Draupadi by mahashweta devi Essay
Draupadi by mahashweta devi
“Draupadi” by Mahasveta Devi Translated with a Foreword by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak Translator’s Foreword I translated this Bengali short story into English as much for the sake of its villain, Senanayak, as for its title character, Draupadi (or Dopdi). Because in Senanayak I find the closest approximation to the First- World scholar in search of the Third World, I shall speak of him first. On the level of the plot, Senanayak is the army officer who captures and degrades Draupadi. I will not go so far as to suggest that, in practice, the instruments of First-World life and investigation are complicit with such captures and such a degradation.’
The approximation I notice relates to the author’s careful presentation of Senanayak as a pluralist aesthete. In theory, Senanayak can identify with the enemy. But pluralist aesthetes of the First World are, willy-nilly, participants in the production of an exploitative society. Hence in practice, Senanayak must destroy the enemy, the menacing other. He follows the necessities and contingencies of what he sees as his historical moment.
There is a convenient colloquial name for that as well: pragmatism. Thus his emotions at Dopdi’s capture are mixed: sorrow (theory) and joy (practice). Correspondingly, we grieve for our Third-World sisters; we grieve and rejoice that they must lose themselves and become as much like us as possible in order to be “free”; we congratulate ourselves on our specialists’ knowledge of them. Indeed, like ours, Senanayak’s project is interpretive: he 1. For elaborations upon such a suggestion, see Jean-Fran~oisL yotard, La Condition post-moderne: Rappod sur b sauoir (Paris, 1979).
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382 Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak “Draupadi”
looks to decipher Draupadi’s song. For both sides of the rift within himself, he finds analogies in Western literature: Hochhuth’s The Deputy, David Morrell’s First Blood. He will shed his guilt when the time comes. His self-image for that uncertain future is Prospero. I have suggested elsewhere that, when we wander out of our own academic and First-World enclosure, we share something like a relationship with Senanayak’s do~blethinkW.~h en we speak for ourselves,
we urge with conviction: the personal is also political. For the rest of the world’s women, the sense of whose personal micrology is difficult (though not impossible) for us to acquire, we fall back on a colonialist theory of most efficient information retrieval. We will not be able to speak to the women out there if we depend completely on conferences and anthologies by Western-trained informants. As I see their photographs in women’s-studies journals or on book jackets-indeed, as I look in the glass-it is Senanayak with his anti-Fascist paperback that I behold. In inextricably mingling historico-political specificity with the sexual differential in a literary discourse, Mahasveta Devi invites us to begin effacing that image.
My approach to the story has been influenced by “deconstructive practice.” I clearly share an unease that would declare avant-garde theories of interpretation too elitist to cope with revolutionary feminist material. How, then, has the practice of deconstruction been helpful in this context?
The aspect of deconstructive practice that is best known in the United States is its tendency toward infinite regre~sionT.~h e aspect that interests me most is, however, the recognition, within deconstructive practice, of provisional and intractable starting points in any investigative effort; its disclosure of complicities where a will to knowledge would 2. See my “Three Feminist Readings: McCullers, Drabble, Habermas,” Union Seminu9 Quarterly Review 1-2 (Fall-Winter 197%80), and “French Feminism in an International Frame” (forthcoming in Yak French Studies).
3. I develop this argument in my review of Paul de Man’s Allegories ofReading: Figural Language in Rowseau, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Prowt (forthcoming in Studks in the Novel). Mahasveta Devi teaches English at Bijaygarh College in Jadavpur, India, an institution for working-class women. She has published over a dozen novels, most recently Chotti Munda ebang Tar Tir (“Chotti Munda and His Arrow”), and is a prolific journalist, writing on the struggle of the tribal peasant in West Bengal and Bihar. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin. The translator of Derrida’s De la grammtologte, she has published essays on Marxist feminism, deconstructive practice, and contemporary literature and is currently completing a book on theory and practice in the humanities. Critical Inquiry Winter 1981 383
create oppositions; its insistence that in disclosing complicities the criticas- subject is herself complicit with the object of her critique; its emphasis upon “history” and upon the ethico-political as the “trace” of that complicity-the proof that we do not inhabit a clearly defined critical space free of such traces; and, finally, the acknowledgment that its own discourse can never be adequate to its e ~ amp l eT. ~hi s is clearly not the place to elaborate each item upon this list.
I should, however, point out that in my introductory paragraphs I have already situated the figure of Senanayak in terms of our own patterns of complicity. In what follows, the relationship between the tribal and classical characters of Draupadi, the status of Draupadi at the end of the story, and the reading of Senanayak’s proper name might be seen as produced by the reading practice I have described. The complicity of law and transgression and the class deconstruction of the “gentlemen revolutionaries,” although seemingly minor points in the interpretation of the story as such, take on greater importance in a political context.
I cannot take this discussion of deconstruction far enough to show how Dopdi’s song, incomprehensible yet trivial (it is in fact about beans of different colors), and ex-orbitant to the story, marks the place of that other that can be neither excluded nor re~uperated.~
“Draupadi” first appeared in Agnigarbha (“Womb of Fire”), a collection of loosely connected, short political narratives. As Mahasveta points out in her introduction to the collection, “Life is not mathematics and the human being is not made for the sake of politics. I want a change in the present social system and do not believe in mere party politic^.”^ Mahasveta is a middle-class Bengali leftist intellectual in her fifties. She has a master’s degree in English from Shantiniketan, the famous experimental university established by the bourgeois poet Rabindranath Tagore.
Her reputation as a novelist was already well established when, in the late ’70s, she published Hajar Churashir Ma (“No. 1084’s Mother”). This novel, the only one to be imminently published in English translation, remains within the excessively sentimental idiom of the Bengali 4. This list represents a distillation of suggestions to be found in the work of Jacques Derrida: see, e.g., “The Exorbitant. Question of Method,” Of Grammatology, trans. Spivak (Baltimore, 1976); “Limited Inc abc,” trans.
Samuel Weber, Glyph 2 (1977); “Ou commence et comment finit un corps enseignant,” in Politiques de laphilosophie, ed. Dominique Grisoni (Paris, 1976); and my “Revolutions That as Yet Have No Model: Derrida’s ‘Limited Inc,’ ” Diacritics 10 (Dec. 1980), and “Sex and History in Wordsworth’s The Prelude (1805) IXXIII” (forthcoming in Tern Studies in Literature and Language).
5. It is a sign of E. M. Forster’s acute perception of India that A Pussage to India contains a glimpse of such an ex-orbitant tribal in the figure of the punkha puller in the courtroom.
