Tag Archives: social justice

History as Territory

1 Jul
image by Luba Lukova

image by Luba Lukova

 

 

 

 
I went to a wonderful talk last night organized by the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance on reclaiming feminisms at the grassroots.  The inspirational speaker, Sandra Moran, spoke about planting.  The first part of creating something new is developing an idea, planting a seed.  To do that, you must reclaim what is yours and decide that territory will be where something new can grow.

She mentioned 5 types of “territory”:
1. Your body; 2. Land; 3. Nature; 4. History; 5. Memory

This past year, I’ve been deeply engaged in reclaiming my territories of history and memory, and I’ve done that through writing and reading.  As I continue to revise my play, Tree of Seeds, I’m continually uncovering new connections to my Parsi history, especially that of Parsi women.  This article in particular, about Indian suffragettes in England, struck a chord with me. The first play I wrote (and produced in the 4th grade) told the story of a suffragette who organizes women to march for their rights, and is ultimately killed.

https://i0.wp.com/fwsablog.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/001489-Asian-suffragettes.jpg

Women’s Coronation Procession, 17 June 1911, courtesy of the Museum of London

 

 

Knowing the history of my people, makes my art more relevant and vibrant. As I reclaim this territory for myself, I can populate it with new knowledge, resonance, and meaning.

 

 

What task, what activity could help you to reclaim one of these territories for yourself?  It doesn’t have to be something public, but the simple act of doing something new will lead to regeneration and new revitalization.

 

Remember that? I'm going for another one!

Remember that? I’m going for another one, in a sari!

 

 

This year I’ve decided to write as much as I can.  I’ve started a novel and a TV pilot.

 

T.V. writing is leading me to fun and whimsy.

 
Yes, my TV pilot is about an undocumented teen growing up in Queens, but it is a half hour sit-com filled with humor and a light touch to explore a heavy reality.  I’m learning to go with the joy of using my mind and writing what comes.

The novel writing is the most personal writing I’ve done in my life and is giving me insights into how I see the world, how I see my own story.  I am looking at hurtful memories, crying while I write, and then writing some more.

So what might you want to reclaim for yourself? Which territory do you need to access and repopulate with your own power and brilliance?  Start something, use the talents you have, it will undoubtedly lead to a bigger and more hopeful world!

Aerial Roots

22 Oct

The famous banyan tree in India has aerial roots.  That means small seedlings growing on its branches send down vine-like extensions that upon hitting dirt, take root and anchor the tree.  If left unchecked, a single banyan can expand into a maze-like thicket of its own creation.  A tree intertwined around another tree, creating shadow trees.

I’m living in a similar metaphoric spiral right now.  Thoughts shooting straight downward, leading to confusion, leading to pause, leading to insights, leading to growth.

 

 

I’m like the little guy at the bottom of the illustration; feeling my way through, tripping over the bumps.

The people I meet, my family and their friends are like the tree – patient and generous.

 

At my worst, I feel wholly unprepared to spend the next 8 months here.  I feel like everything I brought with me is useless, my miniscule language skills are useless and I stick out no matter where I go.  Though when I get that low, something happens to reassure me that I’m fine. Like the two big men who ended up sitting across from me on my 16 hour train ride from Mumbai to New Delhi.  I was a little nervous about sharing an overnight train berth surrounded by men so I was sitting there trying to look stoic, listening to my headphones.  I soon realized that they weren’t speaking in Hindi and I recognized many of their words.  In fact, it sounded like Farsi.  So I started speaking to them in broken Farsi.  It turns out they are from Kabul, here in India on some business.

What’s with the pole in this cab? I have a hundred questions.

One of the guys had traveled all over Iran.  In New Delhi, they carried my bags off the train, called my driver to tell him where we were standing and waited with me until he came.

 

It’s been a roller coaster and my knuckles are white from gripping the bars tight.  (On a side note, I was talking to someone and I referred to myself as brown.  She said, “No you’re not, you’re very white”.  This led me to reply, “Trust me, in America I’m not white”.)

Back to me and the banyan tree and feeling rootless amid a forest of roots.  What is the difference between feeling lost and feeling rootless?  Does being rootless lead one to be lost? What does being lost lead to? Liberation or nothingness?  Why such angst after only a week?  I’m not just dislocated, I’m anxious about the fact that I feel dislocated.  This coupled with the energy and pace of Bombay can make someone go mad.

To give you an example, getting to a destination on foot means you have to first negotiate the traffic – cars, scooters, motorbikes, pedestrians, dogs, oxen and men with hand carts loaded with goods.  You then have to negotiate the rivers of people walking on the sidewalk and spilling on to the gully since the sidewalk is covered with hawkers’ stalls and improvised huts.

A relatively mellow street near my aunt’s home. It’s the navrata season where the various aspects of the goddess are honored.

When you get close to the location you have to puzzle over an amazing kaleidoscope of signs, old and new in all colors and shapes, attached to the building in all directions to find the place you are looking for.

But good luck finding a place to stand and read the signs because you’re never out of the traffic, you’re always in it, trying to hold on to your own singular desire like a lifebuoy being steadily shaken and drenched by the waves of all the other human beings who want something too.

And the tension is palpable.  The middle and upper classes demand things now, quickly, to my liking.  The working and poor argue, steal, stall and walk out.

Complexity everywhere.

There is a great tension between obligation and freedom; sacrifice and care.  Dedicated family members denounce one another when things get hard.  Educated women verbally (and physically) abuse servants to get out their resentment.  Selflessness and dedication meet control and sadism in strange ways.

Another gift came in the form of a book by my friend and brilliant author Arshia Sattar.  “Lost Loves – Exploring Rama’s Anguish” is a reading of the Hindu epic, the Ramayana, as a love story.  I’ve read the first few chapters and one thing that stood out was the thought that Rama was a god who oftentimes didn’t remember, didn’t recognize that he was a god.  He was living as a human, but that didn’t negate his divinity.  And so, we are we all in a way.  We can’t recognize our own divine light nor the light of others and so we battle on this earth for a little place to stand.  A footprint in the sand.

I am learning to see what I am looking at and not to make snap judgments.  Just like I learned how to approach an address I will learn how to approach a culture.  To see it as it is, not as I think it should be.  And like the banyan tree, my roots will continue to grow in many directions.

Here’s an image I created after being inspired by “Lost Loves”

 

 

I’m Alright … But It’s Not OK

15 Apr

Live footage on TV of the fighting near the Parliament building.

 

 

I was completely unaware of the attacks in Kabul today until much later in the afternoon.  Our office is far from the areas targeted in a normal, very Afghan part of the city.  No embassies, international NGOs, or political offices.

 

 

Some young men, this afternoon, were trying something; filled with fear, rage and hopelessness.  I thought about the poor victims, their families.  And then I wondered about the lives of these fighters.  How dark and confused must their way be?  6 men against national and international armies isn’t a fair fight, and they know it.  They know that the most they can do is to disrupt things for a day or two before dying in the fight.  It saddens me that no one had a candle for them.  No one could help them see a future worth living for.  They had given up on life.

 

The actors discussing one of the activities with each other.

The 3 new theater groups, from Herat, Khost, and Baghlan provinces,  are creative, intelligent and passionate about their work.  They have no illusions about the problems they face, but they are convinced that through creativity, through hopeful and truthful dialogue, they can move towards unity.

They are committed to trying something too.