Anita Nahal

Maryada and Modern Draupadi

I am a modern Draupadi. No, not with five husbands but could have if I wanted. Polyandry was shoved into me by childhood myths pedestalized by Bollywood. In real life polygamy held the trishul. So, don’t worry about my maryada. You chalk out yours in permanent markers and I will sketch mine in colorful crayons. I can paint castles in the air, I can paint the evergreens, the Himalayas, the Congo Basin, the Great Barrier reef, the Sahara Desert, the Niagara Falls. I can sail at dawn through the Nile, fly at the Canyon at noon, and kiss at the Taj Mahal in the moonlight. Or I can tip toe into your bed room. Or his and his and his and his. I perspire and perspire, and my ardor heats up and I run for ice holding myself within my own maryada before the wetness boils over. I am a modern Draupadi. Don’t let men dance on my little fingers, nor do I gamble. And spirits only touch my mouth when I am with special lovers. Pure scents on my wrists, behind my ear lobes, swoon me even more as do words of passion and playful banter. I love my curves, my fussiness, my asanas, my boogying, my quiet musings and scribblings, and sleeping skin to sheet. I love your wittiness, smoothness, flavorings like early morning summer rains. I am Draupadi’s wishes and yearnings that bring a winter fire’s coziness not the scalding of war. Disdain of woman against woman, man against woman, man against man, or anyone against lgbtq, whizzes through the myths reaching me like a hissing coal, and I simmer. And simmer. And simmer, till the heat becomes fiercer and I boil over.
I watch my steps
I watch everybody
I listen to all the footsteps
I may not acknowledge anybody
I learnt from Draupadi to reign in my anger
To quieten my hunger
To not leave around temptations
That could shake foundations
Of familial relationships
That as it is, are mired
From decades of squabbles are extremely tired
That I don’t bid to push into perpetual eclipses
I want to feel special when I lay down, unforgettable
So, I chose to be me. A woman. Earthy and sensual.

*Draupadi: The doomed heroine in the Hindu epic Mahabharata *Bollywood: Film Industry in India *Trishul: A trident *Maryada: Limit, correctness, moral propriety, proper behavior *Asanas: Yogic poses

Anita Nahal is an Indian-American-diasporic poet, flash fictionist, children’s writer and columnist. Anita Nahal has two books of poetry, one book of flash fictions, four for children and three edited anthologies to her credit. Her third book of poetry, What’s wrong with us Kali women? is due for release by Kelsay Books in August 2021. Two of her books are prescribed in a course on multiculturalism and immigration at the University of the Utrecht, The Netherlands. She teaches at the University of the District of Columbia, Washington DC. More on her at: