Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Excerpt: Gurus, Rock Stars & the Men In Between - If my boobies are to have a fighting chance they have to be delivered with absolute conviction.
Like any romance, it’s hard to know when it moves from fantasy to reality. Is it the acceptance of the walk? Was it the conversation late last night in the studio while I worked? From a woman’s perspective it’s the moment we lay eyes on our prey. The rest are mere markers along a path already paved in anticipation. But when does the prey begin to participate as co-predator? Five minutes into our walk on a brisk spring afternoon along a desolate trail, the Devotee pulls me off the path, through brush and into a clearing cushioned with hay. It’s too perfect. He clearly knows about the haystack and planned it all along. We lay looking at the sky, talking for ages about what I don’t know. But I do know the feeling; the exquisite feeling that can only be felt when your heart is broken. When you believe you’ll never love again, only to find that on the contrary, you will… and it will happen here, on this field, in this late afternoon sun… with this man.
Quietly and confidently he leans in and kisses me. It is slow and gentle and everything I need - easily equivalent to five Hassidic therapy sessions. After that it gets hazy. I know we roll around in the hay literally and innocently. I gaze into his smiling eyes. I can see his soul. I pull back. I don’t want him to look at me. If he gets a really good look he’ll come to his senses and realize I’m not pretty, or at least that I’m older than him… whatever that implies I don’t know, but I’m sure it isn’t good. No matter how much he looks at me, he doesn’t see the faults I find so glaring. As the minutes come and go he remains stubborn. In the face of all logical reasons why; he likes me.
We plan to spend time together later tonight at the studio. At first we toss around the lackluster idea of watching a movie. For some reason and with an intensity of feeling I can’t explain but know to be true I say, “Our time together is so precious. Let’s forget the movie and get to know each other.”
We rendezvous at ten p.m. Everyone has left and I enter his office where he often spends the night working. I finger the books on his shelves, opening them at random. We choose poignant words and discuss what they mean personally, and in our life. He shows me photos of his brothers and sisters, and his Mom. He shares how his father left when he was a baby, and how his mother raised him in a rural Hindu ashram. I touch his hands. They are beautiful and kind. I look into his eyes. I feel safe. I am in the presence of goodness and I feel it to my core. I sit on the couch and he on a chair, close but opposite holding my hands in his. As he looks into my eyes he pulls me forward, and gently kisses me. I have never met a man who so perfectly embraces the feminine and masculine at once, a man whose gentility and kindness are balanced by absolute strength. I am embracing art itself.
“Take your top off” he orders matter of fact. “I want to give you a massage.”
Smoke billows out of my ears as millions of synapses go off in an attempt to figure out how to get the top off, hide my boobs and look blasé all at once. I still believe that at any moment he is going to come to his senses and realize, “Oh this is not what I purchased… look at her little boobs, what was I thinking?”
Challenged by the seeming innocence of his request, I follow suit. When I feel trapped with no way out, I take on a go for broke attitude and give it all I’ve got. With head held high I strike my best pose, and with the posture of a dancer sitting tall I look him square in the eye and slowly peel off my shirt, giving most strippers a run for their money. There in their naked glory exposed to the world are my beautiful compact, ever-erect breasts. If I am going down, I am going down in a blaze of gunfire. If my boobies are to have a fighting chance they have to be delivered with absolute conviction. I raise my chin, cock one eyebrow and slightly smile meeting his gaze defiantly as though, “There you go! My boobies… aren’t they gorgeous?”
He smiles in appreciation, and in this moment they truly are. I lay face down, soothed by his warm, strong hands as he rubs oil over my back in long sensuous strokes. Without word or interruption he worships me for what seems hours, knowing exactly where to venture and when to retreat. I can’t understand it. My whole life I’ve spent every ounce of energy trying to stop men from getting down my pants, and here is one that is allowing me to simply enjoy his company and relinquish my title as chastity belt keeper. He is either the kindest man I’ve ever met, or the most diabolical. It seems impossible that he can be anything other than a very experienced, and therefore untrustworthy lover. He laughs when I share my opinion, impressing upon me that I am merely number three in a very short list of women.
My notion of love, intimacy and sexuality has been off my entire life. As much as I crave authentic, heart wrenching experiences, I was in danger of never having them. I have been external and superficial. Of course he saw my small boobs, and yes he probably saw my extra years. He also saw my elbow, my big toe and left eye. That’s the point. He saw me, inside and out. It isn’t that he likes women with big boobs or small, he likes my boobs because they are mine. If I had big boobs he would like those too. Oh my God, I have met someone who likes…. me. I spend the entire night topless, with helpful suggestions that I get a boob job thankfully a distant memory.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Fighting and jostling like a pro I find a seat in the ladies-only carriage of the train. I love this particular Indian custom. As a feminist it should offend me, but in such an intense culture to be able to travel free of male harassment it’s a welcome relief. I get to bond with women who in the company of their husbands might not be so forthright and candid. Still, at every stop small children reach their hands through the window bars begging for ‘Ek rupee!’ and the ladies carriage is given no immunity from beggars. I’m traveling with a group of women, and one who is about six months pregnant. At the train stop she sees something and quickly covers her stomach with her shawl and handbag, concealing her pregnant state. I shoot an inquisitive look.
