Stephanie traveled across Asia for nearly a year and spent 4 months in India. She began her trip volunteering at the Dehrah Dun biodiversity and conservation farm owned by ecofeminist Vandana Shiva. Here she acquired a better understanding of the inequality, female infanticide, and misogyny that is prevalent in every corner of one of the most mystical countries in the world. It was shortly after she left for Nepal that Stephanie wrote The Mother, inspired by her preoccupation of the feminine in India. She attempts to respect and not orientalise that which she cannot truly understand nor embody as a Western tourist, yet hopes to impact readers from the heart space in which her poetic prose is created.
It is the brightest love I’ve ever laid eyes on.
For me, it is the official movement.
The one location missing in the Indian version of Lonely Planet.
The one thing I won’t tell you about if you ask me.
History has revealed itself to me.
Until now, it has only flirted in the circuitry of my dreams.
But today it has chosen to speak.
In real time (does that even exist?)
Which lifetime? Maybe the one before that?
I think any conversation would donate itself to what I’ve uncovered.
It could consume your meals for you.
I know it is the only shrine in India I which to donate my eyes, my intellect, my self-unassured worship, my pigmented fascination.
I am always singing.
It makes a lot of sense that I would be the first to discover this – seeing how I am still a child – an infant squeezing her pillow every night.
A kid who had a bottle until she was 4. OK, pushing 5.
A kid once pumped so full of soy milk, because she couldn’t get down with the cow or her mother’s breast, that the copious amounts of estrogen have surely rewired her brains.
It makes sense why I cling to feminine things. Why I’m a “me.”
If you know who that is. If I do.
Depends who is asking?
Women. women. women. Whoa, man they are always on my mind.
Creatures always stealing and building and carrying materials heavy than their bodies.
Crawling all over my skin. Wait, those are ants.
Surely, I can not be the only woman in India who finds her sagging flesh intoxicating – it nearly chokes me.
It turns me inside out.
It is not arousing like you might be thinking. It’s more condensed.
In my chest. An internal sweat.
Like when you know the day is wide open and your mind can crawl out into the sun. Where it can dry out for a while.
It makes kittens pant.
That’s a big deal.
A rarity if you’ve ever seen the cuteness.
It’s kind of peculiar.
Anyway, this scene I’m conjuring up lies somewhere within the sensation of the tongue to salt.
It lives within the consistency of buttery skin.
Moist and rescued from the water before body prunes form.
Like the intimate nature of a cradle and a rocking horse – in a pink room where a kid is crying until she throws up.
She is home.
Wow. Home. What is that really anyway?
OK, so she is like the dead sea and the law of entropy – but her cells won’t surrender their final stores of moisture to just anyone.
I can’t believe I am not just anyone.
She is falling water.
Well, she sits below me – breathing out the breathe of one of those goddesses that everyone is rushing to give coconuts to, garlands of carnations, and their fire confessions.
And just my luck – she is spitting that carbon + 2 oxygen out the Indian express window 2 feet below me.
It’s the colour of rain.
The packed train cart reminds me of another room of children’s things. Rice. Blocks. Bags. Circles. Crying. Music. Fear.
She hasn’t the slightest clue.
Of woman, of secret.
God is a sneaky imagining.
I wonder if the metal bars that cover the thousand mouths of the windows, one just inches from her own – Does it slice her visions?
As she pierces through their shiny metal braces, is she thinking in sections?
Like pieces of birthday cake?
Or in compartments like caked in cubicle zombies? I’ll never let those bastards bite me again.
Or in fragmented word purges?
Does she compile her head property inside or outside of the train? Writing letters to other planets, mystery novels, or remembering when she would plaster her children in those Bazooka bubble gum tattoos that used to itch me like those ant women.
When I decide. We pass villages starving.
Burning for the luxury of what they see on television. On Billboards.
We pass hunger. Lakes of sacrifice. Of shit. Of death.
No regulation, no certificate. Just birth, just death.
It all cycles and Flashes and wobbles like the dashboard Tibetan prayer wheels that spin from solar power.
I wish I picked one of those up when I was in Dehradun.
Above every store – the lightest Indian skinned Bollywood actors that exist (I think you could argue that some of them aren’t even Indian) promise them modern day salvation.
