The Witch of Hastinapur

After almost 10 years of their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Verma were finally blessed with a baby boy. They gave him the name Prem Chand Verma after a very famous Indian Writer Munshi PremChand. Prem was a sensitive child and was prone to serious influences by the fictitious and mythological characters. By the time he finished up his school and reached to college, he already had Geeta, Ramayana and Mahabharata quite handy to him. In those days, he was studying in first year at Hansraj College under Delhi University. He pursued the subject History much against his parent’s wish as they were quite skeptical about the kind of future that Prem was slowly heading towards. He wanted to join the archeological survey of India to explore the ancient temples and the hidden facts related to them.

His mother was suspicious about his mysterious behavior due to some of the scary developments in his personality. He got himself clean shaved and started keeping long hair like girls. She was also taken aback after seeing the kind of appearances his friends were having as most of them seemed to be like drug addicts. He was also becoming more conscious about his looks and appeared more feminine. One day he was found doing something very weird when his mother walked into the room just as he was about to apply her new lipstick. She was startled. He was startled. "What are you doing with my lipstick? It's new...I haven't used it so far. Couldn't you have waited?" He smiled and handed it back to her. "I forgot to tell you...I am playing Draupadi in our college production... rehearsals start this evening."

“Draupadi!! Are you serious?”

“Yes, I am. What’s wrong in that?”

“Doesn’t your college have enough girls to play such female characters rather than a guy doing so? I mean why do you have to get into feminine mode. Mark my words. Your father will not be delighted to know about such stunt of yours.”

“I know that he won’t be happy. But, I got reasons to play that role because it has got historical significance in this country. No one in my college particularly in my batch has got any fair idea about her real character. None of them have ever studied the Mahabharata from so many angles like I did. Even professors from my department do not get into such discussions with me and very often they do cross verify their knowledge with me before participating in any seminar.”

“That doesn’t necessarily mean that you ought to wear a sari to demonstrate your extensive understanding about Draupadi and her character. In your time who cares about what happened then in the era of Mahabharata and Ramayana. So, I request you to please give up such imprudence and try to be little sane.”

“Mom! I am not being imprudent, and I do not get carried away by some juicy stories just like that. At any given time if you feel that I am bringing shame to you or Dad then just let me know. I will quit doing all what I want to do in my life.”

His mother knew that he was probably right in his claims about knowing the old scriptures better than others. She preferred to discontinue that argument and thought to bring it back at dinner table in his father’s presence.

That evening Prem invited two of his college friends Mrinal and Abhilasa for dinner at home. He knew that he will need them to convince his father. But was disappointed to see that no one was showing any sort of interest to discuss it.

Next day, it was Sunday. He got up late and rushed to the breakfast table as he never wanted to upset his father because on Sunday particularly he expected everyone to have breakfast together.

“Good Morning Dad!!”

“Good Morning Son. I wanted to talk to you last night itself after your mother shared some of the peculiar facts about your likings these days.”

“Yes, I know. She is not very happy with some of the choices that I have made.”

“That’s absolutely okay because at this juncture of life everyone tries to make unconventional choices as an endeavor to do something different and which is rarely understood by anyone else except the one who made such choices during his/her time. But, the important thing is that some of those choices leaves a permanent mark on your personality and you may find it difficult to shred it off at later stages of your life. So, what this Draupadi thing is all about?”

“Nothing of that serious. As you know my interest in exploring the historical and religious facts about this country. So, for the first time I am getting a change to depict the knowledge that I have acquired so far after working so hard on ancient scripts. I am going to be the part of a play for my college production which is named as ‘The witch of Hastinapur’.”

His father was stunned to hear the theme and looked straight into his eyes and said, “And I am sure that such a title must be the part of your exploration as well.”

“Yes. But, how did you know that?”

“Come on Prem!! After all I am your father. I may not be able to spend a lot of time with you guys, but have a pretty good idea about your capabilities to think differently and at any given time I got no issues with that. The only thing that worries me like you mother that you may retain some of the girlish character if you continue to play such frenzy characters. Another thing that I would like to ask you that why did you chose to play Draupadi as there were lot of impressive characters in the tale of Mahabharata.”

