Posts Tagged ‘Venus and Her Lover’




         Here are a few more views of our women friends from the beaches of Goa.  By in large, these women are illiterate, the breadwinners, and mothers.  Since few were deemed worthy of sending to school (being female and all), they began working when they were 8-12.   They travel from their mountain villages in the state of Karnataka to spend the winter walking the beaches selling to tourists.  They camp together in cheap rooms, and are subject to harassment from the local police and mafia, having to pay them off for the “right” to peddle. 


         We learned much from them about their lives, their sexual and relationship attitudes, their dreams, their suffering, and above all, their tough-as-nails ability to survive.


         We honor them.


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           Throughout our trip, James and I have given attention to the people we met, and tried to really share through conversation, so that we, from very different cultures, could come to understand one another.  While we had preconceived notions about the disparities here, even we were surprised by what we discovered in gender relations . . . the focus, after all, of our work.


         Neither James nor I have been to Saudi Arabia or other Middle Eastern countries (except for my 6 weeks in Morocco in 1975-76), so this is the most sexually repressed country we have been in.  And guess who gets the short end of the deal . . . ?  That’s right:  the woman.  All these years I have been writing about the injustices and suffering caused by the Patriarchy in all cultures, and here the scale of injustice boggles the mind.


         About 65% of girls in India get married under the legal age of 18.  And the vast majority of them are in arranged marriages.  The marriage is a financial arrangement between the parents, and girl children imply the burden of coming up with the dowry.   Dowry killings (nonpayment of the dowry) happen. 


         Once married, women are expected to produce a son, and abortion is common if the fetus is female. Female infanticide is also a grave problem, as being female has so little value here.  I had unconsciously noted that when I saw kids playing, they were mostly boys.  Without even articulating the thought, I imagined that the girls were kept inside to help their mother, or who knows?  But the fact of the matter is that there are less girls.  The implications of this horrify me:  how does the mother make the decision to abort, to let the midwife take the baby away to die, to bury her alive?  The mother herself must live under the threat of severe punishment to submit to this perverse system.


         James’ and my thesis – that our mythologies determine our realities – has been given a run for its money in India.  Because Hinduism is replete with goddesses.  Shouldn’t women, then, be revered?  We have pondered this question tirelessly and asked nearly everyone we meet.  We have also been hammering away at research, and are teasing the answers out of India’s complex history.  And it looks like all the early conclusions of our book – the need for balance and egalitarianism between the sexes, how the ideas we hold in our minds play out in our world, the effects of the dominator and partnership paradigms, and what happens when sexuality is repressed  – all these ideas we have been propounding are being substantiated here in India, with a vengeance!   The answers are way too complicated for this essay, so . . . I guess we’ll just have to write a book about it!   So Venus and Her Lover has gotten more than we bargained for in India.  Distressingly so.


         Yes, there is a modern India . . . educated people, the new middle class (beneficiaries of all the outsourcing, as well as the computer/internet economy), and we’ve met many of them.  Sincere, hardworking, gentle people.   Modern women who participate in what is called here “pub culture” are being dragged out of bars by the hair or beaten up by religious/ conservative/ “family values” Hindus and Muslims, because they are unaccompanied single women often dressed risqué in tight jeans and a “noodle strap” top.   There’s a huge clash of cultures happening in India right now, and it’s hard to see how exactly it is going to turn out.    And it’s all based on sexual dysfunction.  So for our work, this has been an amazing dive into our topic.


         What has been poignant for us is our relationships with women here.  The majority of women we know are the beach sellers – traditional women who migrate to Goa from mountain villages (mostly from Karnataka), who are in arranged marriages, many of them beaten by their husbands and forced to work to support the family, where they are preyed upon by unscrupulous police and local mafia.  Because of their work, they speak some English.  So when James makes his daily trips to the beach, he is greeted by all the friends he’s made.  The women sit with him, he buys them cool drinks or shares fruit with them, and they all sit around and talk.   The very fact that these male-female conversations happen is itself revolutionary, and then what they confide in him, and what he says to them  . . . well, these conversations are quite amazing.  And what we note is very exciting:  many of these women are thinking their own thoughts, and say they will keep their daughters and let them choose a “love match” (non-arranged marriage).  


         With this page, we’d like to introduce you to some of our new friends – the beach ladies of Goa.





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A Day in the Life

Winter 2009                                                     Anjuna, Goa, India


                  Our days go basically like this:  I work from morning till night at home,  and James goes to the beach. 


         The water therapy is doing wonders for his knee, and James says he’s in less pain now than he’s been in for years.  At the beach he’s also doing research for our book.


         Once a week I make myself go to the beach, and hopefully once a week I take my books with me to the nearby Hotel Bougainvilla, where they have a delicious spring-fed pool, do I can work and take refreshing spells in the cool water.


         So for all my friends to whom I’ve been less-than-constant, all I can say is:  Good thing we’re not friends in Goa!   I am now absolutely merciless about keeping to my writer’s schedule.  On rare occasions James pulls me out of my studio to eat out, or meet friends, or sit by the sea, and I must confess, I need those times.  Otherwise, I am indulging completely in the freedom to write, and am very grateful for it.


         Most of the beach pics, etc. that you see on the blog are from my weekly day-off.   Otherwise I am happily at the grind!


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New Year’s Eve 2008                                        Khajuraho, India


         Since our work is rooted in the tantric tradition, Khajuraho was always a prime destination of this pilgrimage.  It is the site of the medieval temples (10th c.) built by the Candela dynasty, people who worshipped the goddess as well as the god and believed that through sexual union, one could achieve moksha (spiritual liberation).  Who can argue with such a belief (and why would you want to?)?


         James and I loved Khajuraho and spent 5 days there.  It was a major relief to be out of cities and into the village life.  There are plenty of temples to visit, and so we were able to spend time at various sites – observing, feeling, meditating, and just hanging out.  We also met many interesting people and got their insights into tantra, as it is a tradition still practiced around here, but mostly in the realms of either religious mantra and meditation practice, or tantric magic (sometimes of the black magic variety).  Sexual tantra in modern India is still largely taboo.  So we’ve been learning a lot. 


We took about a million pictures, and offer you here a small(!) sampling.  The artistry of the temples was exquisite, and sometimes quite moving.    Enjoy!!






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