A/N: A short story on Bhanumathy’s feelings after the dice game.
“Why are you sitting here in the dark, my dear?” He had asked before lighting the lamps one by one. Those were his first words to me. And ever since that day, all he ever did was to fill my life with light, to dispel all darkness from my heart.
Today I remember that time. And I wonder how that man could have been so diminished. Is this what it is to be intoxicated? But he had not touched wine all evening, they tell me.
But a man does not need wine. He can be intoxicated with hatred too, with avarice and envy too, with anger and with lust and with success too. And who can decide what my husband was intoxicated with today?
His cousin was intoxicated with avarice and also with dharma. The rest of the Pandavas were intoxicated with their own Dharmas. I do not know what Dharma it is that dictates that they have to accept whatever is said by an intoxicated man. I hope their Dharmas will keep them warm during the cold winter nights in the forest.
Even grandsire and uncle were silent today. They were silent when a woman who was entitled to their protection was being grossly insulted in front of their eyes. They say uncle was not silent. He kept telling my husband to stop, they say.
Why did he tell only my husband to stop? Why did everyone try to stop only my husband? Why didn’t they try to stop the other one, the embodiment of Dharma, the one who obeys his elders? Why didn’t they stop him from staking his brothers and his wife? Maybe they knew the limits of his obedience and his Dharma. And a man in the throes of intoxication is not in the habit of listening to anyone.
The one I feel for is her. She was made to suffer by all. And she was left to suffer by all. But suffering does not diminish if others ignore it. It only makes it worse.
But I still do not understand why my husband did what he did. He is the light of my life, and that of his parents. How can he act in such a way? How can he spread darkness?
And Vasusena. They tell me he was silent today. Why? What was it that bound his tongue? Did he feel his words might be adding oil to the flames? Did he bite his tongue so that he might not speak what he might regret later?
She stood there, they say. She stood their trembling, her hair loosened and clad in a single piece of cloth. The servants had to scrub the floors afterwards to remove the blood. The bloodstains are still there in the chamber from where she was dragged. That room is never to be used again. Another room has been prepared for use of the women when in their season.
It is said a woman in her seasons is the goddess incarnate. She is hidden away so that her energy might not absorb the energy of all those who come in front of her. If she visits a temple, it is said, the energy will leave the idol to reside in her, for she is purest at such times. And hence she is not allowed entry in sacred places. Brahmanas leave her presence for fear of losing their divine energy to her.
I had always wondered if there was any truth in that. Today I am certain there is not. For she was taken there, in her blood, and no one lost anything. The Brahmanas firmly stayed in place. Maybe they too knew that they had nothing to fear. And the supposed loss of divinity was better than the actual loss of royal favour.
I wish he would come to me. But somehow I feel that, tonight of all nights, he might find it difficult to face me. He might have come to his senses and felt that I might question his act.
He is right. I shall question his act. It is my duty as his wife to do so. Had he stopped with simply making her a slave, I might never have questioned him. For, if his cousins were foolish enough to make themselves as slaves, what right has anyone to question that?
But he was not happy with that. He had to humiliate her. And such acts are never without repercussions. My questioning him might be the least of his worries. Or maybe not. He is a warrior. Enemies he knows how to face. But a wife’s questions are never that easy. Nor so simple.
But I shall question him not for the reasons he fears. I do not care that he took their kingdom from them or forced them to slavery. King Yudhistira had every right to refuse. He had every opportunity to stop when he found he was losing. Had he stopped playing, none of this would have happened. He has only himself to blame.
But I shall still question my husband because another’s blame does not absolve him. King Yudhistira might have given him the opportunity, but my husband was the one who did the deed. And however justified he might be in hating his cousins, he is not justified in trying to humiliate their wife.
Of course, there were a lot of others who could have stopped him. But none of that changes his responsibility. What prompted him? What was it that intoxicated him to such an extent that he forgot himself?
I sigh. They tell me he has gone out. He has taken his horse and ridden out. He and Vasusena. And no one knows when they will be back.
I know that sleep shall evade me tonight. For my mind shall be riding with him into the night. And I hope he shall come back to light lamps to dispel the darkness of the night again.