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“Despite having five husbands, a sense of emptiness overwhelms me. And out of sheer fury, frustration and helplessness, I speak…”
My father often teased me about my innate desire to question every belief. “This girl has an acid tongue,” said my mother, amongst the long list of complaints she produced before her husband every evening.
I nagged her with questions and she wrote them down meticulously in a palm-leaf manuscript. I can visualize her, the queen of Panchal, scribbling away furiously, pausing only to dip her quill in ink, and then continuing, her brows arched severely, as if they too disagreed with my temperament.
Something tells me that today will be a watershed moment in the history of this great land. And I cannot be a witness to the event that is most probably unfolding in court right now, because I ruminate over a past which I had refused to bury. Instead it has taken root in the innermost chamber of my heart, forcing me often to doubt my own morality and sense of ethics.
Yes, it has been ages. The insults I heaped on him in the court still echo in my ears. Those eyes still haunt me. Why do I get a feeling that they were searching for something elusive? As in, maybe, love. Don’t I know it?! My husbands have been good to me, and I, as expected from women of my generation, faithful. If only they could read my mind and the desires it concealed…
An ominous ringing in my ears jolt me back to reality. What? Do they really want me to present myself in the court in this state of undress? Hoping that my firm ‘NO’ is heard, I dismiss the maid with a wave of my hand.
What happens next is as chaotic as it is blurry. Am I really being dragged along by my hair? Who does he think I am? I am not a petty maid servant who can be ordered around. Suddenly my mind draws a blank. Hundreds of eyes are on me. Some downcast, some filled with shame, some so lustful that it sends a shiver down my spine and then my husbands…. they have a look of helplessness I have never seen before. I recognize that. It’s the one of ‘parAjay’. My lowered eyes offer me an advantage. To look for him.
Ah, there he is. As usual, I cannot decipher those expressions. He is known as a just man, the king of Anga. How I wish, against my own feelings, that he stands up for me. And derides his best friend, the evil Duryodhana, who is now getting a sadistic pleasure from seeing me in a disheveled state.
Please stand up for me – I send out a silent request to Karna, much to my own shock and dismay. I discern a movement in his right hand. My heart skips a beat. Will that moment arrive? He raises his hand, oh ever so slightly, and pats his thigh. NO. I almost scream. But my throat is parched. And not a single sound emerges as history braces itself to witness the most shameful thing that has ever happened to a woman.
Eras later, bards will sing paeans in praise of my dearest friend, Krishna. How he saved my honour that day. Others would brand me as the one who caused the most destructive battle between brothers. But today it is not just the voice of a wronged queen which reverberates in the court.
It is the painful realization that a woman’s worth is no more than a piece of land which tears my heart out. Despite five husbands and righteous wise old men in my family, a sense of emptiness overwhelms me. And out of sheer fury, frustration and helplessness, I speak. As I always have. Without mincing my words.
It is time to bury these memories. I do precisely that, knowing very well that tomorrow will bring only destruction, leaving behind a trail of dead bodies.
All of us live with our past. All of us allow it to shape our future. But some of us know how to shrug the past. I think that is who I am….. I created my own shade of sapphire.
Picture Credits: Still from the TV Series ‘Mahabharata’
First published here.
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