Tour with Women from the University of New Mexico, May 23 – June 29, 1988
See Introduction about Journal writing with the 1986 account, subheading Journals, category India.
One woman linked with a University of New Mexico group that planned for a Fulbright Study Tour in India was advised, for medical reasons, not to make the trip. Carolyn Holdereed Heggen, another of the twelve, reported knowing someone w experience in India who would prepare on short notice to join them. Fortunate to learn via that gift from Fulbright, I value connections made w Indian women, materials purchased that explain how feminist thought emerged in an Asian setting, & ongoing links w cultural and religious diversity. In addition to hearing lectures, many by capable Indian women, & acquaintance w women’s organizations in each city visited, each of us in Study group was to make arrangements to visit local women in areas who shared particular interest. I connected w women involved w religion; religion(s) appears in bold. Because dowry often a subject of attention, that term may appear underlined. Whereas our tour stayed in most cities only a day or two, we spent two full weeks in Chennai (former Madras). Following the Fulbright opportunity, I received a C. Henry Smith grant to give lectures on Goshen College (IN) and Bluffton College (OH) campuses. Those lectures plus other writing became a Pinch Penny Press booklet, Goshen College, titled Strength, Struggle and Solidarity: India’s Women, 1989. Content from that booklet will appear before long on this website.
Early flight from South Bend into Chicago, then out of Chicago w-out complication other than rain, into New York/JFK airport arriving too early to learn departure gate; waited among an increasingly jovial, home-bound group until met Carolyn and New Mexico University group in hallway around 6:30 pm. Harriet, oldest of group, forgot her passport so is delayed a day in coming. Boarded 066 about 9:15 to discover that airport closed due to rain/lightening, ours the 88th aircraft in line for departure. Finally left at 1 a.m., being served a meal hour later. Late by three hours into Frankfort, Germany where glanced at duty-free shops before back on to 066 w Indian crew & many Indian passengers plus speaker announcements in Hindi. Reading Silver Shackles Women & Development in India by Maitrayee Mukhopadhyay that offers observations for future interviews. Into Delhi International by 3 a.m. through lines w no customs, no money reporting etc. (To travel w Fulbright makes difference). Delhi hottest place in world today—97 degrees when landed!
May 15 – Met Mrs. Nayak, w USEFI for research scholars, US & India, since 1950. Seven groups/year, 100 scholars; women studies – method, issues, tools for identity; funded by rupees accumulated over ten years.
Misc. lecture notes from visit to USEFI & American Institute of Indian Studies. 5% of India’s women educated. Not anything a woman can’t do, if she wants. Maintain two jobs, in/out of home; less resistance for professional woman; not wage differentiated in professions; migrants looking for work; not many people w energy/money to challenge laws; new professions for women; more militant women’s groups in Kerala state; child care – grandparent/creche (private); construction people from Rajasthan state where women take young children along, mobile creches, child care required for organizations hiring over 150. Mandatory school law—on paper; drop out school rate; 80% of population non-urban; government schools not co-ed. Occupations w hierarchy based in caste; health concern rather than population control; feeding, immunization, incentive to provide more for fewer; almost all public colleges—subsidized heavily; lots of educated people looking for jobs; SEWA – organized for women to avoid being abused by loan “sharks” (middle men); women w skills lack money management; all have ration cards to buy subsidized food, if established residence; puberty – stage of different activities for girls; no way to protect girl from physical violence in village unless learning at side of mother–her role. Legal age marriage – girl 18, boy 21; tribal people have more free social patterns; “pecking order” for girl marrying into family; avoid calling non-Indian ways “Western”; women as sex symbol need to address woman’s self-worth/justice; not “feminism” in western sense as choice; more violence against women in home than on streets.
Called Elinor Gilmore (met in early ’86); packers left w their household things today—moving back to north of Toronto. Taylors gone to Bangalore. Instead of dinner after “Sound and Light” program at Red Fort, took second shower for day & to bed. Little sense of jet lag/culture shock/anxiety as did in ’86. “Sound & Light” likely same as saw 25 years ago; good to review Mogul history again.
May 26 –Troubled by how much food left at meals by group—in land of hunger. Also, some of group not concerned to be “on time” taking excess group time when shopping. On tour this a.m.—Old Delhi—Red Fort, Muslim temple/Jammu Masjid where a gracious “keeper of the relics”—items from 1400 years ago like hand-written scripture copied by a grandson of Mohammad & other major prophet, a hair of Mohammed, a footprint of Mohammad set into a cement slab. Took picture of imam in front of locked area where relics kept. Good conversations w Mrs. Rao about political situation in India—likely valid views about Rajiv, Punjab, Sri Lanka, Indira Gandhi, etc.—fine self-expression, confidence & knowledge.
Lecture Notes from Centre for Women’s Development Studies, non-government organization w 20-25 staff/support – India Council of Social Sciences; really hot; men seemed to need to answer questions; look forward to resources. . . .Women’s organizations, grassroots, West Bengal; 35 villages; seasonal/nomadic migration workers; deforestation wasteland 250 acres donated for production; silkworm growing on trees; 7-8 month employment; rope-making from grass/animals (goats); reports of studies made Women & Cultural Values; seminar series of 4 workshops on management of finance, self-reliance; 79% illiterate, w no experience making reports/meeting officials; “Seeds of Change,” “Chipko” (hugging trees) – action projects; printed material/reprints/seminars/A-V networks w institutions; work among diverse languages. 20 Women’s development centers in Delhi; 5-6 Universities w Women Studies; Samya Shakti research journal, Anju Vyas librarian. . . .
To reception for Fulbright “alumni”—first speaker impressed w herself; good conversation w Mr. Nehru about Indo-American relations; Sikh man (math) genuine; Anju: 34 single, counselor w mentally ill, family dimensions, women discovering sense of self, personal rights, increasing stress/divorce; her own family situation . . . sense of bonding between mother and son, not husband. religion—discovered “spiritual” self while in America—Hindu, inner strength, she interested in my interpretation of scripture; reminded of Mrs. Rao at Birla temple re her Mother’s practice of religion w-in home altar, & Ms. Rao’s monthly practice of going to Lakshmi temple when discouraged, anxious; gain confidence/assurance/at peace through meditation. . . Should have taped conversation w Anju—very open, communicative & confident.
Decided not to go w Carolyn & several w three Sikhs on scooters to Sikh gurdwara—unsure about unknown men simply met on street, plus wish to wash hair, record notes & write to J/L/G. Looking forward to appointment at Manushi office. Letter from Robina’s mother w welcome to Mussoorie—will consider options. Learned that Helen’s father a Nobel Laurette about ’47 for work done on radiation in the 1920’s—after war called to lecture world-wide on his prediction about bomb outcomes on people. Also discovering that some in group divorced, a couple widowed.
Lecture Notes – Institute of Social Studies Trust for research/counseling. Recognition of women’s ancient religious model w shift to being “behind” men; female infanticide; subordinate position: family economic dependency; dowry – absolute social evil cuts across religious lines; govt has moved beyond welfare/development to create awareness among diverse professions; woman more a drain than asset; woman’s contribution to work “more than man’s”; lack of worth impacts policy; women’s economic role – into 6th 5-Year Plan; questions of mobility, education, personal value; increasing number of rural female-headed households—25-35% single women = main provider, goal to have these all above poverty line by 2000, target group . . . since ’47 more than 8% women in Indian legislation; women more influential as assert rights; women get trapped in credit system; women now strong movement – at times compared to freedom struggle movement; major responsibility but no authority or property; pattern of decision-making by men when household the responsibility of women.
Brahmahomadi – group with women priests; some priests’ wives work w them in temple duties; no formal training for woman in religion, yet moral values perpetuated often by woman/mother; not train daughter in religion because she leaves family context; in more “matriarchal” family (more in Kerala state) yet mother’s brother (uncle) actually in “control” . . . crisis of morals, value leads to dowry (easy money) emphasis; also value of sons compared to daughters; ”black money” unaccounted for; false prestige or status symbols (as huge investment in marriage ceremony) keep people from fully utilizing education; population one of greatest problems; family planning govt programs; drive for having sons; “defects” test used for sex discrimination; 99% of abortion – girls; control of reproductive process part of formal education; women perpetuate more negative views toward girls; if fathers respect/treat women as equals, value taught; mothers must perceive selves as educators. About 25% of husbands now doing some child/household care; if education level of wife lower than husband, less assistance from him. . . 90% have some assistance; women do more part-time, domestic work while males more often employed full-time; little moral teaching in formal way; faith in god/supreme power; level of education part of being middle class.
Manushi (women’s Journal) visit – Carolyn, Diane, Pat S, and I went, early highlight of trip. (See tape) Upstairs, two-room area, crowded but sense of activity w purpose. Editor Madhu very pleasant though at first more reserved. Her philosophy distinct & intentional, w permeating wisdom. Bought Vol II of Manushi journal, Vol. I out of stock. To fine panel w which our group brings breadth of disciplines & interests. Penetrating eyes/wisdom of oldest woman & strong, confident two younger ones. . . . To ISST in late afternoon—very hot, in fact hottest 114.5 in Delhi in twenty years. To Mr./Mrs. Nehru’s home for “high tea.” Spicy kind of samosa w quite a spread.
