“What emotion will I face today,” is a thought which always crosses my mind, as I return from office and await my daughter to open the door. It mostly alternates between joy, an eagerness and impatience to share something good, an ask for something promised, complaints, anger etc., but seldom sorrow. Today, it was a sense of sadness. When probed, she said “I feel sad for the girl, what happened to her?”
She was referring to Asifa, whose case had been flashed incessantly on television and which she happened to see fleetingly. Of the same age group and not really understanding what had actually happened, all she had was a perception of something bad having been done. I had no answers for her, neither did I want to think about it. I had gone through my moments of shock and trauma just reading about the horrific incident during the day. And I knew it was something that would give nightmares to me and all mothers with little girls. But, then what can I do about it? Write posts on social media condemning the issue? light candles? do half day fasts after a heavy breakfast? shout on top of my voice in television and public forums? Will any of these make any difference or would my voice be considered significant enough? I didn’t know and possibly didnt want to think about it at that moment. I felt it more important to divert the mind of my daughter and settled down in bed to read her a story.
We continued with our daily reading of the Mahabharata. We were in the chapter where Draupadi is abused, molested and humiliated in Dhritarashtra’s court. A significant incident in Mahabharata, but not something which makes for pleasurable reading. Also, I had to think ways of translating the incident with appropriate modifications of the horrors inflicted on Draupadi to make it palatable to an 8-year-old girl. Chapter reading complete, my dotty bursts out “I hate Dhritarashtra.” I didn’t get her, “But why hate Dhritarashtra? It was his sons who did all bad things!” “That’s because he was blind and didn’t stop them from doing wrong,” she replied.
Hmmm…may be she had a point. But then, Dhritarashtra’s blindness of sight was not his real handicap. Born through the grace of Sage Vyasa, he was endowed with a lot many kingly qualities of intelligence, strength, discipline, knowledge and more. The only thing which severely discredited him as a ruler was the sightlessness of his mind. His overwhelming bias towards his sons clouded his mind against his responsibilities as a ruler. Yes, he did return one half of the kingdom to the Pandavas and did express regret for the shameful incidents. But that was only after a collective court advised him to and that too to protect his sons from ignominy. But, this gesture was again short lived. It did not take his conniving sons and brother-in-law to make him get the Pandavas back to the gambling board. Talk about FAKE emotions. And what were the women in the court doing all this while? Frankly, there was only one woman in a position of power to make her voice heard. That was Gandhari, the blind-folded mother of the Kauravas. But even though she was shaken by the immoral transgression, she kept silent till the time there were ominous omens indicating the downfall of her sons. She did finally plead for redemption of Draupadi’s honour, but maybe even at that moment she was more concerned about her sons welfare. The same Gandhari did not hesitate to speak out and berate Krishna at a later date on the Kurukshetra battleground, on seeing the battleground carpeted with bodies of the dead and hearing the wails of the widows of the slain. She was then most vocal and concerned about what would happen to the wives of the dead.
Centuries and ages have passed since the incidents of the Mahabharata (real or mythical). Our country in its present contours derives its lingual name, Bharat, from the great epic. We are poised in an age of impeccable advancements in all fields, coupled with changes in social and political norms. And yet, it seems as though nothing has really changed. We are still ruled by a Dhritarashtra, who finds it very difficult to speak out and contain the misdeeds of his beloved kinsmen and has Gandharis in his court who speak out only when their king allows them to.
So, no matter what I or others like me do for Asifa, nothing may really change till the leader leads the call for justice from the front, takes prompt and strict action against the perpetrators and most important, treats all subjects without differentiation based on his personal leanings and preferences. And when that happens, Dhritarashtra will no longer be reviled for his blindness. And if he is unable to rise to the occasion, he would do well to remember that, no one remembers Dhritarashtra for his rule, though he may well have done some good as well. All they remember is his silence and blind support of sons which led to their eventual downfall. And in all probability, than present would happen one day times too. Dhritarashtra will eventually be replaced by a Yudhistra some day in future. And that’s when, there would be no more Asifas.
Rest in peace, Asifa and hopefully in a better world than where we are now.