The Sari Diaries

A young Canadian nurse teaching in India for a year.

Thoughts on my India adventure from the desk of Pat

January28

I am blogging for Michelle because I am visiting her for 5 weeks and we both decided it would be nice to have someone else submit their experiences of India. My name is Patricia Liesch (Pat to most people). I am also a nurse having worked the last 28 years in multiple settings mostly in the acute care sector. I had always wanted to nurse in either Africa or India since graduating from Vancouver General School of Nursing in 1984 and am now writing this blog from Indore, Madhya Pradesh. I feel blessed that I am able to have made this trip as seamlessly as I have and thank God for the opportunities that I hope will present themselves as time progresses. I will be doing a number of educational sessions in various places throughout India that Michelle has set up for both student and graduate nurses on basic and advanced wound care focusing on diabetic complications and burn care over the next few weeks. I will also be visiting some of Michelle’s friends and fitting in a bit of sight-seeing as we are able.

It seems only days ago that I found myself sitting in a window seat on a Boeing 747. I’ve been asked if I had butterflies at the time and truthfully I didn’t. What I experienced was a quiet sense of doing something right and something I have wanted to do for a very long time and now thankfully being able to see the reality of this wish.

I landed uneventfully in Indore along with a slightly lighter credit card after having been informed that Jet Airways didn’t honor British Airways excess luggage clause. I was met by Michelle and despite being up for almost 36 hours wasn’t really too tired being more excited to see where I would be staying for a portion of my stay in this diverse country. I say diverse because that is one way that has helped me to compartmentalize the various sights and sounds that immediately presented themselves during our short autorickshaw ride to the Nursing College. Horns honking, loudspeakers announcing prayer time, cows in the middle of the street, smells of diesel fuel and cooking from the street vendors and the odour of garbage were all part of my introduction to India. I unpacked my suitcases and pulled out the pillow from home (thanks Shelly!). The mattress is very firm- did I say firm? My shower will consist of 2 large buckets that I can heat up with an immersion heater device.Michelle shows me how to heat up my water with the heater so that I have warm water for washing. Now that is an interesting contraption to use… Not sure if it would pass inspection back home. Never has 5 gallons of water felt so good.

The following day Michelle takes me on a tour of the Nursing School and seeing all the classrooms and their contents makes me reflect on what we in Canada take for granted in post-secondary establishments. I quickly realize that the art of nursing is practiced in this school under the context of caring not in the surrounding physical environment of new equipment and walls of gleaming white paint.

I am greeted with “Good Morning Madame” as I walk around the school grounds. The students are so polite and eager to help me in any way they can. I spent the rest of the day unpacking and at dinner time I quickly learn the process of eating with my right hand as the left hand is considered unclean to eat with.

The next 2 days are filled with a slow flurry of activity from church to meeting numerous people that Michelle has met over the her last few years staying in India as well as getting measured for a suit made specifically for me by a tailor from a beautiful Bagh print that Michelle gave me, eating way too much and drinking Chai. I realise that I need to keep up with my dirty laundry so I hand wash a few items and hang them on the line outside since there are no machines readily available.

January 31st we head out via taxi to Jobat which is a 5 hour drive north west of Indore. It would have been interesting to take a local bus but when I told Michelle I had herniated a few discs in my back a while ago she said it would have been a really stupid thing to travel by bus. The ride was uneventful with only a few moments as I experienced firsthand the benefits of head covering and dupata to keep the dust out of my hair and nose. We arrive at our destination to be greeted by Hira and Bingo, 2 dogs who live with the lady we are staying at for the next 5 days. Pauline Brown is one of God’s warriors. Her home is filled with memories that span 61 years of living in India. Pauline has numerous gifts but the 2 that I most quickly notice are her true life story telling and her graciousness as a host. I feel blessed to be learning and listening from her.

Stay tuned for part 2 in a few days!

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Young India Takes to the Streets for Rape Victims

December29

Late on December 16th in India’s capital, Delhi, a 23-year-old woman was brutally tortured and gang-raped when riding the city bus. She and a male friend boarded a bus in an affluent part of the city. Six men, including a minor and the implicated bus driver, severely beat the male friend and horrifically raped the woman while the tinted-glass bus was driving through the streets. The two were dropped out of the bus to die on the cold streets.The young woman died today from massive infection, brain injury and internal injuries. The young man has survived.

