The Blue Man by Suzanne Biever

The blue man came to me when I was a girl. When I was a child, sitting in the lush gardens of my father’s palace. He came to me on flute notes drifting on the wind, high and light, and low and heavy. He rose from them, like an apparition, appearing before me. And when he was present, the nurses left. They sat on the benches behind the swaying trees with their overhanging branches. They left us to one another.


The blue man came to me when I was a girl. He bent over me as I played with my dolls dressed in their finely stitched clothing. And as he bent towards me, the peacock feather on his forehead tickled my cheek, making me reach up to grab it, giggling. He smiled, and when he smiled, I had to look away, because it was the most beautiful smile I had ever seen, and I didn’t know what to do.


He extended one dyed finger and lifted my chin. Shyly, I tried to resist, keeping my eyes shifted to the side. But I needed to look at him. I needed his glance, his eyes, like sustenance for my soul. I gave in, and let myself become absorbed in his features. His painted skin. His black locks flowing down his shoulders. His deep, deep eyes full of centuries that invited me into their dark pools. He smiled again, and my heart throbbed and almost broke with wonder.

‘You will change history, my child,’ he said in a voice as melodious as a song. ‘Fate has claimed you.’


He reached behind my ear, brushing his fingers against my black wisps of hair. When he brought his hand back, he held a long, wooden flute. He offered it to me. I laughed and laughed, turning the flute over in my hands. Tracing the carved lines of vines and branches and leaves.

And then we sat, both of us, side-by-side, looking out over the lake at the sun setting over the palace walls. The sun disappeared into blues and purples and greys, colours which seemed to melt into the blue man himself. Become one with him. One with everything. On the water were the lotuses resting between the lily pads. White and pink bled together. No one like the other. They bobbed on the water as the wind blew across the surface of the lake, causing it to stir. We watched, even as the sun and its trailing light completely disappeared. Even when we couldn’t see the lotuses anymore. Even when I couldn’t see the blue man anymore.




‘I think that I’ve been reincarnated.’


‘You think that you have been reincarnated.’


‘Yes, I think that I’ve been reborn.’


‘You think that you have been reborn.’




I waited for the doctor to repeat my words as he had been doing for the entire session. Repeating them with an unemotional, monotone voice which reserved all judgment. Or, at least, tried to. He looked at me from across the room, his back straight and rigid. His face expressionless, frozen. I wanted to go up to him with a chisel and chip at his façade, a mocking façade that said, ‘I’m not supposed to look like I think that you’re crazy, but I think that you’re crazy.’


‘Is that so?’ he finally asked.


‘Yes,’ I sighed.
‘And what makes you think that you have been reincarnated?’


‘I’ve been having dreams.’


‘What kinds of dreams?’


‘Dreams from my past life.’


‘How can you be sure that these dreams are from a past life? How can you be sure that they’re really memories? Perhaps they are merely from your subconscious…’


‘Well, what else could they be? I mean, they’re obviously not my memories. And there’s no reasonable explanation for them.’

The doctor’s face broke its stillness for the length of a second. His eyebrows came together and then returned to their former position.

‘What do you mean?’ he asked.


’I mean that dreams usually come out of processing things which have occurred during the day, or things which are on our mind, right?’


‘Something like that, yes. There are other theories as well.’


‘Well, I’ve never studied … or known anything … about Indian mythology or literature.’


A momentary break in his mask again. ‘What?’


‘My dreams … or, rather, memories … they’re about an Indian princess. About an Indian character … goddess … woman…They’re about me. I am that person.’


The doctor looked at me for a second in silence, and then looked down and coughed. He shuffled his notepad and some loose papers in his hands and scribbled something down with his pen. He coughed again. After he collected himself, he looked back up. ‘And what figure from Indian history are you exactly?’






‘Yes, Draupadi. A princess, born out of a sacrificial fire to King Drupad, with my twin brother, to take revenge on Drona, my father’s former friend. Married to the five Pandava brothers, my husbands. Shamed in public, with not even one husband to protect me. Blamed for instigating the Great War. Draupadi.’


The doctor didn’t respond right away. He was preoccupied with scribbling more information on his notepad.


‘See,’ I continued. ‘I don’t even know how I know those things about me … about her ... I never knew anything about Indian culture. Are you familiar with Indian culture, doctor?’


‘No, I can’t say that I am. No.’ He readjusted his glasses, and then once more resumed his stoic posture and expression. ‘So when you have these memories about your past life as Draupadi, what are they about?’


‘Umm … it varies.’ I shrugged my shoulders and raised my eyes towards the ceiling. ‘Sometimes they’re about my childhood. Sometimes about my death. But they almost always have the same thing in common.’


‘Oh, yes? And what exactly is that?’


‘The blue man.’


‘The blue man? And who is that?’


‘Krishna, an Indian god. See? I didn’t know his name either, before all of this started. Now how can you explain that to me?’


‘Let’s just not worry about that right now,’ the doctor said as he waved his hand dismissively in the air. ‘Let’s concentrate on this blue man … on Krishna. When he appears to you, what is your interaction like?’


