46. PRINCE UTTARA
UTTARA, the son of Virata, set off with enthusiasm from the city in his chariot with Brihannala as his charioteer and commanded the latter to drive quickly to the place where the Kauravas had rounded up the cows. Willingly, the horses were put to their best speed. And presently the Kaurava army was sighted, at first a gleaming, line, enveloped in a cloud of dust that seemed to go up to the skies. Going nearer, Uttara saw the great army drew in battle by Bhishma, Drona, Kripa, Duryodhana and Karna. At that sight, his courage, which had been gradually drying up during the rapid rush to the field, was quite gone. His mouth went dry and his hair stood on end. His limbs were all in a tremble. He shut his eyes with both his hands to keep out the fearsome sight. He said:"How can I, single-handed, attack an army? I have no troops, since the king, my father, has taken all available forces, leaving the city unprotected. It is absurd to think that one man can alone fight a well-equipped army, led by world-renowned warrior! Oh Brihannala, turn back the chariot." Brihannala laughed and said: "O prince, you started from the city, full of fierce determination and the ladies expect great things of you. The citizens also have put their trust in you. Sairandhri praised me and I have come at your request. If we return without recovering the cows, we shall become the laughing-stock of all. I will not turn back the chariot. Let us stand firm and fight. Have no fear." With these words Brihannala began to drive the chariot towards the enemy and they approached quite close to them. Uttara's distress was pitiable. He said in a quaking voice: "I cannot do it, I simply cannot. Let the Kauravas march off with the cows and if the women laugh, let them. I do not care. What sense is there in fighting people who are immeasurably stronger than we fight? Do not be a fool! Turn back the chariot. Otherwise, I shall jump out and walk back." With these words Uttara cast off his bows and arrows, got down from the chariot and began to fly towards the city, mad with panic. This should not be taken as something that has never happened in life. Nor is Uttara's panic during his first battle, by any means, singular. Fear is a strong instinctive feeling, though it can be overcome by will-power or strong motives like love, shame or hate, or more usually, by discipline. Even men who have afterwards distinguished themselves by heroic deeds have confessed to having felt something like panic fear, the first time they came under fire. Uttara was by no means an exceptional coward, for he fought and fell gauntly at Kurukshetra. Arjuna pursued the running prince, shouting to him to stop and behave like a Kshatriya. The braided hair of the charioteer began to dance and his clothes began to wave as he ran in pursuit of Uttara. The prince fled hither and thither, trying to dodge the hands that would stop him.