As usual, day three began with yoga. Mahal (otherwise known as yogi) taught us the next five moves in sun salutation and added in some breathing exercises. I felt peaceful in the blue light. I didn’t like the dusty dirty carpet that we dipped our faces during sun salutation. However, one must accept being very dusty at all times here. Feet are always dusty, my leggings are saturated with dust and our hair tints the shower water brown as we jump around in the cold water trying to get clean as quickly as possible. After breakfast we interviewed Ila, the only domestic violence case manager in Dhrangadra. She connects women to lawyers, paralegals and other services. She also gives them counseling. She is obviously strong and is also an imposing figure. If I were an abuser, I would think twice about messing with her. It was so cool to meet someone who has a similar job to one that I have had in the states. I’ve never been a domestic violence counselor or case manager, but I’ve done the training and have known many. I also spent several years as a case manager but I could tell I had nothing on Ila.
Then we had free time and we spent time after lunch in the rose garden chatting, writing and relaxing. It was so nice to have a break from everything. This is winter break after all. Carly and I were beckoned by two of the young men that work in the palace. We came over and saw that they were flying kites. They were not the same as the kind we used growing up. They had small homemade looking kites that were similar to the ones from The Kite Runner. They pull and loosen the neon pink string and make the kite dip and dance in the sky. Within 60 seconds of handing the kite over to me, it was obviously stuck in a tree. Carly did much better and kept it up. The girls who work at the palace stood at the windows and giggled. I wasn’t sure if they were laughing at our skill set or admiring the skills of the boys. It was adorable. In the afternoon we interviewed a survivor. She was amazing and beautiful and expressive and I loved being there to hear her story. Although I didn’t understand much of what she was saying during the interview, I could read her body language and feel her pain. She showed us her scars and where she now has a gold tooth to replace the one he knocked out. She only cried at the end when we asked what she wanted for her future. She broke down as she explained that she just wants to be independent. She doesn’t want to depend on anyone or for anyone to pity her. She seemed so embarrassed by her tears. It’s not something Indian women do, she explained.
A marriage without some form of intimate partner violence is pretty unheard of here. Even if there isn’t sexual or physical violence there is almost always financial or emotional control. When we hear about it, all the abused Indian women fuse and become one mass of overwhelming oppression in my head. Being in these interviews puts an individual beautiful woman’s face on the issue. And its not just Indian women. Women everywhere are still experiencing this. I was talking with Sarah about this. She is hearing stories like this for the first time. She echoed my own thoughts about how sad and maddening it is to realize that women have been living like this all over the world, including in our own country, for our whole lives. And we never knew about it.