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Breaking three generations of silence : a translation of racism, sexism, and classism, in the lives of… Gill, Hartej 1998

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BREAKING THREE GENERATIONS OF SILENCE A Translation of Racism, Sexism, and Classism, in the Lives of Three Punjabi Women in Canada HARTEJ GILL B. A. The University of British Columbia, 1986 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of Language Education) We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA April, 1998 ©Hartej Gill , 1 9 9 8 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada DE-6 (2/88) Abstract ii From the margins of discourse, this autobiographical work disrupts the traditional HEGEMONIC narratives of THEIR INSTITUTIONS and challenges the conventional notions of the genre of autobiography through its form and content. It uncovers and upsets both WESTERN and Punjabi PATRIArchal definitions of THEIR/Their CULTure: Furthermore, it undermines linguistic norms by using a mix of English, Punjabi and some French. Through narratives, prose, poetry, transparent language/languages my words break the long kept silences of three Punjabi women living amidst racism, sexism and classism in THEIR/Their SOCIety Public and private History of THEIR/Their CULTure, fiction and fantasy are juxtaposed through mixed genres and mixed codes, and the fragmented units are not necessarily presented as chronologically linear. Unlike typical autobiographies, I braid together the restrictive lives and painful experiences of my mother, my grandmother, and myself in an attempt to show how THEIR/Their oppressive History and CULTure shape and have shaped our life/lives, our acceptance and our resistance. In doing so I begin to see parallels between the oppression of women and untouchables in Indian Society and the exploitation of minority women and minorities in CANADIAN SOCIETY. My experiment with structure and typography helps me, a semi-trilingual, working/middle class minority woman and EDUCAtor, to construct and deconstruct my personal self and selves in a more meaningful way. This type of meaning making takes precedence over conventional stylistic or established structures. My identity cannot be separated from the languages, CULTures, in which I wander endlessly or Ill from the oppressive conditions of those whose lives have shaped and continue to shape me. Despite the pressure, I cannot choose between these identities. As a result I am forced to continue to negotiate between my identities and live an intricate web of shifting power relations. I realise that the non-contradictory self is impossible.Therefore I must go beyond and create something new. Something that is more than the mere bringing together of identities ~ it is something in the beyond, kithe uther ~ gahan. From my third space I call upon minority women, white women, EDUCators, readers and writers to also go beyond and find a THIRD Space from which to work together in order to reposition the positions of POWER that have been placed upon us through centuries of Oppression and EXPLOITATION. Only by speaking out in my languages, my words, my experiences, my poet's voice, my storying voice, my minority woman's voice, my TEACHer's voice, my fragmented voices, will I begin to overcome the tradition of silence and continue the necessary resistance. iv Table of Contents Abstract ii Table of Contents iv Acknowledgements vii Dedication viii Introduction: 1 Betraying the Lie, Unveiling the OPPRESsion Purpose: 6 Breaking the Silence Autobiographically Beginning the Braiding Process 12 Our Past is Our Present 13 The Historical Backdrop 14 Pithaji's Scrapbook 15 The Pre-determined Partitions 20 Their Patriarchal Culture Acculturates Us Sexism in the Cultural Back Drop 21 Language 21 Religion 23 Art 26 Literature 28 Films 34 The First Strand of the Braid 39 A Translation of Stories from My Biji 40 Marray Biji 44 The Second Strand of the Braid 45 A Retranslation of Stories from My Mummiji 48 The Dream of Being an Educated Independent Woman 48 breams of an Education After Marriage 50 The Shattered Dream and All Loss of Freedom 50 My Three Daughters not SONS 52 Hopes of Educating My Daughters 55 Uneducated 58 Ji 59 Laws of Entitlement Not Title 60 Canada and the Hopes of a Better Future 61 Canada a Better Life? 61 We're Going to the Farm! 63 Lucky for Being Luckier in THEIR/Their WORLds 68 Existing to Re-exist 69 Projecting Our Pictures into the Play 72 Unveiling and Going Beyond in my words, Marray Luvaz 76 The Third Strand of the Braid 77 A Re-retranslation of my Stories of Sexism and Identity Reflections from my Childhood 80 Sunday Mornings 81 Rakhi Day 83 The Central gardens of my LANDscape 85 The Keepers of the Unwritten Laws 86 Tangled Translations/Retranslations/Re-retranslations 88 I Want to Marry you But 89 Her Wedding Day 90 Knowing the Unknown 91 The Other Choice Dis cussed 93 The Silence of Something not Right 94 THIR teen 95 Washing, Rewashing, Re-rewashing 96 She and she there with Him 99 POWERful KEEPers Of The UNWRITTen LAWs 102 The Third Strand of the Braid Continued 103 A Re-retranslation of my stories of Racism and Identity The Canadian Elementary School 104 The Realisation of Our Difference 104 The Daily Dreaded Race Home 105 The Canadian High School 105 The Real Spit 106 Stabbed By a Six Year Old 106 But, He is a Bit Different 107 The Public Teachers' E-Mail Conference 107 Aside 109 The minority teacher teaching minority programs 112 But the teachers of the minority French Program 113 must surely be on my side, or were they? Negotiating Kali 114 Kithe Uther gahan Conclusion/Nonconclusion Journey in the Waiting The Beginning of the End References VII Acknowledgements I would like to thank the following individuals who allowed my long journey, my long •, poem, to unveil and to be-corhe. t o these individuals I am deeply grateful. Dr. Carl Leggo, whose creative and respectful spirit encourages individuals and words to play, sing, dance, and come alive in order to make meaning. This journey would not have been possible without his commitment, energy, encouragement and support. Dr. Bonny Norton, whose helpful comments, questions and suggestions contributed greatly to the refining and editing of the final draft of my work. Dr. Erika Hasebe-Ludt, whose warm and kind manner enthusiastically created open spaces for dialogue and play. Dr. Ted Aoki and Dr. Leslie Roman, whose thought provoking, non-traditional courses have informed and inspired the unfolding of my journey. Mummiji and Biji, whose stories were integral to my narratives and whose courage, strength, love and determination have guided me in The Breaking of Three Generations of Silence. This is our journey. Nav and Jaz Gill, Roger Quick, Harpreet, Tanu, Jaswant and Romesh Sahota, Tracie, Navdeep, Gurmit and Satwant Bains and my Father, Mohinder Gill, for their endless support, encouragement and love. Peter Guzzo, Lucy DeFabrizio and Doug Aoki for encouraging my endeavours and for sustaining me in the most difficult moments of my long journey. Marnie Boullard, and Marcy Gliener as well as many other friends for their ongoing patience, listening, responding and affection. Readers and writers, who in their re-reading and re-writing will allow my long journey, my long poem to continue it's endless path. Dedication VIII To Mummiji and Biji for their endless strength, courage, determination, guidance and love. This journey is our journey. and To Dr. Carl Leggo An Educator in the Beyond Encouraging words and individuals to play, to sing, to dance, to come alive, to engage and to be-come. To create something new in the beyond. In the Third Space. Nanayther Nanuther Kithe gahan Where they/we long to enter and yet cannot find the way. Callous curtains of pre-determined pages, finally withdrawn. Allowing silences to be broken, in the Beyond. 1 Breaking Three Generations of Silence A Translation of Racism, Sexism, and Classism in the Lives of Three Punjabi Women in Canada Now we are the "betrayers of the lie." In our speaking and writing, we betray What has harmed us and held us down. We tell on those who hurt us. We give away the truths of oppression, and we betray our own denial by allowing our art and literature, our often unconscious internal creative processes, to express what we ourselves have held in. (Linda Hogan quoted in D. Soyini Madison, 1994, P. 431) Surrounded by peach trees, lemon trees, mango trees and guava trees, in the bara, open veranda, I remember her kind face and imagine her slightly rounded pierced nose. She always wore a tiny gold nugget that shone out of the darkness of her face. She was a very slender woman and had long, thin, dark arms. She wore coloured plastic bangles not gold ones like mummiji. On that day, we were all making samia, thin wheat noodles, together. I was intrigued by the way she washed her arms when the work was done. She would pour water out of the bucket, and cup it first in her right hand and then hold her bent arms up by her chest and let the water roll down her left arm. Then she would do the same with her left hand. Finally when the arms were washed she would use the last bit of the water to wash her hands. She would pour the water out of the bucket. Her hands were not allowed to touch the water in the bucket. Again she would cup her one hand with water then the other. Watching, I was amazed at how many times the water wentfrom one hand to the other without falling on the dirt in the open bara. As I tried to do the same my grandmother quickly rushed over to show me the proper way for our caste. It was in a separate bucket with cleaner, warm water. It would only be years later that I would realise the meaning of this difference. 2 The samias were all hanging to dry. I was given the honour to place the last few on the string as Uthi turned the machine and the long snake shapes slowly made their way out. That was one of the few times that Uthi had been allowed to help make food. Usually her jobs did not even allow her to be near the eating area. Her job as a "choori,"an "untouchable", was to scrub dishes with the ashes from the night before and then wash them with cold water. She also did the sweeping and cleaning of the house. Her Husband used to clean our bathroom areas. When we returned to India 13 years later the Husband had passed away and their daughter had assumed His role. Shinthi, their daughter, would come every morning at 6:00 am before going to the school for the "untouchables" and take away what was necessary from the kota, the deck like construction upstairs where the open bathroom stalls had been built. This was before the toilets had been put in. I wonder even to this day where she took everything that had to be taken away and how long she had to bear the stink. The thought of her job makes me cringe now. One of my first days back in India, Shinthi came to collect our clothes to take them to her mother for the daily wash. Collecting the pile, she stopped to admire a bra she saw. Foolishly I asked her if these kinds of bras were available in India. She laughed hysterically and said, "Don't you know that these pretty things are only for memsahibs like you. choorays (untouchables) don't own such things". I had always known of their different caste as a young girl, but I had never been aware of all the rules that were attached to that caste. Somehow being in Canada, I had imagined that these hierarchies had changed there, even though they had not here. The darkness of one's colour continued to devalue them as humans, even more so if the gender was female. 