Presentation on theme: "This is a plea for you to temporarily relinquish your sanity. Please, try to listen. Try to understand their voices. Let yourself momentarily slip out."— Presentation transcript:
This is a plea for you to temporarily relinquish your sanity. Please, try to listen. Try to understand their voices. Let yourself momentarily slip out of your constructed world and submerge yourself in the chaos that is eating away at mine.
Your chair has been replaced by a dusty stone wall of a dilapidated temple estranged in the Rajasthan desert. Fill your lungs with the suffocating 115 degree heat weighed down with musky incense. Every pore in your body spills precious water, your skin unable to deny the sun the offering it demands.
Are you listening? Over a hundred voices are bellowing up from the depths of the tribal caste, but not for you or me.
They aren’t even looking at us. All eyes are focused on a coconut resting in a pool of water in the middle of the room, surrounded by lotus petals. The girls lean forward in unison and kiss the floor.
Warm smoke from the oil lamp is smeared over your face and head to bless you, and red tilak powder is dotted on your forehead. Your dwindling sphere of personal space is unceremoniously penetrated by an elbow in the ribs. Or perhaps it was simply enveloped? Pay attention Didi, sister! You must keep the rhythm.
A disturbing uneasiness ripples through you. Your sense of self begins to melt into something as intangible as the smoke meandering gracefully through the temple. Faint lines begin to crisscross the glass panel of your reality.
Oozing bodies are slowly drooling their fluids into the congealing waters of the holy Ganges. The faces have already been eaten by the flames, leaving a disfigured mess of pus. A few children casually make use of the black smoke billowing off the bodies to fly their kites.
The girls continue passing the flame around the room. They thank the Bhagvans, the gods, for the gift of being alive. Every night, they return to the temple for an hour. Shiva danced the world into being. The girls maintain the rhythm.
Rta, the order that has sustained the world over the cycles of millennia. Namaste, I bow to the divine in you. Varnasramadharma. Live out your duty dharmically, no matter the cost. Give praise to the gods by fulfilling your place. Keep the order for the sake of humanity.
A vice-like grip attaches itself to your ankle. Bulbous eyes stare without seeing, holding your equally blind gaze. The emaciated shell of a paraplegic, his legs wrapped around his neck like a spider, lays at your feet. “Bhukha, Behan-Ji.” Hungry, sister. The cracks in the glass splinter and expand.
Your body convulses instinctively. Delicate first world psyches cannot comprehend such unpleasantries. You push the creature away both physically and mentally, back to the shadows of the periphery where it belongs. That's not a human, it can't be; his reality can't coexist with yours. Detach yourself, push it away. It doesn't exist. Kick his hand off your ankle. Don't let it touch you.
This is too much to handle. Hide, get away, protect the fragments of your old reality before they slip away. Retreat while you can…get back in your mind…you’re losing control… Throw up your mental barrier, lock those emotions in a tight box before they consume you. Breathe. Don't feel it. It doesn't exist.
It's October. Your hands are still trembling. The meds are supposed to numb you, to help you cope, to still the tremors. Sedate the memories, keep them concealed in their cages. Safe and sheltered in your mental straight jacket. Distant. Detached. Deadened. Only when you are asleep are the demons able to slip through the bars to continue dragging their contorted bodies across your conscience.
But the meds can't smother the rhythm. Like a parasite, it has penetrated the lining of your most precious organs, where it continues to burrow. Wheedling and needling, deeper and deeper, until your very core begins to putrefy.
Struggle to stitch yourself back together. “Re-connect with your emotional side; you must be honest, which requires vulnerability.” Dignity aside, let people intrude into your own now bulbous eyes. You must bare yourself before they will understand. “You’re fucked up.”
Why are you being dramatic? No one wants to hear all of that. Just let it go, you can’t save everyone. We’re in college, relax. Here, take a shot glass. We’ll drown out those voices on three.
One. Two. Three.
How was India? It was fine. How was the food? Great. Did you see cows? Yes. Why are you shaking? I' m fine. I'm fine. I'm fine.
You're back in the desert with your didis. Empty words have no translation here. They’re replaced by little hands working their way lovingly through your dreading hair, forming it into a braid. That’s better, Didi, that’s the way it must be.
A girl disrupts the order. She doesn't love the boy her parents have chosen. She runs away with her beloved from another caste. Her father tracks her down. He must protect the family’s honor. He aims a bullet between her amber eyes and pulls the trigger.
Individuals are the threads that make up the tapestry. Sacrifices must be made for the sake of Rta. The beat must be maintained.
1.2 billion people, each of them filled with the breath of the Atman, each of them a part of the divine. 40 million divine girls missing from a generation, eliminated to sustain the rhythm.
Your caste, your class, your hair; all tied in place by Rta, the way things must be. How dreadful, to be integrated into such primitive inequality. Imagine being so seamlessly dependent upon the system that you cannot distinguish between yourself and the groping fingers of the outside world. How fortunate we are to be equal, to be liberated, to stand alone.
Yet still they sing, as they have been for centuries. The voices cycle eternally, caught in the tide of samsara. The girls know the end of the story. They’re under no delusions about the role they play, but they continue to breathe life into the song. For if the rhythm ever fell into silence, Shiva’s dancing feet would still, and the universe would slip out of existence.
Listen to the rhythm. What do you let yourself hear? Look around you. What do you consent to see? Are you as fearless as you appear as you stand alone upon the ice? Or is that just the meds?
Have you ever probed the splintering glass that temporarily shelters you from the depths of the deluge? Or do you not dare venture there? Are you more afraid of acknowledging its power, or of confronting your own secret yearning to yield to its sirens?
Remember the song, please. Tell me I’m not the only one haunted by their voices. Lean into the raw pain and beauty of the rhythm, feeling it deeply, passionately, excruciatingly.
Or have you already withdrawn behind your façade of control? Your implicit trust in the barriers? Have you written me off as crazy, as disturbingly forward? Because to voluntarily strip oneself down to vulnerability, that’s what we call insanity.
Can you still hear the voices? Or have they already been silenced? Did you ever even hear them? Or were they just in my head?