6. Mahasveta, Agnigarbha (Calcutta, 1978), p. 8. 384 Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak “Draupadi” novel of the last twenty-odd years.7 Yet in Aranyer Adhikar (“The Rights [or, Occupation] of the Forest”), a serially published novel she was writing almost at the same time, a significant change is noticeable. It is a meticulously researched historical novel about the Munda Insurrection of 1899-1900. Here Mahasveta begins putting together a prose that is a collage of literary Bengali, street Bengali, bureaucratic Bengali, tribal Bengali, and the languages of the tribals.
Since the Bengali script is illegible except to the approximately 25 literate percent of the about 90 million speakers of Bengali, a large number of whom live in Bangladesh rather than in West Bengal, one cannot speak of the “Indian” reception of Mahasveta’s work but only of its Bengali receptiom8 Briefly, that reception can be described as a general recognition of excellence; skepticism regarding the content on the part of the bourgeois readership; some accusations of extremism from the electoral Left; and admiration and a sense of solidarity on the part of the nonelectoral Left. Any extended reception study would consider that West Bengal has had a
Left-Front government of the united electoral Communist parties since 1967. Here suffice it to say that Mahasveta is certainly one of the most important writers writing in India today. Any sense of Bengal as a “nation” is governed by the putative identity of the Bengali l a n g ~ a g e(.M~ eanwhile, Bengalis dispute if the purest Bengali is that of Nabadwip or South Calcutta, and many of the twenty-odd developed dialects are incomprehensible to the “general speaker.”) In 1947, on the eve of its departure from India, the British government divided Bengal into West Bengal, which remained a part of India, and East Pakistan. Punjab was similarly divided into East Punjab (India) and West Pakistan.
The two parts of Pakistan did not share ethnic or linguistic ties and were separated by nearly eleven hundred miles. The division was made on the grounds of the concentration of Muslims in these two parts of the subcontinent. Yet the Punjabi Muslims felt themselves to be more “Arab” because they lived in the area where the first Muslim emperors of India had settled nearly seven hundred years ago and also because of their proximity to West Asia (the Middle
7.For a discussion of the relationship between academic degrees in English and the production of revolutionary literature, see my “A Vulgar Inquiry into the Relationship between Academic Criticism and Literary Production in West Bengal” (paper delivered at the Annual Convention of the Modern Language Association, Houston, 1980). 8. These figures are an average of the 1971 census in West Bengal and the projected figure for the 1974 census in Bangladesh.
9. See Dinesh Chandra Sen, History ofBengali Language and Literature (Calcutta, 191 1 ) . A sense of Bengali literary nationalism can be gained from the (doubtless apocryphal) report that, upon returning from his first investigative tour of India, Macaulay remarked: “The British Crown presides over two great literatures: the English and the Bengali.” Critical Inquiry Winter 1981 385
East). The Bengali Muslims-no doubt in a class-differentiated way-felt themselves constituted by the culture of Bengal.
Bengal has had a strong presence of leftist intellectualism and struggle since the middle of the last century, before, in fact, the word “Left”
entered our political shorthand.1° West Bengal is one of three Communist states in the Indian Union. As such, it is a source of considerable political irritation to the central government of India. (The individual state governments have a good deal more autonomy under the
Indian Constitution than is the case in the U.S.) Although officially India is a Socialist state with a mixed economy, historically it has reflected a spectrum of the Right, from military dictatorship to nationalist class benevolence. The word “democracy” becomes highly interpretable in the context of a largely illiterate, multilingual, heterogeneous, and unpoliticized electorate.
In the spring of 1967, there was a successful peasant rebellion in the Naxalbari area of the northern part of West Bengal. According to Marcus Franda, “unlike most other areas of West Bengal, where peasant movements are led almost solely by middle-class leadership from Calcutta, Naxalbari has spawned an indigenous agrarian reform leadership led by the lower classes” including tribal cultivator^.^^ This peculiar coalition of peasant and intellectual sparked off a number of Naxalbaris all over India.12 The target of these movements was the long-established oppression of the landless peasantry and itinerant farm worker, sustained through an unofficial government-landlord collusion that too easily circumvented the law. Indeed, one might say that legislation seemed to have an eye to its own future circumvention.
It is worth remarking that this coalition of peasant and
intellectual-with long histories of apprenticeship precisely on the side of the intellectual-has been recuperated in the West by both ends of the polarity that constitutes a “political spectrum.” Bernard-Henri Levy, the ex-Maoist French “New Philosopher,” has implicitly compared it to the May 1968 “revolution” in France, where the students joined the workers. 13 In France, however, the student identity of the movement had remained clear, and the student leadership had not brought with it sustained efforts to undo the privilege of the intellectual. On the other hand, “in much the same manner as many American college presidents 10. See Gautam Chattopadhyay,
Communism and the Freedom Movement in Bengal (New Delhi, 1970).
11. Marcus F. Franda, RadicalPolitics in West Bengal (Cambridge, Mass., 1971), p. 153. Iam grateful to Michael Ryan for having located this accessible account of the Naxalbari movement.
12. See Samar Sen et al., eds., Naxalbari and After: A Frontier Anthology, 2 vols. (Calcutta, 1978).
13. See Bernard-Henri Levy, Bangla Desh: Nationalisme duns la rivolution (Paris, 1973). 386 Gayatm’ Chakravorty Spivak “Draupadi”
have described the protest of American students, Indian political and social leaders have explained the Naxalites (supporters of Naxalbari) by referring to their sense of alienation and to the influence of writers like Marcuse and Sartre which has seemingly dominated the minds of young people throughout the world in the 1960s.”14
It is against such recuperations that I would submit what I have called the theme of class deconstruction with reference to the young gentlemen revolutionaries in “Draupadi.” Senanayak remains fixed within his class origins, which are similar to those of the gentlemen revolutionaries. Correspondingly, he is contained and judged fully within Mahasveta’s story; by contrast, the gentlemen revolutionaries remain latent, underground. Even their leader’s voice is only heard formulaically within Draupadi’s solitude. I should like to think that it is because they are so persistently engaged in undoing class containment and the opposition between reading (book learning) and doing-rather than keeping the two aesthetically forever separate-that they inhabit a world whose authority and outline no text-including Mahasveta’s-can encompass.
In 1970, the implicit hostility between East and West Pakistan flamed into armed struggle. In 1971, at a crucial moment in the struggle, the armed forces of the government of India were deployed, seemingly because there were alliances between the Naxalites of West Bengal and the freedom fighters of East Bengal (now Bangladesh). “If a guerrillastyle insurgency had persisted, these forces would undoubtedly have come to dominate the politics of the movement. It was this trend that the Indian authorities were determined to pre-empt by intervention.” Taking advantage of the general atmosphere of jubilation at the defeat of West Pakistan, India’s “principal national rival in South Asia”15 (this was also the first time India had “won a war” in its millennia1 history), the Indian prime minister was able to crack down with exceptional severity on the Naxalites, destroying the rebellious sections of the rural population, most significantly the tribals, as well. The year 1971 is thus a point of reference in Senanayak’s career.