3 Uthi and Shinthi had always been part of our household to me. Like an auntie or a cousin. Only now had I noticed how differently they were treated especially by my grandmother and grandfather. Enclosed in their areas of work. Uthi in the area by the door and Shinthi upstairs on the kota. Now it began to make sense why, when I was downstairs one day and asked her to bring me the newspaper, she passed it to me arms extended from her area. Careful not to step over the lines. The invisible lines drawn to keep them in their places, just as the Men had lines drawn to keep Their women in their places. Our house like most in the small village had a bara and a kota. Open areas designed to bring the outside in so that caged untouchables, women and children would have access to fresh air and be able to see the sky from within their differently invisible lines. This was not done for humane reasons. Light signified the beginning of the day of duty and darkness the end of that day. Voices of women echoed in the heat from kota to para or bara to kota or kota to kota as they fulfilled their daily duties. Some women were allowed out into other kotas and baras so that they were able to converse with more ease. This however was not the case for my mother and even if it had been, there was never time for such leisure. Our house in Canada, the one we finally bought with the pennies we saved from berry picking, was completely enclosed. No baras to breathe from. No kotas to see the sky from. There was the yard, but the door always got in the way. It was closed tightly after 3:30 pm or 4:00 pm and rarely opened until the next morning -- in time for school or work. It opened only occasionally on weekends when it was necessary to uproot the weeds. Closure for security and safety. To protect us from the hostile outer world of the NABOBS we were all told. Complete closure also meant complete secrecy. So when alcohol took over the mind, what He didn't remember no-one else would either. 4 The first time I heard the cries of my mother was at age eight in Canada. My sisters and I were upstairs in our bedroom taking down posters that were inappropriate for "proper girls" to have up in their rooms. We weren't sure if the sounds were of laughter or of fear until we ran into the kitchen downstairs and saw for the first time what we had never seen before. As my mother fell to the floor in her black shalwar kamiz with blue flowers, we were ordered back to our room. From inside, sitting cuddled together by the door, we took turns listening and peeking out. Hoping and praying that the thumping and pounding and cries would end. They did end eventually and as mummiji came running up she changed out of her black shalwar kamiz, the one with the blue flowers, and went to bed. She cried herself to sleep that afternoon as we stood around her fearfully and helplessly. After that day, that black shalwar kamiz with the blue flowers sat in the back of her closet until it would finally be thrown out years later. Just as her daughter's black and blue flowered dress would be years later. Not for the same reasons, but not for completely different reasons either. Not at age 13, but later. Much later. Before the age of 13 the grandmother was sewing, knitting, weaving in the open veranda floored in brick. She was only 9 when the preparations for her wedding were well under way. She had heard that her eternal Husband was a good Man. The arrangements had all been made for her by her Father, her Uncles and her Brothers. Her name would now be different but her duty would remain the same - to continue to serve Them from under her veil. They expected only that she awake at 5:00 am to make Their morning meals. In the afternoon, have Their meals delivered fresh. And at night feed again and then be there when needed. The rest of the time was her free time to take care of the children and the in-laws, to sew, and clean. She could do almost anything as long as she remained in the confines of those Patriarchal walls and inside Their gate. And silent. But before the age of 13 in the same open veranda on the same brick floor the mother 5 spoke out. She yelled and screamed and begged Them - the Fathers, the Uncles the Brothers to let her go away and continue her schooling. After much resistance They let her continue to grade 10, but after that Their fear of giving her too much knowledge ~ fear of her thinking too much for herself, made them make the arrangements quickly. The slave trade of the touchable "untouchables" had to continue. No longer on the open veranda, no longer on the brick floor, she thought she would escape. At 13 in another country she escaped the veil, she escaped the forced ignorance but not the violence. Invaded, violated, stolen from. Her loud cries of despair, of anger went unheard. THEIR/Their RULes, THEIR/Their CONTrol, THEIR/their ANGer, THEIRS heir VIOLence, THEIR/Their POWer they have endured it all in their three generations. 6 Purpose: Breaking the Silence Autobiographically This autobiographical research paints a portrait of the lived experience of many Punjabi women through the narratives, poetry, oral stories, and personal dialogue of one Punjabi female whose experiences are shaped by the dynamics of the lives of her mother and grandmother. My work attempts to help me -- a Punjabi woman of "colour" from a working class background to become more critically aware of the silent issues of racism, sexism, and classism not only in my life, but also in the lives of two very important women to me -- my mother and my grandmother. Through my work I question and attempt to come to an understanding of their and my silences in THEIR/Their CULTure (The Punjabi and CANADIAN CULTure) and THEIR/Their SOCIety (the Punjabi AND CANADIAN SOCIety). "These women have not been silent just silenced and not listened to" (Yee, quoted in Bannerji, 1993, P. 43). The private narratives, poems, oral stories and personal dialogues that follow will break some of the long kept silences of three generations of women in my family. These experiences represent not only the racism, sexism and classism faced by my grandmother, my mother and myself but many Punjabi women of their/my generation. I do not replace the experiences of other Punjabi women with my own. I only claim to represent their experiences because I am and am riot a part of those experiences ~ part of the whole. In translating, retranslating and re-retranslating our stories, I begin to see parallels between the oppression of women and untouchables in Indian Society and the exploitation of minority women and minorities in CANADIAN SOCIETY. These women are part of a society which uses "power and the powerlessness as weapons to exclude non-white and poor people..." (Silvera, quoted in Bannerji, 1993 P. 255). 7 the written style varies from the functional writing of documentation to the expressive power of writing as an art form. In the reading of the text, other women especially Punjabi women may "self-consciously participate in the production of meaning" (Michael Fischer quoted in Clifford and Marcus, 1986, P. 232). As Fischer points out, "the characteristic of contemporary writing of encouraging participation of the reader in the production of meaning ... is not merely descriptive of how ethnicity is experienced, but more importantly is an ethical device attempting to activate in the reader a desire for communitas with others, while preserving rather than effacing differences" (quoted in Clifford and Marcus, 1986, P. 233). Through the "braiding" of the stories of my grandmother, my mother and myself, I become increasingly aware that my discoveries of self are inextricably bound within the family's heritage. "It is only as we receive the metissage, the blended story, that we grasp how life, self and writing interact" (Braham ,1995, P. 118). In unveiling our painful stories, I hope to provide a greater understanding of the landscapes of many Punjabi females who live very isolated and often linear lives amidst their Patriarchal private worlds and who suffer from SYSTEMIC oppression, daily racism and ciassism on each occasion that they exit their homes. The experiences of my grandmother, my mother and myself are similar; however, the oppression and resistance of each generation is very different as a result of our different experiences of history, socialisation, dis placement, contact with the DOMINANT culture and EDUCATION. Michael Fischer writes "that ethnicity [and culture] are reinvented and reinterpreted in each generation by each individual and that it is often puzzling to the individual... Ethnicity is not something that is simply passed on from generation to generation, taught and learned; it is something dynamic - often unsuccessfully repressed or 8 avoided... ethnicity is a deeply rooted emotional component of identity" (quoted in Clifford and Marcus, 1986, P. 195). In this way, it can be said that what we experience and what we do depends on the various intersections that determine our cultural and social "locations." In order to better understand the powerful barriers that Punjabi females face, I attempt to translate and transcribe our feelings and experiences into a language that can be shared. And when that language does not exist or is not enough, it is my poetry that creates it. What is left out or cannot be uttered, remains as significant as what is said. "Poetry is not only dream and vision, it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across fears of what has never been before..." (Audre Lorde in Braham, 1995, P. 143). The stories and poems presented in my work provide the necessary nourishment for writers and readers who, "in the process of writing and reading autobiographical texts come to understand their own lives better" (Braham, 1995, P. 144). As I "read" my life, many readers will reread their own lives by association. " Women's autobiography has always understood the need to compose a life from bits and pieces of the past marinated in memory, resurrected by the imagination and imbued with meaning..." (Braham, 1995, P. 3-4). This created reality temporarily accepted as true on the page is further qualified by the reader who also understands metaphor as symbol or representation, memory as selective and relational and a sense of place as a construct, one employing imagination as surely as fact. The reader then becomes part of the discourse, 9 resignifying the meaning of the text returning, in Lacanian terms, from the realm of the 'Imaginary to the Real'... The reader becomes a collaborator in the truth content of the narrative by using the story as exemplum that enlivens and extends self knowledge.. This synchronicity between the author's transcribed life and the readers empathic engagement gives autobiography its peculiar power. If the story of one woman's life provides a script the reader enters, resignifies, and in some collaborative sense makes her own, then contemporary women's personal narratives chart rich new possibilities for the way women may want to live their lives. (Braham, 1995, P.3). The educational possibilities of autobiography have yet to be recognised. Despite the fact that autobiographical writing method including the use stories and poems to express ideas is "epistemologically sound and politically progressive" (Pinaf, 1988, P. 151), it is not often encouraged in our traditional schooling. It is considered not academic enough, not valuable enough or not meaningful enough as a form of research. FORMAL EDUCATION, determines what should be read and what should be written, what should be learned and what should be told. It was not until my graduate program that I was exposed to narratives through my course with Dr. Ted Aoki at U.B.C.. And it was not until the summer of 1996, when I met Dr. Carl Leggo also at U. B.C., that I was given the opportunity to begin writing about myself and my life. It was not until then that I began living my own words, in my own languages, in my own stories. Dr. Leggo's open-minded, encouraging and creative spirit set me on a journey that I had never envisioned nor would have had the courage to undertake. 