Growing up in a conservative Indian household, I was always given examples from the shastras and the epics on how I should live my life. On what the right and the wrong thing was. For some reason dharma was such a favorite word in the family. Except that people did not realise that it was adharmam for showering unsolicited advise on a poor, dreamy-eyed kid.
Written from a very patriarchal perspective, it was all about the men of the epic. As if this is a surprise, isn’t it? Mahabharata however took a special place in my heart. I loved watching the B R Chopra’s TV Serial with my grandpa. I secretly admired Karna for his selflessness and a confused birth, and Duryodhana for his unwavering loyalty towards his friend. Only in the past few years did I realise, the two traits that distinguishes these men from others are the very same one that I saw in myself or something that I longed for earnestly. My ability to live life like “others wanted me to be ” for a birth that let me so confused and an yearning for acceptance from that “someone”. Shikhandi took a place in my heart too but the epic did not care much about him.
Chitra Banerjee’s book however tells the tale as seen through Draupadi’s eyes. Once I picked the book, I wondered how Panchali was able to live through her life , go through the suffering that she had to endure almost always because of the people whom she loved or through a blind sense of faith in her husbands and mom-in-law. As the pages rolled by, I found a great sense of excitement and an unwillingness to keep the book down. I found it hard to get rid of the image of Rupa Ganguly and instead view Draupadi as a progressive, liberal, intelligent and breathtakingly beautiful woman. Chitra Banerjee has very elegantly carved the emotions Panchali faces as she sees the confusion and anxiety in her brother’s eyes over his destiny; her admiration of Shikhandi; the rush of blood as she whizzes past her heartthrob ; the emotions during her swayamvara; the anger and embarrassment at the gamblers court, and so on ..
Not to let fellow Gaysis down (some masala stuff) – Though not in the book, Panchali is believed to have an extraordinary libido. I don’t know the context, but this fact made me happy, very happy. Happy reading everybody!