This horrendous event captured the attention of the media and public.

India has a very poor record when it comes to women’s rights. Rapes occur too frequently. Any paper you pick up, from small papers I have read in remote areas of the country to the city dailies, one can read of rape cases and injustices around the women’s lodged complaints (such as police refusing to accept complaints, police repeated the same hideous acts on the victims when they come to report, family members disowning the victims, etc.) on nearly a daily basis. Delhi has had over 600 reported rape cases in 2012 alone (other statistics can be cited as higher figures). Sadly, like any place in the world, there are likely many more occurrences than reported cases. To add insult to injury of the reported cases very few make it to court. Of those cases that are deemed suitable for trail, delay of years can commonly occur. When the time of trial does come evidence often is found to have been collected and preserved incorrectly.

Young India, male and female, took to the streets across the country to show their condemnation of the gang rape of the young woman, now being called Damini (her name was not released), and the abuses Indian women suffer in their country.

There have been calls for reforms to laws, particularly tougher punishment of such crimes. Young India also calls for implementation and enforcement of changes to law, which is often where Indian movements that have succeeded to bring about legal reforms fall flat. The past week more voices are demanding a holistic approach to addressing abuse of women. Women are asking families to take responsibility for improving the standing of females in society. Calls for making Indian streets safer for women, improving the handling of reported cases of rape and expediting the process for swifter occurrence of trials are coming from all corners of the country.

Amongst the outpouring of India’s anguish, disgust, frustration and heartbroken sympathies for this woman and millions of others who have had been victims of gender-based violence in India, the government has been criticized by some in the public and media for the late reply to events, the appalling manner of police when collecting the victim’s statement, the heavy-handed response to demonstrations with water cannons & batons, airlifting the victim out of the country as a political move to limit the size of the public’s response to her expected passing, and for not calling for an special session of parliament as demanded by the public.

Gandhian, peaceful, and sincere candlelight vigils for Damini and all those women who have been victims of gender-based violence are uniting Young Indians across all divides and the country.

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Allahabad Christmas

December29

Pauline Brown kindly invited me to come to Allahabad for Christmas with her. In 1952 & 1953 Pauline lived in Allahabad for language studies. She has many long-time friends-cum-family, whom I had the delight of meeting and celebrating Christmas with. I felt as if I was among family, which is a Christmas wish come true.

In Allahabad the Christians go caroling to as many homes of Christians from their churches as possible. Visiting family and friends occurs over the week and homemade Christmas cake is given to all those you visit. Other Indian Christmas goodies, like numkeen (a salty carbohydrate snack with varieties of spices and even lily seed pods), gudjiya and dishes with peas are served to the visitors.

Pauline and I had plenty of opportunity to make ‘Canadian’ meals for the Rudra family we stayed with. Everything from chicken roast, stuffing, pork leg roasts, soup, and biryani alá Canadian.

Allahabad is preparing to host the largest mela (celebration) in the world from January 15th to March 10th, called the Kuumba Mayla. According to Indian mythology, three holy rivers meet in Allahabad; the Ganges, the Yamuna, and a third holy invisible river that is believed to run underground, the Saraswati River. The confluence of these rivers is called the Triveni Sangam. It is a holy place for Hindus, as they believe their gods come to bathe in the Sangam to wash away their sins. Rowboats can be hired to take pilgrims to platforms in the water where the rivers meet to bathe. Ashes are immersed in this special place as well.

Every day during the Kuumbh Mela more than one million people come to worship. Every twelve years the stars are said to be specially aligned, so more worshipers, soul searchers and entrepreneurial types make the journey to Allahabad.

I had the chance to see the preparations for the mela. Perhaps 15 – 20 kilometers from the river banks the temporary tents are being set up all the way down to the river’s edge. Large flags mark different sects of Hinduism in the camp sites, allowing for people of similar beliefs to live together during the celebration. There will be pundits and holy men giving lectures and observing the celebrations.