This is the setting of “Draupadi.” The story is a moment caught between two deconstructive formulas: on the one hand, a law that is fabricated with a view to its own transgression, on the other, the undoing of the binary opposition between the intellectual and the rural struggles. In order to grasp the minutiae of their relationship and involvement, one must enter a historical micrology that no foreword can provide. 14. Franda, Radical Politics, pp. 163-64. See also p. 164 n.22. 15. Lawrence Lifschultz, [email protected]: The unfinished Revolution (London, 1979),pp. 25, 26.
Critical Inquiry Winter 1981 387
Draupadi is the name of the central character. She is introduced to the reader between two uniforms and between two versions of her name: Dopdi and Draupadi. It is either that as a tribal she cannot pronounce her own Sanskrit name (Draupadi), or the tribalized form, Dopdi, is the proper name of the ancient Draupadi. She is on a list of wanted persons, yet her name is not on the list of appropriate names for the tribal women.
The ancient Draupadi is perhaps the most celebrated heroine of the Indian epic Mahabharata. The Mahabharata and the Ramayana are the cultural credentials of the so-called Aryan civilization of India. The tribes predate the Aryan invasion. They have no right to heroic Sanskrit names. Neither the interdiction nor the significance of the name, however, must be taken too seriously. For this pious, domesticated Hindu name was given Dopdi at birth by her mistress, in the usual mood of benevolence felt by the oppressor’s wife toward the tribal bond servant. It is the killing of this mistress’ husband that sets going the events of the story.
And yet on the level of the text, this elusive and fortuitous name does play
a role. To speculate upon this role, we might consider the Mahabharata itself in its colonialist function in the interest of the so-called Aryan invaders of India. It is an accretive epic, where the “sacred” geography of an ancient battle is slowly expanded by succeeding generations of poets so that the secular geography of the expanding Aryan colony can present itself as identical with it and thus justify itself.16 The complexity of this vast and anonymous project makes it an incomparably more heterogeneous text than the Ramayana.
Unlike the Ramayana, for example, the Mahabharata contains cases of various kinds of kinship structure and various styles of marriage. And in fact it is Draupadi who provides the only example of polyandry, not a common system of marriage in India. She is married to the five sons of the impotent Pandu. Within a patriarchal and patronymic context, she is exceptional, indeed “singular” in the sense of odd, unpaired, uncoupled.17 Her husbands, since they are husbands rather than lovers, are legitimately pluralized. No acknowledgment of paternity can secure the Name of the Father for the child of such a mother. Mahasveta’s story questions this “singularity” by placing Dopdi first in a comradely, activist, monogamous marriage and then in a situation of multiple rape.
In the epic, Draupadi’s legitimized pluralization (as a wife among husbands) in singularity (as a possible mother or harlot) is used to demonstrate male glory. She provides the occasion for a violent transaction between men, the efficient cause of the crucial battle. Her eldest hus- 16. For my understanding of this aspect of the Mahabharata, I am indebted to Romila Thapar of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
17. I borrow this sense of singularity from Jacques Lacan, “Seminar on ‘The Purloined Letter,’ ” trans. Jeffrey Mehlman, Yak French Studies 48 (1972): 53, 59. 388 Gayatm’ Chakravorty Spivak “Draupadi”
band is about to lose her by default in a game of dice. He had staked all he owned, and “Draupadi belongs within that all” (Mahabharata 65:32). Her strange civil status seems to offer grounds for her predicament as well: “The Scriptures prescribed one husband for a woman; Draupadi is dependent on many husbands; therefore she can be designated a prostitute. There is
nothing improper in bringing her, clothed or unclothed, into the assembly” (65:35-36). The enemy chief begins to pull at Draupadi’s sum’. Draupadi silently prays to the incarnate Krishna. The Idea of Sustaining Law (Dharma) materializes itself as clothing, and as the king pulls and pulls at her sum’, there seems to be more and more of it. Draupadi is infinitely clothed and cannot be publicly stripped. It is one of Krishna’s miracles.
Mahasveta’s story rewrites this episode. The men easily succeed in stripping Dopdi-in the narrative it is the culmination of her political punishment by the representatives of the law. She remains publicly naked at her own insistence. Rather than save her modesty through the implicit intervention of a benign and divine (in this case it would have been godlike) comrade, the story insists that this is the place where male leadership stops.
It would be a mistake, I think, to read the modern story as a refutation of the ancient. Dopdi is (as heroic as) Draupadi. She is also what Draupadi-written into the patriarchal and authoritative sacred text as proof of male power-ould not be. Dopdi is at once a palimpsest and a contradiction.
There is nothing “historically implausible” about Dopdi’s attitudes. When we first see her, she is thinking about washing her hair. She loves her husband and keeps political faith as an act of faith toward him. She adores her forefathers because they protected their women’s honor. (It should be recalled that this is thought in the context of American soldiers breeding bastards.) It is when she crosses the sexual differential into the field of what could only happen to a woman that she emerges as the most powerful “subject,” who, still using the language of sexual “honor,” can derisively call herself “the object of your search,” whom the author can describe as a terrifying superobject-“an unarmed target.” As a tribal, Dopdi is not romanticized by Mahasveta.
The decision makers among the revolutionaries are, again, “realistically,” bourgeois young men and women who have oriented their book learning to the land and thus begun the long process of undoing the opposition between book (theory or “outside”) and spontaneity (practice or “inside”). Such fighters are the hardest to beat, for they are neither tribal nor gentlemen. A Bengali reader would pick them out by name among the
characters: the one with the aliases who bit off his tongue; the ones who helped the couple escape the army cordon; the ones who neither smoke nor drink tea; and, above all, Arijit. His is a fashionable first name, tinsel Sanskrit, with no allusive paleonymy and a meaning that fits the story a bit too well: victorious over enemies. Yet it is his voice that gives Dopdi the courage to save not herself but her comrades.
Of course, this voice of male authority also fades. Once Dopdi enters, in the final section of the story, the postscript area of lunar flux and sexual difference, she is in a place where she will finally actfor herself in not “acting,” in challenging the man to (en)counter her as unrecorded or misrecorded objective historical monument. The army officer is shown as unable to ask the authoritative ontological question, What is this? In fact, in the sentence describing Dopdi’s final summons to the sahib’s tent, the agent is missing. I can be forgiven if I find in this an allegory of the woman’s struggle within the revolution in a shifting historical moment. As Mahasveta points out in an aside, the tribe in question is the Santal, not to be confused with the at least nine other Munda tribes that inhabit India.
