Then came Partition. God’s carotid burst open on the new border between India and Pakistan, and a million people died of hatred.
-The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy
In Urdu, the only language she knew, all things, not just living things but all things – carpets, clothes, books, pens, musical instruments – had a gender. Everything was either masculine or feminine, man or woman. Everything except her baby. Yes of course she knew there was a word for those like him – Hijra. Two words actually, Hijra and Kinnar. But two words do not make a language.
Was it possible to live outside language? Naturally this question did not address itself to her in words, or as a single lucid sentence. It addressed itself to her as a soundless, embryonic howl.
–The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy
Of the more than 5,000 public outdoor sculptures across America that are entered in the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Art Inventories Catalog, less than 400 include women. That’s 8 percent.
Ricksha kaka (auto driver): Beta, kaan ma kai peherti nathi? (Dear, don’t you wear anything in your ears?)
Me: “koik vaar pehru, koik vaar nai.” (Sometimes yes, sometimes no)
Ricksha kaka: “Beta, kaan ma bootti pehrvi joye! Aapdi stree ni nishaan chhe.” (Dear, you should wear earrings. It is the mark of our women!)
A few weeks ago, two of my mom’s siblings were caught in the middle of climate change crises. One, my mamu, who lives in Houston, Texas, was camping out at his friend’s house while Hurricane Harvey caused water to come within just a few feet of the front door of his house. At the same time, my masi, who lives in Bombay, spent most of the night at the bank where she works during large-scale flooding that was happening during the monsoon rains all around India. Our family Whatsapp and facebook groups were exploding as we all sought information from each other and from our loved ones about how everyone was doing.
At the same time, headlines were making data visualizations about Harvey, while a few showed some pictures of flooding in Bombay. Notably, Facebook and Google both started fundraising efforts for South Asia. But even in Indian media, Harvey was covered more…and within India, Bombay was covered way more than Assam and Bihar. Why is a Texan life worth more than an Indian life? Why is a Bombayite’s life worth more than an Assamese life?
“One day I was driving through my parents neighborhood in a suburb of Dayton, Ohio when I noticed a Rose of Sharon bush that had grown to an enormous size. I idled there to watch the neighbors, on their afternoon walk, detour off of the sidewalk to avoid the wild bush. I knew this type of inconvenience would not be tolerated for long, and found myself growing sad over the thought that something so beautiful and powerful would likely be cut back for its trespasses. Later that day I made this image, “Rose of Sharon” of my mother in its midst. The landscape of this area features prominently in Umbra, especially spots that show the tension between the untamed natural state of the landscape and the manicured expectations of suburbia.” Photo by @julie.renee.jones #umbra #newyorkerphoto #roseofsharon #suburbia#mother #dayton #ohio #landscape“