Yup. It starts young. The funny thing (to me) is that i am un-fazed…or appear to be so. Still smiling. What you don’t see is my friend Nagaraj (who is 80) about to run off-camera to give him a talking-to.
I recently had a story published in an anthology, women writing about their travel in India. Almost every story describes an incident of being harassed, grabbed, stared-at, followed. And yet, the women writers I met, like me, were still smiling. Still loving India. Planning the next trip back. Eager to experience more of the richness of India. Later, over coffee, after our book launch and readings were over, we talked about recent events in India and the several highly publicized incidents of violence against women, even the seemingly more unusual or random incidents directed at tourists. We all felt that publishing these stories at this time was important. In a sense remaining positive, or sharing positive stories about India felt so very important. As in life, choosing to focus on the positive feels essential for growth.
And yet, we can’t ignore the other. It brings up something which I often think about. As a yogi, I am taught to find peace first within myself, and this is certainly a way of taking responsibility. Caring for those around me and taking right action myself at each moment. Acting with compassion and respect. Do I have a responsibility, however, to take further action socially? In my experience it is sometimes hard to maintain a positive mind while doing so; facing the many injustices in the world. I recently sat one day and I imagined a big social circle around myself and I realized that almost everyone in it was a yogi….by my definition. These are kind, creative people who are not harming others and actively working on themselves. Most are vegetarian. Most are working in a field where they are helping others. I feel insulated by a big circle of goodness, and I’m not complaining! But is it right? Do I have a responsibility to do more? To enter other circles?
Clearly I don’t have the answers. I’m thinking about it.
On the occasion of Navaratri, I am thinking about violence against women and feeling a little called to do something more. There is a new media campaign in India called “Abused Goddesses” intended to highlight domestic violence. The campaign depicts the various forms of the divine mother bruised, bleeding, crying. It’s quite powerful. A sample image of Saraswati is below.
“The campaign simply and effectively captures India’s most dangerous contradiction: that of revering women in religion and mythology, while the nation remains incredibly unsafe for its women citizens”.
You can see more of the campaign here:
Oh, and here’s the anthology, if you’d like to take a look. Janis Harper, the editor does a wonderful job of presenting various perspectives on India. I really enjoyed reading it. The book is widely available in bookstores and amazon.