10 As I write I am constantly aware of the very personal nature of my work. I often wonder whether I should or should not write the true nature of my experiences or even write at all about some of my experiences. But how can I remain silent? Is this internal conflict from fear/hesitation to strength/boldness a result of my OPPRESsions as a minority? Am I as a minority woman conditioned to feel this way? As I write I debate constantly with myself whether to use the subject "I" or the subject "she" and whether to name the oppressor or use the subject "He". Although I realise that I should have the courage to take the risk and state the names and use the appropriate subjects, I do not, at least not always. The use of the subjects "He" and "she", as well as other ambiguities that the reader may find throughout my work, are necessary for me in my work at this time. These ambiguities allow me to distance myself from experiences that still continue to be too painful to approach more closely. Other questions that are at the forefront as I write pertain to how others will perceive my work. As I speak out about the struggles of minority women and about racism, sexism, and classism, I fear that THEY will not understand or not want to understand. Will my non-traditional, very personally valuable work be considered publicly valuable as well? Realising the relevance of my work especially for Punjabi women, I wonder if I should have used a more "academic" research method to discuss such important subjects as racism, sexism and classism as THEY would want (if THEY would want them discussed at all). Will these issues be taken just as seriously by scholars in this type of work as they would be in traditional "academic" work? And finally, will having exposed myself in such a deep and personal way hold consequences for me in the future? 11 I do not hope to find answers to all these questions; however, this autobiographical work has given me the space and opportunity to reflect upon them. Now it is only through my writing that I will be able to learn, transform experiences, and understand where to go next as a minority woman and as a teacher in my life/lives. I hope readers will also gain insight and find opportunities to participate in dialogue. Through my autobiographical work I disrupt hegemonic narratives.... Narratives that do not tell us of the work behind the scenes. Only through the unveiling of these silent, unheard stories can the awakening, resistance, and struggles take place. Silence is heard only in the moment in which it is breaking and only by breaking the silence can we return to silence. 12 The Braiding Process and The Braid I have choken the braiding process and the ©raid as metaphors for the' unfolding of my long poem\ of my journey, of our.Wf/'ssage complete and incomple/e with stories of centuries of Oppressi/n and EXPLOITATION. In the Punjabi\ulture the braid was ^ considered a sign of beauty in the past. More recently hpweverSjt has become a /ymbol of oppression foi/many women including myself. "Proper Punjabi women" rare expected to wear ttteir hair in a braid and live according to the rules ojfShose ir/Power. Only through! accepting Their rules, Their expectations, Their abliso, TheXbraids, Their veils 'wcjnen of tne>highestJpmvof hey oppression, can they remain Indianness. 13 hand, ti The first 4tage in braiding begins rid of all the knots \|/ith the combing that the braidindj sd T of the hair. The hair is\temporarily process ma\ begin. As expeqted, my mother would take all the hair in per left hand a to get out all the knots vJA combed tnat she could rid our hair forever of those knots, but she didn't want to cause us too much suffering. She hout pulling •m  too \her right lew, however, (just( the process hard. She often wished as she as we did) that the pain was oart of OimPast Is Our Present The Historical Back prop 14 As I sit with my Biji (grandmother) and Mummiji (mother), I become absorbed by their stories and the oral nature of my culture. The intensity and the emotion that I hear can never accurately be recorded on paper. The medium of oral history, says Derek Reimer, "is the recorded human voice which conveys meaning beyond the actual words.... [Oral histories have] a personal presence that no written record can match" (quoted in Jagpal, 1994, P. 10). Given the oral tradition of my culture, this is the case for the stories of my grandmother and mother. When translated there is a necessary loss of meaning not only as a result of being translated from one language to another, but also by being transformed from informal oral stories to formally transcribed translated ones. As I begin to talk to my grandmother about her experiences in Canada with racism and sexism, I realise for the first time that I do not know the words racism or sexism in Punjabi. I begin to question the silence of this topic. How could my family have lived through decades of IMPERIALISM, COLONISATION, and INSTITUTIONALISED discrimination and remain so silent?! Furthermore, how can Punjabi women remain so passive amidst their often double PATRIArchy?! When will they break their heavy yet invisible chains?! Why is everyone so oblivious to the injustices that only I seem to be seeing? Why don't my people wake up and do something?! The anger mounts inside me. I feel the unbearable heat rising through my body. My teeth clench as I think of the stories and the pain. I feel as if my head is going to explode. But instead the tears begin to pour down ~ endlessly. 15 How could THEY, (Aside: I want to scream, but I say this silently for my sister will be marrying into a BRITISH family this year), have gotten away with so much injustice in the countries of 'others.' Didn't THEY realise the damage THEIR COLONISATION was doing, not only to the oppressed but also to THEIR own CULTURE (Viswanathan,1993). THEIR oppression followed my family across oceans and time. The history which bears and determines us has the form of a war rather than of a language: relations of power, not relations of meaning. (Foucault, quoted in Bannerji, 1993, P. xxv). Physical and spatial dis placement transported us from one country to another but not without the treacherous history following behind. Translating differently, yet remaining the same. Pithaji's Scrapbook As Biji opened Pithaji's, my Grandfather's, scrapbook of newspaper articles and pictures, she would start the stories. Recounting story after story of the hardships of life in Canada as an early "dirty, diseased, uncivilised Asian immigrant". Stories of His almost two month quarantine before He could set foot on THEIR soil in THEIR country of hope and many opportunities. Showing me a picture of the turbaned Gurdit Singh, on the Komagata Maru, she 16 remembers that he would laugh at how THEY called everyone from India "Hindus" in THEIR newspapers. Gurdit Singh was, according to newspapers, the "Hindu" who in 1914 paid for the journey of the 376 Sikhs (in the Japanese ship the Komagata Maru) wanting to immigrate to Canada. She remembers Him telling her about how these Sikhs had arrived in the Vancouver Harbour on the grounds of their BRITISH Citizenship and the fact that most of those on board were old Sikh soldiers. They travelled under the premise that They should be allowed to travel freely in the BRITISH Empire. They begged and pleaded to be allowed to disembark. However, They were prohibited from entering along with those who were physically or mentally handicapped, beggars, idiots, imbeciles, epileptics, the insane, the dumb, aliens incapable of reading, alcoholics, persons with tuberculosis or any loathsome disease and criminals (The Canada Year Book, 1933 -1934). The preferred settlers were those who came from the U.K. and the U.S. "Next in order of readiness were Scandinavians and the Dutch who readily learned English and [were] already acquainted with the working of free democratic institutions - Continental European Countries where population is ethical, nearly related to the British" (The Canada Year Book, 1927-1928, P. 221). After Their ship lay in the harbour for 2 months, its "human cargo" was sent back. They had not come by direct passage from Their country of birth which translated for Pithaji and Biji meant, because They were East Indian. There was no direct passage from India to Canada at the time. The CANADIAN GOVERNMENT adopted policies to stop all immigrants from India. 17 Immigrations Laws indicated clearly who was allowed into THEIR country. BRITISH Citizenship was for the sole purpose of exploitation. "British subjects by birth [not colonisation], or naturalisation in the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and Citizens of Ireland, France, the Island of St. Pierre and Miquelon and Citizens of the U.S. were allowed in as long as they were of good health and character and had sufficient means to maintain themselves" (Canada Year Book, 1956, P. 179). CANADIAN Citizenship was granted only to these people and not to East Indians or to Asians. Even in 1956, when Pithaji came to Canada, the immigration of Asians to THEIR country was covered by "Special Procedures". The "colour bar" that was not lifted until 1962 limited, if not prevented, Asians especially East Indians from entering THEIR country. As Biji turns the page, she shakes her head at how the undesirable "human cargo" was sent back. The goods returned because They were not pure enough for THEIR country which wasn't THEIRS at all. She tells me that everyone aboard was charged with attempting to overthrow the BRITISH GOVERNMENT. When they arrived back in Calcutta, "troops opened fire on the unarmed men. Over fifty Sikhs died in the ensuing battle, the rest were imprisoned and tortured, many were hanged" (Jagpaul, 1994, P. 34). Unarmed Indian men were killed because Canada had to remain a "country as pure in the matter of race as possible" (King quoted in Agnew, 1996, P. 29). This last story of course was not in THEIR newspapers. Despite their discriminatory immigration policies, East Indians were allowed into THEIR country when They were needed; My Great Grandfather came to Canada 18 sometime in the 1930's. He was needed for THEIR work -- work that THEY didn't do (Just as in India "untouchables" Were called in for work They/they didn't do). THEY needed my Great grandfather, but they didn't need nor want His wife or His children because that would have meant more wives and more children of their race. THEY needed His hardworking labour but feared His colour. They feared that His colour would pollute THEIR country and THEIR race. Therefore, men of my Great-grandfather's generation were torn apart from Their wives and children because "the exclusion of women [would prevent Indian men] from 'defiling' the land with their progeny" (Raj quoted in Jagpal, 1994, P, 29). Turning to the picture of Babaji in front of the grocery store, biji remembers how THEY never allowed Them to touch anything in THEIR grocery stores. Babaji would enter and carefully point to what He needed. THEY would give Him what He asked for and demand that the money be put on the counter, never in THEIR hands for fear of Their diseases. They were not given bags either. They carried everything home in Their pa/a, (the bottom part of Their shirt held up) like the beggars and untouchables in India. Biji turns to the picture of Pithaji without His turban. Her solemn look grows even sadder. She explains how Pithaji had to cut His hair and stop wearing His turban because THEY wouldn't hire any turbaned Sikhs. They also didn't allow turbaned Sikhs into many of THEIR establishments. Many beer parlours, theatres, and hotels would not serve Them. They had to sleep in barns with the animals when they first arrived here. Some buildings even had signs placed in entrance ways ordering Sikhs to stay out (just like the signs in store windows for dogs and cats). Their beards and turbans and colour labelled Sikhs as evil, as dirty, and as troublemakers. 