Sisters In Arms, Spirit And Soul
“A band of witches”, we had joked, discussing this gathering where women from faraway lands could sit together and talk of their experiences in a mutual way of helping and healing each other. The friend who had suggested this idea wanted to start a sisterhood where ‘sisters’, as we called each other, could come and pour their hearts into the circles for another to help them with.
“We as women are so powerful in our own auras, are such oceans of love and compassion that coming together could become a vast source of energy for everyone to revive from,” she had said.
Doesn’t matter who brings what to the table. Let them bring whatever they have: Feelings, philosophy, mysteries, grass.
Let it be a feast.
Word of mouth and sisters of sisters joined the walk, all the time the crowd growing bigger, all walking to a thatched dome in a forest which was soon to be bathed in the milky light of the most powerful full moon. It was more like the universe conspiring for a gathering of the kind, for we all believed in the feminine energy of the moon to be a connecting and energizing force for us. The moon that Hemingway writes, bringing out the woman in the sea; the moon that illuminates the path of a dreary traveller on a sombre night; the moon whose pull makes even the mightiest of the oceans to rise up in salute; the moon that draws the life-producing cycles of us women. This moon, the most powerful full moon of the era was going to be the centre of our circle, illuminating us with each ray.
What started with someone talking about their present-day anxieties led to another aching about her parent’s death and while one related to the pain of having lost a loving father, another shared about a father that they were raped by. While for one, drugs and an assault had her deny her own sexuality; for some others, being shamed for their bodies (for being ‘too boyish’) had them decorate it with things nastier than they had wished for.
Such powerful women, that I usually saw walking around the beach, which is my home right now, are all carrying shame and pain and joy in their bosoms; all their stories so empowering. And what was more empowering was the pound of strength that was multiplying with each dose of compassion, from complete strangers. The compassion that was denied to us, in most cases, by our own loved ones; compassion that many of us had lost for our own selves.
There is so much, irrespective of the gender, that has been ingrained into our systems from outside. The bundle of life that we were born as, always to gleam like a rainbow of a million colours, get tarred with things external: body shaming, sexual abuse, abandoning relationships; they all lead to ones self-abandonment. Completely disowning our own unaccepted truths, we carry the burden, internal and external. For me, growing up, I was constantly made to believe that women were meant to be voluptuous and that my small breasts made me more like a man. The closest of my friends, in their own unmediated toxicity, were calling me names that still shame me. So much so that I began wearing two double padded bras in the tropical heat of Bombay; stuffing myself with food that my body didn’t need to gain weight and catching my hands checking the size of my breasts every few hours.
Having shared this with the circle, I was related by a sister who stripped to her bare breasts; breasts that all her lovers told were sloppy; breasts that she embraced lovingly in front of all these strangers. And the strangers followed. Soon, off went the tops and snapped open the bras, all smiling faces and smiling breasts at each other in a teak room, candle lit on the inside, moonlit out. The body that I considered was too shameful to be shown; I could embrace and be complimented about. The body that another thought was something to be hidden and locked up was shown off. The bodies that were a taboo to be shown in public; were rubbed together, hugged together, anointed in fragrant oils together.
William Blake’s poem A Poison Tree talks of the wrath that a person puts himself through, not having talked about his true feelings. A lot of us are walking with all these emotions cased in the chambers of our beings, almost all the time burning and aching with it, sometimes unknowingly bleeding upon it. The circle of this kind can be a place for release. This is not a new phenomenon. Gypsies do it, tribes do it. In more acceptable societies, support groups do it. The idea is to talk, let the songs sung within be sung in a choir.
For us, having sung this beautiful concert on the night of the previous full moon, we returned home hand in hand. Sisters dressed in long gowns and Kurtis; one with fishbone earrings in her ear, another with a feathered hat. And as we walked the indigo night, bathed in bright moonlight, we looked like the witches in us were back to life.