Adhiratha stepped out of his house. He had just had an argument with his wife Radha. He was part of the Suta community of Charioteers who lived by the banks of Ashwa, one of the sub tributaries of Ganga.
The fire as always had started out with a small match. It was their usual discussion on children or rather why they were unable to have them. They had tried everything. They had gone of year long trip of all the major temples in the country. No guru's feet had been untouched by the two of them and there was no esoteric remedy that had been left untried. All of this was of course to no avail. To compound matters their neighbors seemed to have absolutely no trouble in having kids. Indeed they turned them out by the dozen it seemed. Only yesterday had they gone to celebrate one of those births. Understandably this put them in a bad state of mind. They were among the few childless couples still around. When they walked they could hear whispers questioning her fertility and his impotence. In a country where a child was a gift from god they had nothing to show.
Adhiratha went to the Shiva temple on the banks of the Ganga. He doubted the effectiveness of prayer and the whole concept of godhood but he went because it was a part of his routine now and routines are notoriously hard to break. The temple was simple and beautiful. The intentions of the architect were clear. It was a temple that one went to pray, find peace and not admire the architecture.
He rang the bell at the entrance to announce his entry to Shiva. He walked forwards, touched the feet of the idol and started praying. He knew a lot of Shlokas more out of practicality than anything else. The Brahmin bastards would skin you alive before saying them on your behalf.
Adhiratha soon finished his prayers. As he opened his eyes the sun was too bright. He turned his head away and in that instant he noticed something in the river. On closer inspection thought it to be a cradle but he could not be sure. The thing was quite some distance into the river so Adhiratha had to make a choice of taking the leap. He decided to leap. Any ray of hope was too good to just let go.
Adhiratha had always been a strong swimmer. Growing up near the river banks it had been a skill easily and well learnt. In a flash he was in the river, swimming with strong confident strokes feeling the water beneath him aiding him in his quest. He soon reached the cradle. His suspicions were confirmed and he was overjoyed. The swim back was even easier than the swim to reach. He couldn't wait to tell Radha.
He walked back to his chariot, triumphant with the cradle nestled in both hands. He found a boy loitering about, gave him an anna and told him to inform his superior that he would be taking the day off because he had been gifted a child. Then he gave the boy another anna and told him to give his superior sweets and keep the change. He also told him that he would find him and beat him within an inch of his life if he found that the sweets were not delivered the next day.
With the formalities taken care of he rushed back to his home.
"Look at what I have found" he told Radha.
"What is it this time. I hope its not one of your stupid jokes" said she
and then he presented the cradle before her.
She was surprised to say the least. She was also thrilled. Adhiratha himself had not had done a closer inspection of the cradle and the child. He had been so eager to head back that only now did he notice all that he should have. The linen was of the finest quality, the child was with earrings that should have looked out of his place but didn't. He noticed the smile, the sheer good naturedness of it. He had seen babies smile before but his was a smile even more guileless than those. While Adhiratha was having these thoughts
Radha said "We should return the child, he is evidently of royal blood".
Adhiratha replied without hesitiation "He was discarded, he was not wanted. They will simply dispose of him again. No we keep the child. One does not refuse a gift when it is so willingly handed over to us" and with that the matter was settled. He was their son henceforth.
They decided to name him Karna(the one with earrings) and Radheya after his mother. Sweets were bought and distributed. The greatest feast that the Sutas had seen was thrown. Even the brahmins were paid to ensure that everything would be just right and not a stone was left unturned.
Karna had found a home.