The Other Side Of The Paper - From Dushala To Draupadi
The Other Side Of The Paper - From Dushala To Draupadi11 mins 496 11 mins 496
I cannot believe that I have finally mustered up the courage to write to you. I press the edges of my quill so hard, nearly blotting the parchment that I write upon, and it pains me to commence this series of letters to you with such immense reluctance within me. I write to you with a storm brewing within me, a storm so harsh and jolting that it stains the yellowness of my sari with rain clouds. I do not know if you will accept my words, and that is why as I write, my hand shakes a little. Possibly, my fragile words will bear the weight of my hesitance upon their delicate shoulders, and possibly you will see them quivering on the transparency of this aching parchment. As I write, I close my eyes and imagine how you would be right now, and tremours consume my being. My fingers reach out, and desperately look for the ends of my pallu and I firmly pull it around myself. The sky above me is stained with the gold of the sun, and to me, it seems like a bride's spread-out palm, stained with the turmeric of hope and abundance. The ever-drifting clouds seem to blot out the yellow hues, one after the other, till the yellowness completely disappears. A scenario - as mild and mere as this, has the tendency to remind me of you, Draupadi. Somehow, an essential part of your bruised spirit seems to have disentangled itself from the threads of your being and has hardened the seemingly soft edges of the fairytale life I was living. I've tried visualizing what happened that day, with myself in your place. I've seen myself with flaming eyes, a forehead crested with a bruise, and hair pouring down my back, frothing and spitting like a flaming waterfall. And then, when I let the scene rest in my head, the focus gently shifts to the person doing it all - my very own brother, Dushasana.
Thereafter, the trembling begins, and I hold my sari around myself, feeling as though any second, it will be wrenched away from me. I feel a million gazes glued to my breasts, my neck, and every bit of my body, even though I am sitting amidst a cluster of trees and writing to you. It seems as though the trees bear ugly smirks upon their barks, and their gnarled branches are nothing but cruel hands, extending towards me to rip the sari off my body. A gentle breeze blows, rustling the canopy of leaves, and in that rustle which once filled my being with solace, I can sense malice. Maa would always tell me that all the women in this world make up one family, and when one cries, her tears fall like drops of rain, from a common, cloud-ridden sky and they drench every other woman upon this planet. Today, every bit of me is drenched with your grief, dear Draupadi, but unfortunately, the moisture is not cool and comforting. It is a strip of flame that seers through my being, and in the heart of this curling flame, I can hear your cries intermingled with the sizzling and spitting of smoke and fire.
I guess I have spoken enough about my sorrow and agony, and it is time for me to stitch some silvery stars upon the dark cloaks that my words bear upon their shoulders. I don't know how to explain this to you, Draupadi, but I've always loved painting. I've always felt as though I possess this capability to lift a moment by its edges, store it in the realms of my mind and eventually preserve it in colours and shades. Yet, this painful chain of moments that it is probably the most grotesque part of our lives doesn't let itself be put forth in shades and colours, and I am absolutely terrified of making an attempt to do so, simply because this poses as a possible foresight into what is to come. As Maa has always told me, for poetry to be written, there must be a consensus between the poem and the poet. Similarly, for a painting to be put forth on canvas, there must be a consensus between the artist and the colours. But, in my case, there is cold, engulfing fear. My art terrifies me. It feels as though a cold, iron hand is gripping my heart, squeezing every single bit of emotion that dwells within me, leaving behind absolute numbness. Yet, despite all of this prevailing uneasiness, there is a voice within me - a voice that shatters all these surrounding walls, a voice that tells me that I need to write to you. We need to have a conversation, Draupadi, even if it involves you only listening, and I being the only one speaking. There are things about me, that you need to, have to know.
Draupadi, I hope that my words can put forth my urgency before you, as they crackle upon this piece of parchment in utmost and absolute desperation. It is almost as though I am reaching out to you, clasping your hand and beseeching you to look into my eyes and talk to me. In addition to all of this, I also know that you will never look upon me as anything even remotely close to a sister, but can we be friends? Can we commence this unlikely companionship as women, and not as relatives? If I bestow upon you the title of my sakhi, will your shoulders droop or will they rise? Ah, I am Dushala on the other side of the paper. I can but hope for the latter . . .
Even though I have no concrete confirmation of this fact, I assume that you have read my letter. I live in a world of abstractions, which is a probable escape from reality. Nevertheless, this world is a world of the heart, and I enjoy dwelling here. You know me as Dushala, the princess of Hastinapur, the only daughter of King Dhritashartra and Queen Gandhari, and the royal sister of the mighty Kauravas. But, that is not who I am. There is so much about this world that I wish to understand, but I somehow fail to do so. It is a continuous struggle, and it makes me feel as though I am constantly knocking my knuckles against the hard stone and reaching nowhere (of course, emerging with bruised fists). But then, Sakhi, there is so much that I believe and so much of what I believe feels so right.
