The thirteen years of exile had ended.
The five warrior brothers and their wife, had finally come out of hiding and shown themselves to the world. Having made an attempt at trying to reclaim Indraprastha, that was rightly theirs, yet denied, words of war were soon in the air. The entire Aryavart felt its feet stumbling towards the path of a gruesome end.
In midst of all this, it was hastily decided that the warrior prince Abhimanyu would marry the princess of Matsya, Uttara. So while Duryodhan and his allies were busy making war preparations and gathering army, the Pandavas did not just that but had one last celebration for their beloved brother’s son and his wife, before the inevitable war would begun. They knew they had waited enough and had tried everything to win the respect they deserved but that was shunned at every step. The only way out of this and for the establishment of Dharm all over again, was to fight this war. And they knew it was the only way to avenge what happened on the fateful day of the Dyut Sabha. Draupadi, the instigation behind this step however, had begun to doubt her decisions.
She had to speak to Krishna, and get her emotions right. So while all the royalty indulged in an extravagant feast at the palace of King Virata to celebrate the marraige, Draupadi ventured out into the deserted parts of the castle in order to find her Sakha.
The thoughts in her head would keep her awake at night and at times were so overwhelming that she would become cathartic, not knowing how to release it except to shed a few silent tears. She had to find a solution to this double edged sword that was hanging over her family. And she had to do it before the war was announced.
She finally found Krishna, on the outer aspects of the vast royal garden, staring at the expanse of the city capitol, Bairat that lay ahead. Before she could call out to him, he turned his head and smiled.
He was wearing his favourite pitambara and the peacock feather, that added to his charm, fluttered gently in the evening breeze.
“Sakhi!” He exclaimed. “Why aren’t you at the feast? Abhimanyu would be distraught at not finding his badi-ma there.”
“Hari, could I have a few words with you?” Draupadi said, folding her hands in a namaste.
“What has left you so disturbed, Sakhi?” Krishna asked concerned.
Draupadi smiled weakly. “You always know, don’t you Govind?”
Krishna smiled back encouragingly, asking her to tell him why she had come to meet him.
“All these talks of war. I’m unable to agree with the fact that it’s the right decision.” Draupadi said, with her forehead breaking into creases.
“And why is that?” Krishna asked, his hands plucking a dried leaf from a branch nearby.
“My sons!” Draupadi could feel her voice breaking. “I can’t risk their lives in this war! How can I celebrate now, knowing the grave possibilities that the future holds?”
“The future is always full of conflicts, Sakhi. We can neither control it nor can we predict it. All that we can do is accept it as it comes and live in the moment.” Krishna replied, twirling the old leaf in his fingers.
“But I’m a mother, Govind!” Draupadi cried, the tears now couldn’t be held back anymore. “How can I put them in harms way just to avenge my insult? How is my revenge bigger than their life, Hari?”
“Revenge?” Krishna asked, his voice now stiff.
“This war is not about your insult, Queen Panchali.”
Draupadi looked at him, confused. She could remember the day of Dyut Sabha like it was yesterday. Her blood still boiled when she thought of Dusshasan holding her by her hair and pulling her all the way from her chamber to the Sabha. Duryodhan had gone on to order her to sit on his thighs which she had furiously refused, vowing to become the cause of his death for having uttered those disgusting words. The entire ordeal had finally ended with Dusshasan attempting to disrobe her, which was miraculously foiled.
“What does that-“
“Pardon me, Queen.” Krishna said, his eyebrows now raised in slight irritation. “But this war, is being fought for the establishment of Dharm. I agree, that Brother Bheem has vowed to tear open Dusshasan’s chest and drink his blood. And kill Duryodhan by striking on his thighs. But this war is not going to be an example of something that was done out of revenge. This war is for all the women, who were suppressed under the bad deeds of men like Duryodhan. This war would be an example, and a warning to these men. A cleansing, that is so necessary in this age.”
“I don’t understand, Govind. What about my insult then? What about the hell that I had to witness? Was it my fault?” Draupadi asked, tears welling up in her eyes.
Krishna put his hand on her shoulders and smiled warmly.
“No Sakhi. None of what happened in the Sabha that day was your doing. It was the bad karma of the men who resorted to that heinous act and of those men who refused to speak up for you. Why do you have to compare your life to hell, because of someone else’s actions?”
“What else can I do then, Govind?” Draupadi sighed.
Krishna turned around, looked at the tree, from which he’d just plucked the dry leaf.
“Let go, Sakhi. Let go off your insults. Of your grief, your anger, your lust for revenge. These are the self destructive layers of hell. Renounce your pain and embrace the sufferings of the world as your own. Just like this tree, let go off your old leaves and inhibitions that no longer serve any purpose, and encourage new buds filled with hope and life.”.
Turning around, he continued.
“Fight this war, not for yourself, but for the women all over the world, awaiting justice for the crimes inflicted on them.”
Draupadi remained silent for a while.
“What about my sons?” She asked finally.
Krishna smiled, took her hands in his, and placed the dried leaf in her palm. Closing her hand, he said, “I’ll do one last attempt at peace, Sakhi. One last request in the court of Hastinapur, to avert this war. Since, it’s too risky for Brother Yudhishthira to go there, I’ll do this task myself. But after that, the decision is left to you, Sakhi. It’s left to you; whether you are willing to make this huge sacrifice for the betterment of all, or just stay content in your small world, while on the outside, adharm rages on.”
Saying that much, Krishna walked off.
Draupadi looked long at her closed palm. When she opened it, she found a young leaf, its green veins extending till the edges. And with it, she received her answers.