”The good fight is the one we fight because our heart asks it of us. In the heroic ages-at the time of knights in arnour – this was easy. There were lands to conquer and much to do. Today, though, the world has changed alot, and the good fight has shifted from the battlefields to the fields within ourselves.”
– Paulo Coelho
Rena’s finger was bound straight, sliced preparing the subze, she was now the butt of Manasi’s humour, giving the finger to everyone.
“I thought Indian women are the image of feminine virtue” I said.
“You mean like this?” pulling her dupatta over her face, fluttering her eyelids in mock submission. “That’s what gets us pregnant. India already has too much of population.”
“This is safer” she said, finger raised defiantly.
Funny isn’t it? For some the veil is a symbol of oppression, yet for others it is sacred.
What you wear or don’t wear ma not define your person it may show if you follow the crowd. The moneyed jeans and T-shirt wearing copying the West? Or Kurti and dupatta – because it suits you soul. Or are you also afraid to stand out?
Nor have Indian women have not wilting weakly in the dry patriarchal sun.
Lakshmi Bai , the Jhansi ki Rani (Queen of Jhansi), a priests daughter who married at 14 to the king, led the 1857 rebellion.
A scarred marble reveal where her sword nearly lopped off a British leader head. From giant wall she leaped her horse to escape. The horse did not survive.
Gargi, a female Vedic philosopher, not so modestly challenged Yajnavalkya fired question after question, stumping her male counterparts on the nature of Brahman and the universe. Only when warned her head would fall off did she stand aside as men continued her line but failed. Eventually she forced Vajnavalkya with two profound questions and definitively express the nature of the unmanifested, unknowable, formless Brahman.
In contrast, we now see the burqa is a much a political statement in some lands, that found aping the West backfired. For others a veil is a liberation of wandering eyes, and a unity of religious sisterhood. In Christianity, Mary is veiled, by tradition women prophesied and prayed in veil. The church claims to be the bride of Christ, the veil then symbolised mans redemption as a wedding feast of bride submitting to her supper the entire history of redemption as the nuptial union culminating in the Wedding Supper of church submitting to the Christ.
Science, especially since Marx,has tkaen the opposite path. Truth was veiled under tradition, religious and political illusions, to be exposed. Fashion has aped this search for the naked truth, a reductionist remainder after all else is stripped away, an act of spiritual liberation. Masculine harsh faced models, boyish with boobs, are skeletal coat hangers for an industry that reinvents itself. Once there were two seasons a year and now there are six.
The subtlety of truths to be searched for personally behind our own veil of experience is now a dirty word. The past, a world once seen through “a glass darkly” has been brutalised of its halo.
I would rather we move from masculine ravaging of the world to a more matrisic acceptance. It seems to me, masculine conquest is driven by fear. A woman’s strength come from an internal touch with nature.
The idea of husband wife sacrificing for each other is either forgotten – and in all traditions often a lopsided “woman serving man” inequality. Often cultures have bled into religious tradition and given – quiet improperly – religious sanction not found in the texts. As women’s rights campaigner and model Waris Dirie reported, her mother was convinced female circumcision was in the Quran. It is not.
This does not mean a woman cannot choose to reflect they sacred mystery of her experience. Men can only guess at the touch of life growing within. Few men would have the courage even if it were possible to give birth.
The veil is not a symbol of weakness. Rather it is a strength that frightens and fascinates. It overwhelms men’s tightly structured conquest by logic. The few that demand their wives cover up – without denying the women who chose it willingly – are frightened by the overwhelming intensity of female experience denied them by the masks of masculinity.
Behind their mask is a shadow denied, mirrored in their woman. We all, male and female, find reflected in life repeating shadows that haunt us until we delve into them with love and appreciation. The mystery of man and wife made one flesh is not just bedroom that so often symbolises it.
Finding the beauty in another reveals the beauty within our self. A frightening journey, that many men avoid, left with nothing when age reveals conquest is not what life is about. But for man to know all she embodies is already in him, waiting to be revealed if only he could learn to let go of the mask.
Conquest leaves a country of ghosts, a fearful repression of awaiting retribution. The denial destroys our humanity. We deny the other – the refugee, the tribal the “other” religion and so never really know our self. We would then nomads, who have forgotten their past, who do not know there ancestors and so do not know themselves. We then live with conflicting identities illusive to the end
Men are King Lear confronting the full force of nature, then striped of their garments realising they are no more than the crazy beggar Edgar “poor, bear, forked animal” naked and shivering. Then they realise our connection to the abandoned and defenceless. A lesson woman have known all along. Only then can Lear claim to be “every inch a king.”
Lets applaud the strong, graceful fierceness of Shakti. Intensified through experience, flourishing in respect of the other. It lives in the acceptance, of life as part of each other, not in the conquest and denial of challenge.Beautiful, humble, womanly and pure, capable of creativity, change subtlety as well as unparalleled rage.
Women’s power to internalise life embraces the infinite love inherent in every moment we live. In caring and holding every moment as symbols of love. To grow from an intimacy of pain with an opn heart, to be filled with the delight and love of life in all its joys and sadness’s with our heart felt gifts offered to the symphony of life.