While I was growing up in Tokyo, there used to be a cherry blossom tree outside my apartment window, a ‘sakura’ tree. It bloomed, but just for one week during spring every year. The branches would fill with riotous pink blossoms, heaving in the breeze like big sticks of cotton candy. They would wave about gaily like they were saying hello to whoever was beneath them. 

It was common to see people sitting and making merry under these blossoms. New loves being found, hearts being broken, friendships being forged and life decisions being taken. But within a few days, the gossamer pink petals would curl onto each other and gently fall to the ground. Their lives would be done, the sole purpose of their existence being to lend happiness to people and beauty to nature. 

The final act of Rajkumar’s life opened to neither cheers nor applause. 

He looked down at the gentle, placid Rapti flowing fifty feet below. It should have been a raging torrent at this time of year, but the river had no sense of occasion. He held the bridge’s railing tight with his left hand, the other inspecting the iron weight tied to his ankle. 

He had no choice. All his life, Rajkumar had only wanted to be a jadugar. Unfortunately, he was a very bad one. He could never distract an audience, so his illusions never worked. Tea sets shattered when he pulled tablecloths from under them. His white pigeons defecated liberally into his turban. The rabbits bit him. Card decks flew out of his hand, prrrrrrr-uh! and scattered on the stage. 

Exploring all that Bhishma did to order and protect the lives of two generations of Kurus, Neera Kashyap dissects his character to bring out the finer nuances.

Bhishma Pitamah, the grand patriarch of the Kuru clan in the epic of the Mahabharata lived a long life spanning five generations. From scholarly estimates, it appears he may have lived for over a hundred years, for he enjoyed the boon from his father King Shantanu of choosing his own time of death – ichcha mrityu. He earned this boon by making the most astounding vows: giving up his claim to the throne and taking a life-long vow of celibacy so that there would be no claimants to the throne from his own bloodline.