Last Friday we flew from Kochi to Bangalore. We meant to take photos of the seats in the departure waiting area in the Kochi airport. They were large, soft, and oh so comfortable….. Let our domestic air carriers take note.
We were in Bangalore to work with our friends and colleagues at The Yours Truly Theatre Company. Yours Truly has been active for over a decade. In that time, the company has performed an immense number of shows, taught theatre to many children, college students, and adults, and won acclaim in India and Europe. This past Autumn they toured Europe at the behest of the BBC.
In spite of their impressive resume, this is still a young company that cares deeply about the social issues and pressures currently challenging young people in India. Issues such as academic pressures and related suicides, changing social roles, and AIDS have found their way to the stage through the company.
Recently India has been shaken by the vicious rapes and murders of several young women. These deaths have focused an intensely bright light on the recent degradation of women’s position in Indian society.
Traditionally, we were told, women in India have been held in esteem as incarnations of the goddesses. Even so, their lot was frequently very difficult, and attempts to attain more freedom dangerous.
Recently, women have moved ever more fully into cultural roles that were largely reserved for men in the past. Roles in the corporate environment, in families, and in dating and sexuality are becoming more fluid, although it remains difficult for women to rise beyond middle management in many businesses and corporations.
Gender issues have become ever more complex, disturbing the culture, and the men and women who inhabit it. Over the course of the weekend, we talked, ate, and made theatre together. Our work was focused on making space to explore gender driven issues, and to do so without being politically correct.
On Sunday we set aside some time to meet in men’s and women’s circles, as well as with the whole group. With the permission of the men, I asked the spirits of the land, the Ancestors, and the Creator to help us to navigate this rough terrain. The palpable presence of spirits from the Americas and from India was a blessing, and helped us to create sacred space from which to work.
Many stories arose from our time together, human stories about confusion, shame and broken hearts. Other stories shared the space, stories of perseverance, being true to one’s own calling to genderedness, even when uncomfortable or dangerous, and of the blossoming of love in the midst of tumult. All of the stories spoke of courage.
The company has begun the long process of bringing current social concerns regarding gender to the stage. Jennie and I feel blessed to have again been witness to, and part of, their process. We look forward to seeing the fruits of their journey.
After the Sunday workshops Jennie and I, along with another couple, were treated to a very personal performance by members of the company. Although we were both exhausted, we watched spellbound. We remain deeply moved by this honoring ceremony.