Coming down to the Sangam at this time of year, allowed for me to imagine the scope of the celebrations and to actually see the meeting of the Ganges and Yamuna. Most people who come to worship will not see the river banks because there will be multitudes of people (shoulder to shoulder will not describe it) and for the majority of them getting to the Sangam is a matter of salvation.

Unfortunately the chaos of the festivities makes this a hotspot for kidnapping and selling of children. My prayers for those going to Kuumbh Mela is that they and their children remain safe, those seeking to harm others are apprehended and those searching for peace in their souls will come to know they can find it free of cost.

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Christmas Greetings from MIBE Graduate School for Nurses

December20

Warm heartfelt greetings to you during the Advent season!

Merry Christmas!

This year G.S.N. students and staff celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ by reflecting on the original gifts of Christmas. Through scripture reading, singing, dancing, drama and prayer we remembered the gift of Mary’s service and dedication to the Lord; the gifts of the angels and shepherds, who taught us how to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others without delay; the gifts of the wise men, who showed us how to faithfully witness to God; and the greatest gift of all, the Christ child, who is the embodiment of God’s love.

We invite you to join us in our closing prayer thanking God for the Gifts of Christmas, especially the gift of Jesus Christ.

Gracious God, we unite together to lovingly share the gifts of our heart with one another and with those we meet in your name. May our gifts be signs to others that we are all called to give the gift of faithful service, while sharing the wonderful news of Jesus Christ, who encourages us all to give all that we have. As we live our life in service, sharing of the Good News by willingly giving of ourselves, may the love of God in Jesus Christ be felt by all! May we love one another as Jesus Christ has loved us. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are united in the love of Jesus Christ. May we always love one another. Amen.

Peace to you this Christmastide
May the Christ Child’s love with you abide,
And may the Joy the Wise Men knew
Bless you now and all year through!

merry christmas
With love from,
M.I.B.E. Graduate School for Nurses Staff and Students

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Another Crazy Foreigner on the Bus

December19

Yesterday I made quite a fool out of myself. It had been a little while since a cross-cultural gaff and I had my confidence up because yesterday was the first day I took one of those tiny minivans you see on t.v. with Indians all over it.

I have decided I want to take bus #4 that I know reaches my seamstress across town. I just don’t know the bus route and where to catch it. But I was across town at the seamstress’ shop and thought I ‘d get on bus #4 in hopes it will go where I want and take me back to my part of town, Chauwni. And if not, then I know where I need to transfer to catch this bus in the future. Seems simple doesn’t it?

So I wait at the bus stop. Within minutes I have 5 guys trying to help me out, asking where I am going. Once I tell them where I want to go (hopefully back to Chauwni) they start telling me the bus does not go there. I ask where the bus goes. In response come a list of names of parts of town I don’t know.

“Madam, please I request you to hire a taxi to take you to Chauwni” one man insists. By now there are about 20 people gathered around while I try to explain that I want to take bus #4 regardless. “I want to see where it goes” I insist.

So much for simple.

The bus finally comes and I get on. Then it all starts again when it comes time for me to pay. I am trying to ask the bus conductor to charge me the full rate because I just want to simply ride the bus. Half the people on the bus get involved asking “Ma’am where do you want to go?” Eventually I convince them that I want to ride the bus and see the route. At this point I am pretty sure I detect the here’s-another-crazy-foreigner expression.

Eventually I decide to transfer to another bus that gets me to my part of town. On this bus I am able to let the conductor know where I am headed without any fuss. The bus started to slow down and the conductor lets me know I need to get off now. Expecting the bus to continue to slow to a stop, I begin to step out of the bus. This is when I get another subtle reminder that I am in the country of the unexpected. The bus starts moving forward again and I fall out of the moving bus into rush hour traffic. Considering the crowds I draw in normal circumstances, I quickly try to dash out of sight and jump into a taxi with a bruised ego.

I am ashamed to admit this is my fifth visit to this country. Thank God none of my colleagues or students saw (let’s hope they don’t read this either). I won’t be able to live it down, and I would just hate to see the here’s-another-crazy-foreigner expression in the classroom.