May 28- Sat. To beat heat, Carolyn, Pat R. and I early to Connaught Circle to shop. Bought Lynda’s inlay table – hope it’s not too “busy”—plus place mat/service set and bangles. Carolyn and Pat got “weak, short of breath” in underground shopping area so returned to hotel. Found good books at Bookworm. When returning guy’s scooter stopped once, sounding as if on last plug.
Lecture notes: “The Educated Working Woman Couple Families in India” Dr. Promilla Kapoor: Rural urban, tribal – differences depend on caste/culture/customs/rituals; 1971 many not in work/cash income census; 1981 included educated working woman (middle class). Urban educated middle class—30%; initially expected to do social service/volunteer, not be employed—man earns, negative reflection on him if wife/daughter employed; option—either employment or marriage; creating sense of woman as burden; accepted professions—teacher, doctor, not in office or shop along w. men; following WWII woman out of office/shops due to economic necessity & due to varied motivations gradually ok to combine career and marriage. . . . Employed for economic reasons, not self-development; women work in all ranks; must work at least 4 times as hard as men to “prove”; in families, male members harass through mother-in-law (for self-protection); working married girl in perpetual pressure about “dowry”; she no power to decide about her income; expected to bring dowry; husband caste demands through others; Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 original dowry – share of woman’s; right to items fully hers/for her use only, then became gift to in-laws; goal, pay price for “climb” through marriage into higher economic strata. . . extended family move more into nuclear group.
Back to room to organize “left luggage” curious how train ride w this group might evolve. Up soon after 4:30, headed for train station hour later. Didn’t stay together as group to get to platform but Dedra Rao found us all. Helen overcome w tears over sights of people on platform. Two gave their breakfast boxes to sleeping, thin man and “topless” woman in sari; I then gave Jan half my box contents. On to a.c. car, windows so dirty unable to see countryside, gritty feel soon prevalent. Rains must soon be coming, dust in air thickens, and fairly windy at times
May 30 – Agra – Taj Mahal (seeing for third time) Reminded of previous visits—first in ’62 w Dick/Melita, when seen by moonlight toward midnight—faint glow, subtle hiddenness, waited ‘til morning for other striking features to be revealed. After omelet and chips in blue, “kutcha” restaurant we four had gone by bicycle rickshaws to behold, in awe, Wonder of World – such beauty/wealth amidst poverty. Made one wonder what ambivalent feelings possess India’s poor when, if they see it likely by daylight w poinsettia bushes in full bloom; clear air, bright sun, blue sky. . .In ’86 – glad for Lynda and Gretchen to have seen it w us on a day’s bus trip from/to Delhi—when among other details G saw women en route seemingly desperate to survive. Struck then by clear reflection pool that led toward impressive marble underground tomb area. Now ’88 – w Fulbright group 120 degrees temp, though good not to know that fact when there; everything a bit hazy, of dust & oppressive sun—seeing sides of amazing building best in shade; Molly nearly fainted—gifted w ice cubes; pools only partially filled w water. Yet boundless beauty in lines of structure, colossal strength, symmetry, detailed design, inlay colored gems, & marble stone. Fatipur Sikri also a worthwhile visit—red sandstone, some portions quite decorative, especially rooms for third wife, Christian one; area in court where Parcheesee game laid out in stone; Mogul king, from position on 5th level played game using slave girls for pieces to circle the “board.”
Sights en route between Agra and Jaipur—Bus with a.c. but day increasingly hot leaving little, attached fans to blow only hot air by midafternoon. Stopped once to observe dancing bear’s acts & once for Rajasthan restaurant. Drank three Limcas & thermos of water en route, sipping slowly to conserve; less inclined even to talk in order to conserve energy. Women’s clothes in area characteristically bright w lots of red. In one area saw flocks of vultures stalking/circling over clay pots stacked precariously, tree shaped; lone woman hoeing arid field plot; occasional whitewashed Hindu temple with lone flag to protect nearby field & farmer; how anything green survives a miracle; wind stirring “hot as hell” thatched-roof huts—layers for storage built by women; brick kiln; characteristic pale blue “white wash”; paths for walking on ridges that separate plots; water buffalo in occasional “tank,” no built-in animal perspiration system; near constant horns blow to warn of vehicle presence; occasional oasis—overhead structures w water dripping; electric lines connect villages to light; buffalo herds huddled under trees, motionless except for when shade moves; instead of Detroit’s “the (traffic) ditches are full” Rajasthan’s ditches bone dry; “tanks” w child washing a buffalo at one end, women washing clothes not far away while children scrape at rocks;
To Jai Majal Palace Hotel to clean up before to print-making factory—shopkeeper, known to guide-ji, so secures his “percent” from sales. Bought a bed spread before out to bus to wait for rest. Hotel most extravagant—strange combination of many western & Indian dishes. Recorded puppet show music after dinner then to bed having watched art of bed-making—man shakes a sheet repeatedly from head end until it falls across bed followed by same motion w thick blanket (Why anyone would want all that weight beyond me.) Then a second sheet, tucking all in so tightly to bind any sleeper.
May 31 – To Amber Palace, a few miles out of Jaipur, up a winding roadway seated on elephant—tough hide, poked at/hit on its head by mahut, one of many castes; pleasant sarod-like player accompanies uphill plod. Quite amazing palace—considerable space w hall of mirrors, marble (brought from couple hundred miles away); several original doors w partial inlay; knowledgeable guide from Agra—about caste system, Hinduism, plus. Lunch almost as many dishes as dinner night before. After dinner to Rajasthan dance in hotel basement. Colorful costumes for all – three women & two musician men plus man in charge who occasionally sang, two young girls, one of whom neither skilled nor refined. Older woman performed “tricks”—placing each foot onto a glass jar to dance a-top, then atop double tumbler, then (disturbingly) on many loose pieces of glass, gradually crushing all through circular steps only to conclude by lifting one foot to pull out an embedded piece. Last dance a stick dance, inviting any to join. Overall, fairly-monotonous drum/harmonium music. Due for 4:30 a.m. room call, so to bed w-out productive sleep. Learning to know group better, being among most reserved w-in diversity.
June 1 – Bombay: Mrs. Kamalini H. Bhansali, Vice Chancellor SNDT (Research Centre for Women’s Studies) Women’s University, Juhu started 1916, not officially recognized ‘til ’51. “An enlightened woman is a person w infinite power.” . . . correspondence courses for 25-40 age group; relating to different movements w-in country; main role for women family experience. . . mission – broad education (2% of India’s women highly educated), more women now in work force, priority for literacy; role of women to maintain peace, influence policies, encourage partnership/working together/merging public and private life w sense of duty to nation, part of 6th 5-year Plan . . . 10-15% of faculty are men; national conference on Women Studies held here 1981; law against test to determine sex of fetus . . . three dimensions of Univ: teaching, research, service. . . walked along coast pre-dinner where many locals sit/walk after day’s work.
June 1 –Flight from Jaipur to Bombay took off/landed four times: Jhodpur, Udaipur, Aurangabad, & Bombay. Zoomed into cosmopolitan Bombay. . . amazing number of high-rise buildings, wide streets, vehicles pretty well stay in lanes, effective bus driver, masses of people, as gathered at each street corner to move systematically w traffic lights—also passed hovels. . . . Called Kathy Sheth, just “happen” to find right phone number (Kiran) in book of 8-10 pages of Sheths. She’ll come to Oberoi Hotel tomorrow. Son Ravi returned from Haverford this summer, Jaghut continues at Allegheny (had been in Phelps dorm when J & I ‘parents’}, Jayshree finished junior year at Kodai International School. Hotel: so luxurious, disturbing what we spend compared to India’s women, 70% of whom at/below poverty level.
June 2 – 1 ½ hour ride to Tata Institute of Social Science – met Shirin Kulajetkar, Chya Datar, Laxmi, Mrinalina Joglekar; focus local context, rather than speak for whole country’s women; 8% literate or educated; 30% landless population; Oct. to May most people unemployed; 70% of workers are women; men migrate to cities while women stay/care for animals; 50 million women in rural housework industry; get raw material from employer to do tasks at home. . . SEWA women’s organization begun in Ahmadabad – veg sellers, stitch work unions; new concept: 11% workers mainstream while 89% largely unorganized. . . focus on freedom struggle from Bombay area with bhakti movement from 13th century, social reform. . .
