Panchali

[Inspired by the elemental image of Draupadi/Panchali, the undisputed heroine of the epic Mahabharata, depicted in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s masterpiece of a novel, ‘Palace of Illusions’.]

Draupadi

Panchali, I am, to you, my Partha, my love,
Painfully displaced in recycled domestic patterns
Circulated freely amid all your brothers and you.
The saint who determined my cycle between one coy bride
To the next had created enough music in my bones
To satiate all you Pandavas as equal husbands,
Though he never knew how trapped
My luminous smile had been,
My dark-skinned charm, colliding
with so much of your chivalrous cacophony.

Panchali, I am, to you, my valiant Bheemsen,
A luscious lilac that you craved to engrave
In your voluminous heart, never knowing
How the absence of light rustled in my bare form,
My deep, dark tresses, shedding its rhythmic dewdrops
Not in unconditioned love, but in stoic, formulaic surrender.
Panchali, my Dharmaraaj, I am to you,
The untamed fire that spread all over you, in spurts,
The easiest pawn you could have settled for,
Reckless, warped in a gambling spree
you could very well do without.

Did I burn you too, my cognac fire
Was it a bit too scalding, Nakul and Sahadev,
My youngest husbands, moving in the orbit
Of your elder brothers’ wants? Did you get
How my splinters and shards surrounded you
In a vain rapture in the palace of illusions
When all I waited for, perhaps, was the Mahaprasthan,
The final journey of my nemesis, with all five of you,
Following the slit throats and mashed up corpses
Of my sons, of our kith and kin?

Panchali, I am, to you, Karna, my all-pervading bruise.
For I had forgot, in spite of your irresistible musk
That you and me both were wiggling children
of the cracked earth. The fiery flashes of your pride
Matching my own insolence, had borne a cursed utterance,
‘Sutaputra’, my vanity had attested a lie, a lie that resounded
Every time we crossed paths, as a rhythmic reminder.

Panchali, I am, to you, my Sakha, Krishna,
The smoke and fury of my mind’s badland
Soothed from time to time, when your hands touched mine.
What magic did your words unfold
To this dark, forlorn child-woman,
As you hovered in my life, presiding over its queer equations?
Dream girl, I wasn’t for you, when disrobed,
shunned of my womanly honour, your drapes covered
my bruised, black moon. Your words revealed,
Like half-shining flashlights, draped my life
In the ambiguous sheen I myself couldn’t fathom well.
Here, you touch my hands yet again, for one last time,
Where I find myself beyond the rims of time, and tell me
I have played my part well in this chaotic and tumultuous play.
Is this a new beginning, where I dissolve and form anew?
Panchali, I am, look, the boundless sky, my new palace, engulfs us all.

The Firebird

 

And then, they hit me, just below the belt,

woman strength

Image Courtesy: Pinterest.com

And shoved me to a corner to preach me
With their habitual sermons of sanctity,
Just when I was clasping the clay molds
To turn them into spitting images of myself,
My everyday girlfriends, sisters, dainty rivers prancing
and preening around fire-lit open courtyards.

And then, they sucked the lilting rhythms of a female fetus
Out of my hungering womb, and left me to die every day
With the barren shrieks of a hopeless nothing,
My femaleness, a tough, bottomless pit
which they entered again, and again, and again,
tirelessly, until a male offspring is borne.

……Did my river bleed when my trident perforated
demon skins? I ran, and ran, and ran
Like a beast, chased, driven away,
Until the unscathed horizon took me in.
Who is it that chases me still? The rough undone
of voyeur fists and limbs? All I have sought for
Is a man sheltering my hidden pores,
A chapati between my hungry teeth, my chapped lips.

…….And then, they smothered me dead, because as Draupadi,
My fiery red cajoled them into hostility. As Sita,
My chastity made them push their boundaries.
As Kunti, the unblemished terrains of my want
enticed them to father my legendary sons.
As the black, ‘dalit’ girl, the earth and water of my being
was a living proof of profanity, a sacrilege
that they sanctified by feasting on the tar of my flesh.

And then, you who have crushed and torn my silky petals,
You who have made me sing lust-ridden songs,
You who have taught our mothers to kill us in the womb,
To mourn our birth while their cherished sons blossom
in their milky warmth, you who have made us
The sacrificing Sati and Behula, brimming with fortitude,
You who have sold our flesh for six pence, will sit at my feet,
Prostrate, when I am the naked, elemental Kali,
at my apocalyptic best. And then, when I adorn my forehead
with the toxic blood of generations, my scarlet tongue,
spread out, larger than life, glitters, gleams with peril.

Let me be the savage cry, the dark, scraped beast
Before you call me the Goddess and the whore, yet again.

All Rights Reserved. Lopa Banerjee. January 27, 2016

SHE: Draupadi and the Every Woman

 

My March column at B’Khush, the women-centric e-zine, ‘She: Draupadi and the Every Woman’, a poetic narrative dedicated to all my women friends across the globe, just before the occasion of the International Women’s day in March 8. The piece is developed from an excerpt of my book-length memoir ‘Thwarted Escape’ which has recently been a finalist and a First Place Category winner at the Journey Awards 2014 for Narrative Nonfiction hosted by Chanticleer Book Reviews and Media LLC.

Sharing a small excerpt from the piece:

I was born, in Panchal, bereft of a mother’s Yoni,

Emerging from burning contours of fire,

The river of my body ran and ran, meandering,

Eyes to cheeks, cheeks to chin, chin to my swan neck,

Nativity singing thigh-deep in the river that struggled

To stay still….”

Do read the full piece and leave your valued comments in the page:

http://www.bkhush.com/dev/content/scattered-pearls-she-draupadi-and-every-woman