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Getting to Zero

December3

MIBE Graduate School for Nurses Celebrates World AIDS Day 2012

December 1st marks World AIDS Day, a time to bring awareness to HIV/AIDS, to honour those living with HIV /AIDS and to remember those who have passed away from AIDS. In Indore, M.P. the Post Basic BSc nursing students at the MIBE Graduate School for Nurses marked the occasion with prayer, an honorary song and a HIV/AIDS facts quiz.

The Student Nurses Association president, Rosie, encouraged all to work towards the theme of World AIDS Day from 2011 to 2015; Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS related deaths. The first year students gave a skit depicting the importance of non-discriminatory counseling and support from peers.

During a speech Moses, a second year student, spoke about the history and present situation of HIV in India. He reminded us that even though HIV was first found among sex workers in Chennai, HIV does not discriminate. It affects all members of society.

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Ms Subhashini E Singh

November16

Ms Subhashini E Singh was born on 28 July 1953 in Madhya Pradesh. She completed her General Nursing & Midwifery in Christian Hospital, Indore between 1974 and 1976. She did the Ward Sister and Sister Tutor course at MIBE Graduate School for Nurses from 1976-77. The Post Basic BSc(N) course was done in 1980-82 in College of Nursing, Ahmedabad and she went on to do MSc(N) at College of Nursing, CMC, Vellore between 1986-88.

She worked as Staff nurse and Tutor at the Christian Hospital, Indore till 1984. She joined the MIBE Graduate School for Nurses (GSN), Indore in 1984, was sent for MSc(N) and then continued to work in the same institution faithfully all these years. She held the post of Director, GSN from 9.5.1995 – 30.6.1998. She was promoted again as Principal, GSN on 1.10.2012. She was a member of CMAI and TNAI.

Ms S Singh was known to be an excellent teacher of nursing. She was very dedicated and put in much of her effort for GSN. She took much interest in the education and life of the students who were under her care. She was also examiner from the University and MIBE. Today, India and Mauritius and a few other countries have Ms Singh’s students in various positions of nursing education and administration.

Till the last day of her duty – she was engaged in work and was admitted to hospital while at the Nurses’ League conference in Delhi. She wanted to ‘be among her people’ and returned to be admitted at Christian Hospital, Indore. On 6 Nov, 2012 she went to be with her sister at Korba – saying that she would return in 15 days for her duty. She succumbed to Ca Gall bladder and went to be with our Lord in the early hours of Nov 14, 2012. We thank God for her life and contribution to the GSN, MIBE, CMAI and all at large.

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Tragic News

November15

I regret that I am writing to share the tragic news of Ms. Singh’s passing yesterday.

Ms. Singh has been servicing MIBE Graduate School for 28 years as the medical-surgical nursing lecturer. Two weeks after being appointed acting principal, she fell ill. She has been in hospital since that point. Following the diagnosis of end-stage metastatic cancer, Ms. Singh traveled to Korba, Chhattisgarh to be with her sister. She passed surrounded by family members in hospital.

The feeling at the school right now is of disbelief. It is slowly sinking in for faculty and students the gravity of the school’s loss and the challenge the remainder of the school year will be. It is good Ms. Singh is no longer suffering from pain, and that the Lord has her wrapped in a comforting embrace welcoming her to her permanent home. We are praying for her family to feel the comfort of God’s embrace at this time of sorrow.

A prayer service was held yesterday morning and the school will be closed for two days. Two teachers left yesterday to go to Ms. Singh’s family home to express our condolences. Pray for safe travels for Jagrani and Joseph. There will be another service in the chapel at 2 pm today, at the time of the funeral in Korba.

Please join us in prayer for Ms. Singh’s family, and for the students and staff at GSN in this difficult time.

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Pom-Poms Resting

November10

Today I am trying to reconcile the everyday realities of Madhya Pradesh, one of the three states with the worst health statistics in India, with the news from the BBC of Britain withdrawing all aid to India in 2015 and the Indian government’s extraordinarily low expenditure on public sector health care (approximately $30/year per capita).