19 Biji continues, "Your Pithaji finally gave in and cut His hair and put away His turban until He retired in 1979". It was only then that He was able to reclaim His identity in THEIR country. Only for about 13 years before He passed away in 1992. As Biji closes the scrapbook, we try to forget the hardships, the struggles, and the pain, but the past is there in His every remain, as is the fear. When my grandmother was unaccepting of my sister's marriage to a BRITISH MAN, my sisters and I accused her of being racist. Little did we understand that it was her fear. The fear that she would not know how to act or know what to say around the "NABOBS". Fear that there were ulterior motives involved. Fear that one day when we might all be thrown out of THEIR country my sister would be alone. Fear that history might repeat itself. Dar. Dar. Fear. Often Punjabi people in CANADA are told not to complain about their horrible past because at least they are here now in this unblemished, "Multicultural" country - Canada, and because at least they weren't slaves. In fact, they as well as other immigrants, are even asked to simply forget the past despite the fact that the past is our present. THEY don't understand that we cannot erase it from our memory as easily as THEY have been able to erase it from THEIR texts, from THEIR History. 20 hie Pre-determined Partitions This stage in braiding begins with the careful parting of the haiif specific place in one of thq three sections that are pre-made and outside of that place. My mother woulcHake herxcomb and find the three predetermin She would trjen smooth each hair into its proper section, using make it stay there should it ever try to change its Fflad Patriarchal Punjabi traditions have been passed generations clearly definind the limits of women's lives' in Thejr society Every hair has a should not be round parts in the hair, if necessary, to rough 21 Sexism in the Cultural Back Drop In order to gain a deeper understanding of the sexism affecting the lives of my mother, grandmother and myself, a deconstruction of the Punjabi Culture is a very necessary step in my work. Sexism is a part of the social fabric of Indian culture. From the day that women are born, they experience their devaluation, their inferiority. As they mature, elements of Culture and Religion keep them in their place of subordination. Despite their resistance, they are often forced into accommodation. Those in power are invested in preserving the status quo and the stereotype of the selfless Indian wife and mother, goddess of the home" (Mitter, 1995, P. 5). Sexism in the Punjabi Language Punjabi women of my grandmother's and my mother's generations never refer to their Husbands by Their name. Directly, they address Them with the respectful name "Ji" and the formal plural subject "Thousi" (You) rather than "thou" (informal you) which is normally the subject used for a child or a wife/woman. When talking about Them indirectly to others,'they refer to their Husbands as "Mara Prona" (My Husband) or "Eanatha Daddy" (their - the children's Father). The subject and verb normally used by respectable women is the plural Masculine form. For example, "o kanthay" (They are eating) in order to denote respect and acknowledge their Husband's superiority over them. This form is used otherwise when talking about more than one Male or when talking about elders. When Men speak about their wives to others, They normally refer to them by name and the singular form of the verb and subject are used "o come karthi" (she is working). This form is used otherwise when talking about one female or a female child. 22 Furthermore, as in French, the Masculine is always dominant in syntax (Irigaray, 1993). For example, when speaking about one Male and a hundred females one would always use the Masculine form of the subject and verb "O suthio" (They are sleeping). "This grammatical mark, which erases the feminine, has an impact on the way subjectivity is experienced and the way it is expressed in and by discourse" (Irigaray, 1993, P. 30-31). Irigaray also points out that in French, whatever has been valorised has been masculine in gender, whatever devalorised, feminine. For example le soleil (the sun) is masculine since it is thought of as the source of life, and la lune (the moon) is feminine since it is thought of as ambiguous, almost harmful, except by some peasants (Irigaray, 1993, P.68). Looking at the Punjabi language the same holds true. The Powerful originators of light, Sooraj (the sun) and Chand (the moon), are both masculine, but their products chandani (rays of the moon) and kirani (rays of the sun) are feminine. The patriarchal cultures have reduced the value of the feminine to such a degree that their reality and their description of the world are incorrect. Thus, instead of remaining a different gender, the feminine has become, in our language, the non-masculine, that is to say an abstract nonexistent reality.... the feminine grammatical gender itself is made to disappear as subjective expression, and vocabulary associated with women often consists of slightly denigrating ... terms which define her as an object in relation to the male subject. This accounts for the fact that women find it so difficult to speak and to be heard as women. They are excluded and denied by the patriarchal linguistic order.... (Irigaray, 1993, P. 20). 23 Sexism in Religion Sitting in the Gurdwara as a young girl, I often wondered why there were never any women reading the Guru Granth Sahib. It must be very sacred and very difficult to read, I often thought to myself, as I sat through those long ceremonies understanding very little of the ancient Male produced language. At home mom would read from her Guru Granth Sahib almost daily. Coming to this realisation, I understood that it wasn't the difficulty of the passages that prevented women from reading it, it was just that the Men at the temple had arbitrarily decided that They would be the ones most suitable for this very important and central role at the Gurdwara. The evidence of sexism in the Sikh religion is also apparent in the written words of the Guru Granth Sahib. As I was translating the marriage hymns for my sister's wedding ceremony, I realised that I found myself retranslating the sacred words of the Guru Granth Sahib in order to make them more comprehensible to myself, my sisters and the audience for whom they were being written. Therefore the line from the second nuptial round of the marriage hymns: "And the Lord has made you to meet the True Guru" (Gobind Singh Mansukhani, 1997, PP. 165-169) was re-translated as the Lord has blessed the meeting of the couple. The lines in the fourth round of the marriage hymns: God seems sweet to me and I have become pleasing to my master. The Lord Himself becomes one with His holy bride, 24 While the, heart of the bride blooms and flowers with His holy Name (Gobind Singh Mansukhani, 1997, PP. 165-169). were completely untranslatable for me and therefore were omitted altogether. Experts of the Sikh religion and fundamentalists may disagree with my re- translations as well as 'nontranslations'. However, the ambiguities of the language, where one does not know exactly who the True Guru master or Lord is, prevented me from providing a simple direct translation. Many sections of the Guru Granth Sahib are written in such a manner that we are not always certain whether the hymn is referring to a divine or a human Male. Although in the Santh tradition the gender of God is supposedly irrelevant, hierarchy is always present. God is always conceptualised in Male terms and the one seeking God is always conceptualised in female terms. There seems to be little need for distinction between the two Males - the divine Male and human Male or Husband. Men are considered Gods whom women are to worship and serve. They are expected to sacrifice their very lives in order to remain ever faithful devotees. The tradition of sacrifice is evident in the sati practice which still exists in India even to this day. Women who partake in the religious act of sati, which means good wife, are marked as exceptional and singular. Good wifehood of which sati is only one small part is glorified in the Indian religious tradition. The only other choice js a life of celibacy and isolation. Enclosed by wood and coconuts in a neck-high pyre, as my mummiji and biji recall, the fire is lit around her as she sits alive with her dead husband. It is coercion and haste, not choice as They tell us, that sets her on fire. 25 They and Their religion promises her an eternity of bliss for a few minutes of pain. It is murder not glorification. The women who scream and yell off the pyre are not shown. While pain is everywhere presented, especially in the tradition of sati, it is no-where re-presented in Their religious scriptures. How can a woman be expected to accurately translate and comprehend the production of the Male Elite without retranslation? Sexism in Art 26 When I look through the art books on the shelves at home, again I am astounded at what I've never noticed before. Absent women, irrelevant women and eroticised women. Surely there must have been women who played important roles in Society or who contributed to Society in some meaningful way. Where are these women? Why are these role models absent from these books and from the eyes of the public? In the 1500's, the Mughal Emperors maintained studios in which many artists were employed. The court painter was, among other things, a visual historian producing set-piece records of events and individual portraits. As a result, much of the great works of art during this time period are images of the great moments of the Mughal Leaders of the time. When one looks at these paintings, one would think that women did not exist during these times. Paintings of 1589 - 1600's show mainly the Mughal Emperors during their conquests or courageous feats, during moments of accomplishment or honour, or sometimes just at play or praying . Central to all these paintings is the Leader Himself or His Men who are working for Him, fighting for Him or serving Him. If one looks very closely one may see a woman or two somewhere in the background either holding a child, or sometimes carrying building material to the Men who are constructing the Emperor's projects, or sometimes they are seen entertaining Men through songs or dances. Occasionally one may even see a queen or princess painted in refined style looking out of a small window of her Husband's palace where she is adorned and 'imprisoned.' One painting undated, but probably completed sometime between 1628 - 1658 during the reign of Shah Jahan shows Shah Jahan and His favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal holding a flower for each other. One cannot help but think about why Mumtaz was fortunate