When your spouse isn’t your best friend

draupadi

There are retellings a-plenty of all the well-loved epics in the world. Mythological epics lend themselves brilliantly to myriad forms and their content, to countless interpretations.

Click here to read about Lord Shiva and Parvati who show was what showing up for your partner means. 

The Mahabharata, by Ved Vyas, is one such epic that has seen innumerable retellings and interpretations not just in the country of its origin, but all over the world. One of the more recent versions is Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Palace of Illusions, a feminist retelling of the beloved epic, narrated by Draupadi herself.

Click here to read about the unconventional wedlock of Pradyumna and Mayavati. 

Draupadi: Born of fire; of her father’s thirst for revenge. Of such exceptional beauty that men would do anything to have her; to avenge her. She, of the five husbands, yet so alone and unprotected at her most vulnerable time. She, who craved blood and destruction. And got it. And paid for it too.

Click here to read Karna’s love letter to Draupadi. 

I won’t delve too much into the craftsmanship of the book. It’s by Divakaruni. She is a gifted storyteller. Of that, there is no doubt, no contest.

As a book, a story, The Mahabharata had captured my imagination from my very first reading of it as a little girl. It is to my mind, without a doubt, the greatest story ever told and I read many, many versions. The BR Chopra mega-serial cemented the love further. And it was this love that spurred me towards Divakaruni’s rendering.

Click here to read: Nalayani was cursed to be re-born as Draupadi because..

Draupadi always fascinated me. Everything about her, from the circumstances of her birth to her swayamvar, to her polyandrous marriage, to her humiliation and thirst for revenge. How a queen lived in the forest and then as a servant to another queen. Who did she love best? How did she know who fathered her children? How could she stand it? Where did she get her strength? Was revenge worth it in the end?

Click here to read about a modern Draupadi, loving two men with consent.

Years ago, I was fortunate enough to catch one of the last few performances of theatre doyenne Saoli Mitra’s acclaimedNatboti Anatboti, a dramatic account of Draupadi’s life, in Draupadi’s voice. I never looked at Bheem or Arjun in quite the same way again.

Click here to read: For the love of Krishna

And it is thanks to this book that I will never look at the relationship between Krishna and Draupadi in the manner that I used to; simply put, as that between Protector and ‘protectee’.

Krishna. The Eternal Lover. The Eternal Protector. The Eternal Guide, Guard and Guardian. The Eternal Friend.Chirosakhaa.

Click here to read why Krishna’s Satyabhama may have been a seasoned feminist. 

He was Draupadi’s one true North. Her guiding star, her companion, her moral compass. He was her sounding board and shoulder to cry on. He was, in plain and simple, modern-day terms, her BFF. Best. Friend. Forever.

Click here to read: Here is the story of what happened to Radha after Krishna left her.

when-your-spouse-isnt-your-best-friend
When your spouse is not your best friend

“When I thought myself abandoned, he was busy supporting me – but so subtly that I often didn’t notice. He loved me even when I behaved in a most unlovable manner. And his love was totally different from every other love in my life. Unlike them, it didn’t expect me to behave in a certain way. It didn’t change into displeasure or anger or even hatred if I didn’t comply. It healed me…Krishna’s love was a balm, moonlight over a parched landscape.”

Related reading: Why did I need so many emotional connections outside marriage?

While the idea of this friendship is both beautiful and very plausible to me, it’s also very sad.

It’s sad how a woman with five husbands couldn’t make a connection with any of them beyond that of husband and wife. Their ties were dictated and governed by the laws of marriage. However, so it is for us all. After the garlands, the rings, the pandits, priests and maulvis; after the holy fire, the witnesses, the pronouncements; after the finery and the first night…then it all becomes about the two people involved (okay, in Draupadi’s case it was little more complicated).

Click here to read: Krishna and Rukmini- how his wife was a lot bolder than women today. 

But my point is, after the rituals and the diktats, what you make of your marriage is dependent upon you and your spouse. If there is a jostling for the higher and lower status from the beginning, there will be one person with the upper hand right from the get-go too. If there is a feeling of, “Well, we did this for our parents, we might as well make the best of it” right from the start, the marriage is going to lead to one lacklustre, loveless lifetime. But, if the marriage is one of the equals, then the joys it will give are manifold – intimacy, companionship, playfulness and friendship. For Draupadi, who had five husbands, it wasn’t.

Everyone needs that one 3 a.m. person they can call in an emergency. Who knows that this time, vodka won’t do the trick, but a big bar of milk chocolate will. That you can confess your deepest self to. Who will kick your butt when it needs to be kicked, yet have your back when the whole world has turned on you.

Not everyone can say that their spouse is their ‘Person’, their BFF. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that we all need someone to be.

For Draupadi, it was Krishna.

May we all be so lucky.

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Readers Comments On “When your spouse isn’t your best friend”

  1. The introduction needs to be reviewed. Krishna was a friend, a mentor and the instrument in precipitating the war using Draupadi. Without her, the war could never have happened and without the war, the Yug would not have changed – the purpose for which Krishna came as Vishnus Avataar. But yes, there WAS a sixth. None other than Karna. The book does subtly points that out and the real Mahabharta openly shows it.

  2. Nicely written!

    Loved the way of your writing 🙂

    If your husband is your best friend then you are the luckiest one! We all need that someone who connects with us emotionally as well as physically and at the same time has a good understanding. We do not want to get judged by him and when he is there we are just ourselves. Don’t we all want this?

    It can happen only when your guy is your best friend. And he can be the one, you just need to communicate and share everything with him like a friend.

    1. Baisali Chatterjee Dutt

      Hi Neha! I absolutely agree with you about communicating with your spouse — communication is the key to all healthy relationships, I feel.

      Baisali

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