Check out this article by Sandhya Srinivasan which sheds light on the status of health care for the average Indian family. Consider the context of Mumbai working class. It is not speaking of the rural or remote or slum populations in the poor states and districts.

http://www.worldpolicy.org/blog/india-healthcare-under-30-year

The cogs of process are turning, I know. The Indian Government is engaged in impressive discussions with other sectors besides the private (such as the faith / NGO sectors) on improving health care and its delivery. I am eagerly awaiting the outcomes and seeing the applications of decisions/policies/programs.

But today I sigh out “O India of great potential with many lessons to teach the world about tolerance, beauty, and sanctity , I will continue to be a cheerleader for you but today my pom-poms don’t feel like rustling.”

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Sweety’s Bible Study

November4

From November 1st to 3rd, I attended the Student Christian Movement of India’s Centenary National Ecumenical Consultation to the World Council of Churches (WCC) Assembly 2013, as a delegate from Caribbean And North American Council Of Mission through the support of Meora World Mission. When my plane touched down in Bangalore, Cyclone Nilem was announcing its passing with sideways rain (which took that ‘jet-set thrill’ out of standing on the tarmac). Thankfully, Nilem did not cause havoc in the large metropolis, as it unfortunately did in some rural farm lands of Karnataka.

 

Christian Students and mentors from Asia reflected on the up-and-coming WCC Assembly theme “God of life; lead us to justice and peace.” The “Student Christian Movement of India is  a students’ movement with Christian ethos which maintains a fellowship of students, teachers and senior friends with commitments to translate Christian Faith into action through contemporizing faith in Jesus Christ by discerning critically the signs of times” (SCMI, 2012).

 

Topics of discussion at the event focused on the voices of the marginalized in India, particularly women and children, refugees and internally displaced persons, Dalits (low-caste persons),  and Adivasis (aboriginals or no-caste persons). We discussed the struggle of the locals in Kudankulam who oppose the construction of a nuclear power plant in the region where over 1 million people live; the “hatred campaigns” against Northeastern Indians; persecution of Tamils in Sri Lanka; Dalits daily injustices; and continued hiring of Dalits for manual scavenging in India despite the 1993 Employment of Manual Scavenging Prohibition Act.

 

Among the many influential speakers, such as Dr. Aruna Gnanadson who served the National Council of Churches in India and the WCC in various capacities particularly in directing the program on Women in Church and in Society, Rev. Dr. Deenabandhu Manchala WCC programme executive for Justice and Inclusive Communities, Mr. Bezwada Wilson Indian activist for the abolishment of manual scavenging and one of the founders  and director of the Safai Karmachari Andolan, and many more, there were several excellent student presenters. I thought you might be interested in hearing these Indian female Christian students voice their thoughts on the WCC theme and what it means to live “mission from the margins” in this dynamic country.

Rev. Ch. Sweety Helen Chukka is the Executive Secretary of the Commission of Youth for the National Council of Churches in India. She completed her masters in Old Testament studies recently. Rev. Ch. Sweety Helen presented her bible study (found below) on Rizpah, a “heroine who is buried in the pages of… 2 Samuel” and Draupadi, an “outstanding woman” in Hindu mythology at this event.

 

Vigilance as an act to subvert the ‘powerful’: Juxtaposing Draupadi and Rizpah

                                                                                                      Ch. Sweety Helen

Introduction:

“I won’t rest until the blood of the sinning Duchashanans and Duriyodhanan have caressed my hair. Until that day comes, my hair shall remain the way it does today, unbraided, uncared for just like I am today.” says Draupadi according to the Tamil poet Bharathiyar in his Paanchali Sabadam.[1]

“Unless my dear ones are rendered proper burial I will neither slumber nor will I allow King David to slumber”

Draupadi and Rizpah together sing a song together for Justice and peace, they sing in solidarity, sing in agony for the injustice that is happened and they sing in love, they both sing together , We are women, women of courage, united in love, sisters in determination, sisters of conviction.    

