I AM FEARLESS……..

 

draupadi

The azure blue skies, the soft chirping of the birds, the cool morning breeze peeped into her spacious sun bathed room and vied Iravati to open her eyes. Unlike the last six to seven months, this past one month had been good with Iravati. She had come to term with the situation and come out of it a winner so far. Nowadays, she had fallen into a routine of waking up at five thirty in the morning and after the morning ablutions going for a walk around her father’s green fields, which had come to her by way of ancestral property, as she was the only daughter of her parents. Today also was no different, while taking walk, she was thinking about the prospective visit from either Arjun or .

But it was not as if Iravati Sinha, daughter of the union ministries one of the highest ranking IAS officer Jai Prakash and Maithili Sinha’s daughter lived always in this small, remote village of Bihar. Though Nalanda was a native town of Jai Prakash Sinha, long back he had left it to clear the UPSC exam, and then he never looked back, he found his soul mate in Maithili Sharma who was also struggling to crack the most coveted Indian Public Services exam, especially popular in the state of Bihar more than anywhere else. But once Jai Prakash Sinha cleared the exam and proposed Maithili, she decided to let go her dream and settle with Jai Prakash. Sometimes she did brood over her decision and felt bad that she had let go her dream too easily, but then, something very out of the turn happened with the couple, which brought a major change in their lives. Jai Prakash had to go to Myanmar for some official work and Maithili accompanied him. Once while on a leisurely walk on the bank of the river Iravati, all of a sudden they heard a cry of agony, Maithili rushed towards the sound and found a young woman in labour pain,  with great difficulty Jai Prakash and Maithili took the woman to their cottage and managed to deliver the woman’s baby, they made inquiry in the neighboring tribal village and found out that she was indeed from that village and had come to fill water, they transferred her to her hut with some medicines and clothes for the little angel. But by evening a village elderly woman came with the little crying bundle at Maithili’s doorstep. The old woman told Maithili that the child’s mother is no more and as it is, the child is fatherless. The father had gone to look for a job in the city which nobody from their tribe had done before and now the city had eaten him. Since Maithili delivered the baby, she is her godmother and now should become the baby girl’s real mother. Jai Prakash and Maithili did not agree immediately but became extremely restless at the thought of leaving the child at God’s mercy. The very next day they went to the village and brought home the baby and named her Iravati, as she was found on the banks of Iravati River. Iravati was a very happy child, intelligent looking since childhood but still having a cute charm and zeal to live every moment of the life. This time Maithili made sure to give her daughter lessons of self-reliance, self-respect and most of all importance of independence. Iravati grew up to be a charming lady with a degree in journalism. Her father very much wanted her to appear for the UPSC exam like him, but Iravati had different dreams, she was an avid reader, had immense memory and interest for current affairs and found the world of journalism fascinating. She dreamt of becoming India’s leading Journalist and to eventually start her own news channel which will be completely factual with no inclination towards any political party. She started out as a junior reporter in Delhi’s leading newspaper but soon shifted to television and joined the  well-known news channel ‘Nation Wide’, whose chief editor was India’s one of the most celebrated journalist, ‘Udayan Kashyap’. The day she received her promotion to work in the team of the Editor-in-Chief, her joy knew no bounds. She decided to work hard and impress Kashyap, which the older team mates said was impossible. Kashyap had a fierce image in the media world. A man with a keen eye for news, a completely different perspective to look at a particular news piece, he did lots of research hence he was a hard task master and his team had to do double the work than any other news channel teams. But due to this attitude, a suave persona and command over language, in no time Kashyap’s news channel had jumped the trp’s and had become a channel to reckon with. 

In those days exciting things were happening in the channel office, young college students were taken as interns on a good stipend. So, Arjun a young dynamic DU student joined Kashyap’s team. He knew Ira, as even his grandfather had property in Nalanda and his mother lived there a lot to get new weaves from the local hand-loom weavers, which she use to design and then bring to Delhi to showcase in her little trendy boutique, ‘Saptrang’. But Ira failed to recognize him as she had not been to Nalanda for a long while now. Arjun was easy about it as he thought he will remind her about him when he found it necessary.