enough to have her portrait painted 27 next to the Emperor who incidentally also had the Taj Mahal built in her memory. Could she have been His favourite wife because she was well trained in the ways of pleasing Men as written in the Kama Sutra? With the decline of the Muslim Mughal Empire, Hindu art, especially of the God Krishna, His enticing women and His favourite Radha, became very popular as well as images of the Rajas; for example, Raja Balwant Singh and His feminine pleasures in the northern states of Punjab. In this Artwork from the late 1600's until British rule women regularly appear in most paintings. Their roles now are mainly those of eroticised servants of Emperors, Rajas or Gods, eroticised possessions of Emperors, Rajas or Gods or eroticised admirers (longing or waiting for their Men) of Emperors, Rajas or Gods. These eroticised images show women in saris with tiny sari blouses which are either transparent or are so short that their large rounded breasts with erected nipples are usually the prominent feature of their bodies. Eroticised images painted for the pleasure of the Male Rulers of the times. Once again Male dominated production determined the roles and role models of women to publicise and the ones not to publicise. Sexism in Literature 28 Similarly, the literature with which most Indian children grow up, devalues women and places them in a position inferior to Men. Not only do these texts show women in subordinate roles to men, they also expect women in Society to follow the role models presented in the books. The story that my mother and grandmother remember from their childhood and the story that they still watch presented on T.V. is Ramayana - a Hindi epic tale originally written by the Sanskrit poet Valmiki in the 4th century B.C. C. Rajagopalachari states: "To millions of men, women and children in India, the Ramayana is not a mere tale. It has more truth and meaning than the events in one's own life. Just as plants grow under the influence of sunlight, the people of India grow in mental strength and culture by absorbing the glowing inspiration of the Ramayana" (quoted in Mitter, 1991, PP. 81 - 82). Every child is told this story at bedtime. The story begins with the childless King Janaka who finds a baby girl while plowing His field. He decides to adopt her and names her Sita. She grows up to be a beautiful princess. Many Princes compete for her hand in marriage, but Rama is the only one who is able to bend, and snap in two, the golden bow that no other Man can even lift off the ground. Sita marries Rama. "The words intoned by Sita's father at the wedding ceremony are repeated at Hindu marriage rites even to this day" (Rajagopalachari, quoted in Mitter, 1991, P. 82). 29 .. Rama, as the eldest Son of King Dasaratha, is the rightful heir to His Father's throne. But because of a pledge made by the King to the jealous step-mother of another of His Sons, Rama must be sent off to the forest for fourteen years. He urges Sita to remain comfortably at the palace until He returns. But she refuses, saying: "For a woman, it is not her father, her son, nor her mother, friends, nor her own self, but the husband who in this world and the next is ever her sole means of salvation. If thou dost enter the impenetrable forest today,... I shall precede thee on foot, treading down the spiky kusha grass. In truth, whether it be in palaces, in chariots or in heaven, wherever the shadow of the feet of her consort falls, it must be followed" (Shastri, quoted in Mitter, 1991, P. 82). Accompanied by Rama's younger Brother Lakshman, they set off for the forest where they live as nomads helping righteous creatures that they meet by fending off monstrous demons. Eventually they meet the sister of Ravanna who is the Demon-King of Lanka. His supernatural powers come from His former state as a God. His sister tries to seduce Rama and Lakshman, but they reject her advances. Insulted and furious, she demands that her Brother take revenge. Ravanna who has had His eyes on Sita for sometime devises a plan to kidnap her. He sends a demon in the form of a deer to roam near the hut where Rama, Sita and Lakshman are staying. Rama goes after the deer and when He shoots it, a loud call for help is heard from Him. At the sound of the scream Sita asks Lakshman to go see what has happened and to ensure that Rama is safe. Lakshman refuses saying that His duty is to ensure her safety. He has made a promise to His Brother Rama to never leave her side. She 30 demands that He leave her in order to help Rama, otherwise she will take her life. Lakshman is compelled to go. Before leaving He draws a white circle around the hut in order to keep all evil out and warns Sita not to cross the white line. As soon as Lakshman has gone Ravanna appears before Sita in the form of a holy beggar. Sita dutifully offers Him food and water and in doing so steps out of the safe circle drawn for her. Now Ravanna takes on His true satanic form and grabs her, throws her in his Chariot and takes her back to His palace in Lakna. Sita becomes a prisoner in Ravanna's palace. He tries to court her and gain her love by offering to give up all His wives for her and by promising her all His wealth. (A previous curse prevents Him from taking Sita by force). She refuses and her response is exemplary: "You ask me to accept you. How foolish! Can the crow approach the swan? Can a heinous sinner be allowed near the sacrificial fire? I do not value life or body. Do you imagine I would wish to live despised by the world? Do not dream that out of fear or to save my life I shall yield to you (Rajagopalachari, quoted in Mitter, 1991). Angry, Ravanna cages Sita in His garden. He tells her that she has twelve months to change her mind or be eaten alive by Him. He subjects her to many demons, threats and temptations in an attempt to break her will. Sita contemplates suicide, but her faith in her Husband sustains her. For Him she will endure anything (Aside: as should every women in Their Society). The rest of the tale recounts efforts of Rama and Lakshman to locate and rescue Sita. With the help of the great monkey army of Hanuman and the assistance of the Gods, 31 They finally arrive in Lakna. Rama is armed with a special weapon given to Him by the gods to kill the ten-headed Ravanna. After the victory over Ravanna, Rama asks Sita to be brought to Them. But it is not the reunion that one would expect. Sita greets Rama in the proper way for a wife of her class. "Aryaputra," beloved and noble one. But Rama is very cold in His response. He says, "By killing Ravanna, I have wiped away the insult to our family and to myself, but you are stained by dwelling with one other than myself. What Man of high degree receives back a wife who has lived long in another's house? Ravanna has held you on His lap and gazed on you with lustful eyes. I have avenged His evil deed, but I am unattached to you; O gentle one, I am forced by a sense of honour to renounce you" (Rajagopalachari, quoted in Mitter, 1991, P. 85). There are many different accounts of how the story ends. According to my mother's version, Sita, at this point, grows very angry and in attempts to prove her innocence and faithfulness, she demands the Gods to light a huge fire and she throws herself into the blaze. Agni, god of fire, forbids His flames to touch her since Sita is purity itself. Having proved her innocence for all people to see, Rama, as King, happily takes Sita back. Many years later, however, after hearing some rumours and after seeing His two sons, Rama again asks Sita to repeat the ordeal by the fire. She refuses another trial and calls upon Mother Earth to swallow her up. The earth opens up and she disappears into the furrow from where she came. "Sita's great and eternal merit is held up for emulation by Indian women today. Sita's qualities are praised in devotional songs; her name is 32 synonymous with purity, patience and self-sacrifice" (Mitter, 1991, P. 86). She continues to be the traditional idea of womanhood, and girls and women continue to conform to the images of Sita-like femininity entertained by their Culture. The Sita ideal can also be found in The Laws of Manu, the most famous Sanskrit treatise on human conduct. Manu's laws were imposed in the eighteenth-century by COLONIAL governor Warren Hastings in consultation with Brahman Priests. These laws clearly exhibit the polarised Male perception of the female. The law applies a strict Brahmanic standard which legitimises inequality and protects the interests of Men and the Ruling class. Regarding women, nothing is left uncodified. "Marriage is indissoluble, divorce impossible, and widow remarriage never permitted to 'respectable women.' As for adultery - if the man involved is of base caste, the woman should be torn apart by dogs" (Mitter, 1995, P. 88). She should do nothing independently even in her own house. In childhood subject to her father, in youth to her husband, and when her husband is dead to her sons, she should never enjoy i ndependence.... She should always be cheerful, and skilful in her domestic duties with her household vessels well cleansed, and her hand tight on the purse-strings.... In season and out of season 33 her lord, who wed her with sacred rites, ever gives happiness to his wife, both here and in the other world. Though he be uncouth and prone to pleasure, though he have no good points at all, the virtuous wife should ever worship her lord as a god. --(trans. Basham in Mitter, 1995, P. 89). Although Manu's laws were imposed as the Hindu Law code in the 18th century, these stanzas are still held to apply as can be seen in most households as well as in films such as Pathi Parmeshwar. Sexism in Films 34 Pathi Parmeshwar In most Hindi films, women are portrayed as wonderful subservient housewives, daughters, daughters-in-law and sisters. As housewives they cater to the Husband's every need. As daughters they take care of the parents and help the mother to serve the Males in the family. As daughters-in-law they slave over the In-laws while taking and accepting Their abuse. And as sisters they honour and provide for the needs of Their Brothers. The film Pathi Parmeshwar is a very common Hindi film that my family as well as most Indian families have watched in the past. It is one of the many typical Hindi films that illustrates the role models women are expected to emulate in the Indian Culture and the high expectations that Society places upon them to live up to those ideal roles. Pathi Parmeshwar, which was released in 1993, became a highly controversial film amongst feminists. It begins with the actress Rekha playing the part of the bride and Vijay as her Husband. Rekha's Father arranges Rekha's marriage to Vijay. After the wedding, as Rekha leaves for her Husband's home, the Father gives her the traditional "sekha", parting words of wisdom, telling her that she must forget her "mekha", her parents home, because her "Susral", In-laws home, is now her new home. He further explains that she should no longer praise her "mekha", but must do anything and everything to make her "Susral" into a heavenly place and praise it instead. She is to accept her In-laws as her new Family and do all that is necessary to make Them happy. She should abide by Their rules, do as she is told by Them and forgive Them for all their wrongful doings. She must never argue with Them. Her, "Pathi",. 