‘It’s pretty wonderful, actually. It’s like seeing your best friend, except your best friend is god. And it’s just … love. Love … so many kinds of love. Lovers. Mother and child. Big Brother. Protector. Those kinds of love, all combined into one. We usually just sit and talk about anything and everything. We talk about destiny a lot.’


‘You do? And does this god have a destiny picked out for you?’


‘He says that I’m going to change the course of history. That I’m going to change the world.’


‘How so?’


‘Because I marry the five Pandava brothers. I am shamed in front of them by their cousins. Because of my vows, because of my hatred, my husbands instigate the Great War to restore dharma. To restore good.’


‘So it is a good destiny then. Does it make you happy to know that this is your destiny?’


‘It does. But it only comes about through death. Death and destruction.’


‘But if it causes so much pain, then you don’t really have to choose this destiny. You don’t really have to do it.’


‘Yes, I do. It’s been fated for me to do so.’


‘But what about free will? Don’t you have free will?’


‘Yes, I do.’


‘But if this Krishna is choosing this for you … if this is fated … you don’t really have free will then. This is a destiny that you haven’t chosen. You are merely his pawn. If something is predestined and this god knows what is going to happen, how can you say you have any control or choice?’


‘It has to be. It is fated.’


‘And this is okay with you?’


‘Yes. I have chosen it. I chose to follow Krishna and be one of his. If I am Krishna’s pawn, then I will be absolved in the end. I chose to be his pawn.’


The doctor sighed and stretched back in his chair. He rolled his head from side to side. Two loud pops echoed from his bones.


‘Okay,’ he began slowly. ‘Let’s go back to something that you said earlier. You said that before these dreams started, you didn’t know anything about Indian history, culture, or literature. So when exactly did these dreams start?’


‘A couple of months ago.’


‘And how often do they occur? Only in the evenings? Only during the day, like daydreams?’


‘Both,’ I said after a moment’s reflection. ‘Both at night and during the day. Like I’m awake but living a different life.’

‘I see. And when was the last one you can remember?’





The blue man came to me on my wedding day. Krishna and I sat in silence in my father’s gardens. In the gardens which would no longer be mine, no longer my sanctuary. No longer my home.

Krishna came when the sun was still high, its light leaking through the leaves overhead in long, broken, golden shafts of light. I could hear people’s voices from the palace as they made arrangements for the ceremony. Bird calls mingled with their clamorous sounds. But when I felt Krishna’s soft palm on my back through my sari, the wind blew and brought the scent of flowers and grass to my nose. Everything was a little better. Everything was a little more right.


They tried to make it seem as though I had a choice in who my husband would be. They set up a test, so that only the best would be able to marry me. But they really had only one person in mind, and the only one who would be able to win this test was him. Arjun. Some thought that the Pandava brothers were dead, murdered by their cousins. Some thought that they were in hiding. But hoping, wishing, my father and brother … even Krishna … tried to coax him out with a challenge. With a test he couldn’t resist. And he accepted.


When Arjun won, I didn’t really know it was him because of his disguise. But this man was handsome and shy. This was a man I could learn to love.
But here I was, sitting where the blue man came to me as a child, on my wedding day, preparing to give myself to five husbands. Five husbands because of a simple misunderstanding. Because of dharma. Because of fate. Destiny had brought me here.


The blue man and I watched as the cranes, with their long, graceful necks, strutted slowly along the edge of the lake on their reed-like legs, their eyes intent on the bank. Their steps slowed down until they almost entirely stopped moving. But the next second, in snake-like motion, their heads struck downward. Standing tall once more, their beaks held a writhing fish. Even as a child, when I had learned about the cycle of life, I hadn’t liked it. I still didn’t.


‘Why me?’ I asked my companion softly. I shuddered. ‘Why Draupadi? I am like that fish. Stuck. Caught. You know that I will be spoken of as a defiled woman, unclean, because I will have been with more than one man. Do I deserve this? Does anyone deserve this?’


Krishna didn’t respond. I felt him move. I looked behind me and watched as he took his wooden, ornately carved flute from behind his back and began to play a few lonely notes. Out of those few random notes came melodies, and then the melodies merged to create a high-pitched, lofty tune.


‘Is it because I am a woman that this is happening to me?’ I interrupted, unable to listen anymore. Unable to put my melancholy heart into a melody which sounded opposite of how I was feeling. ‘Is it because I am a woman? Is this not my own life?’

Krishna still didn’t answer. He had stopped playing, silent, reclining against a tree trunk. So I continued. ‘At birth, I was born for another’s reason. My father’s revenge. So my childhood was not my own. I was not allowed to choose my own husband. I was won, because that is how the men deemed it should be. And what came from that was the most distressing; I had to acquiesce while my husbands obeyed their mother’s command to share the bounty of the day among themselves.’


I laughed sarcastically. ‘Kunti thought that they were bringing home alms they received while begging.’ I laughed again, a quick, sharp sound. ‘They had to share me.’


‘And so a marriage was planned. To five separate husbands. To be a wife to each one for a year. To be a virgin again every year. To try and make each one and all of them together happy. All at the same time. And all because of what? All because I am a woman? Unable to have my own say or make my own decisions?’