They are also not to be confused with the so-called untouchables, who, unlike the tribals, are Hindu, though probably of remote “non-Aryan” origin. In giving the name Harijan (“God’s people”) to the untouchables, Mahatma Gandhi had tried to concoct the sort of pride and sense of unity that the tribes seem to possess. Mahasveta has followed the Bengali practice of calling each so-called untouchable caste by the name of its menial and unclean task within the rigid structural functionalism of institutionalized Hinduism.18 I have been unable to reproduce this in my translation.
Mahasveta uses another differentiation, almost on the level of caricature: the Sikh and the Bengali. (Sikhism was founded as a reformed religion by Guru Nanak in the late fifteenth century. Today the roughly 9 million Sikhs of India live chiefly in East Punjab, at the other end of the vast Indo-Gangetic Plain from Bengal. The tall, muscular, turbanned, and bearded Sikh, so unlike the slight and supposedly intellectual Bengali, is the stereotyped butt of jokes in the same way as the Polish community in North
America or the Belgian in France.) Arjan Singh, the diabetic Sikh captain who falls back on the Granth-sahib (the Sikh sacred book-I have translated it “Scripture”) and the “five Ks” of the Sikh religion, is presented as all brawn and no brains; and the wily, imaginative, corrupt Bengali Senanayak is of course the army officer full of a Keatsian negative capability.lg
The entire energy of the story seems, in one reading, directed toward breaking the apparently clean gap between theory and practice in 18. As a result of the imposition of the capitalist mode of production and the Imperial Civil Service, and massive conversions of the lowest castes to Christianity, the invariable identity of caste and trade no longer holds. Here, too, there is the possibility of a taxonomy micrologically deconstructive of the caste-class opposition, functioning heterogeneously in terms of the social hierarchy.
19. If indeed the model for this character is Ranjit Gupta, the notorious inspector general of police of West Bengal, the delicate textuality, in the interest of a political position, of Senanayak’s delineation in the story takes us far beyond the limits of a referencea clef: I am grateful to Michael Ryan for suggesting the possibility of such a reference. 390 Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak “Draupadi”
Senanayak. Such a clean break is not possible, of course. The theoretical production of negative capability is a practice; the practice of mowing down Naxalites brings with it a theory of the historical moment. The assumption of such a clean break in fact depends upon the assumption that the individual subject who theorizes and practices is in full control. At least in the history of the Indo-European tradition in general, such a sovereign subject is also the legal or legitimate subject, who is identical with his stable p a t r o n ymi ~ .I~t ~m ight therefore be interesting that Senanayak is not given the differentiation of a first name and surname. His patronymic is identical with his function (not of course by the law of caste): the common noun means “army chief.”
In fact, there is the least hint of a doubt if it is a proper name or a common appellation. This may be a critique of the man’s apparently self-adequate identity, which sustains his theory-practice juggling act. If so, it goes with what I see as the project of the story: to break this bonded identity with the wedge of an unreasonable fear. If our certitude of the efficient-information-retrieval and talk-to-the-accessible approach toward Third-World women can be broken by the wedge of an unreasonable uncertainty, a feeling that what we deem gain might spell loss and that our practice should be forged accordingly, then we would share the textual effect of “Draupadi” with Senanayak.
The italicized words in the translation are in English in the original. It is to be noticed that the fighting words on both sides are in English. Nation-state politics combined with multinational economies produce war. The language of war–offense and defense-is international. English is standing in here for that nameless and heterogeneous world language. The peculiarities of usage belong to being obliged to cope with English under political and social pressure for a few centuries. Where, indeed, is there a “pure” language? Given the nature of the struggle, there is nothing bizarre in “Comrade D~ p d i . ” ~Itl i s part of the undoing of opposites-intellectual-rural, tribalist-internationalist-that is the wavering constitution of “the underground,” “the wrong side” of the law. On the right side of the law, such deconstructions, breaking down national distinctions, are operated through the encroachment of kingemperor or capital.
20. The relationship between phallocentrism, the patriarchy, and clean binary oppositions is a pervasive theme in Derrida’s critique of the metaphysics of presence. See my “Unmaking and Making in To the Lighthouse,” in Women and Language in Literature and Society, ed. Sally McConnell-Ginet, Ruth Borker, and Nelly Furman (New York, 1980). 21. “My dearest Sati, Through the walls and the miles that separate us I can hear you saying, ‘In Sawan it will be two years since Comrade left us.’ The other women will nod. It is you who have taught them the meaning of Comrade” (Mary Tyler, “Letter to a Former Cell-Mate,” in Naxalban and After, 1 :307; see also Tyler, My Years in an Indian Prison [Harmondsworth, 19771).
Critical Inquiry Winter 1981 391
The only exception is the word “sahib.” An Urdu word meaning “friend,” it came to mean, almost exclusively in Bengali, “white man.” It is a colonial word and is used today to mean “boss.” I thought of Kipling as I wrote “Burra Sahib” for Senanayak.
In the matter of “translation” between Bengali and English, it is again Dopdi who occupies a curious middle space. She is the only one who uses the word “counter” (the “n” is no more than a nasalization of the diphthong “ou”). As Mahasveta explains, it is an abbreviation for “killed by police in an encounter,” the code description for death by police torture. Dopdi does not understand English, but she understands this formula and the word. In her use of it at the end, it comes mysteriously close to the “proper” English usage. It is the menacing appeal of the objectified subject to its politico-sexual enemy-the provisionally silenced master of the subject-object dialectic-to encounter-
“counter”-her. What is it to “use” a language “correctly” without “knowing” it?
We cannot answer because we, with Senanayak, are in the opposite situation. Although we are told of specialists, the meaning of Dopdi’s song remains undisclosed in the text. The educated Bengali does not know the languages of the tribes, and no political coercion obliges him to “know” it. What one might falsely think of as a political “privilege”- knowing English properly-stands in the way of a deconstructive practice of language-using it “correctly” through a political displacement, or operating the language of the other side.
It follows that I have had the usual “translator’s problems” only with the peculiar Bengali spoken by the tribals. In general we educated Bengalis have the same racist attitude toward it as the late Peter Sellers had toward our English. It would have been embarrassing to have used some version of the language of D. H. Lawrence’s “common people” or Faulkner’s blacks. Again, the specificity is micrological. I have used “straight English,” whatever that may be.
