Draupadi – Episode 11

Jul 18, 11 Draupadi – Episode 11

When Draupadi woke up, her first sense was the sound and scent of the rain outside the window. The monsoon seemed to have begun while she had been sleeping, and the rain outside fell slowly, in huge big drops. Draupadi woke up, confused, and stared at the frightened faces of Subhadra and Bhanumathi.

“What? What?” she asked, twisting up her hair and adjusting her garments hastily, seeing a shadow at the door. Before they could answer, Dusshasana had crossed the threshold.

Before Draupadi could understand what was happening, he grabbed her arm roughly and said, “Come, enough sleeping. You are wanted by my brother!”

Subhadra gasped in horror, covering her mouth. She shrank back into the wall. Bhanumathi, on the other hand, sprang forth and tore Dusshasana away from Draupadi.

“Brother, enough. You should know better than coming in here, much less treating such an honored guest so disrespectfully.”

Dusshasana was taken aback by her firmness for an instant. He let go, and Draupadi winced.

“Her husbands pledged her and lost her in the game,” he said. “She is now our slave, and I can do what I please with her. I don’t want you standing in my way and getting hurt. Now, woman, will you come with me or do you want to be forced?” He laughed uproariously, as if he had cracked a very funny joke.

Subhadra gasped in horror, covering her mouth. She shrank back into the wall. Bhanumathi, on the other hand, sprang forth and tore Dusshasana away from Draupadi.

“What do you mean?” asked Draupadi quietly, not budging from where she sat. “They pledged me?”

“Oh yes. They first lost the horses and the elephants, then the army, then the jewels and the treasury. I have never seen a dice player as dumb as Yud. And do you know what he did then? He pledged all of his brothers, finally himself and then he lost. So as a last resort, he pledged you.”

“I don’t understand,” said Draupadi. “Pledge me? How can he pledge me?”

“You belong to us now, that’s all there is to understand. What’s with this foolish talk! Come on now!”

Subhadra, who had been watching the proceedings with increasing horror, crumpled into a faint as Dusshasana grabbed Draupadi again. She screamed in pain, while Bhanumathi pleaded. ‘Let her, go, please brother, let her go!”

Dusshasana paid no heed, but Draupadi protested loudly. “Let me go! I can walk by myself!” She pushed his arm away and ran out of the room, followed by Dusshasana and Bhanumathi into the great hallway.

———————————————————

Her entrance had been expected. The older men shuffled uncomfortably in their seats as she entered, by herself. The scene that met her eyes was surreal, to say the least.
Her 5 husbands, the proud Pandavas who had never been second to anyone, they stood in a row against a wall, wearing nothing but rags about their waists. Their heads were bowed, their arms were crossed, they burned with shame. Bhima seethed, Arjuna looked bored and resigned, Sahadeva could not even meet her eyes to acknowledge her presence.

Draupadi stood there for a second taking the scene in. Duryodhana and Karna grinned openly at her discomfiture. None of the older men would meet her eye – the people she had called “Father” and “Uncle”, the people she had learned to love as a matter of duty. The rain pattered outside. It was she against them – a single woman caught in the crossfire between two rival camps of men bent on one-upping the other.

Suddenly she remembered the first time she had set her eyes on these men – at the arena in her home-town where she, a young maiden, had naively entrusted her life to the fanciful love promised by these men. All the same people had gathered there on that same day – she had assumed that they had gathered out of admiration for her then, but now reality struck. “She” had been no more a person to them that day as she was to them now. In fact, she was little more than the dice they played with – a symbol of their changing fortunes, the bearer of their sons who would fight their battles for them. It was not just her – why, Bhanumathi was as much a piece on the chessboard as she was. So was Subhadra. Clarity dawned on her like never before – her eagerness to please her in-laws, her cynicism and boredom with her world, even her fanciful attractions – everything disappeared as the mists lifted and she saw her position as she really was – a scapegoat.

Suddenly she was paralyzed with fear. These men had her. They could do anything they wanted to her, simply because they believed that they had the right. Not the strength of Bhima nor the skill of Arjuna would stand in the way now – look at them, standing like sorry children against the wall, about to be punished by a strict teacher. They would rather obey the rules which made them fools just because they lost a silly game, rather than speak out for an injustice against her.