One sip of Coca Cola at a time.
The rest of their liberation comes from the even lighter – white as white Westerners plastered all over everything else they can fit them on, where we virally infect their esteem with our fake plastic faces and perfect teeth.
Avril Lavigne was on a hair cutting salon window I passed the other day. Obviously, I went into to get a movie star trim.
Then I blink. We pass those who don’t leave the forests, no paper, just trees, just dirt and plant, barefoot heart, thick as black night skin.
They don’t want television, they want naan.
I want their gods to prove themselves to them already.
Back to her.
Her bone’s are like barricades, I want to chip away at the stone and sweep away the dust to see the artifacts left behind.
To read the fleshes of history.
The occasional cockroach watches us both.
I feel like if she wanted to she could conduct this entire train.
Bend the metal bars and Hercules her way out to those starving babies and bring them the mixed nuts in my bag. My money. My immunities. My full belly.
She could command the entire country to reverse its current.
Provide black pills to let the sufferers jump out of their bodies.
No food? Just take this one. Hurry.
No water? Just bring it quickly.
No work? Slip out of that body.
The flies turn to maggots right on their skin sometimes you know, right in-front of you.
Please, eat my nuts, fruit, water. Here, swim in these antibiotics and codeine. Please just lift your head off the cement and swallow.
Die. in. Peace.
Reality brings the black.
Advice me a different plan and I’ll quit the morbidity.
You want an adventure? Maybe next time I’ll string you a tale.
Please. Just someone hold me quickly.
OK, OK, back to her.
She could drill me in like a shelf – fill me with such a sense of stable gratitude that I wouldn’t dare complain about my life ever again.
She could stop the earth and moon’s relentless tug of war.
Their ionic attraction – the earth always such a cock tease.
The moon would finally surrender its endless grasping for her waters.
Stopping what we take for granted, as if anything is permanent.
The tides – just stillness.
Leaving them all in a recovery room of embarrassed lakes.
In silent postures.
Maybe she could shake us the fuck awake?
Give us a chance to not hurt ourselves anymore – as a single mind, as a species, as a destructive conglomerated mass object – a moronic black hole.
I wonder if she could stop my bantering and keep me from crying. Wait, to cry more. To Scream and to cry for them. For myself, for back when.
Ya, I think she could do all that.
So again, who am I actually speaking of?
Metaphysically I am referring to and of the entire feminine. Partially, you and I.
If you have a vagina or ever wanted one.
I am talking about A grandmother. A mother. A mother to be.
Me? I suppose I have the potential to pop out a ‘You’ as well.
So physically in front of me sits a grandmother.
An old woman.
No, a megatron.
This limitless entity could comb the beaches of your existence and forcefully flip you on to the top of your head. Leaving you scalped like a bald chump in a headstand.
She could peel off the entire surface of your Monday blues – and your memories of she sells sea shells by the sea shore.
She is 74. 66? 89? Infinite.
The idea that we are not animal is absurd. Your very programming came from her leaking breasts. Like the dog who has probably given birth to her 5th litter – exhausted and covered in fleas, under my table – panting, deteriorating.
Looking more like a small cow.
Or from the bulging life cow herself. Who, most still suckle from. Yet we act all superior because we put it in a glass first.
However you want to frame it human is animal.
Milk is milk. Mother is mother.
Perhaps it’s in the contradiction. The eminent power that keeps her repressed.
It’s just too much for our minds, they haven’t evolved enough. Yet.
We can feel it though, but it’s just too much. Too deep. Too obvious.
The nearly unfathomable reconstruction of matter that goes on inside of her. In the most delicate of spaces. I think it inflicts fear into the intellects. What isn’t understood – diminished.
Wiped into submission.
Hook-lined like a guppy fish.
to remove the amino acids that contain the codes to the entire planet.
It is an energetic genocide of the only remaining material that has any promise of saving us.
She can bleed. She once had a second pulse. A press send pulse.
Then, the hungry night comes down and I pray that the hungry moon provides for the desperate mouths in their darkness.
For the stars to bring them down left overs.
At least for the train kids (orphans who live together on the train platforms in small gang like units).
Fill their hungry bellies tonight.
