After that she was admitted to Santiniketan to Then in she got I. Hons in English, and then finished an M. She had toured the Jhansi region to record information and folk songs from the local people for the novel. They were associated as protestor in the face of the oppressive British rule, the Mahajanas and upper class corruption and injustice. She lived in the Adivasi villages in West Bengal, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh years afer years, befriending them and learning from them.
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Shomai and Budhna betrayed us. Where are they? Ran away by train. Dopdi thought of something. Then said, Go home. Tell me, how many times can I run away? What will they do if they catch me? They will kounter me. Let them. 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 kountered him. When they kounter you, your hands are tied behind you.
All your bones are crushed, your sex is a terrible wound. Killed by police in an encounter. As she walked thinking these thoughts, Dopdi heard someone calling, Dopdi!
Here her name is Upi Mejhen. But who calls? Spines of suspicion are always furled in her mind. Walking, she unrolls the film of known faces in her mind. No 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? 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 Biddi-babu to dig two tubewells and three wells within the compound of his two houses. No water anywhere, drought in Birbhum.
Get your water with canal tax, everything is burning. Get out of here. Increase cultivation with water. You want half the paddy for sharecropping. Everyone is happy with free paddy. What good did you do?
Have I not given water to the village? 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? 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. My great-grandfather took a bit of paddy from him, and I still give him free labour to repay that debt.
Dopdi had said, his mouth watered when he looked at me. Surja sahu. Then a telegraphic message from Shiuri. Special train. The crunch-crunch-crunch of gravel under hobnailed boots. Cordon up. Commands on the mike. No surrender surrender. Mow-mow-mow down the village. Flame thrower. Bakuli is burning. More men and women, children Close canal 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! But who knows? Landowners and moneylenders 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 at the 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 hide-outs. 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. From Champa to Bakuli the rise and set of a million moons. The blood could have been contaminated; Dopdi felt proud of her fore-fathers. Shomai and Budhna are half-breeds. The fruits of war. Contributions to radhabhumi by the American soldiers stationed at shiandange. 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.
'Draupadi', Mahasweta Devi's memorable short story, and still chillingly relevant
Mahasweta Devi’s Draupadi As A Symbol Of Subaltern Defiance