By Shreyasi Sharma
Edited by Anandita Malhotra, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
Women might feel that they have so many figures in mythology and relics whom they can look up to, but there is just one. In Hindu legends Goddesses always held power that separated them from being human. So while people make the most clichéd statement of how on one hand we pray and kneel down in front of goddesses and how on other hand we treat women savagely, it will always remain a hollow remark showing little or no signs of insincerity at all, because not even for a moment do women associate themselves to these godly figures. And the explanation is very simple they (these superhuman figures) have always existed with power and not acquired it, they have always existed with honor and not gained it, they have always existed with a sense of righteousness and not learnt it.
However when I began reading ‘Place of Illusions’ by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, I was reading about a figure who had erred and yet became iconic. As a child I have seen numerous sagas unfold on her life starting from B.R.Chopra’s Mahabharata to this book. I have observed ‘Draupadi’ as a character who takes a different stance, emulating different models of vengeance. In Chopra’s Mahabharata it was a soft spoken Draupadi pleading and kneeling down in front of an abominable sabha that was responsible for catastrophic set of events. If makers made Draupadi cry it was only to make sure that the viewers cried with this woman who married five men. Through her soft cries, Draupadi bore the thought of how cruel men were to women.
And I call this injustice because it was contemplated by that generation of audience that the only thing worth mentioning and worth showing to the audience was her thoughts and emotions on that disgraceful act. Was that the only time in her iconic life that she wanted to voice her opinion? What was her thought on kunti and how would she feel to know that Kunti was also mother of Karna? When everybody can judge her stance, whey can’t she be judgmental? Did she ever forgive her husband’s cowardice? All these questions were never answered by any show or book or any adult? And neither did it exasperate anyone to know that this woman was not being given fair amount of time to voice her opinion about what is called the longest epic.
Mahabharata is not only about a ghastly war but also about how that war was inevitable. Possibly people recognized the void in Draupadi’s emotional outburst but they also saw that moment as an opportunity to do a double take on this epic novel’s heroes. Because then came the thought of blaming Draupadi for the war. Blame this woman for the dead end. This woman got the attention but it was a shaded and was an opportunistic attempt to shrewdly make women heroes but slowly underplay them and finally project them negatively. And hence tell the world that, women albeit wronged, but somewhere arousing the question of, do they deserve to be wronged? Can women handle being wronged?
Thereby questioning the very connotation of the word ‘hero’ as well as ‘destruction’. Heroes are not always saving world but also bringing chaos. From being soft and crying her heart out, to shrieking, breaking and cursing her audience people did not like this woman becoming aggressive as they feared an outbreak of defiance. So they labeled her as a conniving villain, solely responsible for war and therefore put her on the height of pedestal of negativity.
I fail to understand why we always have to be either right all the time or wrong all the time. We live in shades of black, white, pink, blue…
The book stood out in many respects because it highlighted humanly and erred yet righteous aspects of Panchaali and Kunti. She was not soft in her wailing, she complained, shrieked, flouted, demanded answers, but she was not ashamed. The main purpose of taking off her sari was to shame her and she did not let herself be shamed because did not give anyone power to shame her. This line of thought was missing in all other characterizations of Draupadi.
There is so much of analysis still left that 700 words are not enough and therefore I plan to do a continued analysis on what I think are ‘Shades of Draupadi’ in my next article. Till then just ponder over unjustified villain we make of this woman.
Shreyasi Sharma is a first year economics student at Delhi College of Arts and Commerce. She is an avid reader who likes to read anything (not genre specific) and everything. She also practices debating and writes to cool her senses off. She wants to domesticate a tiger one day and her dream job is to be a writer and anchor WE THE PEOPLE. She likes listening and observing a lot and is fairly good at it. She like doing different things as she gets bored too easily. Her motto of life is to live and let live.