“You are right Dad. I wanted to play the role of Karna initially and was selected for that, but the unit was struggling to find the right match for Draupadi role. So, I took that responsibility because her character has an eternal influence on me and I feel ecstatic to read more and more about her. Even the great sage VedVyas was afraid while reading her palm. You will be happy to know that many great theatre personalities like Girish Karnad, Asrani, Deepti Nawal, etc. are going to be the judge at the event and I may get a break through if they like my performance.”

“Hmm. Then I am okay with that. Go ahead and rehearse well. And I am also sure that you will honor me and your mother by changing your way of living after you are done with all this. I would expect you to get your hair trimmed like a boy.”

“Sure Dad! I need some money to buy cloths.”

“Please get them from your mother as I am getting late for the club. I told her yesterday itself to give you five thousand rupees which she might have forgotten for obvious reasons.” His father left hurriedly after fifteen minutes of brief discussion with Prem. All this time his mother was knitting a sweater without paying much attention to their conversation. She knew that her husband is a skilled father and he knows where to draw the line. Without saying much, he got into Prem’s psych and preferred to extend his support.

Next two days, Prem did not return to home citing the reason for late night rehearsals. On third day, he came and asked mother to accompany him. Before she could have understood anything, he already took out some of her favorite saree out of her wardrobe.

“But, where exactly are we going son?”

“No please, I am not going to tell you. It’s a surprise.”

She got ready as per his wish and they took a bus as some of his friends were already boarded into it. Quickly she realized that they were heading to the famous Jantar Mantar and his son was going to be the part of a street play. That was the time she flushed out all the pre-conceived notions she was having and prepared herself for a pleasant surprise.

At Jantar Mantar there were clapping and roaring from every corner of it by the young spectators. She was offered a seat with college faculties. Prem told her be seated there as he needed to change for the skid.

“Take your time son. I would love to see a new avatar of yours today.”, Mother said with an immense love in her eyes.

Prem’s mother took out her cell phone and sent a text to her husband. “Guess What? I am at Jantar Mantar watching a street play. Prem is going to play an important character in the show.”

Within few seconds, she received the text. “Great. I am glad that you went there. Enjoy your time.”

In less than 15 minutes, the show got started. Five guys who were all dressed up like ancient princess were dragging out a person dressed up like a tribal man. He was wrapped up in tiger’s skin along with a waist band of human skulls. He was having a crown of colorful bird’s feather with heavy rings in both the ears. He was begging for his life and was weeping inconsolably, “Please allow me to open the eyes of lord Shiva or else it will bring bad luck to everyone in this city of Indraprastha”

One of the princes with heavy built came and roared in loudest possible voice, “Your job is done Mayasur and you are well paid for the same. The eyes of our deity lord Shiva will be opened by the holy priest after the much needed Praan Pratistha (A Hindu ritual performed before inaugurating a temple). The temple has already been washed by holy water of Ganga and so no Shudras are supposed to enter the temple premises. Tomorrow, we have a big day as all the famous kings will be here from across the country. You can go and take the refuse near Indra’s house on the bank of river Yamuna.”

And after saying that the eldest prince instructed some of the soldiers to get the known architect of Indraprastha city ‘Mayasur’ thrown away at the bank of river Yamuna.

The wailing monster met the fate as per the king’s wish without caring much about what he was blabbering all the way. It was the time when they were returning after dumping the monster at the river bank, they heard him loud and clear. They turned back to look at the most horrifying scene of their lives.

He was shivering out of anger and hatred. His eyes were burning red over his black muddy face. With Yamuna river water in one of his palm, he started chanting some mantras and then started cursing the city that was designed and created by him and his clan with lot of love, passion and intelligence. With utter hatred in his voice he roared like a wounded lion, “May your women deceit their men; may your daughters get raped in their own houses; may you kill your own brothers for even a small fraction of wealth. May you all see the worst atrocities of this universe; may the cruel foreign attackers be the ruler of this city.” He then closed his eyes, chanted some mantras again and threw the Yamuna water back into it and hit the ground with immense strength of his fist. With that hit an artificially created thunderstorm rocked the arena of Jantar Mantar.

