They said women aren’t allowed on the battlefield. And yet here I am! Fighting my way through the mounds of dead bodies, the stench of rotting flesh and the cawing of the vultures.
My eyes are weary of searching, my limbs are aching and a sense of dread has caught hold of my heart. I am hoping against hope that he is not here, in this blood strewn battlefield. I don’t think I can see him like this. In my heart, I know he is gone. His fate was sealed that dratted day in the sabha. And yet I hope! Maybe, I thought wrong. Maybe the gods decided to give him one last chance.
Samantapanchaka… I heard a whisper. Duryodhana lies at Samantapanchaka, the winds whisper. Or was it the spies? I am not sure. I am not sure of anything anymore. I only know now that my feet are leading me towards the lakeshore.
I was but a naïve girl when Duryodhana abducted me. I was scared, cowering inside the chariot of the boorish man who had held me by force, furiously pegging his horses to ride faster and away from the other kings. His ally, Karna, was behind us, fighting the horde that had descended upon us. Once the dust had settled and we had crossed into the territories of Hastinapura, he had all but turned into a tongue-tied prince.
He soon put me at ease, and won over my confidence. Away from the prying eyes, he was a caring husband, a trustworthy confidant and someone who always treated me as his equal in most matters. He always asked me for my opinion, he always confided in me his worst fears. He told me stories of his childhood, of favouritism shown by the teachers, of being bullied by Bhima, of somehow always managing to end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. He told me of his first love, Subhadra, and the story of how it ended.
[Pic courtesy: http://life.paperblog.com/bhanumathi-the-forgotten-wife-752527/]
Over the years that I have known Duryodhana and been by his side, I have only twice walked away from him. Once during the fateful day at the Sabha, when I was pregnant with my twins and the other when war was declared against the Pandavas.
That fateful day at the Sabha, when Duryodhana forbade me to step out of my chambers in spite of what I heard, when my maids told me in hushed whispers what had transpired, and when I couldn’t take the deafening silence anymore, I walked towards the sabha.
The sight that greeted me, shook me to my very core. I saw Draupadi, her hair loose, her clothes sullied and torn, her tear-streaked face and the look in her eyes. At that moment, I was scared. Scared for my life, for the lives of my unborn children and for the life of the man I loved. The man who now sat upon the Crown-Prince’s throne, baring his thigh! I knew not, what came over me. I rushed to Panchali, fell at her feet and begged for my husband’s life as did all the other wives whose husbands had sinned that day. I threw the most repulsed glance I could muster at Duryodhana that day and in that glance, I hoped I conveyed what I felt. I left for my father’s palace the very same day, having no wish to stay upon at Hastinapur.
Of course, I came back after much pleading and promises that everything would be set right. In my heart, I knew that the wheels that had been set in motion, could not stop what had to occur. I still came back because of the man I loved.
The second time was after war had been declared against our kinsmen. I told him what a wicked man, Shakuni mama was. He disregarded my words stating that his uncle was the only one who stood by him all through the years. I argued, cajoled, begged and pleaded trying to make him see reason. But to no avail. There was no way my words were reaching him. Gone was the man, whom I had loved once, who fathered our children, who was a fine and just king, a good son, a loving brother, a caring husband and a trustworthy friend.
In Duryodhana, I now saw a broken man. I saw a man, who was plagued by insecurities falsely planted in his mind, since childhood; who in his weakest moments turned into someone he had no control over. A man, who would lay his life down if the people he believed in asked him to do so and a man who was coerced into doing so. My husband was a strong man, but he was also someone who was easily influenced by others. He was a fine warrior but only an amateur strategist. And hence, he was someone who could always be taken advantage of.
And now in the far distance, I see him!
Broken. Shattered. Vulnerable. Helpless. A far cry from the man that I knew of.
This image of him, I cannot bear to see.
In my mind, he will always be the swashbuckling prince who abducted me at my swayamvar. He will always be the shy gentleman, who knew not what to do with me once he had gotten me back to Hastinapur.
And in my mind, he will always be that man who walked down the path of unrighteousness and never found his way back.