And when Dronacharya came, he fell at his feet. And Dronacharya saw what he had learned. Certainly he was far ahead of Arjuna, and Arjuna was not going to be the greatest archer, which was the deep ambition of Dronacharya. This man had rejected Ekalavya, and now he said to him, “You have been learning here in front of my statue. You have accepted me as your master.”
Ekalavya said, “I have always thought of you as my master, even when you rejected me. I have not taken any note of your rejection.”
Dronacharya said, “I accept you as my disciple, but then you will have to pay the fee. Every disciple has to pay the fee to the master – and you have not given even the entrance fee, and you have already become such a great archer.”
Poor Ekalavya said, “Whatever you ask, if I have it I will give it to you. I can give my life. You are my master; just say it. But I am a poor man, so just ask for that which I have.”
Dronacharya said, “Yes, I will ask only that which you have. I want your right-hand thumb. You cut it off, and give it to me.”
This is an ugly story. The strategy is that once his right-hand thumb is cut off, his archery will be finished, he would no longer be a competitor to Arjuna. Dronacharya accepted him as his disciple just to get his thumb.
And Ekalavya, without saying a word, simply took his sword and cut off his thumb. He gave it to the master and said, “If you want anything more, just tell me.”
This story, you have to remember in the background. The dean was saying: “This country, which has produced students like Ekalavya – who respected a master like Dronacharya who rejected him, insulted him – has fallen so low that students are not respecting teachers at all. Something has to be done.”
I was very new. It was my first meeting with all the professors from all the departments. I had to stand up, and I said to the old man, “You have raised a few questions. One: this is certainly the country of students like Ekalavya, but this is also the country of teachers like Dronacharya – ugly, cunning, inhuman. Why do you go on forgetting about him? – who has behaved in the most inhuman way possible: first, you are rejecting a poor young man because he is condemned by you as an untouchable. Secondly, when he achieves on his own, you are willing to accept him as your disciple – in the forest, where nobody knows what is happening. And that too for a certain reason, so that you can cripple his right hand to destroy his archery, so that your ambition of making Arjuna the greatest archer in the world can be fulfilled.