Laxmi: writer about writing; stories of women’s experience; context very protected in family; her writing focus early 20th century; women very physical kind of life; Tamil literature – women brings wealth, certain power; proverbs influence socialization; women taught to think of power thru religion; power and poverty go together; shifts in writing patterns; stories of ’20-’30s about women associated with water, jumping into wells, how women meet, place of washing clothes; going to worship in temple praying for others to have “long life.” Stories about educated women/women’s colleges; no need to learn songs– create evil excitement; often close relations for economic reasons, not pleasure; writing against exploitation of work world to entice women toward satisfaction in home; strong caste feeling: stories to reinforce rather than break out of; stories now more about freedom to be what choose yet women to worship husband even if abused; often not write about personal agony, too risky to identify; increasing articles regarding self-independence; assume woman’s needs to be purified; violent punishment for women
Conversation with Kathy Sheth – themes: dowry, bhakti, sister-in-law, husband Kiran’s differences from brothers; living in extended family: tolerance/acceptance, only after doors installed to separate their three units did Kathy realize how much privacy she had foregone; women’s organizations and Student Christian Movement of her Catholic diocese w efforts regarding justice, women leaders; single women, economic & upward mobility, “what will people think” if not provide dowry, stigma on moving into city compared to village life; children, lack of worth, obligation/responsibility of mother-in-law; dread for daughters to realize how much parental burden they cause, especially if into debt; sense of daughter’s less value if not given dowry . . . “bah” – Gujarati word for mother; Kathy talked great deal about “bah” who clearly “managed” daughters-in-law through sense of traditional responsibility/duty–properly train children, help w household duties; sister-in-law tells what tasks Kathy to do, (though Kathy learned most thru what failed to do); father-in-law never spoke directly to her, but always through Kiran (even if they in same room). . . sister-in-law becoming frustrated w social obligations (as attend w oldest son all wedding/funeral functions) . . . Bah reminded each grandchild (in Kathy’s presence) “not to do what their father had done” (marry non-Indian); women relate to each other and men to each other; husband/wife not expected to develop closeness/mutuality; only after father-in-law to bed after 10 pm did Kathy and Kiran have time w each other; Bah shifted from tolerance to acceptance of Kathy when children “turning out ok”. . . toys located in only one room; children given little consideration, not part of social events.
Student Christian Movement (as Kathy reports) not prominent now; Catholics need to involve student age group more; Catholic Council of Laity (100 parishes in Bombay) now address women’s plight w some priests more positive toward activism; Conference of R Catholic women on Women/India 1984; situation for single women difficult w burden on sibling families after parents’ death; many women in professional work place away from home/village never to return. . . Economic – after experience lack of responsibility, hard to be motivated to alter; easier to beg than hold down job; when church provides work for destitute, often fail to stay on—street easier w less required; . . .Population increase causing less space in cities, but lots of space w-in land as whole. Against “test” to determine sex of fetus—many girl babies being aborted. . . Urban sense of upward mobility to improve self, whereas in village less sense of change—if Brahmin remain, if Harijan remain (sense of caste among all religious groups including Brahmin Christian; question of what to bring greater unity for India—freedom/independence did so late ‘40/’50s, now more conscious of categories & loyalty w-in/conflict w others, as w religious difference (Hindu/Muslim/Sikh); Bombay most cosmopolitan; India more matrilocal—family name through woman’s line, though men “head” of family; greater Indianization—pride in being Indian—now than few years after being ruled over by Britain/Portugal (remnants of Portugal w Latin influence in Catholic church—a rigidity not known to Kathy in US.)
June 3 –Up by 6:15 to write, observe sights outside window—toward bay, numerous sleeping figures in parking lot plus cars, drivers of which seem to practice drive; streets amazingly still. Repulsed by extravagant hotel—Rs. 143/meal ticket, housekeeping maids in uniform of black dress w white apron, my roommate these days Helen the lone African American of our group. Can’t w integrity reflect on India’s poverty when adding to it by staying in such a wasteful place, especially when trying to understand women’s experience of India—70% of whom near or below poverty line. Frustrated also w some “ugly American” ways among group members causing speakers to be super time-conscious/careful not to offend. Yet we their guests who need to be gracious. They provided each of us a rose, soda, & snack. In a crowded room, hard to hear w fan & occasional airplane noise. Indian women presenters represent good age spread, justice-oriented efforts. Large amount of time spent driving to places in Bombay though Willie a good driver. Late afternoon bus tour of South Bombay w very good woman guide—knowledgeable/respectful of diverse religions. Stopped at a Jain temple on Malabar Hill, plus pleasant garden areas overlooking bay & skyline of tall buildings, plus Gateway to India & other notables of British history. Lots of details/statistics—like national flag: saffron-sacrifice; white-purity, green-prosperity. Starting SMZ (Bantrum) antibiotic cycle; need to get up at 3:45.
June 4 – Minor panic on seeing long lines at airport desk for Bangalore; no one from USEFI w us. Good, non-stop flight. What a difference in air here; Bangalore temp only 25 C. here! West End Hotel, scattered over 20 acres, more modest facilities; rooming w Helen. Guide quite talkative/knowledgeable; first to HMI—a watch factory where impressed w good working conditions of assembly line—workers friendly, eager to converse, detailed work to pick up tiny parts. Considerable testing of product before to market; government-operated/funded; amazing growth since 1961; about 2400 employed here, 900 + of whom women; equal pay for women & men; child care, medical care available with jobs.
Women’s organization had organized a protest—against family in which young bride died about year ago, whose husband acquitted, case called suicide. Several women onto bus to tell of efforts w slum area women. About fifty gathered near designated house chanting—leader shouted slogan & group responded. Soon about 600 gathered, most to observe. Some chimed in, pounded on windows/doors, up onto second floor, writing w chalk on outside walls. One woman on street told us (English) that this the way to shame a family—for death, that husband not worthy to be utilized as tutor or to get another wife. Neighbors support such public shaming Protestors prepared w placards & measure of permission to demonstrate. When police arrived w people taking pictures, I felt uncomfortable as American to be there, even on crowd outskirts, as if involved in political action. So, went back to sit alone on bus. Look forward to Madras study focus. Amazed that, in spite of intense heat, four, especially two, of our group frequently smoke in public; likely not that respected for women to do.
June 5 – Sunday: Awoke early so wrote three letters and four post cards before breakfast. W guide on Bangalore 3 ½ hour city tour —to government building, Pippin Sultan’s palace (interesting picture of Sultan created so that his eyes appear to follow you from wherever seen), a Hindu temple complex where people gathered to bring out distinct goods—only day of year for particular ones—musicians, rituals; to greet as enter/leave temple expresses “Hello/Goodbye;” (tape); devotees distributed flame, water, food some circling several times before lying prostrate before an image. others into section for rituals w goddess. To another temple w some similar rituals led by a priest before up a hill where large iron bull form (famous discovery of 1536). People seem devoted to such, to me, non-personal connection w Divine. To refreshing botanical garden—pleasant surroundings, marked trees.
Asked Carolyn to go w me to United Theological College. Met woman student who took us to a faculty home where daughter (Monica Melanchthon, grad of UTC accepted at Lutheran Seminary in Chicago for PhD work next fall) informed me of people to meet in Madras, like Aruna Gnanadason. Discovered that Gordon/Dorothy Kauffman (Harvard, GC Mennonites) presently at UTC, he to lead a couple weeks of teaching w theology profs from India’s seminaries on Systematic Theology. They warmly conversed, all exclaiming how “small the world” to have met there.
June 6 – To Indian Institute of Science – 1909; 7 departments, interdisciplinary research, 1350 students, 450 faculty; BA & MA, some TATA funding. . . “A nation grows as its science grows.”; “Asking the right question is half the answer.” Study of sandalwood and silk, local industries. . . 11 women in discussion circle—quite educated w purposeful knowledge; all women present had done post-doc; all research w India government funding expected to present work done every five years; most vigorous selection procedure of any institute in India at PhD level; think of science as good/worthy less on morals; no country self-sufficient, each affected; Birla prepares more for teaching; here more research; search for knowledge more than search for relevance; industrial science less practical; about 10% women prof; women here all married, combining two vocations; equal pay (m/w) expected surprised by US discrepancy; interesting conversation w two in electrical engineering—staff/research combination, both toward PhD w-in 8 years; all competitive entrance, once in, to stay. Former Tata Institute now called ITS.
Long ride to Institute for Social and Economic Change – 30 faculty; 2 women; started 1972; 30 student, 10 new each year; library 212 journals; many stacks; funded by govt. of India (tape) This institute most male of any visited in numbers & attitude. Wished for more details about type of research students do. Leader recently joined faculty, previous w government job in energy. Into country-like cluster of villages—people along way startled/stared to see bus load of white faces on Govt of India bus; Informed guide Ramesh very pro Hindu & frustrating paternalism in relation to us. Then to shopping—good books again at Streelekka. Workers interested that I had been there March 8, 1986 International Women’s Day. Encouraged them in efforts on women’s behalf. At Wearhouse glad to find pants for G & three silk scarves. Good chicken dinner—first western food (other than breakfast) on trip. Heard about Helen’s genius father, Science Nobel winner about ’46 for work done late ‘20s on genetics and effects of radiation; he in USSR mid-30s. Her mother a German of Jewish background who escaped into Turkey—quite a family history. Helen’s a health “purist,” not wanting a.c. at night.
June 7 – Left West End Hotel 9:00 a.m. headed for Mysore. Stopped at handicraft place where bought couple small items before to Kesava Temple where guide Ramesh gave great detail about different gods/goddesses, layers of sculpture, ceiling differences in each section—w banana plant thread/theme. He in his ‘glory’ when expounding about Hinduism. To amazing Mysore Palace where, after entering, I wondered if J and I had not been there before. Can’t imagine that those who lived there developed much awareness of how most Indian people live. To overnight, likely expensive, hotel—distance out of city, up on a hill.