In India, a woman’s sexuality is constructed by the mystery that lies below her sari. Particularly, it is her shoulders and ass.
I would cruise around downtown Dehra Dun, when my kerta would occasionally slip off my shoulder from the beads of sweat that would form in the few hours of warmth you’d get in a January day (North India is actually cold in winter).
Each rounding from my overstimulated sense of self, revealing just a slice of my right collar bone, or left – well the men’s eyes looked like they were about to ejaculate in their pants.
Like they were going to make salty bracelets with the wet mess of my skin.
Counting each droplet like they were Tibetan prayer beads.
But the North is intense – abort the girl child = no women = extra vulture stare for foreign women.
So the Indian woman’s shoulders and bottom are always covered. Always.
She wears a small cotton shirt that covers her shoulders and breasts and then she erases the rest of her skin with a sari, which is folded 8 or 12 or 101 times (I have no idea how many – seriously Google the skill that goes into this). She is meticulously folded in like a Japanese paper crane.
But what gets this moment’s panties all full of sand is that her entire stomach is exposed. Straight up.
Some of them are empty of children.
Some children’s are filled up with others.
Some bulge out like an air balloon.
Like a rounded out melon, but no soon to be babies are detected. The good ones anyway. The one’s who’ve housed some inhabitants.
They sag, they sing.
Then, from that same temple – the baby grows, maybe into the woman.
Stolen, sold, dowry – from her family she goes, sold to another’s. Where she will then, and only then, be allowed to begin that dirty exploration of her body and its functions.
Its feelings, its flexibilities, and fires.
She builds me a puzzle. Posture – what is posture again?
That collar bone. And then the other? A shoulder? A pair of them?
A fucking magnificent spectacle for sure.
Then the ass. Again, magnificent.
The two perfectly matched anomalies, stupa mounds of non-saintly things.
Hymns of seduction.
Residing just below her there-once-was-a-tale-attached-to-her-bone.
There her sari hides the largest muscles – the curvature of moons.
Ah, that makes so much sense where they got the term ‘mooning’ from.
And in India each man awaits the approval, or not, to ride up that loose garment and expose the sky scene below.
To harness the contours that lay veiled.
To escape this shit hole for a few moments.
Her outfit somehow reminds me a North American teenager or nearly one (self-confessed) – Cerca 93’.
Desperate for attention, searching for some confirmation of worth, distraction from self-loathing, some degrading form of affection.
I think we were using our bellybuttons like beacons to attract ships.
It was certainly a big fat black marker of sexuality though. Maybe not at 10 – but I tried.
But not here.
I get that the shoulders and ass are erogenous zones and that the woman is always a temptress by proxy (not), but what about this woman’s torso?
It is so beautiful.
It is sexuality.
It is beyond sexuality.
It is where sexuality originates, reproduces, reconstructs.
Where it cooks and cleans. Where we have all once rented a room.
I feel like with something so sacred, so endless, so catalytic – why aren’t they trying to cover it up? They pick the shoulders over this? Come on.
At least in the West we attempted for a while to appreciate it. In our ’ let’s objectify her some more’ kinda way.
Not that I am entirely complaining.. I get to stare at bellies all day.
Freckles, roles, scars, wrinkles, inhaling and exhaling.
They speak to me.
It’s like the entire planet is stepping on you.
It feels good.
But sure, no one around me wants to gauche at it, sneak a squeeze, a lick, a stare, to sit beside it, to talk to it, to fall asleep on it.
It’s like it is last night’s left overs. If they are lucky to have any.
I think it is totally god undercover. A woman’s belly.
The next J.C. and no one has the slightest fucking clue.
Hidden in mothballs, his antique.
I can see it smirk at me knowingly as it continues to sink and surrenders to gravity – who is always suckling on it.
Glutinous little phenomena, pulling it further down from her ancient breasts, from her stone carved face.
She looks out the window.
Not a clue about her mystery.
She should be riding an elephant.
An appreciation of the erotic power that the center of her body holds is as lacking as their manors. Not true, some people’s kindness has been exceptional and it outweighs much of what I’ve held onto. It blows away my generalizations and orientalizations.
But it is all in puzzle pieces to me.