None of the older men would meet her eye – the people she had called “Father” and “Uncle”, the people she had learned to love as a matter of duty. The rain pattered outside. It was she against them – a single woman caught in the crossfire between two rival camps of men bent on one-upping the other.

And the teachers. In a moment Draupadi realized that the older men in the gathering would rather sit back and watch her humiliated rather than lift a finger against her. What was important to them was to see how the events panned out, to know who would defeat whom. It was a game to them, a game no more serious than the throwing of dice. They would not care if she got hurt in the process.

These thoughts ran through her in a split second. She could not afford to be afraid now, she knew. One cannot show fear when one faces a pack of lions ready to devour you.
Duryodhana said, “So, how does it feel to be a slave? Surely you must have realized when you chose these fools over me that you would be reduced to this one day!”
Hot tears pricked at Draupadi’s eyes. But she would not let herself cry. She could not cry. She could not. She stared back defiantly.

Karna stared insolently at her. He leaned and whispered something into Duryodhana’s ear and the two of them started laughing helplessly. She looked around the room, but barring an avid interest, a curiosity bordering on the obscene, no one seemed to care what happened in that room.

Bhanumathi and Dusshasana had come in as well, and Bhanimathi burst out now. “Listen, this is ridiculous. This woman is a queen, you cannot treat her so! Fathers and brothers, let her go!”

No one gave heed to her words. Duryodhana called Dusshasana and said something to him, and he looked at Karna in admiration.

“Alright,” said Duryodhana, tapping his large foot in anticipation. “Bhanu, my dear, go in. These sights are not fit for noble women. Slaves, on the other hand, ah.” He stroked his mustache and slapped his thigh. “Dusshasana, tell me this,”

“Yes, my lord?”

“Who are those people?” gesturing to the Pandavas.

“They are the Pandavas, my lord,” he snickered.

“Why are they clad that way, like beggars, like imbeciles?”

“Because they are your slaves, and you decide what they wear!”

“So now, who is she?” gesturing at Draupadi.

Dusshasana walked over to Draupadi and examined her from head to toe. She cringed.

“She? She was the queen of the Pandavas, wife to all these men, now your slave.”

“And are her clothes mine too?”

“Of course.”

Bhima roared. He made as if to come forward and fight, but he was restrained by Yudhistra.

“So do you know what you should do now, Dusshasana?”

Before the dialogue could go on any further, Draupadi intervened with a voice thin as ice. “Enough of your banter.  That’s how small minded you are, isn’t it! You want to humiliate a woman just so that you can get back at your cousins. If you want to strip me, you are not going to do it. You will not lay a finger on me. I will do it myself.”

In one forcible motion, she ripped the glass bangles off her wrists. The fell down to the stone floor, and shattered. Gandhari rubbed the cotton wad over her eyes, while Bhishma turned his face in horror. Dusshasana stood by, not knowing how to react, and Karna stared in disbelief. Even the Pandavas were silenced into shock.

Draupadi shook her long, dark hair free and pulled her upper garment away. She pulled at her saree, freeing herself of its many pleats and folds. The moment seemed frozen, her garment seemed to have an eternal life of its own. The men watched gaping for a second, before Bhishma came to his sense.

“Enough!” he said. “Enough of this drama. Draupadi, we are sorry to have allowed to have happened. Please clothe yourself. Go back into your room. We need to talk things over.”

Draupadi stood exactly where she stood and answered back evenly. “I shall not. I need to know what is going on here. You know you are scared for yourselves. When a woman chooses to humiliate herself the rains fail. The crops fail. There would be poverty and hunger in the land. I curse all that upon you can more. Enough of bullying my husbands with your stupid games. Let them go, give them their kingdom back. I am not going anywhere till you do that.”

Draupadi shook her long, dark hair free and pulled her upper garment away. She pulled at her saree, freeing herself of its many pleats and folds. The moment seemed frozen, her garment seemed to have an eternal life of its own. The men watched gaping for a second, before Bhishma came to his sense.

In her one act of defiance, the power game had shifted. Even the Pandavas looked at her in awe. Drona and Bhishma talked among themselves. Duryodhana looked out of his depth and uttered obsceneties. Only Karna watched her steadily, a mildly puzzled smile on his face.

