Spirituality and Mythology

It is you who defines me the most: Karna’s love letter to Draupadi

He couldn't win her at the Swayamvar but had to watch from the sidelines for ever after
Draupadi vastraharan

Yajnaseni,

A letter that I will never send to you. But would love to believe that you know about it, nevertheless.

That day when a social networking site asked me to choose my ‘relationship status’, it took me aback. Which relationship is that, one that defines me, that spells out my identity, my self? Is it that wife, who is dutiful enough to play a wife and sensitive enough to not demand a husband of me, or that mother who loves me so or the one who leaves me so, or you? Really, is it you who defines me most? I’m afraid it’s you. And I swear, ‘it’s complicated!’

We have some uncanny similarities, don’t we?

For one, our families are the same. The Pandavas. And neither of us ever belonged, in a real sense. But again, how different we are in that. I’ve always yearned to live a life there, where my heart always belonged since the day I knew of it, with the worthiest of the brothers that a man can ever have. How much you had to give up, in your heart and your soul, to live there, to kill your sensibilities, to play wife to five brothers, to surrender and to not say a word.

spirituality and mythology

Related reading: When your spouse isn’t your best friend

They call me a true Kshatriya. Just because I bore the pain of an insect drilling in to me, and didn’t move. They don’t know what a true Kshatriya means. They don’t know what courage it takes to not tell that your father that you aren’t a trophy to be won in an archery contest. To not tell a mother-in-law that you’re no property to be distributed to avoid sibling rivalry. That to get you is not to own you. That you cannot be given away, only your company can be earned. So you oblige. So you cook, and dress up and entertain. And so you mate. With whoever they ask you to mate with. To not tell them you don’t care enough to disobey. To not tell them that they are wrong, and to not tell them that you gave up fury for forgiveness.

They say God could not be everywhere and so He made mothers. Is that why He got Radha for me, and saved me from the wrath of Kunti? If only that woman knew that the biggest mistake she ever made wasn’t giving birth to me, but choosing to come to me to make a deal, than sending you. She told me she can get you to belong to me, that I can lay claim to you, being the eldest of her sons.

She’ll never know how I have always belonged to you, all my life. And that you never really belonged to any of her sons in the way she presumed.

I want you to know this. That I love you. For being yourself. For forgiving them, for they don’t know what they have done to you. For letting the world chant hymns in praise of the stalwarts of Hastinapur, as you’d never tell them they’re actually not worth a dime. For loving Arjuna, the worthiest enemy I could ever have. And so I love you all the more.

krishna dropadi
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But I hate you too, Yajnaseni. For all the same reasons. For wasting your life. For compromising. For giving up so easily. For giving your virginity, first, to the very cowardliest of the lot. For dedicating all your youth and your beauty to the grime of the Indraprastha kitchen. For not giving a damn in being used. For not caring to seek what you were worthy of. And finally, for sacrificing your sons to the unworthiest of the causes, and without a sigh. How could you be so indifferent, Yajnaseni? How could you not feel a thing?

And I pity you. For a life like yours so ill spent.

While it’s your grace that you forgave, it’s a disgrace that you didn’t find your equal.

You married five but didn’t find one husband you could belong to, who you could both trust and love. I pity you that you could never stop loving Arjuna. Knowing well that neither did he love you back, nor did he deserve your love. And I pity you that you could never get yourself to love Bhima, the only brother I stand proud of, till today. It’s a shame that there was not one single man who stood up and killed Duhshashan for touching you, or the unpardonable Yudhisthira, even before that. I pity you that you couldn’t, at that point, throw everything aside and come to me. Alone and fearless. Because you’ve known me deep inside. Known that you could come to me. Anytime.

You got everything that I could also have had. And what I can never have.

And at this moment of confession, let me also tell you how I always envied you. Because you lived your life where I could not. Because you could touch Bhishma’s feet and seek his blessings, whenever you needed to. Because you always had a shoulder to weep on, that most dependable friend, Krishna.

Related reading: For the Love of Krishna

It’s funny that we saw each other just twice in our lives. Once when you humiliated me at the Swayamvar, enough for me to wish to die. And once when I gave that right back to you. Not moving an inch but watching you being disrobed. Watching you look at me for help. That glance that only I understood. I’m glad you didn’t consider me to marry. I couldn’t bear living a life with you, to discover the reflection of each and every of my vices and virtues in another body, another soul. “You are more myself than I am!” Because I don’t love myself, let me love you. And let the distance be. Stay away, my goddess.

I can never be,

yours, truly!

Karna

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20 Comments

  1. Woah!!! What a lovely read and more!! A different conceptual thought, would love to see many more like this or may be a different angle yet.

  2. This is so beautifully written…loved it…I have always thought about this mystery…..and then there is another pair too Parashurama and Anamika……!!

  3. And yet, what I can not have was my choice. Despite the entreaties of Krishna, with you thrown in as the biggest temptation, among other things, it was my loyalty to my wives who didn’t demand a husband of me that stayed my hand.

  4. This is beautiful. So well written and every word so aptly used. I can feel tears welling up in my eyes because I have always loved these two characters and have cried at their incomplete lives.

  5. Very interesting starting from how Draupadi is addressed in this letter. Not Panchali, not Draupadi, not Krish na – it’s Yajnaseni. Her name itself came from seeking and praying to have her into a mortal life with a purpose. Very well written and well touched upon. Loved it.

    1. Don’t you wonder why, despite having such a worthy name, she was mostly called by other names defined on identities of relationships? What pity!

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