I tore my eyes away from the mirror with great difficulty. I had been staring at my reflection: those dark, brooding eyes, with bags under them. The long, black, hair, caked with blood. The thin, gaunt, face, drained of colour, with hollow cheekbones, staring with empty eyes.
Had I really become like this? Was I, Draupadi, the daughter of Drupada, reduced to such a condition? Was I the once lovable princess, who was now mocked as the ‘Dusky Firebrand’?
And it doesn’t seem so long back too…
It was with great difficulty that I could tear my eyes away from the mirror. My lustrous face had a sort of grim beauty in it. My dark, beautiful eyes radiated power. My long, black hair was braided with thin skeins of gold. Glistening diamonds dripped from my neck. Colourful butterflies flew in my stomach.
“Draupadi,” my best friend said, “It’s time now.”
I ran up to Krishna and hugged him. “I’ll miss you,” I gasped, my breaths is short bursts.
“Come now, Draupadi. It’s not like you’re abandoning me. I’m married, I have a family of my own. It’s high time you got married too. And off you go!”
Easy for him to say. He simply eloped with the girl he wanted and had a happily-ever-after. The man I wanted to marry…he was dead. His remains were charred beyond recognition. I was distraught.
“Here enters Her Royal Highness, Prince Draupadi!” the guard announced, while trumpets rented the air. I absolutely hated that sound.
I could feel hundred-and-twenty pairs of eyes on me. All the good-for-nothing princes who wanted my hand in marriage. And to marry me, they had to fulfil the impossible task…
“Gentlemen, I’m deeply honoured by your presence here. I understand that all of you are gathered here to marry my daughter,” Drupada said.
The crowd stirred uneasily. They all had heard that some impossible task had been designed for my swayamvar. The one who succeeded first could marry me. That meant it could be anyone. Ugh.
“Look yonder. The princes vying for Draupadi’s hand has to string this bow made of metal,” many disappointed sighs could be heard, “and shoot only one arrow at the eye of a revolving fish, while looking only at its reflection in a bowl of water.”
As soon as these words were said, half of the princes present got up, and with arrogant sneers on their face, left the palace. I sighed in relief. Atleast most of the ugly ones had gone.
I glanced at Krishna. He was sitting motionless. I blinked out some tears. This whole, elaborate, set-up was designed in such a way that only Arjuna, the greatest archer in the world, could shoot the fish. And he was dead.
It was with great difficulty that I had managed to get over Arjuna’s death. Krishna was Arjuna’s best friend. He had never shown any sign of grief, so I guessed that he was still in shock.
The next few hours went in a blur for me. None of the princes couldn’t even lift the bow. They had no chance of marrying me. What losers.
Suddenly, I sat up.
He was tall and handsome, dressed in a golden armour, and wearing earrings as bright as the sun. His jet black fell elegantly on his face as he fixed his determined opal black eyes on me.
In short, he was GORGEOUS.
He picked up the bow with surprising ease. I stared at him, mesmerized. He lifted the bow, ready to shoot, when…
“Draupadi, Draupadi!” Krishna hissed from his throne.
“Isn’t he gorgeous?” I sighed.
“Silly girl, do you know who he is?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care.”
“He is Karna.”
(to be continued)