Spirituality and Mythology

How could Dushyant forget Shakuntala after having loved her so passionately?

Even though the poet provided several excuses for his behaviour, the fact remains that Dushyant was the original ghost (ghoster?) of relationships
Kalidas

When you’re too cowardly to break up face to face

If you are checked in to the modern-day dating scenario and you haven’t heard of ghosting, then either you are way past the age of a millennial or you are plain lucky to have escaped it.

Ghosting is when a person drops out of a relationship and vanishes completely without a word or reasons for breakup. With the onset of Tinder and other dating apps, online relationships are getting simpler. So what was once a dreaded event – the breakup – does not even figure in the scheme of things in a relationship anymore.

Whenever I heard Kalidasa’s version of the story of Dushyant-Shakuntala, I kept wondering to how Dushyant could forget Shakuntala after having loved her so passionately. After making countless promises of love and assurances to return, he disappeared without a word.

Related reading: Wedded at church, three children; yet husband left me

The excuses of the curse and the ring

Much before Durvasa could curse Shakuntala, Dushyant had forgotten about her, because he was a king and he had a kingdom to run which was obviously more important than the promises he had made in some lust-driven moment to a maiden of the forest, the fringes of the kingdom which may clearly be symbolic of the fringes of his mind. Shakuntala was always there but at the periphery of a memory that Dushyant chose to ignore.

Obviously as a writer, Kalidasa loved all his characters and so to absolve Dushyant of the guilt, he added Durvasa’s curse as a narrative device. But even the curse of memory loss became Shakuntala’s responsibility. Because she ignored the calls of Rishi Durvasa at her doorstep, he cursed her that whoever she was lovelorn for would forget about her. Of course, it was her fault for hanging on to a promise that was made in a moment of passion. And when she landed at Dushyant’s court with his son Bharata, she was ridiculed as a liar.

Dushyant , Shakuntala, and bharat
Image source

Then there is the narrative device of the ring that Dushyant had given Shakuntala before parting. As a result of the curse, Shakuntala lost her ring in the sea and years later, it was discovered by a fisherman in the stomach of a fish. Recognising it to be a royal ring, the fisherman went to Dushyant and as soon as he set eyes on it, his memory came flooding back and he was reunited with Shakuntala and his son in a happily-ever-after.

Related reading: How Devayani saved Kacha from death thrice but still he didn’t love her

Modern excuses to ghost someone

What is interesting is that these external circumstances like the ring and the curse find resonance in modern-day problems. The person who ghosts may be ‘busy’ with work or with life in general and obviously does not feel the need to reconnect with the other person, who is left in doubt and ambiguity and lack of closure.

This may well be acceptable (not really) if you have been involved with someone purely in an online relationship, because it ends where it begins – on text.

This may well be acceptable (not really) if you have been involved with someone purely in an online relationship, because it ends where it begins – on text.

But it can be quite painful if you were in a relationship, whether emotional or sexual and one fine day, the other person disappears, leaving you high and dry, not even considering you worthy of a breakup.

When Imtiaz Ali started the trend of celebrating a breakup with Deepika Padukone and Saif Ali Khan’s Love Aaj Kal, he couldn’t have known that the millennials would completely overlook that step and hop, skip and jump to a point where breakup was not needed. I say millennials, because I hope that men and women over 25 have the emotional maturity to man up and woman up to break up to a person’s face.

Related reading: How to break up with a guy nicely?

Breaking up and healing and starting again

Even the breakup song in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is a modern day ode to the breakup. The girl explains the entire process that follows. When the tears dry, she goes to the parlour and gets a makeover. She reaches out to her forgotten friends and meets them to bandage a broken heart. She burns the pictures of her ex, and with friends by her side, she heals.

spirituality and mythology

I wonder what Shakuntala’s ways of healing were. Perhaps nature came to her rescue, and the inevitable passage of time that makes things hurt less and less.

The only time ghosting is acceptable is if you are dealing with a psycho, a stalker who refuses to take ‘No’ for an answer and if you have talked openly multiple times but have miserably failed.

In all other circumstances, breaking up to a person’s face offers closure. That’s the least respect you can offer the other person with whom you have shared meals, conversations and a bed. Trust me, it will help both of you.

But then, of course, who needs emotions when we can go through this world window-shopping and hopping, skipping and jumping to the next person who comes along?

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12 Comments

  1. Few months back one of my closest friends got cheated somewhat in a way as Dushyant. The guy claimed to love her, made her feel loved, and she got to know about his engagement with another girl only two days before, and that too from social media! And his marriage followed after 15 days. This shook her to the core. And what pains her the most is, how can a person becomes simply indifferent to her entire existence just after she confronts him with the truth! I guess, being Dushyant is not a matter of myth only. There’s no darth of such modern Dushyants.

      1. Yes. She is doing good. Actually better than ever before. Because, such a closure when accompanied with the ones who really love you and see the light in you brings you closer to that part of yours that you have never paused to acknowledge. If i keep it short, there’s one thing i have wanted her to do- to be her own home , and that’s precisely what she has been doing. And i am absolutely proud of her for the woman she is, and the woman she chooses to be. 🙂

          1. Thank you 🙂 And may you find the light within and may the fire inside you burns brighter than the fire around you. Amen. 🙂

  2. The painful truth of today. We, who are not the 90’s kids and even who are act so immature that it sometimes feels like tearing apart. And yes the real part is it ends where it has started… texting. It expresses te inevitable truth of today.

  3. Totally agreed!

    My experience: I broke up with my boyfriend over phone whom I dated for a year. I know I shouldn’t have done it this way but then we were in different countries and it was just not possible for me to meet him but then he wanted to meet and sort out the things. Actually it was me who did not want to confront and this was really bad. And we never met. I still have that guilt, I don’t know how will I react if we meet anytime in future.

    So, yes, breaking up to a person’s face offers closure

  4. I belong to the the group who didn’t know what ghosting was 😝🙈🙄😬…chalo now I know… Sigh…we humans have simply forgotten the simple value of respecting ourselves and others…I hope everyone gets this point across. It’s brilliant by the way!

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