Space For Rent

Space For Rent
Sunday, May 17, 2015, Jaishtha 3, 1422 BS, Rajab 27, 1436 Hijr

Cry of Draupadi: Merging present and past
Barnali Talukder
Published : Sunday, 17 May, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM,  View Count : 34

It is known to many of us that Draupadi - a boisterous female character from Hindu mythology - undergoes gender violence in public, due to an inextinguishable rivalry among two crowned descendents. Draupadi is victimized to a political propaganda, but this very incident also helps to discover the ground on which a female essentially needs to stand in a male-dominated society. Nothing but she is treated like a troop of battalions or their swords, under possession of any real king in her time; it is not like that she does not receive any sympathy, but this sympathy fails to establish her human identity or beingness and instead re-intensifies her objectivity.
Because of Draupadi's belonging to female gender, undoubtedly any sort of criticism of this aforementioned portion of the story will be canonized as guerrilla feminism. Therefore obviously it becomes necessary to re-ensure that any protest against any sort of exploitation, if coincidentally the exploited one in concern falls in the female category, should not be plainly called to be feminism. However, What Draupadi experiences, does not result from any single day agitation of groups of people or intended harassment planned for any particular human being. Rather it will be more appropriate to suggest that Draupadi confronts such digressional attitude from her contemporary males because of the "constructed" gender identity of her. One of the queer theorists named Judith Butler in her essay "Performative Acts and Gender Constitution" reinforces on this concept that woman is a "historical idea, not a natural fact". And historically a woman becomes a woman through the attributions patriarchy selectively imposes on them. Therefore, the surroundings around her, instead of her own self, form the idea of womanhood for her both during the era of Draupadi and afterwards, and that womanhood stands something like that - a female is supposed to be overall garmented (obviously in Indian sub-continental context) and any violation of this unjustified protocol, that means, violation of garmenting code willingly or unwillingly, displaces a woman from her respective position. In consequence, in the case of Draupadi, what heightens her position are several such man-made conducts she primarily conforms to and similarly what disgraces her are the same conducts violated by its originators. Amidst this chaos what goes unnoticed is the identification of the self by Draupadi herself.
Probably this particular portion from Draupadi's story reverberates through ages. Much unfortunately it seems like, this episode of constructed Draupadian womanhood resurges ages after ages like any periodical religious, communal or regional celebration; most recently which once again gets reflected through the recent Pahela Baishakh incident at TSC in Dhaka. What actually drove those beastly people to treat woman nothing but pleasure thing or objects of celebration, remained enclosed yet now, which  might be due to 'political' or 'religious' or merely 'enjoying' principle of them. Therefore what gets disclosed through the incident once again is the position of woman in modern society - the position that basically remains imprisoned in physiology of woman still now and fails to give her the due existential space. And every victim of this mishap turns out be entrapped in the formulated discourse of patriarchy regarding womanhood. What Draupadi invariably goes through falls even upon this far-off generation in the same manner and ultimately the idea of womanhood is found to be grounded in the same soil, irrespective of time and evolution. The society as well is acknowledged of the loopholes being facilitated everyday because of the controversial system and conduct particularly formulated for female folks, but no one comes forward to confess. Consequently women undergone the Pahela Baishakh incident became attuned to systematic sympathetic concerns of patriarchy, but that also recalls another reflection of the doll-like existence of them in society; a doll, if dead, is cried over out of selfish concern of the owner and, if alive, accordingly is conducted under some another one's command.
What actually causes such beastly outburst of few culture-and-humanity-disoriented males? Is it merely because of the biological formation of them or pride of phallus? Or does it go beyond such cause-and-effect search on literal level? Presumably a masculine factor, which consciously or unconsciously society contributes to develop within a male, manipulates such drastic attitude of them. Masculinity here is much attributed basically by society, partly by nation and a hugely by religion. And according to binary opposition theory, if there is masculinity there should obviously be femininity, although there is no inherent connection between masculinity and superiority as well as femininity and inferiority. Therefore in practice, masculinity is urged for even by 'the hand that rocks the cradle' and consequently femininity is sure to take a form of subjugation.
Draupadi is not ultimately humiliated in public because divinity intervenes to safeguard her prestige. The question, however, regarding male-domination remains the same as the divinity as well appears in the form of a male - that is to say, both the violator and savior belong to the same male community. The question may be raised regarding the silence of Draupadi, which, if deeply analyzed, will be found to be logical as a woman like her is supposed to be speechless among a court of man having the shamelessness in tongue and sword; and most importantly the vulnerability Draupadi essentially reserves inside her is again the attribution of those male counterparts of her. Therefore she is celebrating her womanhood according to the rules of patriarchy and abandoning it being attacked by the same rule-makers. However, Draupadies of today do not get divine help, instead they wonder in search of a safe eye, safe ear and safe corner to stand by. Draupadies of today are given the liberation of dress, desire and movement, but there is also attached a threat of male-thirst with each of it - how ironical, how misleading!
Therefore where's to go - looking back in the past or wondering at the present brings forth the same picture of feminine predicament - so belittling this for a being to live with is!

Barnali Talukder is a post-graduate student, Department of English, University of Dhaka

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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