Death is inevitable. Here goes the most talented, intelligent and beautiful woman”, said a sombre but scary voice. The voice subsided, and the sound ‘thud’ of a body dropping was heard. Draupadi fell from the side of the snowclad mountain. There she breathed her last.

I woke up from a nightmare, almost burning up on that cold night of December the 31st. My heart was beating faster than the beats of those meaningless pop music numbers playing over and over on television. The dream had frightened me – the scary voice and the death of a sophisticated queen, it played over and over in my head. The main female character of the epic Mahabharat met her end in a cold, muddy place.

According to the epic, Draupadi was the first to die when the Pandavas were on their final journey to heaven. Bhima asked eldest brother Yudhisthira why Draupadi was the first to go. Yudhisthira explained to his strong, younger brother that Draupadi suffered the vice of partiality in her affections for Arjuna.

Was it not a vice of the “righteous” brothers, when they were so indifferent to their wife when she fell! Did they not care to stay back and hold her hand while she was dying?

The five of them proceeded leaving the body behind. Draupadi, the princess of Panchal and the daughter of the mighty king Drupad, went through repeated humiliation since she had to marry the five brothers. The rival Kauravas, specially Duryodhan and Dushasan, raised the topic about her chastity. They went one step too far in trying to disrobe her when her five husbands lost in the game of dice. It was Krishna, her friend since childhood, who rescued her from the shameful situation. Neither the husbands, nor the elders of the family came to her rescue. Where was their sense of right and wrong then! Had she been married to Karna, her life would have been smoother. I kept thinking this over and over. She could at least died with dignity!

Why did I have this dream? Perhaps, this was because I read the book Panchali recently. In this book, the author Trupti, who is also a friend, had analyzed the psyche of Draupadi. I looked for the time – it was almost 3 hours past midnight. The new year had made its way in.

The following morning, I woke up to my ringing phone. It was Trupti who called to wish me a happy new year. “You see, I had a dream about death in the beginning of the new year. I don’t think this year is going to look good for me”, I complained to her about the nightmare. She had a hearty laugh. “Don’t you know, dreaming about death always brings good luck! It said so in the book Swapna Vichara.”

I hope she was right. I hope the new year brings us both good things and I hope the Sahitya academy award this year goes to her for Panchali.