Draupadi’s Oath

Draupadi was the daughter of the king Drupada of Panchaal. She was allegedly born out of a sacrificial fire and her birth was accompanied by an oracle which declared her “the greatest among all women”.[2] Draupadi is one of the outstanding women, the Hindu mythology has offered to the world. The epic presents Draupadi as displaying her individuality, strength, and unyielding determination both for justice and vengeance. Through these characteristics Draupadi has become a symbol of empowerment of women and has gained the worship of followers. The Mahabharata is where Draupadi’s history begins. As a prominent female character and heroine of the epic, Draupadi is presented as the wife of five pandava princes in the Hindu epic Mahabharata. Draupadi and her five husbands Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva are wed after Arjuna impressively wins Draupadi’s swayamvara.[3]  She is a heroine who is unpredictable, unwavering and who possess the austerity of a traditional Hindu wife. Many see Draupadi as an early feminist because of her fearlessness in admonishing those who harmed her and her family. Draupadi existed in a time when a woman’s role was to serve her husband.[4]

Draupadi cheerharan /Vasthrapaharanam remain as the most vivid of Mahabharata, basically because vasthrapaharanam is one of the main reasons for the Mahabharata war and it is also a breaking point for Draupadi. In the great assembly hall where dice was being played, all the Kuru elders, Bhishma, teachers like Drona and Kripa and Vidura, all were sitting without speaking. When Yudhishthira lost in the game, Duryodhana said that the Pandavas were now slaves. He sent one maid to bring Draupadi into the hall as she was now a slave. The maid went to Draupadi’ chamber and told her about the Pandavas doings. They were all slaves and so was she. Draupadi was very angry. She sent the maid away saying that Yudhisthira had no right to stake her in gambling. It was not allowed in the dharma. The maid came back to the assembly hall and told Duryodhana about Draupadi’s response. Duryodhana, became very angry and he asked his younger brother Duchsashan to fetch Draupadi, forcefully into the hall. Duchsashan went to Draupadi’s chamber and catching hold of Draupadi by her hair, dragged her to the assembly hall. Raging with anger, Draupadi appealed the assembly to raise their voice against such gross injustice. None had a word to say. The Pandavas were also sitting dumb, with their heads downcast. Draupadi asked, “What right Yudhisthira had to put her at stake in the gambling?” No one spoke again. Duryodhana became even more angry at Draupadi. He ordered younger brother to remove the clothes of Draupadi in the assembly, forcibly. Even then no one protested. Draupadi in desperation, appealed to Krishna.[5] Krishna works a miracle to prevent her sari from running out of layers. Draupadi is humiliated and is angered by the Pandavas inability or reluctance to help her. It is Draupadi’s reaction to situations like these that set her apart from her husbands; she is often the first one to react to the injustices and is visibly a powerful woman. [6]

Rizpah’s revenge II Samuel 21:10-14

Rizpah is the heroine who is buried in the pages of the Hebrew Bible in 2 Samuel 21. Rizpah the woman of courage is deliberately avoided even by feminist theologians. Though very little space is dedicated to discuss about the personhood of Rizpah, but the fact is that very little that is dedicated to her speaks volumes.

Rizpah is a daughter of Aiah and she is a mother of two sons whom she bore to Saul. She is a woman of courage, a woman who fulfills her responsibility to her family and a woman who can move the “powerful” from their comfort zones.

Background:

God told the Hebrew people that as they travelled through the land of Canaan they were to make treaties with no group of people who lived there. They were to conquer the land completely. The people in the city of Gibeon, however, deceived the Hebrews into making a treaty with them by making them think they had come a great distance, rather than just a few miles. That treaty had been honored and protected for centuries, until Saul became king in Israel. In his zeal for Israel, Saul began to exterminate the foreign people from his kingdom, and in so doing, broke the time-honored treaty with the Gibeonites.[7]

After the unification of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, David is on the throne and the land is struck with drought. It is a national disaster. This national disaster was thought to be a punishment from God. In times of national crisis when the people suffer, the leadership must take responsibility. And so David, pious king that he is, “inquires of the LORD”, which means he goes to the prophets of the Court, he consults the priests and theologians, and he asks them: “tell me what this is all about”. They come to the conclusion: yes it is a punishment of the LORD, but it is a punishment for what Saul had done. So David goes to the Gibeonites and says: I know that Saul has done a great injustice to you.[8] David handed over the sons of Saul into the hands of the Gibeonites and we are not informed in what way they were handed over. But we do have information that Gibeonites impaled seven of them on the mountain before the Lord. The seven of them perished together.