“Number sevens! If they see I’m pregnant they will curse my baby unless I give them a donation.”
Just when India can’t get any weirder, Number Sevens is the name given to hermaphrodites and the gender ambiguous. In India or at least here in the north, when a hermaphrodite child is born parents can choose to give them up to a tribe of fellow hermaphrodites to be raised within a community. I’ve noticed these sometimes stunning women in ostentatious saris and costume jewelry making a great fanfare wherever they go, but they’re exaggerated gestures and large hands and feet always hint at some variation of trans-gender persuasion. Maintaining themselves by singing, dancing and begging, they’re notorious for turning up at weddings, funerals or any other auspicious occasion demanding donations in exchange for their blessings… or rather to avoid their apparently devastating curse. After they passby without incident, she elaborates that the real term for them is “hijra” in Urdu, or "khusra" in Punjabi. Why she's calling them Number Sevens, I don’t know. These days nothing raises my eyebrow.
I’m making good distance. I’ve been on the train for over twenty four hours, which means little to nothing given that in India trains have no qualms about stopping in the middle of nowhere, and simply sitting for hours at a time. But this train’s been moving non-stop and my carriage has seen its share of characters come and go. I am now alone. The landscape is quite barren, almost scorched. I can tell I am in the middle third of the country, and no longer up north. Every now and again in the distance I can see a solitary man sitting in a field. Squatting. No doubt taking a dump. I have not been more dump conscious anywhere on this planet than here in India. It seems everywhere I look someone is pooing in public. And nothing can prepare for the toilets on an Indian train, not even Morocco. Quite literally it is a feces-smeared hole in the floor with the mesmerizing passage of railroad tracks whizzing by underneath. One might become hypnotized if it were not for the gag-inducing stench of excrement. I might be giving myself colon cancer. I absolutely refuse to go. It’s bad enough peeing, but at least it’s almost possible to hold my breath. But poo? Forget it. I would rather die.
Another night on the train and I’m shaking, woken by a violent storm. I am most definitely no longer in the middle of the country but moving toward the sultry south. We seem to be crossing rivers, yet the train appears on par with the water. It’s pitch black and impossible to see, save for lightening strikes that illuminate the sky for several seconds followed by vicious claps of thunder. This is long enough for me to see small clay homes and palm trees being slapped around by torrential wind and rain almost as loud as the sound of the train. It’s scary. I already have little faith in India’s railroads and their safety. Now it appears as though the tracks are disappearing in the flood waters. It is however, strangely beautiful. I watch out the window for an hour alone in my delicious ladies carriage, but I must be drifting to sleep. It isn’t until I hear the familiar “Chai, chai!” that I wake with sun beaming through my barred windows. I am in tropical Kerala.
The people in Cochin seem much cleaner and more traditional. The ladies are all wearing saris as opposed to the Salwar Kameez. They look lovely, slighter in frame than their Northern sisters and making jingle-jangle noises with bangles and ankle bells, making them possibly the world’s least likely cat burglars. In order to get to Mata’s Ashram I have to take a bus, then a boat through the backwaters that separate a small strip of land from the mainland. Out of my bus window I can see young and old women building asphalt roads. Now that’s women’s lib! What’s more liberating is that some of the women are not wearing choli tops, yet they are so expert at keeping their breasts covered. I continue pointing this out until someone puts me out of my misery and explains that cholis are an invention, the result of the Mogul invasions in the Middle Ages. Indian tradition is very suchi (clean), and by having no seams in the fabric such as a sari, one can keep the cloth impeccably clean. Not all northern habits make it south, especially not to the poorer classes.
I hop a boat to cross the backwater. It resembles one of those flat-bottomed crafts you might see going through shallow swamps to catch crocodiles. As we pass another boat in the opposite direction I notice it’s full of Indians except for two Western girls stripped down to bikinis. They are just laying there, sun baking on deck. The locals are bunched together leaving a good three feet between them and the bikini babes, staring aghast. Culturally it’s the equivalent of being naked on the London Metro. This cultural obliviousness pisses me off. A slap in the face of "when in Rome" it only serves to make traveling alone all the more difficult for women.