i left pinkie standing in the rubble of the street, of the red light district of kolkata. people come to collect the dirt from these streets, because although prostitution is shamed, they also believe there is great power here from kali, the fierce mother goddess. pinkie's dark face was illuminated by the orange neon street lights, her growing smaller and smaller in then rear window as my cab drove away for the airport. her still waving goodbye until she disappeared.
i am humbled to my knees, to this earth
i just got back from kolkata, india to teach the women's empowerment program
to sex workers there
it was brutal and beautiful
i went to bed at night crying a lot, does anything make a difference?
it is really something to teach a class knowing these women are gonna have to suck a dick
to get food for dinner
(was that too crude? shall i find a way to make it less uncomfortable?)
that their body will be penetrated for commerce, for survival
and it's a trip cuz i'm still teaching the same yoga to them, to you
what do you do when you leave class?
i thought about the reflection of the womens empowerment circle
in kauai that i taught right before kolkata,
what i did in kolkata was share the empowerment practices,
but then to witness these sisters stories
to witness to the bare root of things
i gotta tell you, in kolkata, i was hearing stories that made me cringe
and somehow the stories are so much the same,
from the island paradise of kauai to the bombed out rubble of the red light district of kolkata
histories of abuse, hardship
the ferocity to survive, the dream to thrive
and one kolkata sister told me a story of growing up with a mom
who didn't believe her when she said her stepdad was molesting her,
so she ran away
but she didn't get far and so she came back
and fought her stepdad
and later her mom sent her away to school and there she heard people whisper
her mom was a sex worker
and the children shamed her and her mom drank poison to escape a cruel life
and this woman telling me the story, pinkie
her story didn't stop then. no it didn't stop when i was ready to be done,
when i flinched and wanted to look away.
she told of leaving the school, living in the terror of her stepdad again and running to an uncle who offered her money for sex, and when she said no, he said, "why not,your mom did" (how do we escape the stories of our ancestors, how do we change the lines of lineage?) . and she told a story of running to the police, a group of men who tried to molest her and how she hid in a burlap sack that almost caught fire and she had to run again.
and finally she was given some chance, though meager. and she is living in the sex workers co-op building even though she says she is not a sex worker herself, even though it is hard to turn down the money. but she says she can't repeat her mothers life. she realized that when she put a bottle of poison to her mouth, wanting to end it all, seeing no escape. but something in her rose up, and she said, "i won't let them say her mother did it and she did it" and some function of survival or pride drove her forward. and that's how i met pinkie. who is a beautiful young woman living in calcutta going to business school, who says everyday is still a struggle but her smile lights up the room and she speaks very good english.
and i came to witness but at some point in her story i made her stop. it was time to move forward. yes we must be honest about our wounds, we clean the wounds by telling our stories, but we are not confined to those stories. that is why this practice is so strong. we move forward. the power of the breathing changes lives, flips a switch and we are not those dim selves anymore, we are not trapped by the stories anymore.
and i asked pinkie if she wanted to keep teaching the classes
after i left,
and she said yes.
and things do change.
they do change one seed at a time, and the seed is the most potent,
because it contains all the information of the life sleeping inside it.
and pinkie is still teaching that class now for the sex workers on a dusty concrete floor, under a tin rooftop in kolkata.
i left her standing in the rubble of the street, her dark face illuminated by the orange neon street lights, her growing smaller and smaller in then rear window as my cab drove away for the airport. her still waving goodbye until she disappeared. and i leave you pinkie, i have to board another plane. and i leave you pinkie, with my prayers, my hope and my blessing. how can you be so small and fragile? i leave you to make your own story of your life. you are my sister. when you spoke of your abuse and your stubborness not to become your mother, i was you.
the wheel turns, the snake eats it's own tail.
and i thought that it makes a big difference the opportunities we are given in this world.
the sisters in kauai, some of them were abused too, but we ended up in the fertile lap of kauai. pinkie is on the mean streets of calcutta. and still, we share the seeds and we rise.
god has no bodies but our own,
we are the body of god.
i say amen, thanks for sharing this life with me, thank you for sharing your stories with me.
flying home, i got sick on the plane, i vomited in the tiny cubicle