Bhishma held up his hand.

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“Alright. After so much has happened it has stopped being a game anymore. I suggest that Duryodhana gives the Pandavas their land and treasures back, as also their liberty. And for the injustice this woman was subjected to, we deeply regret it, madam. It should not have happened.”

“Nothing doing,” roared Duryodhana, beside himself in rage. “ They lost. They should pay the price. This woman is a slave! They are all slaves!”

The older men looked at him, thinking of how best to placate him. Only Karna whispered subtly to Duryodhana. “Let it go. I have another plan.”

He stood up. “So, sure. These kings get their kingdoms back. But tell me, which one of their citizens would respect them? They lost to us, after all. There would be anarchy in the kingdom. They need to pay the penance for their loss, like the scriptures say. They should lead a frugal, self-deprecating life in the forest, like Nala. Isn’t that the only fair thing to do? We can talk about sharing kingdoms once they are done serving their time.”

The Kauravas echoed Karna’s assertions with loud claps. The older men talked among themselves again.

“But how’s that fair!” questioned Draupadi. But no one paid heed to her this time.

“The Pandavas are murderously angry. If they are not away, there will surely be war right now. Things need to cool down. I think this suggestion has merit,” said Drona quietly to

Bhishma. Bheeshma agreed, “Yes. A compromise might please Duryodhana for the time being.”

Even as Draupadi watched and protested, the compromise was made. The agreements were drawn up and Yudhistra, who was given his clothes back, was invited to come forward and sign it like a king. They would have to live in the forest for 12 years, and be in hiding for the 13th, for them to come back and claim their kingdom. Yudhistra, despite Bhima’s and Arjuna’s pleadings, signed the forms. “After all, we did lose,” he said placatingly.

Draupadi watched up to that point, but at this utterence of Yud, she lost patience. She turned and walked away. Her saree lay in a multicolored heap on the floor.

Watching her go, Drona asked Bhishma, “Everyone is going to know about this game and this issue by this evening. Do we want it going out that we forced a queen to strip in our midst, and worse, she was ready to do that shameful act herself?”

Bhishma pondered. Then he said “Just tell the people that she called out to the Lord, and he saved her honor. We don’t want such stories of women being defiant floating around. While you are at it, make sure that saree is burnt.”

—-Manasa

Picture Credits: http://www.indianetzone.com/photos_gallery/32/CheerHaran_22883.jpg

http://students.ou.edu/W/Bailey.L.Wilkinson-1/draupadi%202.jpg

Comments

13 Comments

  1. interesting insight indeed!! Have always wondered how Krishna could send a wave of saree to protect Draupadi ………

    • Manasa /

      It is a question of faith :-)

    • Manasa /

      @Jaisree, It is a question of faith :-)
      @GSai – Thanks for the feedback – will do a better job next time!
      @Sunitha – Whether the weakness and chauvinism in the men is a perception or whether it is real, is for Draupadi to find out. I am sure that as the story progresses, she would grow to be strong enough such that the weakness around her does not affect her own strength – isn’t that what the triumph of womanhood is all about? :)

  2. Some original thinking there. (Forget the loopholes)

    And, you probably need to spend time editing the piece. (Nothing really bad, but few niggles here and there can be distractions, right?)

  3. Wow!!! Brilliant !! Loved it!

  4. Sunitha /

    Dear Manasa,
    I really enjoyed reading all of them back to back. I like the way you have portrayed Draupadi and her thoughts (very much justified) but somewhere there is a hue of weakness, chauvinism in all men here, and though it seems to be Draupadi’s version the influence of your thoughts are reflected for me.
    This is purely my observation and opinion; it does not make “Draupadi” any less interesting.
    Your work is wonderful and I really enjoyed it.!
    Waiting to read more..

  5. Dear Manasa, where is the next one?? I have been waiting !!

  6. Congratulations :) This post in one of the winners of ‘Tejaswee Rao Blogging Awards – 2011′ (TRBA 2011). We would like to create an ebook with all the winning entries in 47 categories on Feminism and Gender Issues in India (and one category on Animals Rights). Please do let us know if you are fine with your winning post/s being included in this ebook. ( Please click here to let us know).

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