I have a duty towards society… I ask myself this question a thousand times: have I done what I could have done? Draupadi is a short story of around 20 pages originally written in Bengali by Mahasweta Devi. Devi situates her story against the Naxalite movement , the Bangladesh Liberation War of West Bengal and the ancient Hindu epic of Mahabharata, engaging with the complex politics of Bengali identity and Indian nationhood. The tribal uprising against wealthy landlords brought upon the fury of the government which led to Operation Bakuli that sought to kill the so-called tribal rebels.
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I have a duty towards society… I ask myself this question a thousand times: have I done what I could have done? Draupadi is a short story of around 20 pages originally written in Bengali by Mahasweta Devi.
Devi situates her story against the Naxalite movement , the Bangladesh Liberation War of West Bengal and the ancient Hindu epic of Mahabharata, engaging with the complex politics of Bengali identity and Indian nationhood. The tribal uprising against wealthy landlords brought upon the fury of the government which led to Operation Bakuli that sought to kill the so-called tribal rebels.
She is a Robin Hood-like figure who with her husband, Dhulna , murders wealthy landlords and usurp their wells, which is the primary source of water for the village. The government attempts to subjugate these tribal rebel groups through many means: kidnapping, murder, rape.
Dopdi is captured by Officer Senanayak who instructs the army officers to rape her to extract information about the rebel uprising. Thigh and pubic hair matted with dry blood. Two breasts. In both, the case of Durga and Draupadi, what happens to their body is a result of patriarchal voices which denies them agency. Dopdi is a woman of strong mind and will as she defied the shame associated with rape and sexual abuse, which is extremely relevant to India today. Especially in the onset of the MeToo movement where many brave women came forward with their stories.
Due to reading Draupadi with the knowledge that it was translated by Spivak I was constantly reminiscent of her essays: Can the Subaltern Speak? Through the dislocation of the epic princess Draupadi to the tribal rebel Dopdi, Devi is able to present voices and perspectives otherwise unspoken and unheard of.
The Hindu mythology of the subaltern female body which is never questioned and only ever exploited is rejected by Devi. Lord Vishnu then dismembers her body, and her body parts are strewn over the universe.
Dopdi bears the torture as she is raped by many men through the encouragement of the voice of another man Arijit, that urges her to save her comrades and not herself. Her refusal to be clothed goes against the phallocentric power, and the exploitation of her body gives her the agency to step away from the hegemonic patriarchy of the policemen.
In the contexts of both the Naxalite movement and the Bangladesh Liberation war, both men and women are tortured, but it is much worse for women as they additionally undergo sexual abuse. Spivak has shown concern regarding the representation of the subaltern in the mainstream discourse on the basis that the subaltern cannot be represented; only re-presented.
In Draupadi, Devi has not allowed her female protagonist, Dopdi, to be submissive and conquered by the male-dominated society, unlike Draupadi from the Mahabharata. Draupadi is a narrative that is universal in its portrayal of women as the most brutal victims of conflict and war. At the end of the story as she confronts the army officers with her bare body, the body that was violated and tortured is also in reverse used as a weapon. Even though Dopdi has been physically abused, she refuses to be emotionally wounded.
In Draupadi , Devi presents a strong woman who despite being marginalised and exploited, transgresses conventional sexual and societal standards.
Dopdi subverts the physicality of her body from powerlessness into powerful resistance. She does not represent the tribal woman by romanticising her depiction of Dopdi but instead realistically re-presents her through simple language and complex emotions.
I urge anyone who has not yet read Draupadi to do so, and especially Bengali readers who can enjoy the words in the original language. Devi, Mahaswata. Translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.
Calcutta: Seagull Books, Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. Can the Subaltern Speak?. The Trajectory of Subaltern in my Work. The Devi in Mahasweta Devi is not a surname but a suffix which denotes respect. So the frequent use of Devi indicating the surname of Mahasweta is meaningless. That was a great article.
It shook and disturbed me to reflect and question myself and my attitudes, opinions and life. I always think of this story whenever I hear reports of daily gang rapes in India. I think of the Mahabharata Draupadi too. The violence, the terror, and trauma of rape is unspeakable. The fact that we have to read and re-read stories of collective trauma and pain to keep the resistance alive is depressing to me. The fact that we must keep reading and re-reading Mahasweta Devi even as it triggers remembered PTSD in us makes me furious even as an unraped woman — I cannot even begin to imagine the triggering of psyches for those who have faced sexual violence.
But yes, this is the MeToo era where women do speak up thank you, brave warriors and survivors! Men continue in positions of power and go on to harass and rape others. Gang rapes and further mutilation and immolation of female bodies are on the rise in India. But I know. We cannot afford empty anger, or to give up.
Sign in. Log into your account. Password recovery. Thursday, June 4, FII Hindi. Forgot your password? Get help. Feminism In India. Video: Understanding Sexual Consent. Video: What Is Intersectional Feminism? Leave a Reply Cancel reply. In a world that is marred with COVID, India has been in a lockdown and the practice of physical distancing is in practice.
This has severely impacted these women weavers who have lost their livelihood and space of solidarity. Internalised queerphobia and masculine stereotypes are rampant in our society.
It is present in the languages we use, the dress codes we follow and the people or content we fear calling out. Campus Joyoti Chowdhury - March 9, 4. In spite of having discussions around teenage pregnancy, there is also a lack of awareness around safe sex.
January 17, November 19,
Mahasweta Devi’s Draupadi As A Symbol Of Subaltern Defiance
Shweta Radhakrishnan. As I read these words, I realised that I had already encountered this mode of writing. Before I heard the laugh of the Medusa, it was the laugh of Dopdi Mehjen that rang through, clear, unwavering and unashamed. Dopdi was the first female character I had encountered in literature, who, in the face of unimaginable violence, retained her sense of agency as an act of resistance — despite the most heinous efforts to strip her of it. The story, translated from Bengali to English by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, follows the efforts of the local police and army officers, led by the Senanayak, to capture Dopdi, after having hunted down and killed her husband.
'Draupadi', Mahasweta Devi's memorable short story, and still chillingly relevant
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