Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Rivers of Loss, Rivers of Resistance



Like the river that carried us along thick shores and past histories, the events of my own time move much faster then I am able to. I have not been feeling well, my thoughts are slow but I can see the shimmer of events that I can no longer hold on to. Stories spill over into each other, and I cannot finish tellings before the shores have become distant clouds.





I receive an e-mail from Lepa sharing with me the terrible news about the joint suicides of two Indian lesbian women: "According to a letter drafted by several Delhi-based activist groups, which would be circulated among progressive and like-minded people across Tamil Nadu, eight lesbian suicides have taken place in the state from the beginning of 2008 alone. In Kerala, in the past ten years, more then 35 lesbian couples are said to have killed themselves." What are these electronic pathways for--that at the end of my life I have been lucky enough to be able to travel--to tell you of lives and histories that must be known in the fragile ways we can grasp on our human lives. "Christy Jayanthi Malar (38) and Rukmani (40) set themselves ablaze after their families took objection to their 'unnatural relationship.' It has been reported that the two women had suffered years of torment from their families who objected to the closeness of the couple. Although being in a relationship since their school days, the women both had husbands...The alarm was raised when smoke was seen coming from Mrs Malar's home. When neighbors went in they found the bodies of the two women held in an embrace." (http://www.pinknews.co.uk/) Lepa's letter did not stop here, and this is what I have seen so often in our history, in the history of others deemed not completely worthy of full life--acts of resistance quickly follow if possible: from the Times of India "It was an unusual get-together for Chennai, and more radical was the agenda that rolled out. A group of activists, including women who celebrate alternative sexuality, on Saturday decided to start a counselling-cum-support centre for lesbians in the state. 'The decision to set up such a centre was born out of a need to reach out to lesbians here and prevent their isolation," said A Ponni, a researcher in the Bangalore-based, Alternative Law Forum. Amidst growing concern for Tamil Nadu's lesbians, activists came together in Chennai for the first time to protest against Sec 377 of the Indian Penal Code (carnal intercourse against the order of nature)--the letter by 'Voices against Sec 377' and other NGOs pointed out that 'repression of same-sex desire is not just a case of imposing one kind of desire and lifestyle on everyone, but is one that often paves the path to a question of life or death. The groups urged the state government to 'acknowledge the reality of this repression and provide the space for every human being to uphold their right to live and love with freedom..." Before I could continue with any other telling, I had to tell this story, say the names of the two women who could not survive the cruelty visited upon them and the names of those who will struggle to change death into life, the name Sudha Ramalingham, the activist lawyer who told the meeting she would be part of an advocacy group to fight for changes in the law. The river is still running under my feet, leading me to the ruins of the penal colony on Sarah Island and the shouts of victory for Obama lift the clouds and my own body falters and the soil of Mars is touched not gently for the first time, perhaps, by our creations , and the students of Gaza are given back their scholarships by a state, a people that so prizes education, and perhaps this is the only way I can tell stories from now on and part of the story is how grateful I am to you all, those in the past who found my books or who sat in a darkened room as I clicked the slides into light, telling you of lives of desire twenty, thirty years ago and those who read these words, a struggling journey, and to the women in Israel who have translated a selection of my writings into Hebrew--I have been given words and so this I give to you.

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