a woman fights back

Mitu Khurana is a woman fighting to save her daughters.


I will never understand how a country where the spirituality celebrates the female Divine in the forms of  Durga, Kali, Saraswati, Lakshmi, and many other goddesses,  allows this to happen.  Shakti power and the dichotomy that is India.

You can support the 50 Million Missing campaign by signing this petition.

Female Genocide in India and the 50 Million Missing Campaign

the dichotomy that is India

“In some ways, India is like another home. There’s a familiarity of myself here. It’s the rawness of life that resonates with me, in its myriad forms – beautiful, grotesque, otherworldly. The systematic stripping away of distractions and compulsions; attachments that keep us from being fully present.”

This is what Barbara Raisbeck has to say about India in her blogs The Daughters of India and India in Stories. Go to her blogs to read the rest of the above post and her other powerful stories.  When I got her email with this post the above words resonated with me very much because I feel the same way.   I’ve said before that as soon as I put my foot on Indian soil in 2005 I felt like I had come home.

My trip this time was a very mixed bag.  One of my teachers told me that on your third trip you become a native, seeing India for what it is, warts and all.  Well, I saw plenty of warts, my own included.  India is always the country that attracts and repulses you all at the same time.  Just when India drop-kicked me in the head, another wonderful moment occurred just because I happened to be in the right place at the right time.

I read a story before I left about a baby elephant that was rescued.  A baby elephant had fallen into a pit in the forest and the mother and the rest of the herd tried to rescue him.  After awhile the herd left, but the mother stayed there trying to rescue her baby, with “tears streaming down her face” the article said.  The villagers saw this and called the Forestry Department who sent a working elephant and a vet.  The mother elephant would not let anyone near her baby, who by this time was not moving, so the working elephant with her mahout kept the mother away while the baby was pulled out of the pit.  When the vet treated the baby, it was discovered that the baby had also been stung by a scorpion, that’s why he was not moving.  The article said that after treatment the baby would be released back into the forest. Definitely a feel-good story.

Compare that story to the one I read about a Chennai hospital that was being investigated because they threw a patient, still connected to tubes and IV bags and a urine bag, out into the street.  Imagine walking along and seeing an old person in hospital clothes still connected to tubes and bags just lying in the street outside a hospital.  The article said that the patient was indigent, that no one claimed any responsibility for this person.   In other words, the hospital was not going to be paid for treating this person, so they threw the patient literally onto the street.  The article said the hospital was being investigated but I noticed there was no mention of what happened to the patient, whether he had been taken to another hospital or what.

Over breakfast one morning I read another story about 13, 14, and 15 year old girls being raped by their husbands.  In the Chennai area there are still tsunami camps, refugee camps where people still live despite the tsunami happening in December 2004.  Mothers fear for their daughters in these camps so they think if they marry off their daughters, the new husbands will protect them from the unwanted advances of men.  However, given that these young girls know almost nothing about sex, they refuse the advances of their new husbands, so their first experience with sex is rape.   I read how one young girl was drugged into unconsciousness so her husband could have sex with her.   These girls of course become pregnant and have babies at these ages, in a refugee camp.   And the cycle continues.   Lovely breakfast reading.

For every story like the first one, there are two or three of the other.

There are still people who think India is the land of yoga, incense, and spirituality, some romantic place where one only needs to travel to the Himalayas to find their guru and nirvana and all their problems will be solved.  If you read an Indian newspaper every day I can assure you that your rose-colored view of India will change.  I am reading a book right now called Children of Kali and the author says that India is very good at exporting spirituality and gurus, but doesn’t have the guts to look at its own problems.

Like anywhere else, India has its angels and its devils.  I’ve met the friendliest and kindest and most gracious people in India but I’ve also met the most arrogant and the most rigid.  I’ve met people who could not think outside the box to save their own lives.

But the thought of never returning to India kills me.  I came back this time sicker than an Indian street dog with the thought that I will take a break from India for a while.  But as soon as I started to get my strength back, I started having Tamil Nadu dreams again.

What keeps drawing me back?  I can honestly say that I don’t know.   Maybe it is the rawness and the grotesqueness that Barbara writes about that keeps bringing me back.  Maybe it is those 4 hour bus rides through the Tamil Nadu countryside that I said I would never do again, but that I achingly miss right now.  Maybe it’s those fleeting moments of human connection with a total stranger, no words spoken, but completely understood via a smile and hand gestures and the eyes and the head wobbles that have settled deep within my heart.