Rather than encumber the story with footnotes, in conclusion I shall list a few items of information:
Page 393: The “five Ks” are Kes (“unshorn hair”); kachh (“drawers down to the knee”); karha (“iron bangle”); kirpan (“dagger”); kanga (“comb”; to be worn by every Sikh, hence a mark of identity). Page 396: “Bibidha Bharati” is a popular radio program, on which listeners can hear music of their choice. The Hindi film industry is prolific in producing pulp movies for consumption in India and in all parts of the world where there is an Indian, Pakistani, and West Indian labor force. Many of the films are adaptations from the epics. Sanjeev Kumar is an idolized actor. Since it was Krishna who rescued Draupadi from her predicament in the epic, and, in the film the soldiers watch, Sanjeev Kumar encounters Krishna, there might be a touch of textual irony here.
392 Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak “Draupadi”
Page 397: “Panchayat” is a supposedly elected body of village selfgovernment. Page 399: “Champabhumi” and “Radhabhumi” are archaic names
for certain areas of Bengal. “Bhumi” is simply “land.” All of Bengal is thus “Bangabhumi.”
Page 399: The jackal following the tiger is a common image.
Page 400: Modern Bengali does not distinguish between “her” and “his.” The “her” in the sentence beginning “No comrade will . . .” can therefore be considered an interpretati~n.~~
Page 401: A sari conjures up the long, many-pleated piece of cloth, complete with blouse and underclothes, that “proper” Indian women wear. Dopdi wears a much-abbreviated version, without blouse or underclothes. It is referred to simply as “the cloth.”
Name Dopdi Mejhen, age twenty-seven, husband Dulna Majhi (deceased), domicile Cherakhan, Bankrajharh, information whether dead
or alive and/or assistance in arrest, one hundred rupees. . . An exchange between two liveried uniforms.
FIRSTL IVERYW: hat’s this, a tribal called Dopdi? The list of names I brought has nothing like it! How can anyone have an unlisted name? SECONDD:raupadi
Mejhen. Born the year her mother threshed rice at Surja Sahu (killed)’~a t Bakuli. Surja Sahu’s wife gave her the name. FIRST: These officers like nothing better than to write as much as they can in English. What’s all this stuff about her?
SECONDM:ost notorious female. Long wanted in many. . .
Dossier: Dulna and Dopdi worked at harvests, rotating between Birbhum, Burdwan, Murshidabad, and Bankura. In 1971, in the famous Operation Bakuli, when three villages were cordonned off and machine gunned, they too lay on the ground, faking dead. In fact, they were the main culprits. Murdering Surja Sahu and his son, occupying upper-caste wells and tubewells during the drought, not surrendering those three young men to the police. In all this they were the chief instigators. In the morning, at the time of the body count, the couple could not be found.
The blood-sugar level of Captain Arjan Singh, the architect of Bakuli, rose at once and proved yet again that diabetes can be a result of anxiety and depression. Diabetes has twelve husbands-among them anxiety. Dulna and Dopdi went underground for a long time in a Neanderthal darkness. The Special Forces, attempting to pierce that dark by an armed search, compelled quite a few Santals in the various districts of West Bengal to meet their Maker against their will. By the Indian Con- 22. I am grateful to Soumya Chakravarti for his help in solving occasional problems of English synonyms and archival research.
stitution, all human beings, regardless of caste or creed, are sacred. Still, accidents like this do happen. Two sorts of reasons: (I), the underground couple’s skill in self-concealment; ( 2 ) ,not merely the Santals but all tribals of the Austro-Asiatic Munda tribes appear the same to the Special Forces.
In fact, all around the ill-famed forest of Jharkhani, which is under the jurisdiction of the police station at Bankrajharh (in this India of ours, even a worm is under a certain police station), even in the southeast and southwest corners, one comes across hair-raising details in the eyewitness records put together on the people who are suspected of attacking police stations, stealing guns (since the snatchers are not invariably well educated, they sometimes say “give up your chambers” rather than give up your gun), killing grain brokers, landlords, moneylenders, law officers, and bureaucrats. A black-skinned couple ululated like police sirens before the episode. They sang jubilantly in a savage tongue, incomprehensible even to the Santals. Such as:
Samaray hijulenako mar goekope
Hende rambra keche keche
Pundi rambra keche keche
This proves conclusively that they are the cause of Captain Arjan Singh’s diabetes. Government procedure being as incomprehensible as the Male Principle in Sankhya philosophy or Antonioni’s early films, it was Arjan Singh who was sent once again on Operation Forest Jharkhani. Learning from Intelligence that the above-mentioned ululating and dancing couple was the escaped corpses, Arjan Singh fell for a bit into a zombielike state and finally acquired so irrational a dread of black-skinned people that whenever he saw a black person in a ballbag, he swooned, saying “they’re killing me,” and drank and passed a lot of water. Neither uniform nor Scriptures could relieve that depression. At long last, under the shadow of apremuture and forced retirement, it was possible to present him at the desk of Mr. Senanayak, the elderly Bengali specialist in combat and extreme-left politics.
Senanayak knows the activities and capacities of the opposition better than they themselves do. First, therefore, he presents an encomium on the military genius of the Sikhs. Then he explains further: Is it only the opposition that should find power at the end of the barrel of a gun? Arjan Singh’s power also explodes out of the male organ of a gun. Without a gun even the “five Ks” come to nothing in this day and age. These speeches he delivers to all and sundry. As a result, the fighting forces regain their confidence in the Army Handbook. It is not a book for everyone. It says that the most despicable and repulsive style of fighting is 394 Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak “Draupadi”
guerrilla warfare with primitive weapons. Annihilation at sight of any and all practitioners of such warfare is the sacred duty of every soldier. Dopdi and Dulna belong to the category of such fighters, for they too kill by means of hatchet and scythe, bow and arrow, etc. In fact, their fighting power is greater than the gentlemen’s. Not all gentlemen become experts in the explosion of “chambers”; they think the power will come out on its own if the gun is held. But since Dulna and Dopdi are illiterate, their kind have practiced the use of weapons generation after generation.
I should mention here that, although the other side make little of him, Senanayak is not to be trifled with. Whatever hispractice, in theory he respects the opposition. Respects them because they could be neither understood nor demolished if they were treated with the attitude, “It’s nothing but a bit of impertinent game-playing with guns.” In order to destroy the enemy, become one. Thus he understood them by (theoretically) becoming one of them. He hopes to write on all this in the future. He has also decided that in his written work he will demolish the gentlemen and highlight the message of the harvest workers. These mental processes might seem complicated, but actually he is a simple man and is as pleased as his third great-uncle after a meal of turtle meat. In fact, he knows that, as in the old popular song, turn by turn the world will change.