35 . Husband, is her God and she should honour and respect Him, fulfil His every desire, forgive His every mistake and never do anything against His wishes. He reminds her of Sita, Sarsawati, Draupadi and Laxmi - - the ideal women of Their Literature and of Their Culture. In her In-laws home, Rekha sits on the bed decorated with flowers for her honeymoon night. Vijay, her Husband, is out drinking, with His mistress. While His bride patiently awaits His arrival, she is looted of all her jewels by her Mother-in-law and Sister-in-law. Vijay returns in the morning. He is drunk and falls on the bed and is instantly asleep. At that same moment the Mother-in-law enters their bedroom and orders Rekha to let Him sleep because He has had a long night of hard work. (She is aware of where he has been, but such acts are necessary for Men and are not spoken about or questioned by women.) She pushes Rekha out of the room so that she can start her daily chores of cooking, cleaning and serving. Rekha's painful journey as a bride and daughter-in-law begins faster than she had ever expected or imagined. Rekha tolerates daily physical and emotional abuse from her Husband and His family. She never complains or contemplates leaving. She accepts her destiny and continues to be the perfect "bahu", daughter-in-law, which involves personal sacrifices and much acceptance. She believes that if she is strong enough to endure all that her destiny puts before her, she will be rewarded by the Gods. She believes that if she has faith and prays daily the Gods will give her the happiness that she deserves. Life for Rekha continues in much the same way. Serving by day and waiting alone at night. Her Husband continues to enjoy his evenings drinking in the company of His mistress (whom Rekha now knows) and all expenses are paid for by Rekha's father. 36 Along with her duties as a wife and as a daughter-in-law, regular provisions of money to keep the Husband and In-laws happy are also considered the responsibility of the bride and her family. Suddenly one day Vijay wakes up and finds that He is unable to stand or walk. He has in fact become paralysed. Rekha immediately begins to pray to the Gods to help her Husband. She begins her, "maran varath", fast-of-death. She will not eat anything until her wish is granted, and if her Husband should never walk again, she will die of hunger fasting for His life. One night Rekha hears her Husband mention the name of His mistress in His sleep. She begins to feel badly that He is unable to visit her. She considers it her duty as His wife to fulfil His every desire - even that of seeing another woman. So the very next day she makes arrangements for a wheel chair and takes her Husband to meet His mistress. Upon arrival at the house of the mistress, Rekha is introduced as Vijay's servant. Vijay and the mistress enjoy themselves in the house while Rekha waits outside to take her Husband back home. This is the usual turning point in most Hindi films. The part where the hidden secrets and identities are found out. This film is not any different. We discover that Vijay's mistress is actually someone named Durga. Sometime ago Vijay had agreed to marry Durga but he had never seen her. On the wedding day Vijay demanded more money than Durga's Father could give and therefore decided not to marry her. From that day on Durga had promised herself revenge. Her plan involved having Him fall in love with her and then destroying Him. She was not aware that Vijay was married. When she learned about His marriage she decided to abandon her plan because of the 37 pain that it was causing Rekha. She now started to devise a new plan in order to make Vijay return to Rekha. One day Rekha is very weak because of her "maran varath", so she pays someone to take her Husband to go to see His mistress Durga. When Vijay arrives at Durga's door, Durga asks Him to leave and never return. She tells Him that He no longer has anything to offer her. Durga complains that He cannot walk and that He has no money left. She tells Him that a women like herself is only with a Man during times of happiness and wealth. She is not a Sita-like wife, she explains, and cannot be expected to share in His bad times. Shocked and upset, Vijay leaves Durga's house. On His way home, He begins to think about all the wonderful things that Rekha has done for Him despite the horrible way that He has treated her. Suddenly His love for His wife is awakened. He rushes back to her in His wheelchair. He finds Rekha in the temple praying to the Gods for her Husband. Suddenly Vijay is thrown off His wheel chair. This angers Rekha who is now determined either to have her wish fulfilled before she leaves the temple or to die before the Gods. Rekha begins the religious sacrificial dance. Just as she is about to give her life, the Gods send lightening from the sky. The lightening hits her Husband's legs and suddenly he is able to walk again. He has learned His lesson and she has been rewarded for her pain, patience and "shakti", strength. Hindi films are the most common form of entertainment for Indian people in India as well as in Canada and therefore have a great deal of influence on their lives. This film 38 provides examples of Their idea of the roles and expectations of "proper" women in Indian Culture. Although recent films are beginning to show images of more assertive, less tolerant women, these images are hidden amongst the scenes of the traditional all accepting Sita-like women. Change is a slow process because those in Power determine which films should be seen and not seen. If women's decisions are not directly Controlled, they are indirectly Influenced. A "proper" Punjabi woman should not be seen at the theatre where a movie that shows women acting in improper ways is being presented. Women's fears of being labelled improper prevent "art films" of the leading feminist movie maker in India, Shabana Azimi, from doing well at the box office. In fact if They had it Their way, these films would not be shown at all. Although the women in Hindi films are imagined women, in my experiences and in the experiences of my mother and grandmother, these women are very real and very much alive in India as well as in Canada. 39 Th In this stage in First Strand of the Braid braiding, the braid begins to take its form. As bxpected my mother would take the first strand with all its hair always changing and growing and pull it firmly into its appropriate place. As the first strand was\shown the centre, the braid began to tawe its shape. It was a very linear predeterminedWhape. Myxjtendmother's section is the first section of the rrietissage. The dynamics of^ier very restrictive, linear life shaped by her past have^^naped/shape the lives of nv\ motherandj^ I have calledViis section a Translation of Stories from my Bij\because much of whaO has been sard by her and much of what fxknow of her I knowVin Punjabi. I have translated it here>|nto the DOMINANT language with the necessary loss of meaning and gaps for\non-Purrjabi readers. A translation of Stories from my Biji A Translation of Stories from my Biji 40 She was married off at age 9. All girls in those days had to be married by age 13. Ma Pe tha poon si. Poon is like giving to the poor when they are hungry. Giving away a girl for marriage complete with dowry without wanting anything in return was considered poon in the same way. "Good things" would come if the girl was given away before age 13; after that it was not considered poon. The sacrifice of a girl after age 13 would not bring the parents any rewards. Perhaps after that age she was considered too old to be moulded by the In-laws -- by those in Control. The translations for the words racism and sexism were absent even in my Father's Punjabi dictionary. As I finally find the translated words for racism and sexism ~ nasalwad and jinswad, I realise that my grandmother prefers not to talk about these things - about her personal experiences ~ probably because she feels that nothing is to be gained by bringing up the unpleasant aspects of the past. That perhaps not translating or remaining silent would erase the History, the anger and the pain. Talking about my Grandfather must also be very difficult for her now. Having lost him so recently must be more painful for her at this time than any past injustices that they've either endured together or alone. "Things were fine when we came", she says. But she fails to mention her isolation and confinement. "While serving as a haven from the unwelcoming host society, 'home' gradually became a cage from which [ women like my grandmother] rarely emerged. Isolation and loneliness were the price for their obligation to husband, children and community" (Nipp 1983, PP. 88-89 quoted in Agnew, 1996, P. 44). Furthermore, because "the family also served as an emotional buffer in a race-biased 41 society [it] created solidarity between men and women [of the Indian culture]" (Agnew, 1996, P.59). As a result, racism and sexism as well as cultural obligations hid women like my grandmother deeper and deeper in their cages. So deep that although "the work in the home and community [was] critical in integrating newcomers to their environment..., [they] have remained virtually invisible in the [translations] of Male scholars of immigration and ethnicity" (Agnew, 1996, P. 102). My grandmother was considered a very lucky woman. Her Husband never beat her. He always sent her enough money to support herself and Their children while they remained in India waiting to join Him in Canada. He had remained loyal. He had worked hard and in 1967, when THEIR immigration laws finally allowed Their families to enter, He had saved enough money to pay THEM to allow His family to join Him: When here, He made every attempt to protect His wife from the hostile society and its racist attitudes by keeping her locked up inside. Of course she was allowed to go out to buy food and clothes - the necessities -- with the money He carefully counted out for her. But detours from her path would be unheard of and untolerated. It was only with Him that she was to visit relatives and friends if she was to remain a woman of proper upbringing. Soon she would learn enough English to pay the cashiers and ask "how much?" Her contact with the outside world required no more from her and her duties inside the home permitted no less. It was her Husband who endured the racism and the pain of the outside world. She should remain silent and consider herself lucky for being able to just stay inside away 42 from it all. And that was how her thinking was moulded by Him. She was thankful that she didn't need to face His pain everyday and she was thankful for what He endured for her and for His family. In return she would do anything and everything to serve His every need and keep Him eternally happy. After all He was the one who faced the humiliation of having to come home on the freight trains rather than the passenger trains that all the other workers sat in because of the colour of His skin and because of His turban. She only had to hear about the stories indirectly, and from her distance, fear the outside world. Slowly it would change. THEY would begin to allow them to enter THEIR trains, THEIR shops, THEIR theatres, THEIR hotels. THEY would pass them their change directly into their hands rather than from hand to counter to the supposed dirty, diseased, evil other hand. But it was a slow painful journey. A journey that would involve many sacrifices and even more silences, especially for my Biji. Even though the imprisonment and isolation was not right, it was the way it had always been for Their women. No one else was resisting and Biji had her reputation and her Husband's to keep. Her only choice was alienation from her family and her community into a community that already considered her an alien.. The choice was not an easy one, but it was also not a difficult one to make. Every day in her three story house she would cook, clean and wash with her daughters. Sometimes for 30 people who came over or were invited over unannounced by the Husband. By midnight there were only sink-fulls of dishes left for her and the daughters to clean and lunches to make for the morning for the Men and Boys and themselves. Then they could sleep till 6:00 am. A whole 4 hours sometimes before it was time to wake up and get the morning meals ready. 