Why not wrap it, try to hide it? The missing 6th? 16th? 212th curtain of her sari?
It’s like it doesn’t even deserve the cloth or something.
Granted, it is as hot as shit here and it’s the least that this misogynistic mess could have adapted so she doesn’t actually keel over (as often). Goddess face plant.
They don’t need to loose more: (http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-loses-3-million-girls-in-infanticide/article3981575.ece})
You know, you never see a woman pee here, no squatting aloud, no defecation shenanigans anywhere near public places, near men – they must be proper now.
But the men, they shit and piss nearly anywhere they please.
Some smearing it psychotically along the roadside toilets (i.e. curb toilets which are like big gutters for such men’s momentousness occasions).
I move my legs a few feet away.
I cringe and nearly throw up in my mouth. Haunting shit.
I hear that the village women only piddle before sunrise and after sunset- away from any major areas to ensure they aren’t seen. For trying to do that natural thing that the body forces us to do.
But don’t feel bad, I imagine they become trained like house pets who’s bladders strengthen with time. Holding it up to 8ish hours, right? Or maybe they just don’t ever shit, probably this one, it is so improper of us.
Bodily functions, hairlessness, hunger, do better now.
In village areas I’ve visited, they use the banks of water bodies and lakes and open fields.
The views that I thought were the only remaining natural scenes I could find in many towns/villages/cityish spaces (generally speaking).
The ones I thought they were maybe trying to conserve for aesthetic or spiritual purposes (like our sad versions of parks downtown).
Well, they are actually their toilets.
Lesson learned after a sunset run around a lake through piles of human waste and shameless staring squatting non-ass wiping men.
Near throw up number #2.
So with alone time, stranger time, new friend time bustling by, I realized that this scenic view, again and again was a toilet. Shit banks.
Yes, this is right. it id also the natural tubs of thick skin scrubbing.
It never fails – no matter which direction I am facing in this country they are basically shitting in their water or so damn close to it, it couldn’t go anywhere but swimming- then they are cleaning themselves with it.
It is actually some sad shit when you think about it.
At least the Ganges river provides free sin washing services so it is worth the biowaste absorption.
I just can’t put this back together.
The woman below me. The grandmother moon.
Together we rumble in our sleeper class seats, she is going somewhere, me somewhere else, inside the bellows of Thomas the train (aw makes me think of Jamesy..Micheal..Kyle).
My lurking eyeballs spin like marbles.
I wonder how old she is, exactly?
Well, I know her belly is infinite.
It is a serious domination though. A force that spanks my vision nearly blind.
It makes me rotate my position on life.
I lay low, my cramped neck smeared on top of my bag-o-home.
My form of material protect from the elusive thieves prowling the Indian trains (not).
I have banked around 150 hours on these guys so far, traveling often in sleeper class (the “only lower-awful word for it- class or Indian’s travel this way – not tourists” class) and I think there were only a few times I didn’t feel safe. Insert – sleeper train to Allahabad for Kumbh Mela (largest gathering in human history) – screaming, banging on the train carts, possible death of those trying to squeeze their way on to the insanely packed train (seriously), random boys sneaking to sit near your exhausted feet.
36 die the same day in trample at railway platform. We were lucky girls, Kirsten (my sweet Indian soul), Rachael (my vibrant mama of light), and I.
And most of the time it is nothing to do with my belongings, it is my aura that is momentarily thieved and penetrated.
Anyway, I think there are more jackers in Vancouver than in the 14 cities I’ve visited in India with the word ’ gori target’ written on the back of my skull.
Most people are helpful. Kind.
Particularly, the women, the mothers, the sisters who were always near enough to tuck me in with their insatiable staring. No privacy, no concept of personal space – individualistic versus collectivist cultures – what a contrast.
I wish I remembered where I was trying to go.
So, today, for hours, I stare back. I watch her – creating images inside her head.
A projected reality of the mind – like she is a desktop screen saver.
Inside my head.
The whole mess.
Is there really any other kind?
A wave function that I have collapsed of her right in front of herself.
As all of you are, as I am to you.
A concept doesn’t exist without the you.
Reading on quantum mechanics = serious highlight of leisure travel time.
We zoom by my life at around 80 km an hour. I think? I seriously have no idea how fast these trains go.
