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I Am Shikhandi, The Queer Warrior Who Found A Purpose

Posted: October 19, 2020

There is an inexplicable void inside me. I feel like a pawn of the universe. But I guess I am. My entire life has been an indication of that.

Ravaged by nightmares, I wake up in the middle of the night with a palpitating heart, my whole body drenched in sweat. Years have gone by, and I am still unable to see the face of the mysterious man. All I know is that he seems to be a seasoned warrior.

But who is that vulnerable yet defiant woman standing before him? She holds a garland in her hands. And she is looking at him with an indecipherable expression on her face. But the man? He turns his back to her. However, why can I not shake off the feeling that I discern a hesitation in his step?

Why am I not like my siblings?

I have few friends. My sister comes and plays with me occasionally. But she gets bored easily. My whimsical, fiery, headstrong, dark-skinned sister. I can only admire her. Girls spend hours scrubbing their faces with saffron. Not my sister!

She scorns these ‘remedies’ and to be honest, nobody in their right senses likes to face her wrath. My brother is indifferent to me. Like all the younger male folk in our land, he spends his time learning warfare and our ancient scriptures. I often wonder, why am I not like my siblings?

Years down the line, people would call me queer. But at that moment, who would have thought that my cavalier attitude would shake my very core. Those fresh lotus flowers entice me, and I put them around my neck. The face of that woman in my dreams flashes before me. I recoil.

But the worst is yet to come

The worst is however yet to come. My father sees me and stands there rooted to the spot. He is talking like a maniac. Our servants stand beside him bewildered.

Amidst the chaos, only one word makes sense. And the face of the man in my nightmares is finally revealed to me. An insurmountable energy passes through me, and strangely enough, a sense of calm envelopes me.

Years pass like centuries. But I wait. With a patience hitherto unknown to me. I am not aware what opportunity life would present to me. All I know is that my time will come.

In hindsight, I do regret the ignominy my sister went through. But an inner voice says – this is for the greater good. I ignore the lump forming in my throat and focus on my energy.

And my moment has finally arrived

My sister has a male friend she always falls back on. At times, I feel jealous of their pure and platonic relationship. But this is the time to push back the negative thoughts and approach him. He is clever. I am advised to protect his favourite cousin so that my tormenter, if I may call him that, will not be able to strike him down. My moment has arrived.

People are fighting like madmen possessed. I stand up. The seasoned warrior looks at me and I see a glint of recognition in his eyes. Do I see tears trickling down his cheeks? Or is my vision clouded as I see him ruthlessly felled by one of his own children?

I would be remembered as a cheater. But my purpose has been served. However there is an inexplicable void inside me. I feel like a pawn of the universe. But I guess I am. My entire life has been an indication of that.

What a journey it has been! And you know what? The strangest thing about this strange journey is that it began with a word ‘pratigyaa.’ An earth-shattering vow made by a man, who will be forever revered by my countrymen as ‘bheeshma pitaahma.’

A version of this was earlier published here. 

Picture credits: Still from 2013 adaptation of the Mahabharata

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