News of the slaying of ten Kaurava brothers had reached the Pandava camp before Bhimasena did. He marched into the tent and gestured everyone to leave. His face looked like that of a lion which just finished a sumptuous meal – smeared in the blood of its prey. He carried with him the femur bone of the last Kaurava brother he killed. The last drops of blood still dripped from the flesh clinging to the bone. He held it aloft like a trophy and proclaimed, “This is for you my queen”
Draupadi was sitting on the edge of her bed. She wore simple clothes. She wore no jewelry. Even while sitting she seemed a tall woman. Her hair was so long it almost touched the ground when she sat. But it was unkempt. It looked like it hadn’t been washed in years. She lifted her head when Bhimasena spoke. She looked stunning even in such simple clothes. She was dark complexioned with well defined facial features but her face betrayed the pain and suffering she had endured for the past fourteen years. Her anguish showed in the question she asked the second of Kunti’s sons: “Did you finally kill Dusshasana? Have you finally brought respite to my hair? Tell me O Bhimasena. Is the one non-Pandava that dared touch me finally dead?”
His silence answered her question.
“They call you the mightiest Pandava. They call you son of the wind because nothing can stop your fury. They say you can single-handedly down trees and buildings. You have slain the mightiest people in the world with your bare hands. Yet you come in here empty handed. That bone in your hand does not mean anything to me if it does not belong to that evil brother of Duryodhana.”
Bhimasena’s pride vanishes in the matter of seconds. He had strutted in proudly expecting a congratulatory reception.
“Bhimasena, of all my husbands you were the one that protected my pride. During the gambling match you were the one that stood up for me. You proclaimed you would break Duryodhana’s thigh and drink Dusshasana’s blood. You were the one that killed Keechaka in that dance chamber that night. But here you are, boasting the death of a weak prince. You should be ashamed of yourself. This bone you show me is that of a dog – an opponent unworthy of you. The smile will return on my face only when you kill that scum Dusshasana.”
The words stung Bhimasena. He realizes that nothing could satisfy this bloodthirsty woman.
“What have you become O beautiful daughter of Drupada? Do you realize this war is being fought because of you? Even if I hate the Kauravas, even if I completely disagree with Yudhishtir about letting the Kauravas give us just five villages, I would still not fight this war if I had a choice. Do you know how destructive a war is? You women folk sit in your grand palaces served upon by your fawning attendants. It’s not a choice for us warriors. We have to go kill people or be killed. We kill people we do not even know. These ten brothers I killed today, I do not remember ever seeing them, ever talking to them. They are my cousins. They share the same blood that I do. They were royals. Yet, now they lie disfigured and mangled up on a piece of land soaked with blood. We could have avoided this. But you! You wanted death and destruction. Your are only obsessed with the extinction of the Kuru dynasty. Even before the war started you went up to your brother Krishna and told him to jeopardize his peacemaking. Maybe if you were willing to forget and forgive…”
Draupadi’s countenance changes instantly on hearing those two words. She stands up and walks towards the window, facing away from her husband. Tears roll down her beautiful face. She looks blankly into the azure sky as if trying to remember something. She turns back to address her accuser calmly.
“Forget and forgive. Kunti’s son! Do you know what you just said?”
She grabs her tresses and flips them to the front. Then she asks him a direct question.
“You have been with many women in your life. How many have you grabbed by their hair?”
Bhimasena is stunned into silence.
“Do you know why women take care of their hair more than any other part of their body? The hair represents life. Strands of hair fall off and regrow. It depicts the resilience of life, as we know it. It embodies the circle of life – of death and rebirth. Grabbing a person – man or woman – by hair is not just an insult to that person’s external beauty. It’s an insult to life. It shows you have no respect for the human race. More so when you do it to a woman. The female of any species – human or animal – is the key to the continuation of that species. Dusshasana is not a moor to be ignorant of that. Moreover he grabbed me at my most private moment. In our culture we value women. We worship them. By barging into my quarters and seizing me, Duryodhana’s pet brother showed contempt to women – the life bearers. If I forgive him, future generations will think it is fine to be irreverent towards us. Disrespect for the female will end up destroying life on earth. If our descendants have to honor women like our ancestors did, the person that did this to me has to die. I am not unaware of the perils of war my dear Bhimasena. I know this war will consume every person here. I might lose my own children. Maybe even one of you. But I am willing to offer that sacrifice for the benefit of women for generations to come. Let this be a lesson to anyone insulting womanhood that the result is horrifying death. There can be forgiveness for mistakes, not for contempt”
Bhimasena is aghast at the end of this articulation. All this time he was under the impression Draupadi wanted revenge for the treatment meted out to her. This line of reasoning leaves him awestruck. He is unable to utter a word. He turns back and slowly walks towards his waiting chariot, leaving behind sobs of despair in the tent.