Bus return to Bangalore: agricultural countryside, lush growth w banana/palm trees; farmers planting corn (I think) near tall stands of sugar cane; squares of fields w narrow foot paths between; large trees scattered over landscape; man leaning over behind a plow, pulled by horned oxen; occasional hutments needing new thatch; narrow roads w traffic “give way” by some scheme, occasional herd of goats crossing road; women wash clothes in ditches before spread on embankment & stones; ; small goat herder; pleasant breeze; some red tiled roofs; stalled trash carriers w stones around; horned water buffalo—slow, methodical pace, never a run; low-lying hill ranges; stones mounded to create a “tank” before generally more rocky terrain; man lying asleep by several children which Debra called “day care”; temperatures reasonable; through villages w varied shops; billboards about movies, foods, TV; blooming lily pad ponds; large rock formations; horned cows grazing, each w a rope dangling; villages w one home painted w full side of advertising; four stakes/wire surrounding newly planted tree; actual concrete, two-lane road for a while; dry grass mounds spread out; occasional field wagon w tires and tractor; industrious people . . . When a rider wants a small fan to operate, tell guide who tells doorman/mechanic, who tells driver, who turns on switch after which you turn on individual fan above.
We’re getting used to box lunches—cardboard so soft that lose most fruit (good that a cleaning woman retrieved rolling oranges) . . . “Toll gate Dead Slow,” “Driving neck to neck (should be avoided).” “Godley Museum.” . . . Notice more here of wife walking side by side w husband, whereas most about two steps behind, slightly to his side. . . Rain drops—a few in Bangalore, a few more at Mysore, then convincing rain during night & when to goddess temple 8th morning; delight to watch clouds/mist roll in & out again—memories of Mussoorie monsoons w sun soon shining again. . . .Stopped at industry where silk threads removed from cocoon—poor working conditions: flies, dirt, heat, water around; one woman at washing area w oblong balls of thread & child asleep in her arm (perhaps, given opium?); another infant asleep on cement floor near where mother stringing threads—likely in need of income; many kids beg for pens or chocolate.
Into Bangalore and out by 5 pm flight going to Park Sheraton, ‘Home” in Madras for two weeks, Carolyn roommate. 4 letters on arrival—two from Peggy Jenks, Jerry Nichol, and Jacob Paul. Paul family in Madras invite me for lunch tomorrow; Peggy to come on 16th; Jenks, Nichols, Sandy S, Wiebe and other Kodai faculty to be at Mahabalapurim same week-end as we; amazing how details work out!
June 9 – During Fulbright two-week study program—overall theme: “Women, the Family, and Social Change in India”—journal notes selective. Some speakers provided handouts; on occasion our group traveled to places instead of meeting in hotel lecture room. First, Welcome session – Sarah Matthew: “Introduction to the Program” Bits: gender equality and development will be part of all presentations; all presentations to be published by Madras University. Professor Vasanthi Devi – retired from Mother Teresa Women’s University, Kodaikanal, TN (6 pp) . . 45% of women in education; no resistance to higher ed for women, yet, drop out rate needs to be challenged; statistics frighten.
Tour of Madras – Museum: “No religion w-out art & no art w-out religion.”. . . Ganesh – extension of power of Shiva; gods=aspects of the Divine; primordial sound – “OM”; music: 7 notes, raga; deep purple, blue, green – sign of Divinity; lotus symbolizes divinity of human soul; hand w palm up = “have no fear”; fire – everything that is created is destroyed; in any profession, work is worship; Hindu religious symbol: third eye, red dot; paintings of Annie Besant and Sarojini Naidu; “There’s no religion higher than truth.”
Jeevan and Jacob Paul met me at hotel; Jeevan can hardly “believe” that I’m staying at such an expensive place. He leaves soon for ten days w Mother Teresa & destitute in Calcutta. We three by scooter across city to Opportunity School, Methodist place for mentally handicapped people—most simple compound and dining table for us. Meal prepared by kitchen staff, students on vacation now. Rice, veg. curries, fish (fairly bony), and soothing milk/coconut tapioca. Wondering how Jeevan feels about his mother’s health complications. Good to be w Paul family, especially to see Janneth & meet Jaya, yet time too short for much substance other than mutual gratitude.
Dr. Devadass – Religion and Philosophy department, “Women and Tradition” – India a land that shows great reverence for spirituality – to identify self with Creator God; Hindu, Buddhist, Jain all birthed in India w-out antagonism; secularism – not anti-god but equal respect for all religions; faithful interpretation includes critical analysis; premise: all religions can co-exist; person alone able to choose between good (useful) and bad (not conducive for moral/spiritual development); Vedas – Source of philosophical truth; . . . 4 spiritual values: dharma = justice (regulative principle of life); artha = wealth; karma = pleasure; moksha = salvation (highest goal, to be one w God); knowledge is supreme . . . in India philosophy & religion integrated; ascetic experience cannot be shared, given only by grace. . . . facets of religion: Lord Krishna – duty to fight for righteousness; prakriti = nature (for enjoyment); religion = inquiry: Who am I (devoid of egoism); every action of ours is motivated; cause-effect relationship; every person has Divinity w-in; Divine attributes – mercy, pity (1st duty to uplift/Mother Teresa), peace (shanti, indwelling power), & love; practice more important than mere preaching; praxis more than theory; perfection – the ultimate goal of life, alone or in community;
God = Creator, Protector, Destroyer; reach god through knowledge/faith; one who cannot be analysed visualizes; religion is unifying force even though every sect has divisions; devotion (bhakti) – to be one with god; without faith, religion is empty; all rituals – to sanctify the body; a single individual cannot enjoy in full so marriage – one of main principles of Hindu life; marriage sanctifies the body; whereas formerly no option for re-marriage of widow or for marriage between castes, now some occurs legally; a woman possesses qualities of world at large; her duty to raise children while duties of father carried out through son, so sons more preferred; son alone saves father; in Hinduism a particular ‘hell’ for a father to cross into death, so son must enable this; Hindu – great power in rituals, some women now do rituals; dharma – destiny, everything predestined; man capable of redeeming self; God assists person to overcome obstacles.
Dr. Augustine – (tape) “To idealize the real & realize the ideal” . . . 70% of Indian women have been battered in family context; public policy reinforces subordination of women; question whether government can interfere in private life. Women –to meet or learn about: Hilda Raja (Stella Maris College), Prasanna Samuel/Elizabeth/Priscilla Singh (Gurukul), Daughters of India 2674/F8; Mrs. Grace Joseph (Trivandrum), Mrs. Katahshamma Paul Raj, (Andhra Pradesh), Monica Melanchthon (Bangalore), Mrs. Marian Minz (Ranchi); Rev. S. Elizabeth Paul (Madras), Mrs. Lily G. Rath, (Orissa)
June 11 – Sat: Mrs. Chandra Gariali – Director of Family Welfare Services, Tamil Nadu – family planning earlier than other countries – 1951; birth rate – 33; constant since ’79-’84; biggest problem: keeping pace w growing numbers; over-emphasis on sterilization – no one in favor before “enough” children for survival; some places marriage as early as twelve; need to start training young women . . . Universal Immunization Program now during 7th 5-year plan (1990); 60% women deliveries in home w unqualified people; traditional demand for male continues; female infanticide – small scale; puppet program to subtly teach; dirty job (destroying girl child) done by women; if child sick, male given medical attention; girls less so if under age 5; male/female ratio 933-1,000; only in Kerala state balance; report births so get to immunize; injections during pre-natal; not always do what trained for; shortage of doctors in rural, tribal, remote areas so depend on para meds.; trained medical people from middle/upper class prefer not to go to remote/rural areas . . . second most important killer of children – diarrhea management . . . preschools for 2-5 year old w. nutritious lunch; “enrollment” up into 90% whereas before only 40% w books, shoes, uniforms free; nutrition-based diseases have decreased; girls from 10th Standard move into positions; only 1 company producing oral pills until three years ago; ; now more pressure on women to be sterilized; Sanjay Gandhi’s thrust disliked; need at least five children (desire at least 2 sons) to survive/do farm necessities; women main farm workers, providing more employment for women
Couple Observations since arriving Madras: Impressed w Sarah Matthew’s forthright approach to Indian men; she willing to differ w them on content, to confront misperceptions. I value her strength of self. Bhavani also a fine, younger contributor to discussion. Sarah Chanda strong in both insight & voice. Look forward to attend church w her. We’re meeting a few of India’s women who privileged yet connected to welfare of India’s women more broadly. Like Sarah Matthew, herself a widow since 1980 w three daughters, expressed concern for 500 made homeless last week when their hutments burned. She of Syrian Christian, Brahmin caste could remarry (as far as broader family views) but managing her life & prefers independence regarding work & efforts as w Research Service Agency. Agency intent to improve skills of women, take children on camps, attend to health, raise consciousness of women’s status – assessing why women treated as are; powerless because economically vulnerable & told of little worth . . . Shopping w Harriet this afternoon (11th) though VTI (Victoria Technical Institute) closed; to Spencers & then Giggles for good books on India’s women. Guilty—having spent $125 on books & nothing for John! Bought two batiks w women themes— fisherwoman & scene at water tap. Hope to find batik tool for G. . . Thinking of Lynda today as she flies to San Antonio; wrote to her again yesterday & to J & G; wrote my 21st card today.
