Ghost Woman

Sometimes they tell stories here. Of the women.

How she went to the jungle, how a ghost possessed her. Her in-laws will cry for two days and then ask around for another wife. One who is healthier and works more. Who speaks less. Big dowry. Who can bear sons instead of daughters. After all, their son is still young. They will not speak much about the first girl after that.

The jungle here is silent. And loud at the same time. A few days ago we slept on the roof. Took the blankets and the flashlight up the rock path to go see the stars and the sky. It is a black ocean that you can fall into by closing your eyes- darkness has no boundaries, sleep is cold and sweet.

But when you rise into your dreams you might see another kind of darkness. This is the kind no one speaks about. Constant fear. Incomprehensible anger. A woman screaming. Tears. Working from 4 in the morning to 11 in the night with covered, silent bruises. Eating less. Torn cloths. Exhausted from cutting the grass, feeding the cattle, taking care of the children, making food twice a day, carrying water, milking the cows, cleaning the house, washing the clothes, fetching the wood, feeding the babies, working in the fields- falling into sleep only to do it all the next day- alone.

She tells me how the good daughter in law does not speak when spoken to. And how she never will speak against her husband, especially if he beats her. And how she will keep having children until she bears a son. Pregnant each year and still trying, still working. And she will let her husband and in-laws use her, manipulate her in subtle and then more obvious ways- making her feel unworthy of food, unworthy of clothes. Until one day, she will collapse from the trauma of existing. That day they will say, “She is possessed by a ghost.”

God made a completely different species when he gave life to these women. They are physically stronger than any man and emotionally able to bear more than any human being could hope to survive through. The woman who tells me her story does not shed a single tear- it is like she cannot cry anymore. But I do…I cry for days after- from inside. My heart hurts at how they make her live with the cows and goats for the 5 days that she has her period. How she sleeps on waste and dry leaves and is not allowed to enter the house. How nobody will touch her, speak with her because of the burden of impurity- treated worse than animals…how she is 30 and looks 60. I want to tell her I am with her. But I cannot hope to understand the weight she carries on her head or in her heart. So instead I just sit with her. And we listen to all the things she cannot say.

Vieewpoint

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About Aardra Rajendran

I'm a recent Bioengineering graduate from the University of Pennsylvania. I will be headed to Chennai, India over this next year to conduct public health work as a Fulbright Student Research Fellow. My interests include Eastern spirituality, medicine and contemporary approaches to healing, hiking, being part-lion/part-owl, and watching the stars at night. Peace.