Stories

Draupadi - A College Play

Arjun was up early and was deep in thought as he sipped his hot coffee, sitting in the balcony. Once done, he left the cup and saucer in the kitchen sink, dried his hands and silently sauntered into his mother’s bedroom. He surveyed the various accessories that were neatly arranged on the dressing table. The array of lip sticks and lip gloss drew his attention. He picked up the maroon-colored shiny lipstick and carefully applied it on his lips. He then pursed his lips to ensure that the lip stick was evenly spread across his lips. He glanced at the mirror and gave a satisfied grin. He wiped out the lipstick. He then picked up the new lip stick and curiously looked at it. He was so engrossed that he did not notice his mother silently enter the room.

His mother walked into the room just as he was about to apply the new lipstick. She was startled. “What are you doing with my lipstick? It’s new. I haven’t used it so far. Couldn’t you have waited?”

He smiled and handed it back to her. I forgot to tell you . . . . I am playing Draupadi in our college production . . . rehearsals start this evening.” He turned round to look at his mother, who stood there with an astonished look on her face on seeing Arjun.

“I for a moment thought you were looking for a sex change” , she laughed. She came close to Arjun and affectionately removed the lip stick that was smeared above his lips.

“No Maa”, murmured Arjun. “I wanted to give you a surprise but now the cat is out of the bag. Yes. You guessed it right. I am for a sex change but for a short duration only”.

Maa looked incredulously at Arjun. “What”? she reacted.

“Chill Maa”. As I told you, “We have a drama next week in our college and I am playing the character of Draupadi. So, I was trying your make up accessories”.

“All the best child. I will be there for sure”, she said and left the room.

Arjun too followed her, took his bath, dressed up, had his breakfast and was off to college.

The whole of that week Arjun was busy preparing for the drama rehearsal

~*~

It was a Saturday evening and a good crowd had gathered at the auditorium for the drama. After a brief welcome address by the Principal of the college, all was set for the drama.

Scene 1: In the Class Room

All students get up as the Professor Dushasana comes into the class.

Students: Good Morning Sir

Dushasana: Good Morning students . Take your seats. (All the students sit down)

After the roll call, today I will be taking a class on Environmental degradation and its effect on the changing climatic conditions, like global warming.

Draupadi: Sir, two years ago, we had severe floods in Chennai followed by Cyclone Vardha last year.  Would your topic cover the causes and effect of these also, sir?

Dushasana : If you are interested in specific instances, meet me in my room, after the class is over. ( He smiled at her condescendingly and continued with the lecture. The students disperse at the end of the lecture)

Scene 2: In Dushasana’s room

Draupadi: Good Evening , sir.

Dushasana: Yes, Draupadi. Come in and take your seat.

(Draupadi takes her seat while Dushyanth starts pacing the floor)

Dushasana: Global warming and environmental degradation are the topics of heated discussions world over, across all forums. All countries across the world have taken this up seriously. The unprecedented floods in Chennai and the Cyclone Vardha, in the following year, were driven by Global warming.

Draupadi: Yes sir.

(Dushyanth slowly loosens his top shirt button as though the room was stuffy. Draupadi notices it but ignored it).

Dushasana: Cyclone Vardha starts off with heavy drizzles and a mild breeze that blows the leaves or ruffles the hair

(While talking, Dushyanth walks behind Draupadi and rufffles her hair, saying “Like this”. Draupadi was startled but keeps quiet.)

Dushasana: As time passes, the intensity of the winds and rains becomes very fierce with wind speeds at a velocity of over 150 kms per hour. It just uproots trees and blows away everything in its path.

(With that, Dushasana’s hand takes hold of the saree pleats and throws it across Draupadi’s shoulder. She is startled, gives a cry , pushes the chair back and rushes out of the room with a terrified look on her face.)

Scene 3: Canteen

(Draupadi, sitting sullenly in the canteen with her friends)

Friends: What happened, Draupadi? Why are you not your usual bubbly self? How was your discussion on Vardha with our Professor?

Draupadi: Oh, this creature, Dushasana tried to molest me in his room, but luckily, I had the presence of mind to bolt out of the room. I am now wondering whether I just allow the matter to pass or to report it to the Principal.

Friends: (In a Chorus) . For heaven’s sake dude don’t leave it at that. Please take up the issue with the management under “Sexual Harassment”. We are with you .Come let us draft out a written complaint.

