India’s Daughter

What was a gorgeous November, the warmest here in fifty years, I’m told, has become true November for certain. North of us, 35 miles, where I used to live, snow is the reality. Right on Lake Erie, lake effect snow is real. Heavy on the east side, vulnerable on the west side, referring to different sides of Cleveland. Outside my window a pair of robins, likely didn’t get the memo, are eying the chickadees and titmice at the feeder, hoping they will share. Those robins should have gone south weeks ago, though I do know that some do hang out this far north, tucked along overhanging clods above narrow creeks. They don’t look cold. They look confused.

My grouchy hip is healing so that I’m not hobbling and aggravating the heck out of it, but it still tires easily, walking makes a huge demand on pulled ligaments, so I’m content to rest it, but three weeks in, I’m bored with my limitation. I must be careful and disciplined not to damage it again. Which means I’ll do the dark laundry and have another excuse not to iron…..all that standing, you know. Does anyone else still iron?

Mama ironed hankies and socks. Yes. Socks. Her tidiness did not rub off on me, alas. I probably said that here before. Which means every time I put on a wrinkled though clean T-shirt, I hear Mama.

I’m just Chatty Cathy today, because I’m postponing lyrical essay class. The formatted computer program is a challenge for me, and puts off the thing I want to do: write. Just write. It’s akin to playing the piano by ear. I dislike reading music and practicing fingerwork. I’m not very good at either because….I don’t enjoy doing them. I do enjoy just playing. You can see by this admission I’m immature and undisciplined because I don’t like the work. So, though I can struggle through Chopin’s Etudes, I miss the joy of them, or the pathos of them, because I must….struggle. I memorized Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata because it meant I no longer had to read it. I’d play it for small audiences who quickly realized I hardly knew anything else. I tried to learn a few show-off pieces so that I could at least demonstrate a repertoire. But that required practice. End result? Hardly anyone knows I play the piano. Shhhhh.

I hope the coming week is more productive. I have more queries to send out, another postponement, a duty I hardly believe in, not because I doubt my book, but because the agent audience lacks interest in the subject of post WW2 and the quiet struggle of returning warriors and their stranger brides is not glamorous. It’s struggle! With little relief from their trauma. Selling that to average age gatekeepers is hard work. They are disinterested in the very women on whose shoulders they stand. Those women who demanded their place in the world beyond the scrub bucket and the stove. Today’s successful women, hardly held back by men, don’t want to know, for they seem to think they got there by their own brilliance. No, darlings, the vanguard paved your way. But that was so long ago, why would you know? And believe me, you are severely handicapped because those women were not only not lauded for their effort, they were nearly booed off the world stage.

What did I learn from writing my memoir? That I seriously underestimated the value of my mother and the women of her generation. I did have the wit to be thankful that my lot was way easier than hers.  She was not a thoroughbred. She was a work horse who learned to run like the wind at life just to survive it and come out the other end hardened, but whole. Along with countless thousands of other women, she learned that in more ways than one, women were and are stronger than men.

So I look at the lot of women of the middle east and grieve for them. I watched India’s Daughter last night on PBS and wept aloud in my bed to hear men whose mandate is to change their world for their women talk about how women should know better than to think to be treated equally and to not be so stupid as to walk out at night because men do what they do: they rape. The story was hung on the tale of Jyoti, a young Indian woman about to enter her medical internship. She was returning home after going to the movies with a friend. Her future earning power was the only hope of her poverty ridden parents. Six men across  several hours raped and mutilated her, ripping out her intestines in their progress, while biting her. Then threw her out of the bus they had commandeered to do this travesty. It took her several days to die. Arrested, those men sat in front of the camera defending their behavior and condemning hers. Two of them professed to be totally in the dark about what they did that was so wrong. I mean, it was just a woman.  I was angry enough to throw things. I succumbed to utter despair that there exists such deplorable and murderous behavior toward women anywhere in the world. The same mindset castrates women so they won’t enjoy sex. How does that make any sense? Here. Let me use you for my pleasure but I must make sure you have none.  I listened to men with the power to make the necessary corrections, while they told me with great condescension that men will be men. Can you believe that?

I woke still hearing this program in my head, knowing that I will forever look at India differently. I think without this knowledge, American women can not have true perspective on what the world is like in the majority, for women everywhere else.

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