They have to leave their Kingdom. They’ve lost their wealth and prosperity for being a novice in the game of gamble played by an old man. In accordance with the deal, they have to be in exile for 13 years, and incognito in the last year. The Pandavas along with Draupadi left to the forests stepping out of their comfort zones. The kings who had hundreds of people to work for them had to now work under those hundreds somewhere far away.
13 years is not a short time. They had to survive on their individual efforts of acquiring food, shelter, and work.
I have always believed that stories heal and help each one of us in one or the other way, to move forward in his life. Since ages, human’s evolution has always been a step ahead of previous generation’s stories. That’s how we grow. Throughout their journey, they incessantly listen to a lot of stories from saints, villagers and other intellectuals about people who suffered a similar fate like Pandavas.
On their way, they met a Rishi who narrated the story of Rama, and him being in exile for 14 years. He explained all the struggles of each and every character of the Ramayana. The Pandavas listened to tales of pain, melancholy, happiness, struggle and victory; tales they wouldn’t have ever heard if they remained confined to their kingdom. The story of Ramayana really made them stand strong in the years of exile. They also faced Rakshasa’s and Asura’s natural calamities, and many other obstacles that made them see and understand the realities outside their world.
In the last year, they had to work in the Kingdom of Virata, anonymously. Everyone had kept their identities to themselves and worked in roles they had never imagined. Yudhishtira was a court counsellor, Bhima a Cook, Arjuna, a dance and music teacher who would enact as a woman, Nakul a horse keeper, Sahadeva herded cows, and Draupadi was a maid in queen’s chamber. They faced various challenges in each of their positions and could also empathize with the situations faced by people doing all these jobs on a regular.
Draupadi had always been slightly away from being a victim of molestation by Kichaka, a commander in Virata’s forces. She realized how maids were treated not only in the kingdom but also elsewhere. Similarly, Pandavas had their own share of heart wrenching experiences.
After many wars and battles, finally, they successfully completed their 13 years and came back to their kingdom. I find it interesting that their values and attitude towards rule and even in everyday life had totally changed. It’s relatable with my fellowship of 13 months with India Fellow. Be it years or months, stories always heal and help us grow. The Seventeen of us (me and my co-fellows) started a similar journey to different places during which each one of us experienced a variety of situations, met people from diverse backgrounds, had heartfelt experiences, lived in beautiful cultural settings, got immense love and affection, and of course heard inspiring stories.
If we could relate our journey with the last year of Pandavas, we all had held different positions in several themes of work where we also had learned to walk in the shoes of our community. I understood the ground realities, the change happening around me and the people who are relentlessly working to uplift the marginal sections of the society. All these stories and values once imbibed, cannot be forgotten or sidelined. They always stay with you, irrespective of whether you are in a kingdom or amidst a dense forest. While reading this phase of ‘Pandava Vanavaas’, I could resonate with the incidents that may have happened thousands of years ago. I could relate it to my life because the story touched me and made me visualize a similar situation. Today, I reflect on the problems that I face, more broadly and try to look for solutions that not only help me but also benefit others.