Speaker on popular health care for women quite good. She valued my comment that we westerners can hardly fault Indians for overpopulation when our few children consume disproportionate amount of world’s resources . . . “Business” meeting appropriate today w caution about interruptive questioning of speakers & making valid use of session moderator. Mr. Devidass “typically” Indian male, all wrapped in his professional disciplines. K. V. Raman – Women saints – freed from earthly attachments, goal to liberate self from cycle of births; saints aspire as servants through several births; options – renunciation, detachment; bhakti – devotion (from 7th century on); lay people attached to temple; man cannot fully worship w-out wife/companion. . . Andal Goda – conqueror of physical, material, ego desires; voluntary sati – more valid/debatable; sati a social evil, not mentioned in Vedas, developed later, given religious significance. . . . Women work w development of women’s skills for economic survival; take each woman where she is . . . D. Sundaram – sociology/caste/social studies; three main components: joint family, village, caste; look at caste as social, hierarchy, changing phenomenon. . . significance of gifts given at marriage – dowry; linked to barber as source of info about potential of girl’s family; politics goes according to caste; some Christians also practice caste moorings; less proud to be Indians but of particular state & particular caste; caste conditioning does not encourage interaction between groups.
Reflection on yesterday (Sunday June 12th) when Carolyn & I w Sarah Chanda to St. Mary‘s Church (Anglican) Part of Church of South India (CSI) merger of five denomination groups in ‘47. Maybe 75 attending plus children’s choir; all in English; Rev. Stanley (second Sunday) having come from church on city’s edge; wife fairly demure but pleasant w three children ages 10-15. Surprised to see amount of involvement of women—read scripture, make announcement, take up offering (along w man). Church in old fort area that “houses” military and nearby secretariat—second “Westminster Abbey”—many buried in lower level of church, w burial plaques outside on ground—many East India Company important figures; told afterwards that many from this military station moved out to/return from Jaffna, Sri Lanka; sense of church offering consolation to them in uncertainty. Carolyn & I were asked to “bring greetings” from home congregations, adding to feeling of oneness; homily on prayer, part of series as Jesus used it—waiting, intercessory. Conversation w several women afterwards; also approached by beggar w-in church—gave Rs. 5.
To restaurant w Sarah C for cold coffee w ice cream. She told about her two marriages w Hindu men, first not an emotional fit. Son w first marriage & two teenage daughters w present; problem for her Christian family to accept; each has retained separate religious loyalty & involvement. Sarah very active w YWCA & other organizations/leadership tasks including National Council of Churches of India. She a personal friend of Bishop Gregorius; she knew Paul Verghese, of his having met Mennonites. Family has several household helpers which enables her time w organizations. She attended International meeting of YWCA 1976 in Vancouver & other national or international meetings.
Key contribution of Indira Gandhi to nationalize banks, getting them to aid poor. . . . Slum areas one-third of Madras city—lack of drainage, unauthorized dwellings, located on land w-out title; legal title if live at place for 2-3 years; slum improvement projects; tenement structures some provided for now, some in organized labor; fires at times deliberately started in slums;; some public latrines (without water source), women “go” when darkness protects; women becoming more politically conscious; given ad hoc grant by government to start “life” again though less govt funding for cities. YWCA gets govt grants, but needs to activate them; health efforts best when two thirds of workers women.
Rode w Sarah Matthew to Gurukul Theological School, talking constantly while managing traffic behind wheel of her black vintage; she talked about confronting church (paper on Women in Leadership in Church) that she sent to about 70 bishops w-in Syrian Orthodox; also confronted fact that on baptism occasions boys taken to an altar for blessing following baptism but girl babies taken out (not to be “mixed” w sacred). Arrived about a half hour late to converse w Prasanna, but two hours that she gave to me quite worthwhile; she an inspiration, model of self-strength committed to God whom she knows, depends on. Regarding marriage, she refused to take dowry; her husband approved but father-in-law initially balked; also refused to follow expectation for daughter-in-law; before long, his family recognized her strength of self. [Admittedly, after years later when worked w her at Gurukul, I describe her differently, more aware.]
In evening w Debra to home of Shakuntala Seshadri & husband, each presented flowers on arriving. Visited in small living/sitting room before she showed us other rooms (including worship center) before eating. Cook a north Indian so able to speak a few Hindi words w, which pleased him. Simple vegetarian fare but good-tasting including paratas & milk-rice-cardimum flavored dessert. Told a lot by S. S. about food customs, especially for elderly, for careful Brahmin family. The S’s older son lives in Ooty; Mr. S. leaves tomorrow to care for their 4-year-old son with jaundice. Younger son married to a Finnish woman—the SS family having been in foreign service there plus to other European/Middle Eastern countries. Should have asked more about Mrs. S’ work with two volunteer organizations & All India Women’s Committee.
June 14 – Received letters from J & G, sent June 4 & 9. . . Mrs. Vaigai—Supreme Court lawyer – “Developments in Family Law in India”. . . some connection with Communist party. . . India’s judiciary (interprets rather than creates law) has not contributed well for women; not a single woman judge in Supreme Court. . . Nanditha Krishna – “Women in Arts/Crafts.” Reflecting on three presentations of morning—excellent combination of varied professors, each herself competent. Especially valued confident, yet gentle lawyer (Christian?)—her astute way to answer my two questions about Hindu-Muslim (Shah Bano)/Manu’s law heritage. Spent afternoon shopping w Carolyn—to ready-made Hanif shop (top for G; blouse for me, & Chamidar for Lynda;) to VTI for a few small musical pieces (plus advice about wooden inlay scenes piece at home), Spencers, and Kashmir Art Palace (found possible wooden screen for G—very dusty w top sections missing, need to measure for suitcase).
June 15 – Dr. K. Nagaraj: Rural women in Labor Force in Tamil Nadu . . . work essential prerequisite for entering social process; not speak to economic value of domestic work, he focused on spatial patterns rather than time; TN ag has lower participation of women; Haryana/Punjab most agricultural of states; details/data about scheduled castes and tribal groups; since most deprived segment of society, women more involved w work; caste structure stunts women’s participation; nuclear family fosters patriarchal producing double burden—employment plus all domestic—due to extreme poverty; modernization effects (irrigation/crop patterns); difficult to say which the cause, which the effect; in poor houses more women must be employed leading to more child mortality, more complications w child care; lots of child labor (m/f) in silk weaving; child care depends on class; burden of domestic work in north (water farther from household); infant mortality rate for working women much greater in TN than Kerala states; higher the literacy rate, the lower employment for females.
Carolyn & I to Gurukul Theological for good western meal in campus guest house w Prasanna & Priscilla. Conversed about Ecumenical Decade of Solidarity w Women—WCC 1988-98, about local slum situation for women—w no place to “relieve” during daylight; about “society” that determines prices for labor done by slum women w “guarantee” of their being responsible as domestic laborers. Priscilla compared dozen slum women meeting w us; our questions about their mutual support, their source of sustenance in spite of hardship though in training only a month. . . Their pleasure, eagerness, sense of trust in us a gift, their strength & determination in spite of obstacles amazing. Mix of ages, younger ones seemingly more impoverished; most vocal, adamant against dowry yet admit that while all denounce it, many will end up driven by it in order to provide. Some have relatives back in villages where life is less difficult. Prasanna explained that many families come to city, get “established” in slum, & then husband gets involved w alcohol or other women only to desert wife. In slum she then must eek out existence for self/children. Sarah Matthew had reported how in rural areas where women may be in labor market, perhaps earning Rs. 7 compared to her husband’s Rs. 12, all her income goes to household/family while most of his goes to alcohol/drugs/joining men for restaurant meals.
To Gurukul Women’s Studies office briefly (small donation, believe so much in cause/efforts/approach) before scooter rickshaw back to hotel. Glad to hear a writer discuss her novel about three generations. (She asked afterwards if I might have attended writer’s worship that she attended in Iowa City.) Dance demonstration before dinner most informative—13 ways to move head, not quite that many for moving eyes, hands, feet, waist (all but ears). Leader explained helpfully but unable to dance because “ill.” Strength of discipline of art very obvious; religious significance; distinct women singers’ voice. Tired from shopping venture to Kashmir Art Palace where packaged wooden screen for G; pleasant exchange w father/son while waiting in store.
June 16 –Lecture by Dr. C. T. Kurian – Madras Institute of Development Studies . . . poverty=2400 calories per day, per person; 55% of farmers own/manage less than 2.4 acres; less than 20% own more than 5 hectors; since independence (’47) pop growth – 2.5% per annum; birth rate – 50/1,000 1900-1910;37.2 / 1000 – 1971-81. Death rate decreasing even faster. Literacy: 1900/5%; independence ‘47/16%; now/36% but now have more illiteracy than in ’47; by 2000 India will have half the illiterates of world; 70% of households no savings; 50% of households below poverty line; more political restlessness as economy deteriorates; TN – long period of Brahmin power then “backward” groups called for varied concessions. Process of eviction from farms subtle; foreign ownership not threatening; ICRASAT contributing in dry land . . . S. Vyayalakshmi – “Women in Politics in India” – research with fisher women; 2 full pages of notes include: “implementation of legislation just doesn’t happen.”. . . Women’s Working Group (WWG)– Pres. Smt. Jaya Arunachalam – 1928 organized workers; often not get benefits which go to “middle man”; 1980 3,000 women involved; now 80,000; Rs. 12 to start; max Rs. 3,000; group of 10-15 may request a loan for: cut pieces for blouses, milk, pan shop, fruits, flowers; pay back in installments; have some “savings bank” operation; total number of deposit holders – 9,054; 1450 slums in Madras (1/3 of city in slums); 68% women-headed households w man possibly present, often a “liability.”
