“Come here… Sit Panchaali” Dhai Mai pats her legs which were plump and covered in an intricate designed sari that Panchaali thought sparkled like emeralds.
“Dhai, what is today’s story? Are you going to tell how father fought all those wars?” sticking out her tongue and scrunching up her face in an unladylike manner.
Panchaali hated the stories of her father’s countless wars. She found them senseless and avoidable even at the age of ten. Panchaali also new that she had created a reaction from her nurse Dhai Mai. In the eyes of her Dhai, Drupad (Panchaali’s father) could do no wrong he was a wondrous and holy ruler worthy of all of the respect in the world.
Swatting Panchaali on the leg Dhai Mai was sorely disappointed.
“A princess does not speak ill of her father; it is not the way of royalty. So mind your manners. Now…you must be quiet girl, if you want to hear the story.”
Laying her head down on the shoulder of her nurse, “Yes Dhai”.
“There was once this beautiful princess. She was stubborn and to outspoken for her own good.”
Knowing instantly it was her, Panchaali chuckled.
“Quiet girl… This beautiful princess had a kingdom that treated her like an outcast as if she was the ugliest person they have ever laid their eyes on. Cruel and unfair to this princess she was often left to her own devices. She often occupied herself with worrying about her destiny. A destiny that was very special indeed. A destiny that would change the very world we live in.”
“Dhai? Is this princess me? It sounds like me.” Snuggling a little closer in the neck of her nurse she spoke softly, afraid that she will be scolded for interrupting again.
“Of course not! Let me continue.” Dhai Mai lied, of course, she had a point to make. A lesson to teach this headstrong child on her lap.
“The princess went through many tests of her true nature as she got older. For instance, one of her mentors suggested she hold her tongue instead of speaking out turn and making sure when you do speak up that you be careful what you say. Well, one day she decided to speak out against her father about his actions towards not only her brave brother, but herself. The king looked at his daughter in shock and in wonderment, because he saw that her bravery enhanced her beauty by enhancing her confidence. Nothing is more pleasing to the eye of other is the beauty of within shining out. In time the princess grew strong in her voice and strong in her walk. Making her into a beautiful woman. Who had princes from all over vying for her love. Even though she knew she was made for great things. The greatness did not show itself until she was confident in who she was and no longer cared about what others thought of her.”
Lifting her head, a little to look at Dhai, “What was her destiny Dhai?”
“Her destiny was to start the world anew, the war ravaged and unholy world would become anew because this girl was happy with who she was and was able to tackle her trials with gusto and bravery.”
Lifting Panchaali off her lap she placed her in front of herself and looked her dead in the eye.
“The point of the story, my child, is that no matter how others treat you. No matter how different you may feel. Everything will get better and you will see in the beauty in yourself as I do. This will cause you to accomplish great things.”
“So the story was about me?!” jumping up and down excitedly she barely heard a word Dhai said.
Sighing and rolling her eyes a little bit, she leaned back in her seat. “Of course it was…”
Author’s Note: In the Palace of Illusions, Draupadi (aka Panchaali) is treated like an outcast and generally left to wallow in her own self-doubt. She also struggles with her confidence with a good first half of the book. Never once was she told she was beautiful, not until around the time she was to look for a husband. I found this to be really sad and with any young girl really destroys their self-confidence. So, I really wanted someone she trusted with whole heart to tell her she was beautiful the way she was. Dhai Mai was the only character throughout the first half of story that did not ignore or treat Panchaali indifferent. In a lot of ways, she tried to show her how beautiful she really was. So, I really wanted her to be the voice to tell an impressionable girl her worth. I chose Dhai Mai to tell her a story of her future (and so on) because the first half of the story is riddled with stories that people tell Panchaali. Storytelling is essential part of the Palace of Illusions. In typical child reaction, I felt it only make sense for Panchaali to not register fully the words that Dhai Mai says.
Bibliography:“Palace of Illusions”,2008 by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.