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Posts Tagged ‘Kartikeya Sarabhai

Women In India; What Has Changed Since Draupadi?

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Women of IndiaThey say, when you read something that is thought-provoking and worth sharing, do share with as many as you can. I am attempting the same with this blog.

Long ago, I had read a poem titled, ‘I Draupadi’. This was over a decade ago and I was deeply moved by it. Kartikeya Sarabhai, son of legendary Indian space scientist Vikram Sarabhai, penned this gem of a work in 1989, in an spontaneous afterthought having watched the performance of great Indian epic Mahabharata, a play directed by Peter Brook. I was in law-school when I read this, I thought it was a classic.

However, while reading a recently published book, ‘The State of the Nation’, (Hay, 2013), written by eminent jurist Fali S. Nariman, I came across this poem once again. Mr. Nariman, in his unique style, mentions about this poem while explaining the constitutional and legal position of the women-folk in India and the inequalities therein.

Same evening when I read this, I happened to meet a close friend of mine, whom I consider a quite well read and well informed person. However, when I mentioned about ‘I Draupadi’, she drew a blank. I was surprised; how come such a revolutionary work written about women is yet unknown to the most aware section of women itself! This incident made me think, and hence, I am writing this blog only to share this poem with you. It is worth a careful, slow read…

In the poem, Draupadi says:

The Swayamvara was mine,
the decision was my father’s.
No garland was worn, the garland was me.
The prize myself, the winner of the tournament
Not mine the decision whom to marry,
My heart was pledged to a bow and arrow…
My life an offering to the shooter of the fish

All rights belong to husbands, so says society,
But to be shared by five, a commodity in the market place?
Unknowingly Ma Kunti spoke: husband became husbands
In this the Pandava’s kingdom of Dharma
All this I accepted, became the wife of five,
To each gave a son
Yet was the only wife of none.

Gambling they went, invited by Duryodhana,
Lost all they had losing even themselves
I, unspared, was dragged into the court of men.
Which were these bounds of Dharma
That tied my husbands?
What kind of husbands [are] these,
That are tied by the Dharma of lies?

I asked, “What of me?”
Bhishma said, “Power is Truth, Dharma darkness”.
Robed limitlessly, I was saved by God.
The Kauravas stopped, exhausted, still not understanding.
Yes, Krishna gave me the cloth, but where was the Gita’s truth?
Was Arjuna not already in the need of that counsel then?

In words of Mr. Nariman, “The poem ends with a condemnation of the male gender for forsaking equality in practice:”

Years went by; our lives we lived together,
Started on our journey’s end towards the snow-clad Himalaya
I fell first; no Pandava stretched a hand.
Towards paradise they walked, not one stayed by my side,
Then I realised heaven too must be only for men…
Better then, to rest in the warm embrace of this snow.

Pretty hard-hitting, isn’t it? Well, I am tempted to ask, what really has changed for the womenfolk of India since the plight of Draupadi? I am asking as there are times when I find myself searching for answers…

I am leaving you with what Mr. Nariman wrote. It is indeed worth reading twice and introspecting – for all menfolk of India…

“The significance of the poem… highlights the difference between formal equality, professed by us all and, the actual inequality, which the fate of Draupadi has eternally symbolized – the inequality that women have had to bear, and continue to suffer, even in the present day India.”

This blog was straight from the heart; I am sharing this with a hope that something, at least in few of us, would change for better…


Photo-credit: cartoon movement.com

Post-script: For those of you who may not be aware, noted choreographer, dancer and social-activist Mallika Sarabhai, (sister of Kartikeya Sarabhai) performs the role of Draupadi in Peter Brook’s play. Worth searching about it on the Youtube!


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