"We are standing in the vibration of a sacred prophecy. The prophecy tells us that consciousness is preparing the spirit of the feminine, the spirit of the grandmothers..." 13 Grandmothers Council
So a topic I have been mulling over in my mind for the last month or so of traveling is the topic of authentic India vs. tourist India. I've had a growing sense of unease in my travels as I've noticed quite a few discrepancies within the country. The first two months here, we visited non-tourist places where we were the only foreigners and the cities were unaffected by tourism. Then we began traveling to traveler "hot spots", so to speak, and saw a totally different side of India. This dichotomy is prominent and made me uncomfortable when I started being honest with myself and realized that I liked tourist India much more than authentic India. This is one of the main reasons for my shift in writing--I am no longer in emotionally turbulent times that require me to take overwhelming situations and spin a beautiful blog out of them as a way to stay motivated and positive. I realized that I had such a hard time adjusting to India and manifested a lot of negative things in our travels and this is no longer my reality. So I can now write about my truest feelings about India and the multifaceted culture that She is.
This is a perfect point to state my disclaimer on this issue: these are merely my observations and opinions, not fact and certainly not everyone's perspective. I am a young traveler with limited interaction with new cultures and peoples. I hope to not offend anyone or alienate certain readers but I want to stay true to what I said in my first blog about writing candidly and openly.
Here's the skinny: I disagree with a lot of aspects of conservative Indian culture ("conservative" being the key word here). I feel bad that I have such strongly mixed opinions because there are so many wonderful, beautiful people here as well. Perhaps it's because I knew before I came that I would be giving up liberties I took for granted back home like choosing my own clothes, expressing my individual personality, driving a car, kissing my boyfriend in public. Perhaps it's because I have a background working in anti-sex trafficking that colored my vision even before I came (India is the number one country in sex trafficking of women and infanticide of female babies is prominent in Southeast Asia.) Whatever the case may be, I noticed a slow, suffocating oppression that everyone may not notice if they haven't been primed to see it the way I was. (The anti-rape commercials on Indian television certainly do not help my social activist attitude either.)
I come from liberal California where gender equality is relatively progressive therefore these issues are talked about openly and many women empowerment groups exist. I am also an educated, opinionated, hard-headed woman that is accustomed to participating as an equal when in conversation with men and who (gasp!) drives a car back home! Oh, the horror! (The men in Gujarat thought it was terribly funny that a woman was "allowed" to drive a four-wheel vehicle in America.)
Okay, so here's what I've found to be evident in authentic India vs. tourist India:
Tourist India is full of peace-loving, progressive, accepting "hippies" and Authentic India is full of kind, warm-hearted people who also have a very oppressive outlook on the women in their country. I would say that socially, India is years behind America's feminist movement and it's effect is far more detrimental (like there being an unequal amount of men and women in the country because of killing of women.) The Indian youth are taking a stand and trying to effect change within the country, especially since homosexuality was recently outlawed which upset many people.
I don't want to spend the whole blog on a social activist soapbox (I think you get the idea already) so I'd like to talk about how it has affected me as a woman and how much I've learned about other people and myself in this process.
The biggest revelation I've had is this: the next generation of revolutionaries will be women. I am reminded of this over and over again in my travels as I meet women (and men!) who believe this as well and have found through books and scriptures that reinforce this belief! It is our time to unite and embrace our feminine power of unconditional love, to forgive our oppressors and change the world.
The hardest lesson I've had to learn is how to forgive a whole system of thought and how to empower myself (and hopefully others) without stepping on the heads of men. I think the biggest problem women face in feminist movements is insulting, hating, and degrading our counterparts. Yes, men have been the primary source of opposition and yes, the injustices have been extreme and horrendous but in order to move forward and begin a new movement and way of thought, we have to forgive and fill our hearts with love and compassion for everyone involved.
Let me say this again--this is my biggest battle within myself. It is so easy to let anger and hatred take over your spirit and your heart when constantly being oppressed by a whole nation. When I was in Gujarat, I was an angry, hateful woman and it was so hard to function in a place that I felt was taking my voice from me on a daily basis by excluding me from conversation or by expecting me to work in the house while my companions were not required nor allowed to do so or by having to dress a certain way while the men could wear whatever they wanted (Matt tried to help with cleaning often).
Learning to forgive, I realized, does not mean that you accept what is going on. It means that you no longer let the anger control and define your actions, you rise above and act in a rational and intentional way. I do not accept the state of the world. I do not accept female babies being murdered based on their gender alone. I do not except women being silenced. I do accept the challenge to change our world for the better. I do accept the responsibility of spreading love and acceptance to the far-reaching corners of the world. I do accept the forgiveness into my heart that allows me to overcome the darkness that is anger, hatred, malevolence.
Women have such an immense capacity for unconditional love and LOVE CONQUERS ALL!! If we could open our hearts by forgiving what has been done, we can change what will be done in the future and that is what counts. We can't undo what has been done, we can only learn from it and change the world by first changing ourselves.
This is the second biggest lesson I am learning in India: learning to change only myself and not others, also known as the Law of Allowing. Allowing others to be the way they are, allowing things to be the way they are. This has been my biggest issue my whole life (hence the degree in psychology) and it's not necessarily a bad one. It comes from a place of love and concern-I want everyone around me to be the best they can be and if I can help in anyway to encourage growth, I will. But after being in a multicultural community with people from all over the world (I'm a minority American here), I'm learning that everyone has their own universe inside their heads, their own ideas, and their own perception of right and wrong, etc. The best way to change anyone is to change yourself first and live by example. I've known this for years but it's finally hitting home and sinking in now.
India (tourist and authentic) has helped me grow in a countless number of ways for which I am extremely grateful. Meeting the many beautiful, accepting, open people who showed no judgement, no malice in word or action, truly changed my life. I am constantly learning from the people around me, learning that everyone has had their own experience traveling throughout India, learning that I can learn something from everyone I meet. By invoking the light, I am slowly diminishing the darkness that filled the first half of my trip in India so that I may see India, and everyone in it, in its highest light.
I look forward to the day we unite and give what our world needs: unconditional love. Women of the world, this blog is for you.