Krishna stirred behind me again. He pushed himself up from against the tree and came to kneel next to me. He lowered his head to my level. The peacock feather attached to his forehead bounced against my skin where my red bindi was. I brushed it away. His eyes gleamed playfully, mischievously, deep set in his midnight skin. His dark hair billowing in lush curls around him looked like clouds in the night sky. He smiled at me, and I couldn’t help but smile back.


‘Yes, Draupadi, yes, Panchali. It is because you are woman. It is because you must submit to your lot in life. But that is why I have chosen you.’


His eyes sparkled and my smile grew wider.


‘It is because you are woman that you have come to this point in your life. It is because you are woman that you will be shamed during your monthly cycle and brought out into public as men try to strip you of your clothes and reveal you. It will be because of a woman, because of a wife’s plea, that five husbands will choose to avenge the one they love and fight against their own family. None other than a woman, a wife, could incite these honourable men to begin the Great War against their own cousins. It is because of you, that this is going to happen. It is because of you, that this will all come about. And no other woman, none but woman, could endure such a destiny…’

My smile had died while he was speaking. When he finished, I nodded and turned away. I drew my knees up to my chin, adjusting my sari to lie over my legs.


‘What is it, Draupadi?’ he asked me as I looked once more over the water, at the cranes striking into the mud. ‘My Krishnaa? Tell me. Share with me.’


I was silent.


‘Come now,’ he coaxed, leaning into me. He tapped my cheek with his wooden flute.


‘It is nothing.’ I hesitated, then continued. ‘But if it were something, it would be that after all that you’ve said, after all that you have described, my life is still not mine.’


Krishna’s gaze softened. He sank from his knees to sit on the earth, still leaning forward towards me. I leaned forward too, drawn to him magnetically, like a string attached us together and pulled us toward one another. He took my hand between his two blue palms.


‘In the end, we are all part of Brahman,’ he told me. ‘We are all part of One. One with each other … with the world … with ourselves. Are we not?’


I nodded. ‘Yes, but if you know what is going to happen, if you know what my actions will be in the future, then my actions are predestined. They are not my own. I have no choice. You know my decisions, which means that I cannot change them. For how can I change what fate has already prescribed will happen? Even if I change my decisions, you have foreseen that.’

Krishna grinned. It was a sly grin. Mischievous.

‘So, you want me to choose a destiny I am already fated to fulfil? To choose a fate which has already been decided for me?’


Krishna continued to smile, causing me to smile in turn.


‘You, Panchali, have a strong will,’ he told me. ‘It is because of your strength that you will get through the hard moments in your life. It is because of a woman’s strength that you will survive exile and the deaths of your loved ones. And it is because of a woman’s strength that you will stand by your husbands, despite other people’s judgments, until the end. All of these, Krishnaa, are a result of your will, your being. A result of who you are. Your fate. Your choices.’


Krishna’s hands still enveloped mine. He turned my palm so that it faced upwards, and when he removed his hands, a small lotus flower sat in my own. I cradled its delicacy. The sunlight glinted against the silky threads of the white petals. The breeze passed by us again, wafting the fragrant perfume of the flower into my nose. I raised my head and closed my eyes, allowing images of white and pink and blue to cover my eyelids.


And when I opened my eyes, the blue man was gone. The lotus was the only thing that remained from his presence. Delicately, I placed it in my hair, weaving it into my black braids. There was another presence in the garden. I could hear sticks snapping as someone walked through the grass. Turning around, I saw my nurse approaching, coming to summon me to my five wedding ceremonies. 
The breeze brushed a melody past my ears, full of flute notes high and clear. And from within the flute notes I could hear a voice. I smiled at the voice, and Nurse smiled too, believing that I was greeting her. I stood and looked towards the palace, sitting white and tall above the green gardens. Inside were five men waiting to marry me. Five men, who along with me, would change the course of history. Inside that palace waited my fate. So I walked forward to meet it.



‘The blue man comes to me,’ I told the doctor at the end of my session. ‘He comes to me at varying times. Night and day. Day and night. Sometimes he stays for only a few hours. Sometimes he stays for days. But whenever he comes, the world is made clear. The tangles of fate are loosened, and I can see my place in time. I can see me.’


I stood to leave.


‘When he comes, there are lotus flowers, and flute music, and peacock feathers. When he comes, there is a warm breeze blowing across a lake. There are birds calling and a midnight blue enveloped by blackness. And when he comes, he comes to remind me that I am woman. He comes to remind me that I am strong.’


And so I left to greet the day. I walked past the doctor sitting in his chair, still scribbling away. I walked out into the world, where the blue man was waiting for me in the bright sun, his eyes sparkling and full of playfulness.



Suzanne Biever has a degree in English Literature and Communications with a minor in religion. She is enrolled in the MFA program at Chatham University, in Pittsburgh, PA and will be teaching English this upcoming Fall semester at her alma mater, Lebanon Valley College, Annville, PA. Her articles and blurbs have been published in Central PA Magazine, as well as online at The WEBstaurant Store Blog. Besides writing and reading, she is an avid equestrian, and loves trail riding as well as making jewellery, hiking, and biking.