Recently Ira had become very busy researching for Kashyap, a sudden influx of refugees who were actually tribes of the jungle areas on the border of Myanmar and India. Eventually, for further investigations, Iravati decided to visit the epic center that is the actual area from where the refugees were coming .When she went there and started exploring and talking with the people of the area she realized that the refugees were not entering the Indian border at their own accord but were driven out by the Myanmar government for an ambitious project which was a joint collaboration between India and Myanmar. On more probing she found out that the project was a nuclear power plant, which the Myanmar government claimed will be used for applied sciences. The close proximity of the Iravati River made it easier for them to generate electricity and throw the waste. Though they said that the waste will be well treated, all the same it was waste in the water which could highly affect the people who used the same water. The government had started extensive deforestation as well.

 Ira came back from Myanmar depressed and tired, when she spoke to her father, she came to know that 23 years back the Myanmar government had given this proposal to the Indian government for which he and two other officers had gone to do survey of the area. When her father saw the virgin forests and the tribes living there, he had given a negative report of not utilizing that forest area for the purpose. They also reminded her that in that very same trip they had brought her home. Now he thought the file must have resurfaced in the present carpetbagger’s government and some new breed of IAS officers with no qualms for what so ever must be helping the government on this project. The only problem was that the Indian government had not perceived that the tribes would enter Indian border and were now crying hoarse that the Myanmar government is not looking after its own people. Her father and mother tried to dissuade her from getting involved as the issue seemed too dangerous; calling the people conspiratorial like the shrewd Shakuni from Mahabharata. But Iravati didn’t bog down; she always had this deep down yearning to spend time in her birth land, to see the majestic river on which she was named. Soon she went back to Myanmar and started probing deep into the issue. She actually felt pain to see the torture of the innocent jungle people, the virgin forests and the beautiful Iravati.

 One day, all of a sudden she received a call from Kashyap to come back to India; he explained that he had other more important work chalked out for her. Iravati felt betrayed, she denied, begged Kashyap to give her some more time and she will be at the bottom of the case. But Kashyap behaved unreasonable and shouted badly at Ira.  Ira felt anchor less, hurt and felt very lonely. She felt suffocated and decided to walk down to the small hamlet where few tribal families still somehow lived. She enjoyed spending some time with them, they were always welcoming. The children were smart but still innocent. After an hour or so she bid them goodbye and started walking back to her hotel room, when all of a sudden someone pushed her roughly on the ground and gagged, blindfolded and tied her. After a long dark, directionless bumpy ride, she felt she is in a dark damp place. From nowhere, all of a sudden she felt a musky breath near her neck and a raspy voice threatened her; and all the while lecherous hands touched her everywhere, when she tried to get away from those snake hands, the voice laughed poisonously and slithered on her, she kicked him and tried to move away from him as far as possible and all of a sudden she realized there is no land under her, she is flying and in a short while with a huge splash, the river embraced her.

 She was rescued by some villagers and managed to survive and get back home. She contacted her office, where she came to know that this issue has been dropped by Kashyap. Her assault is also treated with utmost secrecy, she just received one call from Kashyap who assured her that her attackers will be caught soon and according to his theory Iravati’s attackers were surely the tribal people who must be working for the foreign company who are spearheading the project. Iravati didn’t say anything as she had already understood what Kashyap was. She decided to pursue the case on her own, she took a long sick leave, which Kashyap readily gave her, she didn’t breathe a word to her parents but readily agreed to her parent’s suggestion to go away from the metro and stay for a while at their farm house in Nalanda.

 To her great surprise the young intern Arjun, reintroduced himself to be her childhood neighbor from Nalanda and her best friend from channel Satya,   both decided to help her. She wanted to make her case full proof, for that she was ready for a long wait, Arjun and Satya use to make discreet visits to Nalanda. In one such visit, Arjun told her that Kashyap is knee deep involved in this case and he was almost sure that he was the one who had threatened and almost killed her. Ira had her own suspicions about Kashyap; but now with Arjun’s words she was sure. That night she cried her pillow wet, but the next morning her resolve was made and Arjun could see calm and composed Ira after a long time.

