I would like to talk about being a woman in India. I would also like to point out that I recognize I have been a woman in India for two weeks, and my mother and grandmothers have never been women in India. Having just had a series of 8 poems about the Ute people accepted to an online journal, I feel especially sensitive to the need to explain that I am very clear where I come from, and who I am. I cannot begin to know what it is like to have been born an Indian woman, born to other Indian women, just like I cannot know what it is to be a Ute living on a reservation in Colorado or Utah.
OK; I feel better. But, like a good Presbyterian Church-raised girl, I feel bad about feeling good. I feel bad because I am a tourist looking in on a life that I’m relieved I can escape in a few weeks. I feel bad that I don’t appreciate the wonderful opportunities in my regular life. Here are some:
- I breathe clean air. In India, the air feels like poison. It smells like incense, burning rubber, black smoke and rot. I cough and hack my way through this country.
- I do yoga. In India, the land I thought was full of wandering holy men and reverent contortionists, yoga is only for the very rich. Almost every Indian I have met works to survive, with little time for the study and practice of their country’s ancient teachings.
- I drink clear water. I work for an environmental film that comprehensively explains the evils of single-use plastics. But I would rather deny my principles and drink bottled water than try water-purification tablets in local water filled with brown sludge-like particles, as my travel-acquaintance Emily did. Either option is certainly not ideal.
- I have opportunities. As an American woman, I can work my way up the corporate ladder. I can be an artist or a teacher or throw together an assortment of jobs that inspire me. I don’t have to stay at home and obey my parents and then a husband. (I am also not trapped by the caste I was born into.)
- I can wear tank tops. Enough said – it is hot sometimes and a salwar kameez is not cool.
- I can be single. Even though everyone I know from college in the South is married, I still don’t feel stigmatized for being single in the way an Indian woman in her 30’s would. I thought I could be truthful in India. I have learned I cannot, several times now, with various Indian men who assumed all kinds of awful things about me. I am married, I tell everyone, even the Swiss couple staying at my guesthouse.
On this day in particular, with thousands of brave women marching through the streets of Cairo, I would like to take this opportunity to celebrate being a free woman! And using another powerful mantra originated by my friend Mandie, I say to you – use your freedoms. don’t be afraid, don’t resist, don’t delay. be what you are.