After introduction to this credit/bank operation for women entrepreneurs (comparable to SEWA in north India), to a slum/village section where 100 women seated packed together on ground. They garlanded us & brought sodas before 2-hour question/response time, they vigorous, enthusiastic about WWG & its contribution to their welfare. Leader woman good rapport w women. Seemed like large scale of what C & I had encountered day before at Gurukul. How people “chatter” in Tamil fascinates me—almost like some don’t pause to ever breathe. Considerable feeling/discussion about dowry, experience of men in their lives, plus.
Forgot to write that at 7 a.m. Peggy Jenks arrived at hotel door, having come from Kodai by overnight train. Sarah Chanda invites her to stay at their house two nights—generous. Group accepted her being w us; she definitely valued the experience. Two speakers this afternoon—the man the better speaker w lots of facts well presented. Older woman good to hear because of history & activism/punch retained, but less effective w presentation or questions. . . . Talked w Peggy on 3-wheeler to/from Aruna Gnanadason’s home—she had just left; from writings, her stature impressive; hope to connect later.
June 17 – Vera Augustus – History department, Women’s Christian College: “Women, Education & Social Change.”. . . Though 20 women’s colleges in Madras, impact not apparent unless students on to grad school. Significant women have been active in administration, as faculty at other women’s colleges. Find Economic and Political Weekly: vol. xxiii, No. 18, Apr 30, 1988 – issue reviews Women’s Studies; documentary on CHIPKO; government not dealing w complex issues; women countering alcohol prob.
After lunch to Stella Marris College to interview Prof Hilda Raja of Social Work Department. Very good exchange—genuine, lively, w mutual respect. Although she middle class, truly caring of poor, those w-out basics. (tape) She grateful for copy of my Weaving Wisdom, my questionnaire; she R Cath unfamiliar with Menno She “hopes we meet again.”. . From 3-6 to Khadi industry—rather depressing—16-year-olds making khadi cloth—working conditions poor: no lights, little ventilation; also a tailoring section w 5 donated sewing machines. . . Peggy offers to take screen package for G to US in Dec. What a relief!
Toward Kanchipuram – one of 7 holy cities of India; en route guide Sunithi good explanations of points of interest: “flame of forest” tamarind (bright orange) used to flavor soups, industries along way, dhobi, coconut palm, St. Thomas cathedral top of hill, full use of palm trees—fronds, juice, trunk; medical college & hospital; Victoria Memorial School for blind, 1900; village that supplies flowers like jasmine to Madras (to wear, part of being dressed), mango orchard – Feb. Mar crop so limited this year; 1 of 7 largest lakes of TN w-out monsoon three years; vast dry area; 10% of grain left on stalk to keep straw soft; 2 monsoons; southwest & northeast June – Sept. pick up moisture w Bay of Bengal; now transplanting paddy fields. Irrigation process w bullocks where bullock moves down small hill to pull up bucket out of well to tip over into irrigation ditch before bullock back up hill to repeat. . . glad for Sunithi’s ability to talk about many topics in addition to Hindu temples.
Kanchipuram Temple from 7th cent.; cradle for great philosophies of India; Pallaba dynasty 400-900 B.C.E.; high tower over sanctum and low gateways until Islamic invasion; courtyard around sanctum lined with cells for meditation (Buddhist influence); temple of sandstone—only in So. India; temple dedicated to Shiva, Lord of Mt. Kidas; sacred tree bhilwa (medicinal); oldest temple , constant with worship since 7th century; guide Sunithi intense/deliberate in detailed explanations—section of painting like frescoes, lion prominent (in varied positions); different positions of Shiva deference extended by devotees. . . Ekambaranatha Temple – Shiva; in Kanchipuram, town of one thousand temples comparable to Varanasi in north India; many temples dedicated to many aspects of divine; great sages have lived here; from 16th cent specialized education in this region.
Group members share w each other about contacts w professional interest areas. Struck by nurse Helen’s surprise w maternity hospital where 17,000 births a year where she right in to labor room w premies, where ten newly-born lined up in one bed w mothers nearby, where “day-olds” being attended by a relative, “the babies lying on a mat on the floor!” . . . On arriving at Silver Sands beach resort, walked along beach toward Ideal Beach, meeting Peggy & Peter, plus Rocky, Jerry, & Sandy—Kodai faculty. Talked until dark w them before returning for dinner on sand (after singing camp songs in a circle). Magician program after dinner—ok until vulgar act of “bringing up” stones. While some into open dance floor, I enjoyed remarkable, starry sky & pounding surf, waves relentlessly rolling in, array of layers of white caps forming before disintegrating in remarkable patterns. Fairly strong winds too. Thought of Puri Beach stay and Gopalpur-on-Sea, plus Cochin w boat trip up part of India’s west coast years ago . . . To upper bedroom for hottest night, most disrupted sleep partly due to rubberized smell of pillow and sandy feel of bedding, floor & “B.” Electricity off several times. Park Sheraton will “feel” welcome tonight.
By 9:30 over to Ideal Beach w Sandy & Rocky out a bit into ocean (wearing Rocky’s suit)—salt flavor, demands on legs to retain stance when waves break or sweep in, gradual distance from where our belongings left on shore. Then just talked near pool about Kodai, India’s women, Fulbright group, whatever, quite unaware of how much sunburn I gained. R, J, and S walked back w me to my location where group already eating lunch in nearby pine forest; hurried to pack. Made couple stops on return trip—temple on shore (ocean edge) plus monuments section w carved sculptures “still there” though w slight deterioration, like most everything compared to 25 years ago, more crowded w people & sellers. Returned faster, glad to shower, wash clothes & hair, write family. Surprised by my skin’s redness—more than ever before.
Lecture “Indian Women in Development—An Overview” – Dr. Yasodha Shanmugasundaram—First about lowest class – where entire family must work in order to have one square meal; tailoring, largest in India; 80% in agriculture/20% of whom adequate wealth. Middle class – family bonding strongest, normal education, w varied castes. High class – employment not necessary; many educated; for every employed graduate in India, there are four unemployed; statistics often not include women’s employment in census; women below poverty line – 90% employed; women above poverty 30% employed. . . . Madras Christian College – less acceptance of women since too few employed afterward; Noted Vellore Hospital started w 100% for women students now less than 50% because too few pursue employment; drop-out rate from medical school for w/m equal.
“Women in Industry and Business” – Dr. Jaya Srinivasan – male-dominated area; at time of ’47 Independence, most everything imported whereas today India almost self-reliant in spite of “inherited and worsened bureaucracy” . . . “Monopolies Restricted Trade” – simplest of processes give maximum of profit; govt sets up demands expected as in auto industry & all thousand parts needed; politics related to foreign investment (allowed only for technological transfer); liberalization increased since Rajiv Gandhi; liberalization “cuts both ways”; four free trade zones in India—Madras, Delhi, Cochin, Calcutta; women’s role minimal in fashion design but increasing if w good funds (through husband); women, even from huts of low society, can absorb instruction & be effective workers in varied industry; to create employment & foreign exchange—2 main incentives.
Sarah Matthew –Future twenty years will provide improvements for poor of India, as past twenty years a remarkable change for middle class; next twenty also w water for all. Economics not everything, but basics of water/milk for “the crying baby”/the poor; next couple 5-year plans to make difference for those previously overlooked; people in government more aware that accountability of self & programs essential in order to get votes of masses. Her comments/suggestions to have impact, along w all twenty regional women (on Rajiv Gandhi’s National Committee for Women) who request counsel.
Interview w Aruna Gnanadason (tape/notes). Totally grateful, amazed, indebted to this fine Indian Christian leader for two hours’ time. She so assured of being “right” about India’s women, so aware of global issues; all need to recognize each other, our common pursuits. Aruna so involved on national, Asian, World Council of Churches scene. Helpful perspective on interconnection of organizations. Women, a genuine factor in hope for world as together discover& claim strength not to look primarily to men as authority over, but look to each other. She comfortable w feminist term w need to develop Asian meaning. She strongly against dowry, for church to denounce it for both sons/daughters, for leaders to refuse to marry “dowry” marriages. She told of recent marriage where a daughter demanded of her parents (along w husband/his family) Rs. 25,000 plus 25 pieces of gold plus full household of furnishings. Other examples shared cause Aruna deep anger. . . Aruna soon to attend first meeting as WCC head of India’s efforts w Decade of Solidarity w Women in Church (1988-98) . . . She told of having been near Hyderabad w Mennonites when drawn aside by Helen Belwa & told that her red dot on forehead & sleeveless blouse made her less acceptable w group. Having complied & later engaged group w interpretation, by last session several women embraced her for fine spirit. Approach of India’s confident but not arrogant women leaders a model for U.S. Mennonite women.
Impressions while riding three wheelers/scooter/auto rickshaws in Indian cities. Street corners suddenly fill w vehicles merging in from multiple sides; hierarchy on street w bicycles least & 3-wheelers not to think of themselves as too worthy. Skill w which drivers shift several inches, just enough to miss another moving vehicle. Blurp, squeeze horns used by smaller vehicles. Process to find an address may involve driver stopping several times to ask bystander for directions. Need to “pull elbows in” while cruising along in 3-wheeler or in midst of 6:pm traffic when congestion reigns. Constancy of horns: different tunes & urgency, who would know which one to heed? Humored by congestion of at least ten to twelve different transport modes including a family on a motorbike, driver w perhaps a son standing between his knees, wife behind holding a young infant who happens to be nursing while en route!