But don’t you worry, that entire tummy of her’s is still exposed.
And more and more come and go, floating on and off the train.
Masquerading themselves like dry bark.
I want to pick pieces of them off and paint them with sparkle glue like I did as a child.
We speak telepathically. It cures the loneliness.
The rest of her pays me no attention.
This grandmother. I think of her daughters. Her daughter’s daughter. Ok, their sons too.
I know, ‘essentialist – cultural feminist’ typed on the back of my skull.
I assure you it isn’t true, just some of the time.
How it exposes her song as mother – each note cupping her widened hips.
This gift I’ve discovered, a final place for my devotion.
How could I tell her? How could I even articulate her own divinity to her?
I wonder if she would spontaneously implode?
If she knew that she is why the deities came, why the chronology has come to me.
She cleans the minds of the damage decisions of man.
Her consistent sacrifice. The chamber of secrets.
Why is anyone telling me this!?
I just read that in the economic crisis women are taking on more male labor roles here (oh, side fact – in public it it is considered super inappropriate for women to sweat. No running for this gal). Unfortunately the manufacturing company is still running into problems though he says, “We can’t have these women working night shifts so we are still in trouble.”
Of course you can’t, when will they use the toilet?
Fuck are we lucky in the West.
So I watch her and wonder.
When did the the manifestation or the embodiment of creation, I mean the actual physical representation of miracles – stagnate itself? In which lifetime? When did we decide to dismiss the glory of the caves where babies live.
Where your eyes developed, where each neuron electrified you into a spark of complexity. A little “I need love” simplicity.
If there was ever a piece of land to make a heritage site, grounds to protect, stones to wash and tumble – it is all from within this vessel.
Her skin drips like the batter from pancakes.
As a round mystic.
A yogic breath.
The island where everyone wants to vacation.
But I am.
So we all know about sex and then what happens with zygotes and then embryos, blah blah – no way its not blah blaah it’s so cool I could go on for hours about it but this isn’t where my mind is taking me right now.
So once all that scientific mastery happens and you greet your geographical fate – you grow, get some hair, begin hating yourself, and then hopefully begin loving yourself, have some babies who will most likely follow suit. Press repeat.
So back up to step 5. The aftermath. The living remains.
Past intelligence. Now, lost.
That changed trunk. That watermelon environment that can allow identical cells to become anything they want.
“I want to be a pinky fingernail when I grow up”
“I want to live communally with rib cells”,
“oh, oh I’ll be a toe hair”.
Any votes for the collar bones?
Who will volunteer for the ass position?
Done and done.
So what about that wad of belly still attached to her?
Why not have an abstract painting class or something solely on the woman’s stomach who just gave birth to you next door. Ok, that’s clearly a western fantasy- so how about a puja around her as – campfire, as goddess while she lays in the dirt.
Or on some spruce branches, on the ceramic kitchen floor.
It doesn’t really matter, but I think that belly needs some serious worship time.
I want to take Wrap her in ribbon.
The remnants of the stretched and pulled. At least here, it seems there isn’t such a thin propagandist movement – a commercially owned and operated – billion dollar funded – brainwashed, dried and shrunk consensus on the utter disgust of a woman’s belly fat.
A lot of the women here are.. Average weight.
Listen to what is beautiful now.
At least here it can flab in peace.
I haven’t seen one eyeball flinch at the millions of tummies singing and dancing. No one even notices it – she doesn’t even anymore. Am I the only one who hears it?
It is humming.
My thoughts get jumbled.
It’s the grandmothers that make me the most frantic. Like the smell of sandalwood or nag champa. How many bodies has she manufactured?
Distributed at the low cost of self-sacrifice and excruciating pain, exclusively from her Body co.
Have you looked at the souvenirs their babies left them!? Have you ever?
I will never take this for granted again.
How time has taken the flesh memory and pinned up diamonds.
The folds and crevices. They were left for us to notice.
So go notice them.
What they have given the world. That God is still here.
I smell moth balls. How I have come to love that smell – knowing what it keeps away. What it keeps close.
Her thin cloth falling and rising.
I can see branches climbing up her arms.
The roots from her body’s trunk hang down like the banyan tree.