And in every world he must have the credentials to survive with honor. If necessary he will show the future to what extent he alone understands the matter in its proper perspective. He knows very well that what he is doing today the future will forget, but he also knows that if he can change color from world to world, he can represent the particular world in question. Today he is getting rid of the young by means of “apprehension and elimination,” but he knows people will soon forget the memory and lesson of blood. And at the same time, he, like Shakespeare, believes in delivering the world’s legacy into youth’s hands. He is Prospero as well.
At any rate, information is received that many young men and women, batch by batch and on jeeps, have attacked police station after police station, terrified and elated the region, and disappeared into the forest of Jharkhani. Since after escaping from Bakuli, Dopdi and Dulna have worked at the house of virtually every landowner, they can efficiently inform the killers about their targets and announce proudly that they too are soldiers, rank and$le.Finally the impenetrable forest of Jharkhani is surrounded by real soldiers, the army enters and splits the battlefield. Soldiers in hiding guard the falls and springs that are the only source of drinking water; they are still guarding, still looking.
On one such search, army informant Dukhiram Gharari saw a young Santal man lying on his stomach on a flat stone, dipping his face to drink water. The soldiers shot him as he lay. As the .303 threw him off spread-eagled and brought a bloody foam to his mouth, he roared “Ma-ho” and then went limp. They realized later that it was the redoubtable Dulna Majhi. What does “Ma-ho” mean? Is this a violent slogan in the tribal language? Even after much thought, the Department of Defense could not be sure.
Two tribal-specialist types are flown in from Calcutta, and they sweat over the dictionaries put together by worthies such as Hoffmann-Jeffer and Golden-Palmer. Finally the omniscent Senanayak summons Chamru, the water carrier of the camp. He giggles when he sees the two specialists, scratches his ear with his “bidi,” and says, The Santals of Maldah did say that when they began fighting at the time of King Gandhi! It’s a battle cry. Who said “Ma-ho” here? Did someone come from Maldah?
The problem is thus solved. Then, leaving Dulna’s body on the stone, the soldiers climb the trees in green camouflage. They embrace the leafy boughs like so many great god Pans and wait as the large red ants bite their private parts. To see if anyone comes to take away the body. This is the hunter’s way, not the soldier’s. But Senanayak knows that these brutes cannot be dispatched by the approved method. So he asks his men to draw the prey with a corpse as bait. All will come clear, he says. I have almost deciphered Dopdi’s song.
The soldiers get going at his command. But no one comes to claim Dulna’s corpse. At night the soldiers shoot at a scuffle and, descending, discover that they have killed two hedgehogs copulating on dry leaves. Improvidently enough, the soldiers’ jungle scout Dukhiram gets a knife in the neck before he can claim the reward for Dulna’s capture. Bearing Dulna’s corpse, the soldiers suffer shooting pains as the ants, interrupted in their feast, begin to bite them. When Senanayak hears that no one has come to take the corpse, he slaps his anti-Fascist paperback copy of The Deputy and shouts, “What?” Immediately one of the tribal specialists runs in with a joy as naked and transparent as Archimedes’ and says, “Get up, sir! I have discovered the meaning of that ‘hende rambra’ stuff. It’s Mundari language.”
Thus the search for Dopdi continues. In the forest belt of Jharkhani, the Operation continues-will continue. It is a carbuncle on the government’s backside. Not to be cured by the tested ointment, not to burst with the appropriate herb. In the first phase, the fugitives, ignorant of the forest’s topography, are caught easily, and by the law of confrontation they are shot at the taxpayer’s expense. By the law of confrontation, their eyeballs, intestines, stomachs, hearts, genitals, and so on become the food of fox, vulture, hyena, wildcat, ant, and worm, and the untouchables go off happily to sell their bare skeletons.
They do not allow themselves to be captured in open combat in the next phase. Now it seems that they have found a trustworthy courier. Ten to one it’s Dopdi. Dopdi loved Dulna more than her blood. No doubt it is she who is saving the fugitives now.
“They” is also a hypothesis.
396 Gayatri Chakravorty Spiuak “Draupadi”
How many went origznally?
The answer is silence. About that there are many tales, many books in press. Best not to believe everything.
How many killed in six years’ confrontation?
The answer is silence.
Why after confrontations are the skeletons discovered with arms broken or severed? Could armless men have fought? Why do the collarbones shake, why are legs and ribs crushed?
Two kinds of answer. Silence. Hurt rebuke in the eyes. Shame on you! Why bring this up? What will be will be. . . .
How many left in the forest? The answer is silence.
A legzon? Is itjustzjiable to maintain a large battalion in that wild area at the taxpayer’s expense?
Answer: Objection. “Wild area” is incorrect. The battalion is provided with supervised nutrition, arrangements to worship according to religion, opportunity to listen to “Bibidha Bharati” and to see Sanjeev Kumar and the Lord Krishna face-to-face in the movie This Is Life. No. The area is not wild.
How many are left?
The answer is silence.
How many are left? Is there anyone at all?
The answer is long.
Item: Well, action still goes on. Moneylenders, landlords, grain brokers, anonymous brothel keepers, ex-informants are still terrified. The hungry and naked are still defiant and irrepressible. In some pockets the harvest workers are getting a better wage. Villages sympathetic to the fugitives are still silent and hostile. These events cause one to think. . . . Where in this picture does Dopdi Mejhen fit?
She must have connections with the fugitives. The cause for fear is elsewhere. The ones who remain have lived a long time in the primitive world of the forest. They keep company with the poor harvest workers and the tribals. They must have forgotten book learning. Perhaps they are orienting their book learning to the soil they live on and learning new combat and survival techniques. One can shoot and get rid of the ones whose only recourse is extrinsic book learning and sincere intrinsic enthusiasm. Those who are working practically will not be exterminated so easily.
Therefore Operation Jharkhani Forest cannot stop. Reason: the words of warning in the Army Handbook.
Catch Dopdi Mejhen. She will lead us to the others.
Dopdi was proceeding slowly, with some rice knotted into her belt. Critical Inquiry Winter 1981 397
Mushai Tudu’s wife had cooked her some. She does so occasionally. When the rice is cold, Dopdi knots it into her waistcloth and walks slowly. As she
walked, she picked out and killed the lice in her hair. If she had some Kerosene, she’d rub it into her scalp and get rid of the lice. Then she could wash her hair with bakingsoda. But the bastards put traps at every bend of the falls. If they smell kerosene in the water, they will follow the scent.
