My Body, My Temple

As a citizen of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago; as a married young woman of Indo-ethnic descent; as a Hindu/Shakta, it is both relevant and important for me to speak out on certain issues of national concern.

That being said, a 17-year-old young lady of Indo-ethnic descent recently found fame on the front page of a local newspaper, not because she looked beautiful while playing herself during Carnival celebrations earlier this week, but because of whom she had been dancing with. Further, a local Hindu religious leader has decided to defame this girl and the Afro-Trinbagonian gentleman with whom she shared a ‘little wine’; as always, pulling the ‘race’ card.

Now, if this girl is Hindu, then the only valid reason this religious leader can have for inserting his opinion here is that good Hindu children should not have been on the streets Carnival Monday and Tuesday, but fasting and preparing themselves at home for the worship of Lord Shiva which took place on Tuesday night. (Take that or leave it Hindu people, Shivraatri is one of our greatest nights of worship for the year and if jumping up in a band was more important than that for you, then your priorities obviously need adjusting. And that is my truth.) In which case, he would have been vindicated in arguing that her parents must teach her to truly understand and appreciate worship and prayer, and she has to learn to place spirituality before materiality etc etc etc. However, this does not seem to be the case.

For the umpteenth time, this religious leader is relying on the quietly prevailing Aryan Hindu Patriarchy’s ideologies to make his argument. If she is too young to be danced with, then by all means (as a mentor of mine commented) let us revise the Marriage Act, which allows 14 year old Hindu girls to be married off! For if she is too young to ‘wine’ at 17, why are our girls old enough to be married at 14? Further, she is dancing with a man who is not of Indian descent! And of course the Bhagwat Geeta says you must marry within your caste and creed, but in this day and age have we not advanced enough to understand that a man/woman is more than the color of their skin or the texture of their hair? Did Sai Baba not lecture on how difference is only superficial, when at the heart and in the soul, we are all one and the same?

These points will not be accepted until we, as Indo-Hindu Trinidadian people, begin to understand that we are Caribbean people. We live here, but hold on to the idea that we belong there, the motherland, Mother India! There are those who would have you believe that culture is cemented in our veins, and nothing must change else we lose who we are. We have already changed! We are in a new space, mixing and mingling in new ways. Who can say they are purely Brahmin or Kshatriya anymore? We have crossed the kala pani and become a new people, this does not mean we throw away all of our beliefs and ways of worship, it means we understand that we must adapt and evolve in other ways, even as ways of worship remain the same. Our scripture teaches us how to pray, our common sense must teach us how to live in an ever-evolving society!

It is a downfall of our dharma that we continue to police the female body by Aryan Hindu Patriarchal suppositions. We have set ways in which the woman is defined, her roles and functions, her limits and borders. We as a society have tested many of these and proven them to be outdated, allowing our women to be educated, have careers and take public positions. However, the woman’s body continues to be policed. Her place in the home continues to be the same: nurturer, home-maker, cook, cleaner, washer-woman etc. For practical reasons we have allowed our women some freedom, only to confine them in other ways and call it dharma.

So, Hindu women with careers and goals, like me, struggle on a daily basis to remain dharmic wives, daughters and mothers, without losing ourselves to the sexist rules and conventions that govern us. When will it end? Even as I write this, I am conflicted within myself. We, as Hindu people, need to differentiate between being Hindu and falling under Aryan Indian Patriarchal rule!

Thus, Mr. I-Am-The-Only-Religious-Leader-Who-Matters-And-Must-Speak-About-Everything-All-The-Time, unless you are commenting on how materialism is distracting our children from spirituality, and using this Hindu (if she is Hindu) girl as an example, then speak on. Other than that, please be quiet. You are making the rest of us look like racist hypocrites.

Sita Ram!

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