In the morning, the Hastinapura heir and his inner circle—Sakuni, Karna and Dushasana—met to welcome the sun. They were in high spirits and back-slapped one another, as if Duryodhana had won an unprecedented victory.

“Let’s complete our morning ablutions and prayers, and we’ll discuss matters while breaking fast,” said Sakuni. He stripped down to his loincloth and dived into the icy waters of Ganga. Karna and the two Kaurava brothers followed. With strong steady strokes, they sliced through the water. After a mile, Sakuni stopped and opened his mouth. He had caught a small fish. He lowered himself and the water line reached his opened mouth. The fish swam out. Duryodhana opened his mouth; he had two fishes in his mouth, which he released.

“Well done!” said Sakuni. He turned to Karna. “How many for you?”

Karna lowered his chin below the waterline and opened his mouth and revealed a shred of water plant. His friends looked surprised, but he smiled. A tiny fish, no larger than a fingernail, surfaced and nibbled the succulent green. Another fish appeared; and a third. His amazed friends watched as more fishes, about a dozen, gathered and ate from his mouth. After finishing the last bit of meal, the fishes darted away and disappeared.

“You’re ever giving, Karna,” said Sakuni. He turned to Dushasana, who was treading water beside him. “You’re silent. How many fishes for you?”

“One,” said a mortified Dushasana. “But I gulped.” Their laughter reached the attendants waiting on the banks of the Ganga.

“You are no more a vegetarian,” said Sakuni.

***

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