I struggle to understand relations, Sakhi, such as the relation of a father and a daughter, a brother and a sister. I always feel a great aloofness around my father, and icicles would begin to tickle my soul whenever he is around me, making me feel as though he is a stranger whom I have never seen before. Maa has always told me about how there is always a continuously widening gap in the connect between a father and a daughter as a daughter grows up, but there's never been a connect here. And, very surprisingly, I have never felt the void, which is somewhat unusual. Maa talks of her father with sparkling eyes, but I somehow can never relate to this awe. Actually, I can. But, not for father. I can talk about Uncle Vidur with the same sparkle, the same excitement, and the same, underlying tone of hero-worship in my eyes.
Draupadi, I spent my childhood with Uncle Vidur, walking by his side, my little fingers firmly clutching onto his hands. He showed me a world of paintings, art, and joy. I used to sit on his shoulders, stretch out my hands and try to pluck the clouds. And, he never stopped me, not once. In fact, he told me how clouds feel once you catch them. He told me about raindrops studding my fingers like rings, and the monsoon breeze woven into the cottony insides of clouds. I'd go to him for everything, to talk about everything, even the times when I became a woman, when Maa gave me a white petticoat to put beneath my ghagra and the ends of the white petticoat would occasionally bear splashes of red, especially when the flow got too heavy. When I started growing up, I realized how Uncle Vidur was labelled as ''the son of a handmaiden'' and probably, it was this sensation of being an outcast which brought us together. Around him, Draupadi, I felt this sensation of security, which is like a brilliant scribble of sunshine, that I wanted to hold onto forever, with tightened fists, for it meant so very much to me. On the day of my vidaii, Uncle Vidur cupped my face in his hands and planted a kiss on my forehead. His eyes were plains of dry land, with just a hint of moisture, but it was this hint of moisture which made his eyes glow. I am Dushala, the daughter of Vidur - the daughter of the man who showed me colours, paintings, joy, art. I am Dushala, the daughter of the man who taught me how to create, how to imagine, how to feel, and most importantly, I am Dushala, the daughter of the man who taught me how to dream.
But, Draupadi, I am not his only daughter.
Possibly, you will not believe me over here, but Uncle Vidur always had a portrait tucked into a pocket sewn onto the lower half of his dhoti. That portrait was of you, Draupadi. I'd sat by his side as he created that portrait, with the bony edges of a broken branch, turmeric and crushed rose petals. And, he'd created you so perfectly, using dark, orange turmeric to draw flames around you. ''I will carry the daughter of the flames in my pocket, for she is my daughter too,'' he'd always say. That is why I always looked upon you as a sister. And, I wonder where that portrait is. Whenever I close my eyes, I see Uncle Vidur with silent tears cascading down his cheeks, as he holds your portrait to his heart. And, moments later, I can almost see him cover your portrait with a bit of cloth, binding it firmly.
I hope this cloth does not thwart your flames.
I know he hopes this too.
In yesterday's letter, I told you about Uncle Vidur and the relation that I am so very happy to share with him. As I have told you a myriad times, I am but a person who dwells on the other side of this paper, so I do not know if you could see the stars that filled my eyes in such great quantity, almost threatening to spill out of the almond-shaped borders when I was writing about him. There have been times, dear Draupadi when I felt an engulfing sense of aloofness for my entire family, and in such times - Uncle Vidur would become my one-man family. And, there've been many times when my soul would sizzle and spit in the smoke of jealousy when he'd talk about you and call you his own. Please forgive my impertinence, but I will not deny the fact that there have been many times when I'd walk into the palace temple and thank the Almighty because you lived in a different palace, and were thus away from him. I hope you can tarry a while and laugh at this childhood envy!
Today, I want to narrate an incident from my teenhood which has had a permanent impact on my being, and I feel you should know about it. Now, let me go back to the time when I told you how I was attempting to paint the painful chain of moments that occurred in your life onto paper and was unable to do so because the colours would simply spiral out of my control. But, amidst these wildly dashing colours, there was one particular colour which managed to maintain a cool, composed nature throughout. It was this colour which overwhelmed the whiteness of the canvas with its consuming shades. I wish I could describe that sight in words, but unfortunately, I am unable to do so. This colour bore an immensely confident air about itself, coming forth clad in a cloak of great self-belief. It is like the sky possibly, filling every bit of whiteness - filling the spaces and beneath its brilliant, azure hues, even the canvas sighs with joy, radiating an aura of fulfilment. I hope you have inferred, dear Draupadi, that I am talking about the magnificent blue of your friend, and my brother, Lord Krishna. It all began on the evening of Rakshabandhan when I had come out into the palace gardens for a stroll after tying a hundred threads onto hundred wrists. And, the worst part was... I... I don't know more than fifty of those wrists. They've just been people who've been in the mere shadows of the life I've lived. I... I don't know them.
I will leave you on this note, dear Draupadi. I want you to anticipate my next letter because I want you to keep reading the portions of my life that I put forth before you.