Friday, February 15, 2008

LOVE IS... Two Saris Together

Okay, for the finale of this week of Queer Love stories, here's an excerpt from the amazing "Another Mother Tongue" by Judy Grahn:

Delicate shell-bead necklaces in warm subtle tones of brown, orange, and cream cascade from my neck as I write. They are a gift from my friend, Linda Marie, who brought them from the south coast of India, where the shells were gathered from a sparkling beach that slopes into the intense blue water of the Indian Ocean. They are strung together into slender necklaces by the women and children of the village Kanya Kumari. As Linda explained to me, these Tamil-speaking dark-skinned Hindu people are descendants of the original women-centered tribes who, centuries ago, were pushed to the south of India by the invading patriarchal Aryans who began to dominate the north. Still matrilineal, the women, as so many others around the world, have been reduced to selling necklaces to tourists for a living.

They worship the goddess Kumari, a Spinster God who never took a lover and never married. The great temple of Kumari overlooks the blue sea at the very south tip of India. Huge wooden doors two stories high once opened to allow the godess, as she sits in her large statue form, to look out over the sea. Long beams of light were said to reflect over the water, gleams of the torchlights held by her worshippers and reflected from the diamonds set into her nose. But once years ago, a Portuguese colonial ship caught in a storm had mistaken her diamond light for a lighthouse signal and crashed on the rocks. Since then, the great doors of Kumari's temple are closed to the sea, though her temple services go on as before.

The local people live in thatched houses of their own making. Rape is unknown in this region, and the men are very shy around the women. The title of respect is "Mother." Linda Marie, an American woman married to an Indian man from a more northern province, had traveled to the south coast villages in 1966 and made a special friend named Antonia. Now in 1978 she returned to find her again. This time she sought an added dimension to their friendship, for in the meantime in America she had divorced her husband and had come out as a Lesbian. What follows is her account of the second visit; she has used an autobiographical character name, Cassie, as the short, red-haired, white American traveler.


The next morning Cassie brought Saris for Antonia and her daughter and sisters. Then she took Antonia to her hotel-room and asked her to stay until Cassie went back to the USA. Cassie asked the question by pointing to the floor, then to the two beds, then to herself and the other woman. Antonia agreed, and they put the mattresses on the floor next to one another. Then so many hours were spent talking, talking, each in her own language, and the language of women, tossing their heads and waving their hands...

Cassie learned from Antonia that her mother had died when she was small but before dying she had a hex sign tattooed on Antonia's arm. Antonia taught Cassie what the word was in her language, Tamil, for two-turbans together; then another word for two-saris-together. But as for a-sari-and-a-turban-together, even when Cassie repeated the word in a near-whisper, Antonia would bite her lip and blush. Since she didn't seem to mind Cassie saying the words for two saris or two turbans out loud, Cassie surmised that a-sari-and-a-turban together was a dirty word in Tamil...

Antonia was humming, holding up her hands with her eyes closed and weaving back and forth. She knew the word "Love." She pronounced it "Luva." She understood love to mean our secret, the one we keep from the world. What would happen if the world knew an Untouchable from India and an Outcast from America shared a secret? Would it start world wars? Would the United Nations forbid women from traveling alone? If these two were caught, would they be cast to the sea and fed to the sharks? Or worse yet, would they be teated as lepers, would dogs bark and children laugh and point as they passed by? Cassie wondered. The best that could happen if everyone knew this secret would be that women from all over the world would mingle shamelessly and the men would become silent before their power.

LOVE is... this, too.

Thanks for going along with me on this Valentine's week exploration of so many different kinds of Queer Love. I hope your lives are infused with blessings and love, too.


The excerpt is from pgs. 107-111.
Thanks to Sara Wilson Etienne for the candy heart link! (Click on the "Gay Love" candy heart above to link to the site where you can create your own text on a candy heart image!)

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