Passion v/s Love

As an architecture student, our course work entailed of various reading and witting exercises for us to formulate opinions. The following piece is the first one I ever wrote that I was truly happy with. Though I’ve tried and failed to read this book many a times over the years, but there are certain quotes and phrases that I read through summaries etc.

Love comes like lightning, and disappears the same way. If you are lucky it strikes you right back

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, The Palace of Illusions

The assignment was to write an alternative version of either the Ramayana or Mahabharata, from the perspective of a character of our choice. I happened to pick Draupati, wrote this at 6 am in a Bombay local on my way to class.

We are all familiar with the versions taught in schools, colleges and scriptures.

We as a batch did however publish a hard-copy of all our perspectives. If you ever happen to visit BSSA in NMIMS Mumbai, hopefully a copy still lies in the dusty library of memories.

Your childhood hunger is the one that never leaves you

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, The Palace of Illusions

I intend to take you through my mind’s distorted perspective of her.

|| Act I ||

Sitting on her dressing chair, staring at herself while the daasi’s fix her up for her big day, the daughter of Drupad couldn’t help but be happy about what she saw in that mirror. A grand day indeed, the day she enters the royal kingdom at last. Everything she’s ever wished for was about to become reality. But in her case it wasn’t just a person but five. “Five times the attention, five times the love”, she thought to herself , trying very hard to get used to the idea. But memories can be cruel, when they decide to kick in at the strangest of moments.

She was ready at last, the room suddenly filled with awe for the beautiful bride. As all around her admired the lovely Draupadi, flashes of her swayamvar bestowed upon her. Where she saw him, she couldn’t help but think about him. How she fell head over heels for this man. So poised, so humble. The glimpse of him that she stole from under her drape.

The last and only memory of Karna that she’d ever have. Then the face of Arjuna, the man that won her that day clouded her vision. Visions of the other (four) brothers followed that, along with her life long desire to rule the kingdom one day. Somewhere that grew stronger than her affection towards Karna, she was aware that the life she desired would never be hers if she went that way. She suppressed her feelings for what she thought was the best thing to do. She needed love, even if it was empty, she knew being the wife of the five princes with their other wives would get her nowhere. She needed a way out of it, a way to get exactly what she wanted.

Her determination to ruin the kingdom escalated, but she knew they wanted her. They won her, and they’d settle for nothing else but the trophy they had to their names. She knew that very well, the only way to gain the admiration of all five, was to have them to herself. Wiping that grin off her face, she put on her mask, the composed yet firm woman she was known to be.

|| Act II ||

She looked around, from one corner to the other, she couldn’t believe it. A gush of happiness filled inside her, the palace was ready at last. She stared at every detail she could see, every inch according to her desire. She had won them over, the naive men. Understood what each had to offer and made the most of them. She felt proud, achieving the collective admiration of the Pandavas, gaining their trust. “Maharani, you’re being summoned by the king”, came a voice from behind. It made her even happier, the thought of her being one of the only wives they took advice from. Then her mind diverted elsewhere, the faded memory of Karna never seemed to leave her head. That face, those eyes, his Kshatriya built. Everything and anything that she had left of him kept reminding her of he decision she had made. She walked towards the courthouse as she thought of how her life would be different if she wouldn’t have made this choice.

|| Act III ||

Anger filled her chest, her eyes flooded with tears, her head this close to exploding. She couldn’t believe what she had just discovered.”How could she do this, how could she be this cruel! To her own son, to her own blood! How could she!”, Draupadi kept repeating to herself. Her dislike for Kunti had reached its peak, she had to confront her, she had to get it out of her system once and for all.

Her heart drowned in pain, ” I could have had it all, I could have been with him, I could have controlled this kingdom with him”. She burst into tears at the mere thought of not getting his love, being deprived of any for that matter. Once she stood firm on her decision, hoping she would get some affection from Arjuna. But she was always in the way, he never looked at Draupadi the way he saw her. She was never his favourite. She spent days and hours remorsing over her decision. “He could have been mine, I could been loved”, she thought to herself. Kunti had gained a special hatred compartment in her life now, ” She abandoned him, she left him , never bothered to check up on him, to know how he was, if he’s okay, if he’s alive!”

She wanted revenge, she wanted her to suffer, the way she did. She wanted to make her mourn , deprive her of love, just like she was. The determined Draupadi had made up her mind she would make Kunti repent her decision, for as long as she lived.

|| Act IV ||

She watched herself being used as a bargaining chip for the master’s desires. The dice was rolled, her fate was sealed. She stood there, waiting for what was about to happen next. Hoping that maybe someone would stand up for her.

Layer by layer, she lost respect;for herself,;for her actions;for her choices.; for what she had become. She begged, pleaded to her father-in-law, the blind king, the courtiers, anyone, who was ready to listen to her. Anything to save her dignity.

One voice, from the corner of the room, an unusual persona in himself, heard her, even in the silence that enveloped the courts that day. Her savior.

|| Act V ||

A cloud of dust filled up the space around her. She looked around, all she could see was the remains of her desires. So much destruction, so much bloodshed, all for her rage! All for the love she never got! She couldn’t help but blame herself for what she saw. Every little action of hers that had led to this final act, little by little, she knew somewhere deep down this wasn’t how she was suppose to feel. It was suppose to satisfy her, complete her, but all she could feel was guilt.

“What have I done!And for what cause?” she told herself. “My anger clouded my judgement, my desire made me do this! Why did I have to see him, why did I have to fall for him!” Her humanity got the better of her, she couldn’t be as cold and cruel as she could think of.

As she sat there around the million dead bodies of soldiers and loves ones, waiting for the aura of hell to consume her, she thought to herself, if it was all really worth it?

Each day has a color, a smell.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, The Mistress of Spices

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