Six months had passed and the three of them felt that they had all the required ammunition to make this case public knowledge but Arjun felt that a right avenue and right amount of impact should be made or else they had no chance to stand in front of the big weights. After a long discussion and deliberation Arjun came up with a great idea; a drama in the DU fest. According to him all the required big weights that is the ministers, police officers, leading journalists will be invited. He took on himself to write the script, convince the actors for the script and of course some part was a complete surprise for everybody.

He rushed back to Delhi; all the time convincing his friends on his way and was getting ready for the rehearsals when his mother walked into the room as he was about to apply her new lipstick. She was startled. He was startled. “What are you doing with my lipstick? Its 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………. Rehearsal starts this evening.” Oh Mama!  Don’t look at me like this, I am not what you are thinking right now about. “Ma wasn’t Arjun a Purna Purush but still became Bruhanadda with panache and taught dance to the princess Uttara. I am going to be Draupadi and help Ira finish the Kauravas.” At these words Revati was awestruck and assured her son, “I don’t mind if what you call…. straight or not, I am proud of you anyways.” He laughed and hugged her. “And Ma I hope you don’t mind giving me your beautiful weaved saris for the vastraharan.” Revati also laughed out loud and lovingly applied her new lipstick on her son’s sensuous lips.

On the D-day Ira was feeling as if there are craters forming in her stomach. She took a morning flight from Patna Airport for Delhi and reached her parents place around 11.00 am. Immediately, she went to Delhi University Auditorium to watch Arjun and party rehearse. It was coming out very well; now she just prayed that Kashyap should be present. At 6.00 pm Ira became ready to leave home, she was wearing the mustard yellow Bavan Butti gifted to her by Revati aunty, she had put a big maroon colour bindi and left her long wavy hair open, she had a matching string purse with her, which she checked carefully for the essentials. She touched her parent’s feet and hugged them and then left her childhood home.

The DU cultural fest was inaugurated by the Prime minister of India, one by one the programs got over, and the audience was clapping enthusiastically. It was the moment when the comparers announced for the next program of the evening which was a drama based on Mahabharata from the point of view of the Pandava queen Draupadi. The drama was named ‘Katha: Draupadi’. There was a huge, dark poster of Draupadi with open hair and haunting eyes looking at the audience.

The drama started with a husky voice speaking as Draupadi, narrating her own story. Starting with Draupadi as a young child out of the Yagna, Draupadi :the young bride at the swayamwar, then Draupadi the maharani helping the Pandava princes in establishing the empire, and lastly Draupadi warning her husband’s not to go for the game of dice. Though the Indian audience know Draupadi’s story, due to the heart rending narration and the beautiful screenplay they were really engrossed. Then the scene of the Dyut sabha came to life and the audience really felt sorry for the Pandava prince’s for their naivetés and for Draupadi who was bound with her husband’s destiny and had to suffer. Arjun the actor as Draupadi came on the stage dragged by Dushasan, he was acting with finesse. Showing the struggle to get free, calling all the husbands and elders for help, and then when realized the futility, calling Krishna in all earnestness and might. Now the audience could here Krishna’s jaap as the background music and from nowhere The Draupadi voice over started speaking something else. The screen at the back, all of a sudden came to life. The audience could see the jungles of Myanmar, the refugee houses being burned down and many more such miserable things. Initially they were confused but soon they came to know that they are witness to a grand scandal which is being opened.

 One could see beads of perspiration trickling on the VIP foreheads, they tried to send their stooges to stop the video but nobody could find out from where it was being played. A waiter realizing their plight, brought water for all of them, hungrily they gulped down the drops of life in one go. After keeping down the glass with some resolve, Kashyap slipped out quietly before one could hear the police siren making its presence felt. He half ran half walked towards his car and was fumbling with his keys; when she came in front of him. He was stunned and tried to evade her, but she wouldn’t move.  All of a sudden he staggered and puked red all over the place and fell down, she watched him convulsing like a fish out of water with amusement, and then with great satisfaction she laughed out loud while tying her hair into a neat braid.

Aftermath:

Ira is sitting with Arjun near the fireplace enjoying the winter evening, while watching news on television. She sighed and kept her head on his shoulder and kissed his sensuous lips with great flourish,” this was not possible Arjun without you.” Arjun held her in his arms and kissed her passionately and whispered,” For every Draupadi in this world there is an Arjun Ira.”

 

By Anuradha S. Singh

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