Draupadi – the name and the shame

 

My mum while recalling her kindergarten years yesterday,  in particular an episode on how the little tots like her were peculiarly punished, she happened to mention the nursery teacher’s name which was a bit strange. However, what was even stranger was the name of the nursery teacher’s sister – Draupadi.

In the nearly four decades of my life with a good proportion of it being spent in three all girls’ school across the Indian states, I have not heard any girl with the name Draupadi.  For those not familiar with Indian epic and mythology and hence with the name Draupadi, it is of a queen from Mahabharta who went on to marry not one, but five brothers. She didn’t marry them out of choice but out of a situation on which she had no control on. She was pre-destined to marry the five valiant princes who later on went on to fight their 100 evil step brothers and reclaim their lost kingdom. So what is wrong with her name? There was nothing evil about her. She was a good daughter, sister, wife and queen. So what shrugs people, including me, from hearing someone named Draupadi? It is the story attached to her. When you think of her, you think of a woman with five husbands which of course means, sleeping with five men (sowhat if it was lawful) and of course we relate her with another disastrous episode from the epic: ‘cheer haran’ – i.e. being disrobed and that too in the royal court after her up-righteous  husbands (though human and filled with faults and we happily name our boys after them) lose her in gambling to their step brothers!  So for no fault of hers and despite having a ‘good’ character she is looked down upon with shame. How typical and in modern lines of getting raped and then having to feel ashamed about it. This is how it was centuries ago and sadly, continues to remain so even now! And then we talk about advancements. Advancements that have occurred only in science and technology. Ever heard of moral advancements?

Mythologies around the world are filled with characters with a dubious biography. But sadly Draupadi got chastened for no fault of hers! Luckily for Sita, she was a mere suspect and she passed the purity test! So we have millions of Sita around us. Suspects score better than victims.

I will be lying if I say that I will not be getting ideas if I come across someone named Draupadi. Deep-rooted myths and culture. Whatever I understand of it. Sad but true.

 

(pic courtesy: https://rrgwrites.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/women-of-india.jpeg)

 

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An ode to our home-grown Disney store

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So for all those who enjoyed reading or watching Indian mythology like me as a child or as a grown up and wished that they were transported to the ancient magical world where they would come across holy saints and mystics who would offer you from nowhere a mysterious potion containing fresh herbs from the jungles to cure you of your just about any ailment then you would realize that this has finally turned into a reality! Transportation is of course still faraway from turning in a reality but the rest mentioned above all exists…with a little alterations. The ancient setting has been modified to suit the modern environment.  The magical saint that you would have met then can now be only seen on the posters and boards of his stores as you step in. Welcome to Baba Ramdev’s world of magical products – both edible and non.

Patanjali: a grown-up’s Disney store.  My eyes glitter as soon as I step into any Patanjali store across the country.  It is akin to a child entering a Disney store. Both take you to the happy world of magic from where you can take back home one or several pieces of magic, of course at a price. The two differences being that a Disney store has expensive merchandise and its merchandise only brings you imaginative pleasure. Patanjali products whereas, assure you of magical results. Name any body part from head to toe– internal or external- which is  a source of concern for you! And there you go, you will find a remedy! A one-stop shop for all your health and beauty problems. And instead of the label at the back of the product spelling out the chemicals used in its ingredients, this one has the names of herbs! And boy, don’t you feel organic!

So when a friend asked me recently where she could get fresh wheat grass from, I thought it was a very absurd question! She should have known! Oh yes, they have a clinic too.

This is hoping that it continues to remain like this forever – an affordable magic store for one and all. Why just a child, even grown-ups should believe in magic.

(My 10-year old daughter just read this above and asked me if I have been paid to write this! It now sounds as if it is a paid writing but No, this is just an overgrown child who still believes in magic! And my daughter, she has finally grown up! 🙂 )

(image courtesy: http://annroth.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/magic-hat.jpg)

 

Painting cruelty with softness

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I have been at a loss of verbs (pun, yes!) looking for, as my client asked, a ‘softer’ replacement. I have been wondering what words can be soft for acts that are outright cruel. So if the villainous king kills babies by throwing them against the prison wall, how can you tone the sentence down without losing the essence of the story?

I was recently given a writing assignment where I had to rewrite Lord Krishna’s life story for the reading of children starting as young as five. And in times such as ours when even calling someone fat (who is naturally so) is formally incorrect, imagine writing on Krishna’s life without having to use all those forbidden words is next to impossible. Just like writing on any mythology from around the world. They are full of acts committed by good and bad people alike such as deceit, murder, rape and all that is agreeably heinous.

So how far should you really go to tone down a mythological story for an extremely young audience? Yes, Lord Krishna as a child loved to ‘steal’ buttermilk from his neighbours’ houses. As he grew up, he loved to ‘flirt’ with village girls and the other characters in his story line, like his uncle ‘killed’ babies upon babies by ‘bashing’ them against the prison walls searching for the correct baby. His adopted sister was ‘dragged’ to the royal court when her ‘5’ husbands lost her, along with their kingdom in ‘gambling’. They tried to ‘disrobe’ her. So in short, what you have here is stealing, flirting, killing, bashing, gambling, selling your spouse and a near-rape. Now all this makes an interesting read for story-lovers but toning it down for little children! Yes, you want them to read mythologies as early as possible and without telling them that the good characters too indulge in acts that are absolutely unacceptable. How do you do it?

I couldn’t. Yes stealing was replaced by ‘took’. But the softer verb ‘took’ changed the real meaning, right? I changed the word bashing to flinging though that was also not happily accepted by my client. I left it on him to find a softer word. My mum suggested an adverb to bring down the impact, ‘casually throw’.  I think it is as horrendous as merely flinging. The uncle was anyway throwing the babies in a fit of rage! And disrobing the dress was replaced by pulling. They all sound equally bad! Why would you want to pull someone’s dress!

Never having read on child psychology I find it difficult to apprehend on how a child gets affected while reading or watching something he or she really shouldn’t.  All of us, including children, are different. We react differently to a particular situation. My daughter, who is ten, read an article in the newspaper nearly a year ago on how two babies died in a car due to heat as their negligent parent locked them inside the car while he/she shopped for hours. Every time when she feels hot, she is STILL reminded of that incident and talks about it. Yester night, she remembered about it when she felt warm after she had taken the quilt! She just has that episode stuck in her head and no matter how hard I try,  I fail to explain things to her.  And this is factual news that she read in the newspaper, so I can’t even tell her that it is just a fabrication or she shouldn’t be reading such news.  This is how she is and not all other kids of her age are like her. Some will glance through the news, some will go deep and some won’t even bother reading! But who is learning what and when is a very subjective matter.

So my two bits, be truthful (ok, you don’t have to give vivid details) and have a disclaimer in the beginning. After all, a very young child is not expected to read/watch without his parent around! A parent is the best judge to tell if a specific story containing all these unacceptable episodes is fit for his or her child or not. But, leave the story alone. Especially mythology.

(image courtesy: http://www.cliparthut.com)