History Series Short Stories

The Final Journey

I, the fierce princess of Panchaal am on my voyage to the final destination of karma. The tranquillity of this abode is gripping me. I witness my five companions who pledged to be with me till the eternities are ahead of me. Their pace is slow but rhythmic yet firm. They seem to be walking one after the other forming a queue led by the oldest of them Yudhishthir. Isn’t this how they all followed their brother throughout their lives? A well balanced Yudhisthir always preached Dharma whilst Arjun was forever a focused man. The strongest of them all Bheem was followed by the younger ones who are impartial or unbiased and always sought after the wellbeing of everyone Nakul and Sahadev. Ah!  I tripped over a stone bleeding my toe but see none turning back to save me this time, not even Arjun. I turned to see how far I’ve walked but only notice the white snow that didn’t have mine or any of my companions foot impressions. This is a natural way of succession, isn’t so? I thought to myself. And made me realize not to look back for your karma has already been noted, you can’t go back to your steps and undo. It’s all wiped off. You can only march ahead… steadily.

Guess they deliberately left me behind so that I can contemplate on my life in silence. The path I am treading on is endlessly engulfed in white serene fog. I am in my mind repeatedly struggling with the fight between “destiny and desire”.  Somewhere in my mind, the calm and faint voice of Munivarya Vyasa reminds me that I was born with a purpose. And, I suddenly travelled back in the time. I was born out of “Yajnya” performed by my father and king of Panchaal, Drupad. My best friend Krishna told me that I was very headstrong and would always win any challenges thrown at me. I also have a blessing (or curse?) of remaining young and beautiful thus few call me “Nityayuvini”. So, now as I walk towards the end of the journey of my life I’m still as beautiful as I was born said one of my husbands, Bheem. Sometimes I wondered between Arjun and Bheem, who loved me the most? And whom did I love more?

With this poignant thought, my mind became heavy. I wish to sit and rest but know that this path doesn’t let me relax. I will now stop only when my breath stops. But, my mind races back in time…the time I was getting married. Like every lady, I too had dreams and desire to be fulfilled. My eyes were dreamy and were searching for that one person with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life.

As a woman, I was very vibrant and enjoyed every attention I received. My father had a tough time to find a suitable man for me. It was Krishna who wittily suggested King Drupad of my smayamvar. On the day of my marriage, I was a mean lady who was cajoled by Krishna to marry Arjun in spite in my heart I knew that my eyes were fixed on Karna. What was I searching for in his eyes? Yes, I was drawn towards the melancholy of his deep dark eyes. Did Krishna know of my feelings?

My mother in law, Kunti was a very enduring lady. I sometimes didn’t like her being so forbearing. She had her own karma to follow just like mine. But, in my heart, I would never pardon her of the punishment given to me to be married off to all five of her sons. How could she ask her son Arjun to divide the “reward” won at the competition without seeing it? Thus, I had a new identity as a wife of five husbands. I was ashamed of this and pledged that never in the future will any woman has to take the brunt of such a curse. But, I forcefully accepted this throughout my life..a life of Draupadi is, after all, going to be enduring for generations to come. I will always remain alive in intriguing thoughts of Bharatvarsh!!

I’m tired now; my legs are getting cold and numb. It is extremely tiring to lift each foot and pace towards the end. It’s my journey and I know none of my husbands can help me to make it easier after all they are on the same path too. Are they thinking of me at all?

I’m now reminded of my time in Hastinapur. This was the time I bore five children from each of my husbands. However, the place was no match for a magnificent palace built for me at Indraprastha. I was the queen of this splendid palace with all the earthly wealth and comfort at my feet. This was my space that reminded me of my desires. It helped me to forget the purpose of my life.

I find myself breathless at every step yet my heart is pouncing. I’m close to the end yet so far from the life I envisaged.

Sometimes I wonder what if Duryodhana never visited us at the Indraprastha palace. Sure, he wouldn’t have fallen prey to the illusion there. The cause of hatred was certainly not when my “dasis” and I witnessed him fall into the trap. It was long ago, perhaps he hated me from the time we met at my Swayamar, and from the time I rejected his chariot friend Karna. He was blind by the power and hatred. To take the revenge of me, he played a dice game with my husbands. He knew very well that they would certainly be defeated by his magical dices. I was familiar with the fact that his Shakuni mama made these dices from his father’s bones who always listened to him. Duryodhana was aware that my husbands would always follow Kshatriya Dharma and would not decline the offer made to play the game of dice! He trapped them…but why? The only reason I fathom is to take a revenge on me?!

As I search for breath, slowly tears roll on my face.

It was the darkest day of my life, the day when my husband put everything at stake including me. I was humiliated by Yudhistir by putting every one of us at the stake. Only did he listen to me to stop the game at once, but he didn’t. I was dragged by the hair and made present in the court and insulted further by Duryodhan. How dare he make gestures that implied like a command to sit on his lap? I was flabbergasted by this atrocious act. I was sullen and red like erupted lava, I was bleeding. Neither Yudhishtir nor Duryodhana had any legal right to put me on the stake. A woman is not anyone’s possession but an individual with self-esteem. I wondered how did Yudhishtir’s dharma allow him to do such a heinous act? I burnt in vengeance. My venomous curses to destroy the Kuru dynasty echoed in the court. Yet again, Krishna came to my rescue and helped me with the unending sari that was being pulled apart by Dushasan. I remember once he whispered in my ears that he and I are one. I’m dark because he is dark too. He fondly called me Krishnaa.

I wonder if my life was a curse or a blessing. I went into exile for twelve years again after my husbands lost yet another game of dice with Duryodhan. The death of Kichaka flamed the great war of Kurukshetra. The war Indian history has never seen before and will not witness later again.

My pace slowed down a lot. I know the end is very close by. I don’t see my companions ahead of me. Wondering if they have already been accepted in heaven?

The Kurukshetra war had seen a lot of bloodshed. I felt terrible at the loss of Pitamah Bhishm and child Abhimanyu. But, it had to happen. How can I forget and forgive my insult in the court? Afterall, I had not washed my hair owing to the pledge that I would do so only when Bheem gets me the blood of Dushasan.

Before I advance in the direction, I thought to myself, I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to stop. I would have asked Vyasa to re-write a different destiny for me. Or was it Krishna who had written the purpose of my life?! I would have asked to write a destiny that would not have had so many hindrances to achieve the purpose they had written for me. In my heart, I knew that if I was given a chance to turn back the time, I would have fought for Karn’s rights! He was the eldest son of Kunti, the successor of Hastinapur! Undeniably, he would have carried the Crown as the king and me beside him as the queen!! Together we would have fought with Kuru clan and the epic war wouldn’t have witnessed the bloodshed.

But it didn’t happen this way, it was not meant to happen the way I envisage. After all, neither Vyasa Rishi nor Krishna knows the hidden secret that I’m carrying while I’m on this last thread.

I, the fierce princess of Paanchal did injustice to Karn during my swayamar. Till my last breath, till the eternities and till the death make us apart, I’ll only have him in my heart!! But…but…but I can’t rewrite the destiny….

My breath is slower and about to stop, I heard Bheem asking Yudhistir “Why did Draupadi die before all of us?” and he replied “Because she loved Arjun the most instead of loving all of us equally. That’s a sin and she had to be punished first!”

I closed my eyes one last time and never to open again and thought “Kalay Tasmain Namha”!

___________________________________________________________