But no one is drooling and crying simultaneously like me?
Her stomach – a sacred miracle.
A cosmic entity is encased in her navel.
I want to try and log it right in my mouth and smuggle it home.
It is safety. It is comfort.
It is friendship that emanates promise. That life will continue.
That a mother is always born.
How I ache for my mother. How I think of my dear friend who has just lost hers.
Protruding and sagging belly. It is a beautiful stream.
But here that hollowed out gut gets bypassed. Like its a road block. Detour. Do not enter – go around. Head North down to the ass or up South to the shoulders.
That is what is for sale. Which meat you buy at the butcher – the rest goes to the dogs as scraps.
How it shines like the radiant sun – a warm glow of creation.
The children that have lived inside her.
How they grew and then fled her.
A cavernous temple – now barron and hollow.
A landmark, the most life altering attraction for those smart enough to notice it.
So again, sneakily from the top bunk of the train, I watch it.
Who needs a temple? A mosque? A river or gats? She is right here.
She is made up of all the tiny pieces that created them all.
Her shrine – her origins are hustling through the streets, while the universe is giggling and remembering, but the art fades and you aren’t remembering it.
The tummy’s that you’ve busted out of. The ovaries, cervix, vaginal canal that you’ve gushed out of ready to suck from her body. Then, its dismissed and you grow to suck in other ways.
How you’ve stretched and reviewed the internal angles of pink and red guts and sneaked peaks at organs that only half humans, almost humans will ever lay eyes on again. But the chances are unlikely that it will be from your mother’s, or your grandmother’s. It’s now a hidden program, a still image in your DNA.
And each belly is so magnificently different.
I could watch that on television for hours.
Listen to the static. Watch only commercials.
Listening to that diaphragm wisp and wheeze.
I think about the few mothers and the daughters who have tight bellies not nearly as ancient, as poetic or alive.
I am bias, I’m afraid. It is all about their grandmothers, the walking monuments with protruding guts, roles of stretched skin that hang so delicately like draped tapestry over their bodies to the windows that they are.
Some look like they might have forgotten one in there still.
Maybe all you need is a ticket or a tourist pass and you can go in for a cave exploration. Maybe I could try and decipher the hieroglyphics as if I were all scholarly or something.
I wonder if I stare long enough I’ll be able to go back in? Maybe she will let me crawl back inside where I know ill be safe for the night.
That belly, it feels like my little secret.
It is like a rung-out out dish cloth hanging up to dry from her rib cage.
And I can see her luster, the rainbows reflecting images of her children.
Of her mother. Dead.
And as the light re-positions I can see myself.
I wonder the repercussions of sharing what I know with her? Would she grasp my foreign psychosis? I think she might implode. Combust. Turn into a cloud of smoke like in the cartoons.
With no proof that anyone was every really there at all?
Never really existing. The observed system only acting within the observing system. One not without the other. My photon.
I have this belly, this capacity to create life.
A bird’s nest rings around my center.
My small breasts can create milk.
Me? A mother? That is one of the most unfathomable things to me.
Maybe one day i’ll be.
I’ll honour my sagging and smeared with “those once-were-tattoos, dear” torso?
Whether I had cave babies or not. I hope I can see in me what I am blinded by in her.
Sometimes I want to sing the songs of mothers, become a human watermelon, my mother would do cartwheels in the streets.
But I think I am designed to take care of other’s cave babies.
As the light concludes, I just watch her perform.
A silent film of Womb.
Thinking about normal things, right?
Raw and brittle she moves.
Bricks of history.
What a warrior.
In her skin lies the potential to recreate the cosmos.
A small galaxy maker.
2.8 million girls in India have gone missing in the last 20 years.
Whereas in 1991, there were 947 girls for every 1000 boys, last year that number had fallen to 914. The cause is simple – sex selective abortions, and the murder of infants.
Abortion, legal in India since 1971, is now being illegally gender-targeted. This is enabling the purposeful extermination of the female population in India.
As an UN report showed last year, India is the most dangerous place in the world to be born a girl. From 2000-2010, there were 56 deaths among boys aged one-five for every 100 among girls.”
This piece was re-posted from Stephanie’s blog: http://indiariesandindiamonds.tumblr.com