June 22 –In Hyderabad w Aysha regarding Muslim Women – man able to have 4 marriages if fair w each; divine right of husband; baby girls a humiliation; Islam extends to both w/m human worth though woman inherits half what man does; woman’s life/duty more restricted to family, she expected to pass on faith; veil gives woman freedom/mobility; differences of opinion about wearing veil; women taught in religious schools, but not w space to interpret on own; resurgence of fundamentalism enhances traditional thought of submission; poverty pushed women into labor force. . . Shah Bano case; traditional woman maintained; few dowry deaths among Moslems, few suicides; issues for Muslim women: 1. veil; 2. Woman’s testimony half the worth of man’s; 3. Equal right to inherit; women to submit because men responsible to provide; veil – meant to insure morality has become symbol of subjection; “equality in spirituality” though women pray in private; all expected to do charity; fundamentalist thrust not in Indian context (as in Middle East); women look to women of early Islam (saints, Fatima); Islam – personal religion yet work at justice issues.
Lunch in Krishna room; Oberoi Hotel—amazing construction, simple taste but extravagant space as corridors; fine grounds w large boulders, ducks/ponds, beds of low, flowered ground cover. Shopping at Andhra Pradesh Handicrafts before to oldest/largest mosque in Hyderabad; guide & Susan so enamored w each other so failed to learn a thing. To bangles street for blocks down & back, mostly taking pictures & turning away beggars, intrigued by motley variety available. Hordes of people swarming around region (near Charminar); not clean part of city.
To group meeting w four. Struck by their vivacious conversation, often more than one speaking at once. They genuinely interested in us (religions w me) & gave gift vases. Left before meeting finished to have dinner with Mary/David Lindell (took Pat R along because of her interest in Islam) Pleasant to be in home w good meal, good conversation: about Kodai, Jonathan Lindell family, Islamic details from Middle East and India. Respect Dave for his knowledge/determination to move Christians in India to gain more respect for Islam. Lindells showed four trays of excellent slides, two related to Muslim/Islamic places & events. Last set of slides had sequence of humor w signs written in English—as spellings: “Avoid Parking in Congested Areas” where not a building in sight, yet they repeatedly look for this sign and last time found it newly painted. During our several hours w Lindells, they received two calls from US (son John and Lutheran Mission headquarters in Chicago). This kind of experience in India—Kodai group at southern beach & and now Lindells—delightful. Aware again how resistant to valuing Christian presence or contribution some locations or individuals in India through years.
Debra’s good counsel for my sunburn, most hurtful in chest; for first time had a whiskey bottle in hand (from hotel room frig) against my bare chest. En route to Andhra Mahila Sabha (about 20 people) a characteristic sight w man nearby who spit on ground (not into near flower bed, but onto ground where barefoot people walk followed by characteristic nose-blowing into fingers.) Principle of school to train teachers from early children’s development; two secondary schools for over 600 – instruction in regional language and English; combine education w service to community; Centre since 1983 for woman Court advocates regarding family disputes, maintenance, divorce, property, dowry, legal aid schemes. . . .Gita Naidu: 1966 onwards, literacy, teaching/learning materials; at least 50% of Centres (4,500 people) for women to wipe out poverty, wipe out illiteracy programs through national government; training for handicapped, textile painting, tailoring.
Mrs. Durgabai Deshmukh – experience in administration/public relations; originally meant for women and children, later also trained men; encourage women to stand on own ‘feet’/become optimists; multiple departments: maternity/gynecology/determine pregnancy/personal improvement/literacy (includes material about rights/empowerment) loans to help small businesses/obstacles for women such as discrepancies in wages.
Spent 3:00 to 7:30 pm w Mary Lindell: first to Sheila Manjira Design where block printing being done, better ventilated than at Jaipur and not an “operation.” Fellow hammering out the block—amazed at number of blocks stacked around to be used repeatedly in different combinations (as for borders); Then to her father’s shop down the hill; purchased a durrie (rug to use in Goshen when seated on floor to eat curry meals). Next to Tuta Tanaja’s shop where block printing done primarily on sarees or designer (modern) for contemporary Punjabi outfits—often w mirrors sewed on by Banjari (gypsy) women seated in front of shop. Then to Shahnaz Arni, batic artist at her home. She suggested Indonesian style tool for G’s use, though she uses a brush for her excellent work. (blues Rs. 800, Woman seated – Rs 14/1600; sincerely friendly; saw her shop (picture of her and daughter—she a Parsi married to a Hindu (not generally acceptable) To Rashida’s Bohra Muslim show of primarily Punjabi outfits—more high quality, displayed w more care; tailors at upright sewing machines; talked w her about business enterprise; she a widow now living in parental home.
Upon arrival at Claridges Hotel back in Delhi –found letters from Mother, Paul/Esther, Jyostna Chatterjee. Latter had arranged meeting for 11:00 a.m. tomorrow; since we leave by 10:30, I called & arranged to meet her at 3:30 today. Quick lunch of soup & cold coffee w ice cream before to shop on Connaught Circle, glad for items like India T-shirts for girls. Scooter out to CISRI building where delighted to have six women gathered (tape) Jyotsna Chatterjee – competent, confident, gracious, looked to by others yet not overpowering, genuinely connected w her. Author of Her Gold, Her Body, Jamilla Verghese–perhaps higher caste person w distinct opinions/insights different from others. Her father a Muslim become Christian which resulted in “distance” from others; her husband from Kerala state, they now in Delhi w two sons both married to Hindu girls; reality for families—to be tolerant yet w reason to choose/continue w Christian faith. Openness to honor tradition from which each comes, yet know that if/when children, need to meet additional questions. Interesting to observe J. Chatterjee’s appreciation for personal account from friend (who several times mentioned encounters of personal vulnerability); strong difference in Mrs. Bishop’s response.
Jane Caleb, wife of Methodist bishop (British), w definite opinions, perhaps due to role she holds. She does secretary/financial/misc duties for CISRI office where appreciated. Her striking question, perhaps out of frustration(?): Is Christian experience truly distinct in India, or is its essence more cultural as w feature of dowry? Little follow up response; others might not have agreed, but chose not to pursue issue w this group. Young woman private school teacher w young children spoke very little but grateful for inclusion to hear others. Similar sense for tribal (name includes TuTu) from West Bengal who in Delhi for another conference—hesitant but explained work among tribal people for leadership training.
Mollie Taylor – Genuinely grateful to be together again: true inter -denominational respect regarding peace witness as when at Woodstock School. She told of efforts with JWP (Joint Women’s Programs) through years; started in Bangalore when J. Chatterjee lived there. Noteworthy how in process of self-introduction several had further introduced, complimented another in the circle for efforts she’d been involved in. Mollie “conscious” of speaking about her husband’s activities & broader Methodist tasks & locations. (She later told me about Woodstock class of ’68 reunion going on this week end, including Beth Ann/George, Kathy Hess, etc.)
June 24 –Headed to Srinagar plane delay of 1 ½ hours. On houseboat named “Chicago” fine, as they go (not so dingy/dark as I recall from 25 years ago.) Learned that Indira Gandhi & son stayed on same once. Quite a sight at night w row of houseboats across lake area, lights reflecting in streaks. “Word” soon brought sellers to our “door”—enjoyable first evening w shawl/wool sellers laden/tied up bags brought out. Thoughts of worth of wares being rowed across lake in a pine shikari! . . . Main buyers of our group, Polly & Helen, into a foray. I bought gray robe for J, not many choices. Amazed at number of hours a houseboat owner just sits on houseboat steps watching world float by. People (mostly children/youth) swim in some mighty murky water. Occasional call to prayer heard across way of this characteristically male world—few women row boats; men the vendors. Sense of casual life—rowing vendors singing or calling out best of wares, whether “first customer of day” early morning or late into night. No sense here of political turmoil elsewhere in city.
June 25 – Driven to Moghul gardens area—fairly hot, not too impressive flower-wise though interesting to see city &lake from that elevation. Stopped at carpet factory to observe interesting details of process followed by “demonstration of goods” in show room after which salesmen targeted, each w a separate woman of group. From there, Harriet & I to “Suffering Moses” shop; introduced myself from Mussoorie 25 years ago—he immediately said “from Woodstock College” implying that he recognized me. Picked out good walnut wood. Harriet’s continued comments (like “What kind of people live along here?” to which driver responded, “Kashmiri people!”) She really bugs me. Chicken meals noon and evening.
June 26 – Decided like Pat R. not to go w six to Gulmarg—a shame being so near. Avoiding infection w sunburn skin from dust/exhaust/heat. . . Jan left this a.m. going w husband to Leh, regret that no occasion of reflection for group. Spent all yesterday afternoon on evaluation form. Salesman from Shaw Art Palace arrived wishing to take me to his shop. Went alone w older owner, glad to be out on bigger section of Dal Lake—into area where memories of 25 years ago w Dick/Melita. Bought smallest of all wool carpet to use as wall piece—silk ones definitely nicer but nothing under $350. Mine for $155 (first customer). Owner wishes to know what we paid for earlier carpets. Time back at houseboat comfortably writing & figuring up accounts, last day to relax for weeks ahead.
