What do you do when a good book is lying on your bookshelf? You read and learn. Recently, I got an opportunity to read ‘ The Palace of Illusions’ by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. While Bollywood is still trying to make films with a female protagonist, this book’s protagonist is a female, a significant character of the epic Mahabharata- Draupadi. Undoubtedly, the great epic teaches many lessons that stay with the reader for their lifetime. Besides, getting a glimpse of Draupadi’s struggle and happiness, I learned a lot from her charismatic personality. Here are a few lines from the book that I loved and will stay with me for a long time.
- 1 Everyone you meet plays a role in your journey
- 2 ‘Ability is more important than the accident of birth’
- 3 ‘A problem is a problem only if you believe it to be so’
- 4 ‘The force of a person’s believing seeps into those around him- into the very earth and air and water- until there’s nothing else’
- 5 ‘Expectations are like hidden rocks in your path- all they do is trip you’
- 6 ‘If Lokas existed at all, good women would surely go to one where men were not allowed so that they could finally be free’
- 7 ‘You no longer care what people think of you, and that has given you great freedom’
- 8 ‘By your own act, you bound yourself. Therefore, you alone can set yourself free’
Everyone you meet plays a role in your journey
Mahabharat has an end number of characters. While we are immersed in the great fight between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, our brain overlooks the tertiary characters. In this book, I felt that minor characters like Draupadi’s Dhai Ma added a lot of value to the story. She was like a mother Draupadi never had. It gave insight into the everyday life of the enigmatic Panchaali. The mention of the minute, everyday figures in the book made me wonder about the small characters of my life. There are people whom we meet once and remember them vividly, then there are those whom we encounter throughout our lives, yet can’t remember their name. However, in the end, both kinds of people play a role in our life.
‘Ability is more important than the accident of birth’
Draupadi was born from fire and a prophecy was made that she would change history. Later, she did play her part in changing the course of the world but her birth solely wasn’t responsible for it. She was a princess yet she felt caged. The world remembers her as a queen because of her courage and abilities. So, you know it doesn’t matter where or how you are born, what matters is how much are you willing to believe and live by the privileges or discomforts of your family.
‘A problem is a problem only if you believe it to be so’
When Krishna says this to Draupadi, it seems like he is telling it to the entire world. We all have problems, but guess what, we all have solutions too. The solution is pretty simple if we stop focusing on the problem and start thinking about the solution and working towards it, we will realize that there was no problem in the first place.
‘The force of a person’s believing seeps into those around him- into the very earth and air and water- until there’s nothing else’
This is something related to Point 3. These were Krishna’s wise words yet again. The world looks at us the way we look at ourselves. How many times people have reminded you about the things that have always been in your mind? Thoughts that are deeply woven in your brain, didn’t you find everyone believing that? It could be an idea, a dream, or a problem. If you keep believing it, the people around you will start to believe in that as well.
‘Expectations hurt.’ ‘I hadn’t expected this from you.’ (Does this ring a bell?). What I learned from this is that not all expectations hurt you. It’s natural for us to have expectations from ourselves and others but we shouldn’t be rigid about it. We should learn to embrace uncertainty as well. Didn’t unexpected events make you stronger and happier?
‘If Lokas existed at all, good women would surely go to one where men were not allowed so that they could finally be free’
This line from the book had my heart. I do believe that not all men are the same but I can’t deny that such men are rare. The kind of men who respects women, treat them as humans, let them enjoy their freedom (Irony!), motivate them to grow, and believe in equality. It’s the twenty-first century and yet gender inequality exists. It’s so painful to see the crimes against women increasing every day. This patriarchy society spares no one. Draupadi had to undergo injustices and harassment just like a twenty-first-century woman does. Probably, heaven for women is a world where no men existed.
‘You no longer care what people think of you, and that has given you great freedom’
Indeed, not thinking about others gives us immense freedom. We all, or at least most of us have the fear of being judged. We miss out on so many things because we are worried about society’s opinion. we don’t chase that dream of ours because someone told us that it was stupid. Imagine a judgment-free day, now tell me, what would you do on that day? We should stop thinking about others and live our life the way we want. That’s the freedom we should give ourselves.
‘By your own act, you bound yourself. Therefore, you alone can set yourself free’
You are responsible for your own actions. It’s your own actions that make you happy or sad. We often try to blame others for our circumstances, but it’s not them, it’s us to blame. If you are unhappy in a relationship or with your boss, you can’t blame them. You are letting that happen to yourself. If you want to get out of the darkroom of your mind, you need to let yourself free. No one can do that for you.
‘The Palace of Illusions’ by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is a fascinating book. The wife of the Pandavas was a warrior behind the Kurukshetra’s battlefield. She was larger than life character. I remember listening to examples of Arjun’s valor, Bhima’s strength, and Yudhishthira’s virtue but now I will add Draupadi’s endurance and strength in the list. Her thoughts, anger, regret, and most importantly her journey will stay with me. What about you? What did Draupadi teach you?