43 Other times they were lucky. They only had to serve their immediate family of 17 people. With the basement rented, finding a place to sleep was always an ordeal. The mothers tried to sleep with their Husbands and the children with their cousins. But occasionally the arrangements changed. A child here, a child there, a child everywhere. Mishaps took place as they would one day learn. With the duties and expectations of a traditional Punjabi wife, the sexism of Their culture, and the racism of the EXTERNAL WORLD, there was little time or space for resistance for my grandmother especially in her isolated world. Any attempts at resistance were quickly turned into accommodation through their fear of those In CONTrol. In her locked cage my Biji remained nameless, confined, and silent. *MarrayBiji 44 The great woman of beauty, strength, and wisdom, The silent pillar, Holding up the eastern and western kingdom. Your intense strength and loyal determination, deserves our deep, deep admiration. To uproot your entire world and start anew, without knowing what field it would lead you to. Never a moments silence in the displacement, Yet never a word of protest or of despair. If it was not the obstacle of a man, it was one of a family, woman, or child. Always reassuring, guiding, offering-alone. Serenely sedating storms on their each and every approach. Changing the destinies of the destitute to those of the opulent. Even in your days of rejoicing, Your laps are full and your arms are rocking. Cultivating, yet once again, the journey of a grandchild. Embracing with kindness, tenderness, and eternal love. Never shall we forget your intricate, enchanting garden. Never shall we forget Your isolation and your pain. *Marray Biji are the words "my grandmother" in English. This poem, with some changes, was written for my grandmother on her 75th birthday. The Second Strand of the Braid ln\h\^4\age in r j r^ i^g, the braid becomes longer ari$ more complex. expected, my momer would take the secondhand with aHJts hair always changing and growing and pull it firmly into itS/appropriate p lace. \ \s the second 'strand, supported by the first, was shown the centre, the braid began target longer and more complex. The longer it got the more/optione there were as to how ro braid it or how to wear it. Jfye opportunity of having a choice was considered very lucky but the 'choice of not having/a braid was not a^choice at all. 1y mothe/s section is the second part of the metissage. Tt^ e dynamics of her lite shape my life and the lives of my sisters. I hav^called this sectiocra Retranslation of Stories from my MumViiji because her storiess jn the memory of/my mind are also in Punjabi intertwined withVie stories of my grandmother. Her stories are not only retranslations braided with theVanslations of the'stories of my gra/fdmother, but also new stories of her new, more complex, always restrictive and ever changing landscape. /A Retranslation of Stories From My Mummiji 46 My grandmother's role as a traditional and subservient housewife was to be inherited, by my mother through the socialisation of gender roles. Gender roles are learned in a social context and children learn not only to be female or male but also to be the kind of male or female appropriate to their race or class. Although my mother learned what kind of female she needed to be in her Culture, her education and exposure to the MAIN CULTURE allowed her to see in greater detail, than my grandmother, the injustices of SOCIety. She however, also like my grandmother, remained powerless to act because,racism, sexism, and classism dominated her life. She saw very few feminist role models whom she could trust and with whom she could identify. The "first -wave feminist ideology enunciated for the first time the general oppression of women based on gender. But it assumed that the roles, values, and ideals of middle class Anglo-Saxon women were universal and that the condition of the lives of women from different class and ethnic groups were similar to their own" (Agnew, 1996, P. 46). This attempt to "unify the oppression of women of different racial backgrounds [was] not only absurd but impossible...because their racial histories [could not] be unified" ( Brand,0. & Carty.L quoted in Bannerji, 1993, P. 207). Furthermore, having never been given a platform from which to speak, or be heard, women like my mother often lacked the confidence to join women's struggles thinking that their concerns for racism and sexism were/are not valid. Isolated and alone, many Punjabi females continue to be victims of racism and of a very confined Patriarchal world where, as Carolyn Heilbrun points out, their "stories always end with marriage, with wifedom and motherhood" (p. 58). Heilbrun's book, Writing a Women's Life, in which she discusses PATRIARCHAL. CULTURE that has defined the limits of women's lives throughout the centuries, spoke quite loudly to me. • • 4 7 In reading her work, I re-read the experiences of my grandmother, my mother and myself. She eloquently states that we continue to live nameless. "[We are] not persons. [We are handed] by a father to another man, the husband. [We continue] to be objects of circulation, exchanging one name for another..." (p.58). Our Father's name for a Husband's. Our respect for our Parents, our lack of education, and our fear of Patriarchy and the OUTSIDE WORLD have held us in our long assumed place -- underneath. Those of us who have tried to find our true voices have been quickly silenced by our conservative Parents/Patriarchy who do not "understand our wish to remake the world and discover the possibility of different destinies for women in it" (Heilbrun, P.119). What is the point of speaking when THEY/They will not listen of hear? What is the point of translating for THEM when our translations will not be valued, read or understood? In her caged, and exploited existence, my Mummiji questioned but remained silent for she also was alone. 48 A Retranslation of Stories From My Mummiji "Meinu both parnay the shoe see." Mummiji starts her story with the phrase, 'I was very interested in learning', that I've heard her repeat many times during my childhood and adult life. Every time she utters it, it makes my heart sink. The regrets, the anger and finally the acceptance and deep sorrow- for there was no other choice. As I translate my mother's words, they lose much meaning for me as well as for her. For how can one completely translate the grief, the bitterness, the Familial Hierarchy, and the repression. However, I realise that I must write her words in the language of the DOMINANT culture because it is also for that culture that these stories are being told. Despite the necessary loss of meaning it is a way of expressing and communicating when one is denied the right to speak. I must write because "giving voice through writing is one way of fighting back against the powerful forces which attempt to silence us" (Yee, quoted in Bannerji, 1993, P. 35). The Dream of Being an Educated Independent Woman in Palahi, India. My mother "saw education as freedom from dependency on men as well as upliftment from the oppression of racism" (Briand, in Bannerji, 1993, P. 285). "I was very interested in learning", she starts. I wanted to be really well educated and get a job and be someone independent - to make a difference. That was the only way I knew I would be able to do some of the things that I wanted to do in my life and get a good educated husband who would treat me well. Women weren't allowed to have an education because it was thought that if they learned too much they would begin to think for themselves and become too independent. They would want to do things their own way or get married to someone of their own choice. This was not considered a 49 good thing in those days and families tried hard to keep women "naray che", 'in the dark.' I was the very first girl in my village to get a grade 10 education. I was very, very lucky. I had the help of my "Mammaji", Uncle. He was a well-educated teacher in Jeenthwal and They listened to Him. I worked hard and got very good grades in school. After grade 10, I was very excited because I thought I would be able to go on to college. I had the good grades but that was the end of my dream. ". Manay both bagabath kithi", she shakes her head. 7 fought and screamed' and demanded to know why I couldn't go to school like my uncle had done. But it was useless. "Babaji", your Great-grandfather, had already decided my destiny. He was the oldest Male in the house and no one ever dared to question His decisions. He ordered, "No more, you've gone far enough! Grade ten is already too much!" For "Babaji", women only needed to be able to write a letter and an address; nothing more was needed in terms of literacy. 'They were not going to have a career after all'. "Nokri thoro tu karni" He would say. He told my parents that I could not go any further in my schooling because now it was time to get me married and to send me off to my Husband's house. He said, "biay karne wala rantha", 'marriage was all that was left to do. "Saday hatha thou bar na ho jabe", They worried. We have to 'keep her in our hands'. They thought that if I became too educated, I would become disrespectful and then it would be too late. Women had to be very careful because they could get killed if they spoke to a Man outside the home or did anything disrespectful like that. There was no room for resistance. The preparations started for my arranged wedding. Since I didn't have any choice, I began to think that maybe getting married would not be so terrible. That maybe I would be able to go to my Husband's house and They 50 would let me continue my schooling there. I prayed that They would find me a Husband who would let me go to school. But in my prayers, I forgot "Marray Soray", 'my in-laws'. Dreams of an Education after Marriage It was a very traditional Punjabi wedding. They didn't even show me His picture. But the other girls in the village knew who He was. They told me that He was very handsome and well educated. I felt so lucky that my Husband was "para likiaa", 'well educated'. I started to see some hope of fulfilling my dream of education. When I went to my Husband's house and asked if I could continue my education, "Marray Soray" laughed. Although my Husband was supportive, "Marray Soray" said, "ay than ho nay sakthal", 'That would be impossible! We didn't get you married to our Son so we could spend our life providing you with an education! Your job here is to look after your Husband and your Husband's family! For that your mother has trained you well. You don't need any more schooling'. It was not long before their agenda became very clear to me. I began, unwillingly, to accept my reality for what was the other choice? The Shattered Dream and All Loss of Freedom to Think or Do My life became so busy that I no longer had even a moment to spare to do things that I wanted to do like reading a novel or even a newspaper. Once when They saw me reading the newspaper, They told me to put it away and get to work. My education was of little use for what lay ahead on "Marray Soray's" agenda. "Babaji" had been right. 