- Posted August 26, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Speaking up about sexual violence
Oops! You woke up Kali, and Man, is She pissed!
I am an Indian-American mother of 2 in my early 40's. I write this for my daughter AND for my son, because I am of the firm belief that patriarchy is a progressive disease, like cancer, which slowly destroys everyone, including men.
I'm an indophile. Though I grew up far away from the motherland, I have lived my whole life with a deep, nostalgic longing for that elusive sense of home, made more poignant by the experiences of racism and alienation that were imprinted upon my psyche at a young age. And I've always believed that home was India. I've sought to fill that void with study, with spiritual practice, and with as much travel as my slim pocketbook would allow. Over the years, I've gotten to know India and I've experienced the all too common disillusionment that you feel when you find out the object of your adoration is tainted with shadow and flaws. And yet, my soul returns again and again, despite the abuse. At times I have thought, "India, I wish I knew how to quit you" but your beauty still calls to me...
One of the peculiar mysteries of India that has stumped me time and again is this: How is it that India is one of the few places on Earth where the concept of the Divine Feminine has not been purged from the consciousness of the people like it has in most other parts of the world and yet, Indian women suffer some of the world's most atrocious instances of patriarchy? I once read somewhere that there is a Tantric belief that the Goddess is sleeping and that she will awaken at the end of the Kali yuga (age of darkness). I can't verify whether this is truly a Tantric belief or not, but I accepted this belief because intuitively, it felt true to me. It was a way to reconcile this question that had been niggling my mind for years. I longed for the day She would wake up. I would soon learn that Her awakening is something that must happen within each and every one of us.
When I was 29 years old, I had to disentangle myself from a physically, emotionally, and sexually abusive marriage. What gave me the strength to finally cut the cord that was wrapped around my neck was yoga and tapping into an inner strength I never knew I had. Many people call this inner strength, God, because it truly feels much larger than anything that could be contained within the limits of the physical self. People call this God by many different names. For me, this God was Goddess. The images of the warrior goddesses, Durga and Kali, inspired me to fight for myself and for all women.
After my divorce was finalized, I decided to take that quintessentially American trip to India "to find myself" or at least that is I would jokingly describe it to the Indians I met who asked me why I was in India. But it was really a trip to heal my spirit from the trauma I had endured for 6 years. As I went through the process of healing, I began to understand that I had to heal more than just the 6 years of my marriage. I saw how my upbringing had primed me to accept abuse as a woman. I traveled alone as a woman in India for one whole year and it was the best experience of my life. My relatives in India were quite upset with my plans and tried heartily to dissuade me, but I felt armed with the power of the Goddess which I felt I had awakened within myself. Of course, my travels did include the essential Indian experience of sexual harrassment. But here is one story of how I dealt with it.
One day, after spending an afternoon in the congestion of Brigade Road in Bangalore, I decided to leave my companions in a coffee shop and walk to Cubbon Park. Yes, I was going to a place that locals would have warned me against...alone, with my journal. But I was desperate for some green and some quiet, and my heretofore success with traveling alone in India without incident had emboldened me. I walked into the park, and happily found it to be quite a green oasis in the heart of Bangalore and I set out to find a quiet spot to sit and journal. Soon I was approached by a teenage boy who effectively communicated a sexual proposition through sign language. I firmly shooed him away and got up in disgust to find a safer spot. I spied a family with children playing football and decided to sit near them. I wrote for a few minutes when my gaze fell upon a man seated near where the children were playing. He was staring straight at me and masturbating. My first instinct was to avert my eyes in disgust. Then I thought I should just leave the park. Clearly, parks in India were havens for perverts and not for single women looking for respite from the pollution of the city. But then, I began to feel angry. I thought, "Why should I move? Why should he be able to stay where he is? How does he have the power to move me from where I am sitting?" Then I thought about how this creep was doing this disgusting act in front of innocent children who are just playing there right in front of him. My thoughts turned to a friend I had made in the yoga teacher training program I had just completed. This friend, a young Indian woman, and I had become very close and she confided in me one day that she had been sexually molested when she was just 4 years old by a gardener who worked for her family. This unspeakable act of abuse had repercussions for this young woman throughout the rest of her life. When my friend told me about what happened to her as a baby (I have a 4 year old son who is still a baby to me), I had a vision of Kali wearing a garment of castrated penises of rapist demons. Such was the intensity of my rage. When I thought about my friend, whose innocence was stolen at such a tender age, I felt a primal rage begin to stir within me. I decided I was not going to move. I decided if he was going to stare at me and masturbate, i was going to stare back at him while he did it. Specifically, I decided to stare at his penis. I stared furiously with all the heat of my womanly outrage and anger. In my mind, I chanted a curse like a mantra...may my gaze burn your penis with the fire of a thousand chilies! I recited a Kali mantra to add cosmic fuel to the fire of my focused laser gaze. Within a minute, he got very frightened and he got up and left. One small victory! He didn't move me. I moved him! Without words or brute force, just by turning his gaze back upon him. He could not face a gaze that was rooted in the deep moral power and strength and sanctity of Womanhood against which he was sinning most wickedly.
What did I learn from this incident? On a simple level, I learned that simply returning the gaze is powerful. This is why these stories must come out into the light,so that the gaze of the world can be turned upon them. On a deeper level, I learned that sexual abuse is a game of power. And once a women awakens her own power, call it the power of the Goddess, or whatever you like, that Feminine Power can make men quake in her presence.
Last year, when the world's gaze turned hard upon India after the brutal rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey, I thought to myself, "this is the last straw." It seemed particularly poignant to me that it occured when many people were expecting the world to end with the Mayan Calendar. With this, a critical mass of women and men will awaken. The children were creating all kinds of mischief while Mother was asleep, but they woke her up with their din and boy, She is not happy. Men and women who love and respect women have nothing to fear. But those who do not, well, let's just say your time is over. A new age is dawning. I have faith that India will lead the way in this awakening. If not India, then it will happen somewhere else and the repercussions will be worldwide, for patriarchy is a disease that afflicts the entire world. If one organ is diseased, it affects the whole body. If the revolution begins in India, that would my make my heart swell with pride for the Motherland, which despite everything, I still love with all my heart. Awaken Her, India!