It’s good to be a human, Partha, preferably, a man.
You know that, being a prince, and being loved, and being safe
In the knowledge that you have this life, and this one life alone.
It’s good to be a god too, Madhusudhan, you know that,
You remember nothing since you forget nothing, you
Do not live since you do not die, and the demands of flesh
Cannot distract you. You were here before, and will forever be.
Consider me, then, in this body of flesh and bone I do not recognise.
And this mind, and those memories, which this body cannot
Comprehend. You say, I’m a warrior, but I’m not a man. You
Say I’m my father’s son, but I remember another father, in another lifetime,
Who called me a daughter. You say, he’s just an old man, the Pitamaha,
But I see the young, proud archer, uncouth, and heartless, who’d
Listen to none but his own voice. I blink, and I’m someone else.
And now, on the threshold of my goal, for which I travelled through
Two births, two lives, two genders, and sacrificed everything human,
Love, family, and that insatiable desire to leave my mark on the stone
Columns long after I was gone, I have just one regret, of not living my
Life the way I could. After all, I was a princess and he was not the only
Man. I could have found happiness with someone else, all men are but the
Same, who only seek objects to dominate over, to rule them.
He knows, you say, the Pitamaha, whose death is my goal, that
I’m a woman, that I’m the same woman he scorned, but Madhusudhan, I
Am not. My soul may be, but not my body; this, I crafted for myself, through
Years of desolate childhood of neither being a boy and a girl, neither being loved
Or loathed, neither a beauty, nor brave, and I endured long, lonely nights
Dreaming of him, waiting for this very day when I’d be the instrument of
His end. And now, my heart beats for him and he wouldn’t fight me.
Oh, Partha, my sister’s groom, oh, the desirable one, it is perhaps your destiny,
To end this tale of wishes unfulfilled, and free me of my goal so I
Perhaps can learn to live after he was dead, and realise the possibility
Of this body, and experience desires other than for this old man who
Created a kingdom over his rigid, undefiled torso, which now is obsessed with
Its own destruction, as I was, in another lifetime, and all I have now is just one
Regret, that in the end, I became the same man I so deliriously despised.
[In The Mahabharata, after Princess Amba was spurned by Bhishma Pitamaha, she went to the forest and prayed to gods to be reborn as a man so that she can avenge her misfortune. In her next birth, she was Shikhandi, a son/daughter of King Draupad of Panchal. During the Kurukshetra War, when it became impossible to kill Bhishma, Krishna and Arjun came to Shikhandi for help, for he was the only person against whom the old patriarch wouldn’t fight, for he knows, Shikhandi was a woman in the previous birth.]