India has her hooks in me like an old lover — an old lover who you’ve told yourself that you never want to be with again but who keeps re-appearing like a hungry ghost tapping on your shoulder, and no matter how fast you run you can never escape him because he is a part of you forever.

You know this and you hate it but you love it all at the same time.  I have no answers, but Barbara comes close:

“The only way I can answer is, in suffering, in our own or being a witness to it, there is an opening that occurs.  That opening can consume or liberate us.  Or both.  Consume, then liberate.  And just at the moment that we think we’ve been liberated, the consumption starts again.  The suffering doesn’t just end, even when we beg it to.  But I have learned that to observe it, allow myself to feel it, hold it, accept it, I can then let go of it.  Not completely since our wounds leave scars, but enough to help me out of the fire and into the awareness of the lesson, that will, when I am ready, appear and show me a way through to the other side.”


(originally written January, 2008, after my third trip to India.)

so many things I love about India….

…and so many things I hate:  Sex selection in India.

“In a culture that predominantly views girls as an expense rather than an asset, women are put under intense pressure to produce sons.The trend for smaller families is also deepening the aversion to daughters, with the use of ultrasound technology now being used to plan families.   This is despite the existence of laws banning prenatal sex detection and sex selective abortion.

ActionAid has also found that girls are more likely to be born but less likely to survive in areas with more limited access to public health services and modern ultrasound technology.  In rural Morena and Dhaulpur, deliberate neglect of girls, including allowing the umbilical cord to become infected, is used as a way to dispose of unwanted daughters.”

Disappearing Daughters Report

Without knowledge, millions more women will go missing in India.  Thank you, Barbara.

how I spent my last day in India

(WRITTEN JANUARY 24, 2008)

This is how I spent my last day in India, flat on my back from food poisoning.  I am still sick and have had “loose motions” and stomach pain since last Friday evening — a long time.  I am sporting the fashionable emaciated heroin chic look right now.  I weighed myself this morning and have lost almost 10 pounds.  I wanted to lose weight in india, but not this way!

I won’t bore you with the gory details but I was stupid and ate a “jam cake” in Fort Cochin, Kerala late at night.  I realized at about 3 am Saturday morning when I woke up with projectile vomiting that the thing had been sitting out all day in the heat.  What an idiot.  I have survived indian street food and drinking chai from street vendors where the chai cups are washed out in who knows what type of germ-infested phlegmy water, and a pastry does me in.   I’m going to rethink drinking street chai for my future trips — chai cups washed in water that sits out all day doesn’t appeal to me.   While I’ll be contributing to India’s worsening garbage problem (like it could get any worse), think I will only drink chai from stalls that use plastic cups from now on.

My friends Nick and Sushi (my thankachi in Tamil, i.e., “younger sister”) picked me up Tuesday morning from the 5 star hotel I stayed in for my last two nights in India — where I spent most of my time in bed or on the toilet — and took me to their house.  Since I was facing two flights totaling 18 hours, Sushi thought it would be a good idea that I go to hospital for an IV, a “drip” as it is called in India.  I had thought that on the way home from the airport I was going to tell my husband to stop at an ER for the same thing.

When they took me, I was very sick.  I basically had not eaten anything substantial for 5 days and my brain felt like it was in a fog from lack of food.  I felt very disoriented.

They took me to the hospital that is admininstered by Sushi’s daughter-in-law’s father.  Sushi made the call and they were waiting for us.  I was treated by the head doctor and the head nurse — for free.  The head nurse is in the pink sari and Sushi is in the orange sari, but she is hiding on the left side.   I saw Nick taking the picture and said “oh no you don’t!” and put my arm over my ashen face.

They wanted to give me two bottles of glucose and salt but it was already after 6 pm when we left and I had to repack my bags, we had to get back to the house.   The hospital director did not ask for one rupee, but I would not have felt right if I did not give something so before we left I gave him 1000 rupees for my treatment and told him to donate it to a charity if he wants to — 1000 rupees is about $26.   By the way, the hospital is for leprosy, TB, and AIDS patients.  The room I was in was a private room.

This was my third trip and I never got sick before this.  My husband said since I got sick I should never go back to India.  I looked at him and said, “you know that’s not going to happen…”

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Today is October 6 and I leave for my 4th trip on January 6, 2010….keeping my fingers crossed I don’t get sick like this again!