There was a pin drop silence among the crowd. It seemed like everyone present there started to believe that all the atrocities in Delhi is because of Mayasur’s curse during the time of Mahabharata. After the closing remarks everyone gave the standing ovation to the actors who played their characters well. That was the time when she realized that the character of Mayasur was being played by her own son Prem and she was appalled by such a magical performance. How come a guy from a very ordinary background and parents can developed such a great talent? Must have worked very hard to achieve that level of excellence in his work.

With mixed thoughts, she came back to home and kept on thinking about it for rest of the day. She was not able to talk about it to anyone. Not even to her husband at the dinner table. Prem continued to stay with at college’s hostel with friends citing the same reason of rehearsals.

On the day of annual function celebration, Prem insisted his mother over the phone to invite some of the relatives as well which she politely refused but also convinced him that her refusal had nothing to do with the kind of role he was going to perform. At 6 PM, Mr. and Mrs. Verma reached the venue at the DU campus. One of his friend assisted them to get the seat in second row which was reserved for the parents of all the participants. After an hour of speeches, dance programs and other acts finally the play was announced.

It got started with the scene of Draupadi’s marriage as the stage was set up like a king’s court and Prem was sitting on a soft couch with heavy make up and jewelry. He had draped the yellow colored silk saree so well, eyebrows were properly lined and there was a rare kind of elegance on his face. His mother’s heart sank to see his son like that and she started to feel suffocated. “I can’t see him like that in a women’s attire. I feel something wrong has happened as no boy can look so girlish whatever you do.”

For a moment Prem’s father was also taken aback, but then he controlled the situation and convinced her that these days makeups can turn anyone into anything. In between their discussion, the play reached to the point when Draupadi started to insult Karna as per Krishna’s plan.  “How come you being a son of a chariot driver can even tame a dream like marrying the princess of Panchal? I would prefer to maintain celibacy all my life rather than marrying a shudra (lower caste guy) like you.”

Naturally it did not go well with Karna. He took out his bow and arrow immediately to kill her but then someone reminded him that a warrior can’t attack a woman. He then threw his bow aside and said to Draupadi, “History is witnessing this Panchali. Very soon a time will come when you too will be stripped in a king’s court and then only God will be able to protect you. I have paid the cost for being Shudra today and you will pay the cost for insulting a warrior who was invited by your father to participate in this swayamvar.”

Crowd was mum seeing the intense performance of both the characters. In the next scene, the setup was for the moment when Draupadi was dragged by her hair by Dushashan in the court of Hastinapur after her five-husbands lost her in the game to dice to the crown prince Duryodhan who further instructed his brother to strip her down and place her naked on his lap.

Prem was draped in a white saree from shoulder to knee length like it was mentioned in scriptures. That was the time when his father too got worried as there were some prominent changes in his body that could never be achieved through makeup. Undoubtedly, he was appearing like a young girl. In the play, the character of Dushashan gave best of his endeavor to strip him down, but was not able to.

In between Draupadi looked at Karna for help and he laughed out loudly and said, “Remember Panchali! That day you insulted me by calling me the son of a chariot driver. Look around and see those five husbands of yours standing there like a slave who did not think twice while placing you on bet. At least this Shudra could have never let that happen. And now coming back to the matter to help you. In our ancient scripts, it has been mentioned that a woman who sleeps with more than four men should be considered as a whore and for a whore there is no shame.”

She roared like a lioness and cursed Hastinapur with full vengeance and furious anger, “None of you will be alive in coming future to mock any other women in your lives again. All your generations will be slaughtered like animals in war. And Karna you will see the worst and most insulting death that any warrior will ever witness in history. Yes, history is witnessing this that how you who claim to be a warrior tried to strip down a woman for vengeance.

There was a big round of applaud for such a great performance and many of the spectators were left with tears in their eyes.

By the midnight Mr. and Mrs. Verma got the confirmation that their son was no more a boy. He was operated, and his sex was changed as per his wish and he got his name registered as Krishna-another name of Draupadi. Next morning Mrs. Verma died of cardiac arrest and after few days Mr. Verma left Delhi forever and went to live near a shrine at Gangotri.

Author : Nilesh Ranjan

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