 

Rizpah knowing what has happened to her sons and the nephews gathered the bodies of the dead and spread a sack cloth to a rock and guarded over the bodies by day and night from the birds and the wild animals. David learnt of what Rizpah has done and has taken the bones of Saul and his sons and buried them.           

 

Juxtposing Draupadi and Rizpah:

 

Draupadi and Rizpah sisters in solidarity:

Draupadi and Rizpah are women of different places, different characters, different families and are from different genres altogether. They were women who lived in different periods but they are sisters who live in solidarity with each other. They are sisters by virtue of their qualities, by virtue of their courage, by virtue of their determination and by virtue of their yearning for Justice; Justice not only to themselves but to their families as well. These women are women of courage, united in their qualities. They never to seem to give up in any circumstances never want to compromise with situations, the first to respond to the injustice that is happened, the first to take oaths to restore justice. In both their cases Justice cannot be achieved, basically because for one it is a life that is taken away and for the other it is the prestige. Their acts of courage could not bring them back what they have lost, for Draupadi it was utter humiliation in a public hall and for Rizpah it is lives of the children of Saul.  But their initiatives were to shame the so-called powerful, in Draupadi’ case it was the Kauravas and Pandavas as well and in Rizpah’s case it is David the King and the Gibeonites who are responsible for the death of her dear ones. War has always been seen in terms of violence, bloodshed, swords, metal weapons etc. The war vaged by Daupadi did not need a metal weapon, the war vaged by Rizpah did not need bloodshed, they both used ‘refutation’. Refutation was a weapon used by both of them to combat the injustice that is happened to both of them.

Refutation a weapon to combat injustice:

As it is today, burial in Biblical times was an occasion for showing love and respect, for the loved ones who died. As we do it today, in the biblical times too the dead ones bodies are anointed with herbs and spices, and wrapped in cloth. There would be an official time for mourning. As we see in Jeremiah 9:17, professional mourners often accompanied the families to the grave site and staying with the family and joining them in the customary tears, wailing and crying. In the context where burial is a ritual which gives expression for their love, now the dear ones of Rizpah are denied burial. How would we feel if we were in the situation of Rizpah, may be if I were in her situation I would seize the collar of the persons involved in it and would ask them to do the necessary. But for such an act I definitely would have to reap the consequences. Rizpah was very intelligent and hence has thoughtfully strategized a plan through which she thought she would not go to the space of the ‘powerful’ but she would bring the culprits to her space, a space of her own, and moving them to action.  Rizpah maintained a constant vigil over the seven bodies, fighting off the birds of the air by day and the wild animals by night.

Women are expected to braid their hair in the public, when the Pandavas have lost in the game of dice, according to the Kauravas, the pandavas and Draupadi became their slaves. When Draupadi was called for, she rejected to come into the public. She felt that she doesn’t have to oblige to the command of Duryodhana. She perhaps would have yelled who the hell is Yudhistira to bet me in the game. She refused to come into the public place, which reminds us of Vasthi who was very bold enough to say that she does not want to accept the command of the King. Draupadi’s rejection resulted in being dragged by her hair into the assembly and was unclothed by Dhushasana. She might have shouted Dhushasana, is it not because you are ‘Duh (tough)’ and your shasanas (ruler) are dusht (bad), that you are named ‘Dushasana’ (tough ruler)? And then she cries to Lord Krishna and she was rescued but she does not stop there. She would have definitely yelled aloud, questioned the credibility of her husbands and would have instigated them to take an oath against those who have caused injustice to her. She doesn’t lose her voice, doesn’t lose her command over herself and lashes out at the men of the assembly. “I won’t rest until the blood of the sinning Duchashanans and Duriyodhanan have caressed my hair. Until that day comes, my hair shall remain the way it does today, unbraided, uncared for just like I am today.”  Her refusal to braid her hair is the weapon that she has used to destroy the “powerful”. The powerful who are arrogant due to their power, powerful who are proud due to their status and the powerful who forget human values.

