Truth and more truth
by Gabriella Sonabend
I have met someone who has seen too much. She has lived too long as an outsider in this society; she has been invited into the depths of this complicated world. She has ventured into it with an open heart and good intentions, she has loved the rejected and behaved in unthinkable ways, (to the locals), she has overlooked the caste system and forged connections on all levels – to be rejected, to become an outcast, to be judged by the gossiping men on the streets, their mothers, brothers and wives.
Sometimes you are invited to share someone’s insight and are allowed a glimpse of their extraordinary history. They shatter all allusions; they offer a truth one can’t attain alone. I have wondered and assumed and now my ideas have been backed up by her stories of –
Noses removed, fingers severed. Girls aged less than ten used as sex toys beside the Ganga. Slum murders and hospitals for untouchables giving counterfeit medicine and allowing pregnant women to die on childbirth. Letting them.
Meanwhile – I walk the ghats, hold hands with little girls, buy them breakfast and lunch. I sit staring, trying to open my eyes to see, really see, this world I am in. Friends pass through, sometimes they bring insight, sometimes they ignore this world, they look at its beautiful skin, and they ignore the crooked bones, twisted veins and severed limbs.
I remain. I can’t comprehend, my ideas are irreverent. I am reduced to actions. Draw. Sit. Walk. Watch. This way continues and in the meantime I wonder how I will return home at the end of this journey.
I sit on the roof of my friend’s guesthouse with L and 3 Indian men, (1 is his friend). I go to the toilet, in my absence this friend warns L not to leave me alone with the other men, not even for 1 minute. They have never been alone with a woman before. There I am on the roof, they smoke, they drink rum, they talk about philosophy as they conceive it. They fall further and further into their drinks and laugh and lean back against the concrete low walls. They look up at the red misted sky. Somehow stars still shine through the polluted haze. I keep my eyes turned to the floor, as a woman should. L doesn’t look at me, I am physically present, but I am invisible. The men steal coy looks at me. I am not the body they are trying to undress. I am in the red sky, I am on the ghats