She doesn’t respond. She never responds when she hears her own name. She has seen in the Panchayat office just today the notice for the reward in her name. Mushai Tudu’s wife had said, “What are you looking at? Who is Dopdi Mejhen! Money if you give her up!”
Mushai’s wife said outside the office: “A lot of preparation this time. A-1 1 new policemen.”
Don’t come again.
Mushai’s wife looked down. Tudu says that Sahib has come again. If they catch you, the village, our huts . . .
They’ll burn again.
Yes. And about Dukhiram . . .
The Sahib knows?
Shomai and Budhna betrayed us.
Where are they?
Ran away by train.
Dopdi thought of something. Then said, Go home. I don’t know what will happen, if they catch me don’t know me.
Can’t you run away?
No. Tell me, how many times can I run away? What will they do if they catch me? They will counter me. Let them.
Mushai’s wife said, We have nowhere else to go.
Dopdi said softly, I won’t tell anyone’s name.
Dopdi knows, has learned by hearing so often and so long, how one can come to terms with torture. If mind and body give way under torture, Dopdi will bite off her tongue. That boy did it. They countered him. When they counter you, your hands are tied behind you. All your bones are crushed, your sex is a terrible wound. Killed by police in an encounter. . .unknown male . . . age twenty-two . . .
As she walked thinking these thoughts, Dopdi heard someone calling, Dopdi!
She didn’t respond. She doesn’t respond if called by her own name. Here her name is Upi Mejhen. But who calls?
398 Gayatri Chakravo~S pivak “Draupadi” Spines of suspicion are always furled in her mind. Hearing “Dopdi” they stiffen like a hedgehog’s. Walking, she unrolls the$lm of known faces in her mind. Who? Not Shomra, Shomra is on the run. Shomai and Budhna are also on the run, for other reasons. Not Golok, he is in Bakuli. Is it someone from Bakuli? After Bakuli, her and Dulna’s names were Upi Mejhen, Matang Majhi. Here no one but Mushai and his wife knows their real names. Among the young gentlemen, not all of the previous batches knew.
That was a troubled time. Dopdi is confused when she thinks about it. Operation Bakuli in Bakuli. Surja Sahu arranged with Biddibabu to dig two tubewells and three wells within the compound of his two houses. No water anywhere, drought in Birbhum. Unlimited water at Surja Sahu’s house, as clear as a crow’s eye.
Get your water with canal tax, everything is burning.
What’s my profit in increasing cultivation with tax money?
Everything’s on fire.
Get out of here. I don’t accept your Panchayat nonsense. Increase cultivation with water. You want half the paddy for sharecropping. Everyone is happy with free paddy. Then give me paddy at home, give me money, I’ve learned my lesson trying to do you good.
What good did you do?
Have I not given water to the village?
You’ve given it to your kin Bhagunal.
Don’t you get water?
No. The untouchables don’t get water.
The quarrel began there. In the drought, human patience catches easily. Satish and Jugal from the village and that young gentleman, was Rana his name?, said a landowning moneylender won’t give a thing, put him down.
Surja Sahu’s house was surrounded at night. Surja Sahu had brought out his gun. Surja was tied up with cow rope. His whitish eyeballs turned and turned, he was incontinent again and again. Dulna had said, I’ll have the first blow, brothers. My greatgrandfather took a bit of paddy from him, and I still give him free labor to repay that debt. Dopdi had said, His mouth watered when he looked at me. I’ll pull out his eyes.
Surja Sahu. Then a telegraphic message from Shiuri. Special train. Army. The jeep didn’t come up to Bakuli. March-march-march. The crunch-crunch-crunch of gravel under hobnailed boots. Cordon up. Commands on the mike. Jugal Mandal; Satish Mandal, Rana alias Prabir alias Dipak, Dulna Majhi-Dopdi Mejhen surrender surrender surrender. No surrender surrender. Mow-mowmow down the village. Putt-putt putt-puttcordite in the air-putt-putt-round the clock-putt-putt. Flame thrower. Bakuli is burning. More men and women, children . . .jre-jire. Close canal Critical Inquiry Winter 1981 399 approach.
Over-over-over by nightfall. Dopdi and Dulna had crawled on their stomachs to safety. They could not have reached Paltakuri after Bakuli. Bhupati and Tapa took them. Then it was decided that Dopdi and Dulna would work around the Jharkhani belt. Dulna had explained to Dopdi, Dear, this is best! We won’t get family and children this way. But who knows? Landowner and moneylender and policemen might one day be wiped out!
Who called her from the back today?
Dopdi kept walking. Villages and fields, bush and rock-Public Works Department markers-sound of running steps in back. Only one person running. Jharkhani Forest still about two miles away. Now she thinks of nothing but entering the forest. She must let them know that the police have set up notices for her again. Must tell them that that bastard Sahib has appeared again. Must change hideouts.
Also, the plan to do to Lakkhi Bera and Naran Bera what they did to Surja Sahu on account of the trouble over paying the field hands in Sandara must be cancelled. Shomai and Budhna knew everything. There was the urgency of great danger under Dopdi’s ribs. Now she thought there was no shame as a Santal in Shomai and Budhna’s treachery. Dopdi’s blood was the pure unadulterated black blood of Champabhumi. From Champa to Bakuli the rise and set of a million moons. Their blood could have been contaminated; Dopdi felt proud of her forefathers. They stood guard over
their women’s blood in black armor. Shomai and Budhna are halfbreeds. The fruits of the war. Contributions to Radhabhumi by the American soldiers stationed at Shiandanga. Otherwise, crow would eat crow’s flesh before Santal would betray Santal.Footsteps at her back. The steps keep a distance. Rice in her belt, tobacco leaves tucked at her waist. Arijit, Malini, Shamu, Mantu-none of them smokes or even drinks tea. Tobacco leaves and limestone powder. Best medicine for scorpion bite. Nothing must be given away. Dopdi turned left. This way is the camp. Two miles. This is not the way to the forest. But Dopdi will not enter the forest with a cop at her back.
I swear by my life. By my life Dulna, by my life. Nothing must be told.
The footsteps turn left. Dopdi touches her waist. In her palm the comfort of a half-moon. A baby scythe. The smiths at Jharkhani are fine artisans. Such an edge we’ll put on it Upi, a hundred Dukhiram* Thank God Dopdi is not a gentleman. Actually, perhaps they have understood scythe, hatchet, and knife best. They do their work in silence. The lights of the camp at a distance. Why is Dopdi going this way? Stop a bit, it turns again. Huh! I can tell where I am if I wander all night with my eyes shut. I won’t go in the forest, I won’t lose him that way. I won’t outrun him. You fucking jackal of a cop, deadly afraid of death, 400 Gayatri Ch a k r a u o ~Sp iuak “Draupadi”
you can’t run around in the forest. I’d run you out of breath, throw you in a ditch, and finish you off.