 

Intercession and confrontation:  

These two women have used two different mode of communication and ensured that justice is restored, peace is rebuilt, and life is celebrated. Rizpah used intercession as a mode of communication through which she communicated to God, and to the people around. Rizpah took sackcloth and spread it out for herself to the rock.” Some Bible scholars believe that Rizpah fashioned a sort of tent for herself, perhaps large enough to cover those seven decaying bodies as well.  The Hebrew rendered “she stretched a sack cloth to a rock” This expression is also found in Isaiah 30: 29 and 51:1. In Isaiah 30:29, Rock is God and in Isaiah51:1, Rock refers to ancestors, the parents of Israel. I would like to go along with Monica Melanchthon who concludes from these two passages that Rizpah the mother and Rizpah the aunt has stretched out her sackcloth and is interceding and praying to the rock meaning God and the ancestors. Rizpah’s spirituality has gained justice for her, peace for the dead ones. Non-burial and improper burial is shameful and as it brings divine judgment, her determination to remove the shame from the family has put the king to shame, who was forced to move from his place and entered into the space of Rizpah and offered proper burial to the dead ones.

Draupadi refuses to braid her hair, she confronts with those who are gathered in the assembly. She confronts with those who are seated in the assembly and says to yudhistira since you were no longer a free man, how could you stake anything at all?” With great determination and power in her words she said “If you have loved and revered the mothers who bore you and gave you suck, if the honor of wife or sister or daughter has been dear to you, if you believe in God and dharma, forsake me not in this horror more cruel than death” “Even abandoned professional gamblers would not stake the harlots who live with them, and you, worse than they, have left the daughter of Drupada to the mercy of these ruffians. I cannot bear this injustice. You are the cause of this great crime.[9] Draupadi’s voice would have trembled those who are gathered in the assembly. Her words would have put both her husbands Pandavas and the Kauravas the perpetrators of violence to shame. Her loud voice in the assembly filled her husbands with a metanonia experience and hence Bhima takes an oath to drink the blood of Duchasana as an act of repentance and break the thighs of Duryodana and the rest of the pandavas also take oaths and these oaths would have probably calm the angry Draupadi, these oaths would probably sing aloud in her ears ‘Shanti shanti shantihi’

Conclusion

Rizpah and Draupadi are sisters in determination, conviction, faith, strength and love. They felt their refusal to bury the bodies of her sons and nephews and to be braided should be a reminder of the shameful act that is being done to them. Draupadi’s vigilance to be braided and Rizpah’s vigilance to offer the dead bodies a proper burial are one and the same. Their fight was to combat injustice, their determination was to force their enemies to move to action, their conviction was to challenge the injustice then and there, finally their commitment was to offer a life for justice, in justice and with justice. They believed that their gods are gods of life, Justice and peace and would accompany them in their journey with public shame, humiliation and abandonment.       

 


[1] http://thebanyantrees.com/?p=1729 accessed on October 25, 2012, 3:46 pm.- An interview with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.

[2] http://mahabharatarevisited.blogspot.in/2007/08/draupadi-analysis.html accessed on October 28, 2012, 8:35 pm

[3] http://www.mahavidya.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Weadick-Lauren-Draupadi-Yes.pdf accessed on October 28, 2012, 9:02 pm.

[4] http://www.mahavidya.ca/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/grant-chloe-draupadi-best-version.pdf accessed on October 28, 2012, 7:10 pm.

[5] http://www.urday.in/disrobing.htm accessed on October 28, 2012, 9:37 pm.

[6] http://www.mahavidya.ca/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/grant-chloe-draupadi-best-version.pdf accessed on October 28, 2012, 9:31 pm.

[7] Daughter of Rizpah http://www.timothyreport.com/Sermons/The_Daughters_of_Rizpah.pdf accessed on October 29, 2012, 08: 30 pm.

[8] http://www.sacc.org.za/ARCHIVED%20SACCNEWS/docs/Boesak.pdf accessed on October 29, 12:56 pm.

[9] http://www.gita-society.com/section3/mahabharata.htm accessed on October 29, 12:45 pm.

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