(All the students put their heads together and draft the written complaint and Draupadi signs it)

Scene 4: The Principal’s room the next morning

Draupadi: Good morning, sir, may I come in please.?

Principal: Yes. Good morning. Come in.

(Draupadi quietly enters the room and hands over the cover with the written complaint. The Principal pores over the complaint and his forehead creases. He then looks up at Draupadi)

Principal: My sincere apologies that this has happened in our college of repute and that too for a person like you. These complaints are handled by the Disciplinary Committee (DC). I will convene a meeting and address this issue immediately. I would request you to keep this under wraps, considering what is at stake , till it is resolved amicably.

Draupadi: OK sir, but my request is, it should not be delayed (and walks out of the room)

Scene 5: Disciplinary Committee Meeting

(The Disciplinary Committee (DC) constitutes 5 members represented by two male members and 3 female members with the Principal being the de facto member. The Committee members register their presence and the meeting is called to order

Present: 5 DC members, Dushasana & Draupadi.

(The Chairman of the DC reads out the complaint to Dushasana in the presence of Draupadi)

DC: Mr. Dushasana, do you have anything to say?

Dushasana: In all earnestness, I tried to explain the effects of Global warming and Cyclone Vardha, with no ulterior motive. I have been with the institution for over a decade, and I would never do anything to tarnish the image of our prestigious institute. Draupadi is such a nice student. I am at a loss to understand how she has misinterpreted my action and equated it to sexual harassment.

DC: Draupadi, do you have anything to say?

Draupadi: Respected committee members, I hold this institution in high esteem and I am sure you will support me, since I do not want things like this to take place that spoil the image of our institution. I am sure you will agree with me that actions like what I have experienced, if done without our consent, is classified as sexual harassment. If I had stayed longer in the room, things could have gone worse. So, I humbly request you to take appropriate action against the erring professor. This would be a deterrent for the others also.

DC: This is a serious matter. We would request both of you to wait outside for some time. We would like to internally discuss on the appropriate course of action.

(Dushasana and Draupadi leave the scene while the DC members discuss the issue in right earnest. Having come to an agreement among themselves, they call Draupadi)

DC: Come Draupadi. We have internally discussed your issue and we can visualize the mental trauma you are undergoing. You had the courage to nip this in the bud itself. We will call Dushasana and give him a stern warning not to repeat such outrageous acts. Could you please take this “cover” and withdraw your compliant so that we can close the issue.? Do you, for a moment realize, if this goes to the media, it will make it unpleasant for all of us.

Draupadi: I am sorry. If you do not have the security of students in mind and would like the offenders to go scot-free, I would like to take it up further till I get justice and the offender is brought to book.

(With that a downcast Draupadi walks away and the Committee members disperse)

Scene 6 – Canteen

Friends: What happened at the DC meeting, Draupadi?

Draupadi: The Committee members want to play it safe. They tried to hush up the issue and even went to the extent of buying me out with a token amount.

Friends : Oh Gosh! Never expected this from our management. What the hell!

Friends: Let’s look at the next course of action. Let’s file an FIR with the police station.

Draupadi: Yes. Let me do it. Will you guys draft one for me? I will sign. I am really pissed off with the attitude of the Disciplinary Committee.

(All the students get together and draft the FIR. Draupadi signs it)

Scene 7 – Police Station

Draupadi: (She approaches the Head constable) Good Morning sir, “Is there a woman constable here. I want to file an FIR.”

Head Constable: (Looking at Draupadi, up and down with a sneer). Is it a rape case?

Draupadi: No

Head Constable: Dowry Harassment?

Draupadi: No. Sexual Harassment.

(Head constable calls out to the woman constable)

Head Constable: (to the woman constable). Take the FIR, read it and explain to madam the “conditions” for registration of FIR. (He winks at the woman constable who suppresses a grin and nods her head). You can also ask her to enact the incident with me.

Woman Constable: (Collects the FIR and reads it) Why do you create a scene for such a small matter? If you still want to file this FIR _ _ _ _

(The woman constable comes close to Draupadi and whispers something in her ear, while the Head constable smiles wickedly)

Draupadi: Enough! Give me back my FIR.

(She snatches the FIR, shreds it into pieces and walks out of the police Station in a huff.)

