 'I left as soon as I realised you weren't present at the meeting of the Council - Couldn't let you have all the fun on your own now, could I!'

Govinda said nothing, but he was far from displeased. Yuyudhana was a tested warrior, and a close friend. He trusted the man implicitly, and was glad of his company.

'Those two,' Yuyudhana continued, with a nod backwards, indicating Pradymna and Samva, 'came along at the last moment.'

'They're hot-headed and impetuous,' Govinda noted. 'Pradymna's nearly twenty-one, but still acts like an adolescent at times. And Samva...' he let the phrase hang, grinning widely.

'Oi! We're right here, you know. We can hear you,' Pradymna protested.

'Indeed, your presence might be more notable and respected if you could at least stay astride your horse!' Govinda retorted.

'Or follow the instructions of your elders,' Yuyudhana wistfully added. 'In any case….' he continued, turning to address Govinda, 'Shall we?'

'Of course,' Govinda said, and set his horse off along the path at a slow amble, Yuyudhana alongside.

'Wait! What about us?' Samva cried, leaving Pradymna behind to run after the two departing warriors.

'Next time!' Govinda cheerily said.

'If you learn to ride, by then,' Yuyudhana quipped.

'And you're any smarter,' Govinda added.

'Which, alas is….'


Laughing, the two men tugged at the reins, urging their horses into a gallop. Shouting and cursing, the two youths made to follow."

Copyright Krishna Udayasankar, 2010.

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