Not a word must be said. Dopdi has seen the new camp, she has sat in the bus station, passed the time of day, smoked a “bidi” and found out how many police convoys had arrived, how many radio vans. Squash four, onions seven, peppers fifty, a straightforward account. This information cannot now be passed on. They will understand Dopdi Mejhen has been countered. Then they’ll run. Arijit’s voice. If anyone is caught, the others must catch the timing and change their hideout. If Comrade Dopdi arrives late, we will not remain. There will be a sign of where we’ve gone. No comrade will let the others be destroyed for her own sake.
Arijit’s voice. The gurgle of water. The direction of the next hideout will be indicated by the tip of the wooden arrowhead under the stone. Dopdi likes and understands this. Dulna died, but, let me tell you, he didn’t lose anyone else’s life. Because this was not in our heads to begin with, one was countered for the other’s trouble. Now a much harsher rule, easy and clear. Dopdi returns-good; doesn’t return–bad. Change hideout. The clue will be such that the opposition won’t see it, won’t understand even if they do.
Footsteps at her back. Dopdi turns again. These 3% miles of land and rocky ground are the best way to enter the forest. Dopdi has left that way behind. A little level ground ahead. Then rocks again. The anny could not have struck camp on such rocky terrain. This area is quiet enough. It’s like a maze, every hump looks like every other. That’s fine. Dopdi will lead the cop to the burning “ghat.” Patitpaban of Saranda had been sacrificed in the name of Kali of the Burning Ghats.
A lump of rock stands up. Another. Yet another. The elderly Senanayak was at once triumphant and despondent. Ifyou want to destroy the enemy, become one. He had done so. As long as six years ago he could anticipate their every move. He still can. Therefore he is elated. Since he has kept up with the literature, he has read First Blood and seen approval of his thought and work.
Dopdi couldn’t trick him, he is unhappy about that. Two sorts of reasons. Six years ago he published an article about information storage in brain cells. He demonstrated in that piece that he supported this struggle from the point of view of the field hands. Dopdi is a field hand. Veteran3ghter. Search and destroy. Dopdi Mejhefi is about to be apprehended. Will be destroyed. Regret.
Dopdi stops short. The steps behind come around to the front. Under Dopdi’s ribs the canal dam breaks. No hope. Surja Sahu’s brother Rotoni Sahu. The two lumps of rock come forward. Shomai and
Budhna. They had not escaped by train.
Arijit’s voice. Just as you must know when you’ve won, you must also acknowledge defeat and start the activities of the next stage. Now Dopdi spreads her arms, raises her face to the sky, turns toward the forest, and ululates with the force of her entire being. Once, twice, three times. At the third burst the birds in the trees at the outskirts of the forest awake and flap their wings. The echo of the call travels far. Draupadi Mejhen was apprehended at 6:53P.M. It took an hour to get her to camp. Questioning took another hour exactly. No one touched her, and she was allowed to sit on a canvas camp stool. At 8:57 Senanayak’s dinner hour approached, and saying, “Make her. Do the needful,” he disappeared.
Then a billion moons pass. A billion lunar years. Opening her eyes after a million light years, Draupadi, strangely enough, sees sky and moon. Slowly the bloodied nailheads shift from her brain. Trying to move, she feels her arms and legs still tied to four posts. Something sticky under her ass and waist. Her own blood. Only the gag has been removed. Incredible thirst. In case she says “water” she catches her lower lip in her teeth. She senses that her vagina is bleeding. How many came to make her?
Shaming her, a tear trickles out of the corner of her eye. In the muddy moonlight she lowers her lightless eye, sees her breasts, and understands that, indeed, she’s been made up right. Her breasts are bitten raw, the nipples torn. How many? Four-five-six-seven-then Draupadi had passed out.
She turns her eyes and sees something white. Her own cloth. Nothing else.
Suddenly she hopes against hope. Perhaps they have abandoned her. For the foxes to devour. But she hears the scrape of feet. She turns her head, the guard leans on his bayonet and leers at her. Draupadi closes her eyes. She doesn’t have to wait long. Again the process of making her begins. Goes on. The moon vomits a bit of light and goes to sleep. Only the dark remains. A compelled spread-eagled still body. Active pistons of flesh rise and fall, rise and fall over it. Then morning comes.
Then Draupadi Mejhen is brought to the tent and thrown on the straw. Her piece of cloth is thrown over her body.
Then, after breakfast, after reading the newspaper and sending the radio message “Draupadi Mejhen apprehended,” etc., Draupadi Mejhen is ordered brought in.
Suddenly there is trouble.
Draupadi sits up as soon as she hears “Move!” and asks, Where do you want me to go?
To the Burra Sahib’s tent.
402 Gayatm’ Chakravorty Spivak “Draupadi”
Where is the tent?
Draupadi fixes her red eyes on the tent. Says, Come, I’ll go. The guard pushes the water pot forward.
Draupadi stands up. She pours the water down on the ground.
Tears her piece of cloth with her teeth. Seeing such strange behavior, the guard says, She’s gone crazy, and runs for orders. He can lead the prisoner out but doesn’t know what to do if the prisoner behaves incomprehensibly. So he goes to ask his superior.
The commotion is as if the alarm had sounded in a prison.
Senanayak walks out surprised and sees Draupadi, naked, walking toward him in the bright sunlight with her head high. The nervous guards trail behind.
What is this? He is about to cry, but stops.
Draupadi stands before him, naked. Thigh and pubic hair matted with dry blood. Two breasts, two wounds.
What is this? He is about to bark.
Draupadi comes closer. Stands with her hand on her hip, laughs and says, The object of your search, Dopdi Mejhen. You asked them to make me up, don’t you want to see how they made me?
Where are her clothes?
Won’t put them on, sir. Tearing them.
Draupadi’s black body comes even closer. Draupadi shakes with an indomitable laughter that Senanayak simply cannot understand. Her ravaged lips bleed as she begins laughing. Draupadi wipes the blood on her palm and says in a voice that is as terrifying, sky splitting, and sharp as her ululation, What’s the use of clothes? You can strip me, but how can you clothe me again? Are you a man?
She looks around and chooses the front of Senanayak’s white bush shirt to spit a bloody gob at and says, There isn’t a man here that I should be ashamed. I will not let you put my cloth on me. What more can you do? Come on, counter me-come on, counter me-?
Draupadi pushes Senanayak with her two mangled breasts, and for the first time Senanayak is afraid to stand before an unarmed target, terribly afraid.