Scene 8 Hostel Room

(A dejected group of friends join Draupadi in a hostel room to mull over the event and to find a way out).

Draupadi: I am like the Draupadi of the Mahabharata, being disrobed but no one comes to my rescue. Where do I find my Krishna? I have three other avenues

– Human Rights Activists, Media and proceeding Legally. But with the clout the management wields, I feel these avenues also will meet the same fate as the others.

Friends : Don’t lose hope, Draupadi. We will find a way out. If we do not find a solution, we will all become sitting ducks.

Friends. Yesss!! We have a solution. Why not we try “MeToo”

Draupadi: But what is MeToo and where do I start?

Friends: MeToo is a hashtag or title that sees people sharing stories of sexual harassment and assault. It is a social media campaign where women in numbers are sharing personal stories of sexual harassment under the hashtag or title MeToo You can do it on Facebook

A Facebook hashtag ties the conversations of different users into one stream and most people's Facebook posts and accounts are private It is worth a try.

Draupadi: Friends, I have been pushed too far. I wouldn’t like to step back and give up now. I have declared an all-out war against the likes of Dushasana. Let’s go ahead.

(With the help of her friends, Draupadi recounts her experience on MeToo through Facebook. Days pass and response, which started in a trickle began “trending” on Facebook. In fact, other students who had similar experiences at the hands of Dushyanth but had remained silent and passive got the confidence to share their experience as well. Ongoing viral, the students following this on Facebook, are thrilled)

Friends: (Greet each other with high fives and there is lot of loud chattering in the group.)

Friends: Let’s all join for a silent march to the Principal’s office, to seek an enquiry against Dushasana.

Draupadi: (heaves a sigh of relief). The message going viral and the response from the students, for me, resembles the vast lengths of saree that Lord Krishna wrapped around Draupadi when all the others were silent.

Scene 9: College Campus

(A large number of students assemble in the college campus)

Draupadi: I am overwhelmed with the support all of you are giving me on this issue. May I request we make a peaceful march to the Principal’s office as a protest against “Sexual Harassment”. This clarion call would surely wake up the management and ensure that we students are well protected

Students: Yeah. We all agree with you. Tell us what you want.

(The students march to the Principal’s office in silence)

Principal: (Comes out of his room and sees the silent group in front of his office.

He signals to Draupadi to come over and stand by his side)

Principal: Dear Students. My apologies to all of you on allowing this matter of Sexual Harassment, to slip out of my hands in the first meeting with the Disciplinary committee. I can understand your feelings and I for one really sympathize with you. I will immediately call for a meeting of the Disciplinary Committee and address this issue on a priority. This is a promise.

Principal: I now request you all to go back to your classes.

Scene 10 Disciplinary Committee Meeting

DC: Dushasana. In the initial meeting we felt we could give you a warning and be done with it. But the students have become vociferous. We also come to know that it is not an isolated instance of Draupadi alone. Other students have also faced similar harassment in your hands, but they had remained passive. So, we have decided unanimously that we are going to set up an enquiry committee for this purpose. Till such time the issue is resolved we would like to place you under suspension.

Dushasana: Respected members I can only say the students have blown this out of proportions and I am innocent.

DC; We have only your word for it but your actions, as stated by the students, do not support you.  Here’s is your suspension order.

As the curtains come down, there is thunderous applause for the drama.

~*~

Arjun’s Maa was quite ecstatic at her son’s performance and she slowly waded through the crowd to the back of the stage, to see her son at close quarters as Draupadi.

She waved to Arjun and her face lit up on seeing the crowd that had surrounded Arjun, congratulating him on his fine performance. Suddenly that smile turned into a frown.

She came close to Arjun and said “ I don’t understand. You told me that you are using my lipstick for your drama. But your lips are free. With a mischievous smile she said

“How’s it I find the lipstick on your cheeks”?

Now Arjun’s face turned into a frown for a minute. He then recollected his senses, gave his Maa an impish smile and said “ Oh. That is from Draupadi, the girl I am in love with and going to marry, Maa. Let me introduce her to you”.

Arjun’s Maa gave an understanding smile and said in passing, “I am happy I have only you, Arjun and not four more of the Pandava brothers”. There was a burst of laughter all around.

26-Nov-2022

More by :  Sundar Rajan

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