Traffic going by: 1. “street sweeper”—green machine to scrape out greens that ever-grow in water, used for garden/farm fertilizer. 2. One man rowing westerners, pausing after every sixth drag of paddle through water to eat handful of food in front of him, water about 6-7 feet deep in this section. 3. “Love is God/God is Love” painted on one shikari. 4. Kids (boys) across way washing hair & dipping in to rinse off 5. Names of houseboats: Apollo Eleven, Egypt, Cosmo, Mughal Palace, Garden of Eden, Garden of Heaven, Plato, Aristotle, Miss America, Young Hollywood, Sea Palace—all w-in view of our “front porch.” 6. Common poplar trees erect over shorter types w silver-backed leaves. 7.Colored streamers on our two boats, ever shifting in breeze . . . Lunch alone w memories of Woodstock in ‘60s through soup of clear, greasy chicken broth. Fresh cherries in season. Little sense that today is Sunday, except for being day to take malaria pills.
June 27 – Woke up early to sound of thunder w recital of rain on tin roof, streams from down spouts and droplets forming bubbles on lake. Although not monsoon season, certainly reminded me of that time. W-in an hour air cooled considerably w rain shifting direction to opposite side. Sounds heard from houseboat—radio/TV spewing music or latest news; perpetual baaing of nearby goat, plaintive plea not to make mutton of it to prepare in one of several ways for westerner’s next meal. Rowers conversing w each other, or meant for another on nearby shore, all w language facility to listen in if choose. Paddles, tool handy for forward progress, used just as easily for reverse, or to scoop out excess water of hollow interior, water accumulated from rainfall perhaps for purpose of washing out/cleaning “house.” Ever-lapping sound of water, as boats cruise gracefully along.
Diane, Pat R., Polly and I walk to explore backstreet area where shops along inclined streets reminded me most of Landour, though streets here not of cement so w more dirt. Finished sixth film; wondering how they’ll turn out, hoping that allowing them to go through airport “Filmsafe” scanners is true to its word. . . . Back to boathouse for packing & quick lunch. Group’s lackadaisical view about leaving on time “paid for” at airport w Susan, one of last to be ready, failing to get on our flight. In to Delhi & Claridges Hotel for third/last time. Retrieved bag from “left luggage” & by dinner time had divided belongings into two cases. J & G will enjoy unpacking process. Last time to wash out few clothes—all needs good soap & warm water in machine.
June 28 – Details of this morning’s highlight to home of Amrita Pritam, poet & writer. Diana, Pat R., Pat S. & I went w Professor Raj whom others had met at Delhi Fulbright alumni meeting. Should keep alert for her book The Skeleton and That Man—partition/poverty/caste/suffering/justice matters, her favorite account of a man who after restless night reflects back over his life (during a 24-hour day). She a revolutionary—has “made a name” for herself through controversial positions & because living w a man not her husband. In conversation she gradually “warmed up.” Sense in which convention/cultural expectations retain considerable hold—as w fact of her “inappropriate” smoking/drinking for some years.
Initially Amrita seemed cool toward us, perhaps weary from a live radio interview just completed. She warmed up while smoking several cigarettes. Walls of her darkish living room painted w her own poems. Herself a fringe type who chose not to honor cultural expectation for women, writing on subjects less kosher. We were served Limcas on arrival & given signed Existence on leaving. For twelve years she has broadcast on AIR (All India Radio). Not accustomed to be admired as a woman for her mind, though that fact changing, she still not free to be middle class. She had shown courage to revolt—social system against her life style. Progress needed in India—too much poverty & population.
Misc. notes: Nagmani – her monthly magazine. . . “The Jewel in the Hold of the Cobra,”; Punjab’s response for current failure to understand their own independent land; religious institution of spirituality; problem w politics; Rig Veda – first book of world, from Punjab; dharma from Punjab; not killing for money but for cause; Amrita has written 18 books including The Black Rose; currently working on _____ Gupta, 1984 suicide at age 13; also current work on book of dreams; knew a man twenty years before meeting him through whom she gained courage, sense of self; occasions when she just had to write, w-out being forced; if true to self then true to whole humanity, not just for women/particular group; she can’t be boxed into one category; as woman you write, yes, but that not the only focus. Truth consciousness—four stages of development; her poetic temperament always comes through writing; very difficult to translate anything other than content (not rhythm, idioms); started writing as 13 year old in context of father who a night-time mystic writer whereas she wrote in daytime surrounded; autobiography in English; relationships should come from w-in; she was rejected due to her call for free love; guardians of religion resent her; having cut her hair, she dared to revolt against conventions; jealousy among contemporaries but once recognized, OK; she free to let her daughter marry a Muslim—OK if a “good person”; dowry – part of lust for power; can’t get political power, so drive for money; mothers-in-law often greedy, wishes to compensate for losing her son; if she more economically independent, wouldn’t be so driven; girl needs sense of security, but not in hands of in-laws. Amrita part of Parliament for two years, to be four more years—thereby influential.
To All India Women’s Conference at Sarojini House – 85-100 women gathered from around country, forming resolutions—encouraged to become police officers, assist women in cells, address human rights—eliminate discrimination, pressure government, provide more training programs. This group perhaps a remnant of “old brigade” from Freedom Struggle movement. Met Mrs. Shakuntala Seshadri (hostess, Madras home event)—noted for involvement w drug addiction efforts. Interesting exchange w another woman from Madras who assists tribal people (Tamil Nadu) who recently had audience w Rajiv Gandhi to arrange for more funding for people unaware of their rights, who wish to keep separate from modernization/”civilization” at expense of losing traditions. I continue to be impressed w way Indian educated women active in volunteer efforts, in political action on behalf of needy—profound overall learning of this study tour. They shame middle class Americans w this trait, perhaps due to prevalence of poverty, there being no way to avoid getting involved.
After All Indian Women meeting four of us to Connaught Circle, to Bookworm shop (third time for me)—such relief w air conditioning—temperature must be in teens again after relief from it w couple weeks of rains. Helen again (as in Srinagar) left something at Bookworm. After trying to get scooter driver to understand her need, we ended up missing turn off in Circle so back to hotel; she called & they delivered
Left for International airport by 11:00 where process required couple hours before 2:45 flight. Features of process distinctly Indian. Glad to get aisle seat but surprised to learn that I’ll take a different flight from group out of Frankfurt, to Chicago w customs check in New York City. Still need to “pinch myself” to confirm that I’ve had this opportunity. Glad for J’s third letter. . . . Our group “thinned out”—Jan w husband in Kashmir, Carolyn, Helen, & Debra staying to trek, Pat S. to Simla w friend, & Polly to London from Frankfurt. In Frankfurt airport while waiting to leave for Chicago, saw crowd gather around one person. Not ready to leave my luggage alone, I didn’t go to get signature from whom but Alex Trebek of Jeopardy fame.
June 30, 1988 – After return – beginning to integrate Fulbright trip. This study tour, particularly contacts w Indian Christian women who model effective leading, has given me a new/renewed conviction about our task being to work for justice. Not content or matter of simple individualism that pleads “let me alone in my contentment,” not blind to problems because “I don’t have a problem” regarding justice for women in church or anger or need for more rights. Message heard from Indian Christian women who will lead others to share leadership: There is definite injustice in church& there is imperative w-in Jesus’ message to address & diminish injustice. Therefore, we collectively must be about that mission.
Because all major world religions are patriarchal in socialization of people, all religions perpetuate injustice. That fact cannot assist people to truly know what/who/how God is. Enormous task not beyond reach, if we choose to be consistently committed. Because brothers and particularly sisters often ignorant of justice due as human beings, my task is to inform them & to address systems that wish to keep them uninformed, placid, or controlled. Because through Christian era women & men have been indoctrinated to look primarily to biblical interpretation that overlooks significant dimensions of women’s experience, my task includes to nudge women to become students of feminist biblical interpreters in order to themselves claim the task of interpreting gospel message to promote wholeness for all of the Creator’s creatures. Because church laws and civil laws have discriminated against the poor, women, & those who differ from “majority,” my renewed task calls us to return to an ancient, abiding understanding whereby law expresses worship of God–Ultimate Justice.
Because the Indian church has perpetuated injustice through dowry practice, male headship, denial of certain human rights to women, male experience as primary or normative to interpret scripture, discrepancy between rich & poor, caste distinctions, & prejudice, Indians who lead others to become leaders are addressing these matters. Because churches in the U.S. have perpetuated injustice such as male headship, denial of certain human rights to women, male experience as primary or normative to interpret scripture & civil law, gross discrepancy between rich & poor, insensitivity to global need or imbalance; prejudice of race, sex, or orientation among those who call themselves Christian—who claim to follow Jesus the radical Restorer of Justice, who authentically lead others to become leaders—must address these matters.
We cannot afford to plead for personal contentment. We cannot imply “I have no problem.” We cannot not work for wholeness & justice for all women & men. I feel directed by my Indian sisters who “know the time is short,” who claim the Decade of Solidarity for Church Women for 1988-98, who move among & are received by churches & conferences that recognize the Truth of the justice message, who know w confidence that God is/will utterly sustain their efforts. (And I look for interested people to consider forming a network to promote radical justice-making as its primary agenda.)