51 I would put the alarm on at 4:00 am. At that time, I would go and milk the cows and make the butter. This usually took till 6:00 am. Then I would make the morning meals for the whole family. Everybody wanted different things like in a restaurant. Someone wanted "thean and roti", Someone else wanted "pinia" and Others wanted an "omelette". Everyone's menu had to be made separately and with extreme care. If ever things were not to Their satisfaction or if They were just upset, the food was kicked off the short stools and thrown to the ground. "Gevave thean thi hemith nay si", she shakes her head again. 7 was not strong enough to say anything back'. I would just clean-up the mess and start again. I was much luckier than most women, because at least I had a nice Husband. For His love I accepted everything. Besides what could I do. My parents had taught me that once a woman got married, her Husband's home became her new home. She was not allowed back to her birth house. My Husband's Parents were supposed to be my new Parents and I had to learn to adjust to Their ways and serve Their needs as well as the needs of my Husband. The wife's parents could come to visit their daughter in her Husband's home as often as they wanted to as long as, with their visits came the goods. The daughter, however, could only go back to visit her parents if her "Sorays" and Husband both gave her permission and time off from the daily duties. We were told that the best woman, the kind that I was expected to be, was 'one whose doli, goes to the In laws and dies there'. "Yeray car theri dotijanthi, othowin theri arthi utni chaythi". If ever I left Their home it would have been a great dishonour not only to me but also to my entire Family. After the morning work was finished I started to prepare lunch and then it was time to start making dinner. We didn't have stoves and fridges. I had to start the fire each time 52 and everything had to be made fresh each day. I made three meals daily prepared tea and snacks three times daily and then made milk for Everyone before bedtime. I had to sit on the ground to do everything. It was hard work. Luckily I had the help of our "choori" (women from the untouchable caste) for the cleaning at home and at the "havali", where the animals were kept. That poor woman worked so hard doing all the dirty work; the things that she wasn't allowed to 'touch', I did. Some women in the village had to do everything on their own - at least I had some help. I was lucky. Between meals, I used to massage and bathe my Mother-in-law and warm up the water for the whole Family. I also had to sew clothes for Everyone in the Family. I remember one time I had a headache and stopped sewing for a few minutes. My Mother-in-law saw me and ordered me back to work, " Jakai see! Sar tha ethain thouk tha rantha otha kurtha seenaywala, jakai see". She ordered, 'Go sew! Headaches come and go, his clothes need to be sewn, go do it now'. Cooking, cleaning, sewing -- that was pretty well how my whole day was spent - taking care of my Husband and his Family just as a good wife was supposed to cfo. Everyone else sat around and read novels or listened to music or just relaxed. No one worked. The land brought in more than enough money to live. My Husband was a well known poet, but He wrote for enjoyment, not income. My Three Daughters Not SONS By the third year after my wedding, I had all three of my daughters. I was lucky that "Marray Soray" were not unhappy when my daughters were born. Even for my Husband he didn't see any difference between girls and Boys. Some In-laws and Husbands demanded a second marriage if the wife wasn't able to "produce' any Males. But my mother-in-law made sure that you three had good clothes to wear and good food to eat and she kept you clean and she would even feed you herself when I 53 was busy working. She even had 'dancers come to our house', "kusray nachay si", when her grand daughters were born and gave "lori', 'food and goods', to villagers on their birthdays. 'Lori' was normally only given when a Male was born so when my Mother-in-law gave it to celebrate her grand-daughters, it was considered very wasteful and unnecessary. Other people in the village treated Boys and girls very differently. Girls and women were not always fed properly. They were usually not allowed to drink milk, or eat meat, eggs or butter. Some daughters-in-law were only allowed to eat leftovers and if there weren't any, they often did not eat at all. Food items, especially rare and expensive food items were stored only for the Men who supposedly worked hard and needed their daily nourishment. Women's work was not considered work at all - it was wifely duty. Not only were women not fed, sometimes they were even killed if there were too many of them born to one family. Most Parents didn't have the means of providing a dowry for one girl let alone five, it never mattered how many Boys were born. They were desirable because They kept ownership of the Family name and the Family property and because They brought in wives (with the dowry that was demanded) to take care of the Families. Some Punjabi people even believed what the Hindus believe ~ that if you didn't have a Son to light the cremation fire, you would go directly to hell. This is why the Hindus call Sons "Puthia", 'the one who saves you from hell'. The rules for women/daughters-in-law were clearly laid out. Daughters-in-law had to sit on the ground below the In-laws and below the Husband - at Their feet. They had to wear a "purda", 'veil' at all times even in their own house, especially if there were Men or strangers there. In the presence of Men they were not even allowed to speak. Outside the home they were expected to always observe "purda" and walk behind 54 Men. One day my Mother-inrlaw got angry because I had always resisted wearing the veil. She told my Husband that people in the village were talking about how Our "boti", 'bride', never wears the veil. That was the one time when my Husband was on my side. He told my Mother-in-law to call the women who had made the comment to the house. When the women arrived, my Husband spoke to her and she never uttered a word against me ever again. Soon after this incident other women in the village stopped wearing the veil as well. Not all "Sorays" were happy though, because to Them any decisions that women made against Their wishes meant a loss of Their Power. More of Their Power was lost if these decisions were supported by their Husbands. This is one of the reasons that wives could only go near or talk to their husbands at night. One time when my Husband was sitting beside me while I was cooking, my Mother-in-law came over angrily and told Him to go do something more productive. "Kitha pari aybas ni kartha". They feared the woman would somehow convince the Husband to take their side in matters against His mother and Father and in doing so would lessen the In-Law's Power over the daughter-in -law and in the household. But I knew my limits. That is what my Husband liked about me - that although deep down I was rebellious and never gave up, I knew my limits. So even though I refused to stay uneducated, I refused to wear a veil, and I refused to let Others walk all over me, I accepted all the abuse that came from His Family. But what He liked the most about me was that I continued to enhance His Power by never threatening it and never allowing Him to feel any loss of control over me. I also refused to leave Him no matter what people said and no matter what I experienced with Him. I was His wife, the mother of His children, the saviour of His parents and His angel and servant for life. But deep down I was very bothered by the injustices I saw against women in our 55 village as well as most other villages in India. Often the older women of the village would come over and cry when they sat with my Mother-in-law over how unfortunate it was that God had decided to give our Family only girls. It even happened the last time when we went to India in 1983. But I never let it bother me, it was to be expected. I loved my daughters, you were all so 'adorable and smart', "thousi bohth piaria or hashiar si", and I cherished every moment that I was allowed to spare out of my busy day to spend with you. Sometimes you used to cry, when you were little, for me to pick you up. It made me very upset when I couldn't because "roti" had to be ready on time- "nay the manu patha si ki hona", 7 knew what would happen if it wasn't'. So as much as it hurt, I would have to turn my back and start the work. I was very lucky though, all three of you were taken care of very well compared to most of the other girls in the village. Hopes of Educating My Daughters I started to think about my daughters and their future. I was very worried. I wanted them to have a good education, but I knew this wouldn't be possible here in this village where the Schools only went up to grade 5. I didn't know if "Marray Soray" would allow me to send my daughters to school. I thought about speaking to my "Mammaji" who had helped me and I also thought of going to Canada where most of my family was by now. I was told that it was a good country and the education system was good there. One day I finally had the courage to discuss the matter with my Husband: Luckily, he was very supportive. He was an educated poet and could see the value of education for girls as well as Boys - not like the other people in the village who only saw one role for women and another for Men. Your Father was very well known and respected in the village and so He was able to pay off some 'Big Officers' to get some 56 seats in a very good school for the three of you. That's the way everything works out there. If you have money and Power, you can get almost everything that you want, just like here in CANADA. Luckily your Father was able to do that for you girls because for me as a woman -- there wouldn't have been any chance. Whatever changes I tried to make in my life I had to do them silently or through Others. Women didn't have a voice in those days or their tongues would have been cut off. The Government School was far and it made me sad to think that the one 'enjoyment', "kushi", of my day - "merian kuria", 'my daughters', would be taken far away from me and that I would have to live all alone in that imprisonment with my In-laws. But I knew it was the only way for the three of you to get an education and find a way out of "pranay kiala tho" -- 'this darkness, this backward way of thinking.' I wanted to do everything I could to prevent the three of you from living in confinement as I had done. In their birth home, the rights and actions of women were controlled by and performed for the Men in the Family. The Father and the oldest Son ruled the daily life of the women in the Family. Very few decisions were made without Their consent. Their word determined how the women of the family dressed and the kind of duties they performed or didn't perform. In the In-laws' family this Power was transferred to the Men and women of her Husband's Family. If the daughter-in-law was not serving her Husband or her Father-in-law, she was serving her Mother-in-law or Sisters-in-law. She was responsible for all duties that the women of the untouchable caste were not permitted to perform. Culture, Religion and class through Patriarchy necessarily determined and secured women's roles and legitimised caste divisions. There was little escape from one's destiny. Escape would be translated into alienation, isolation, and eventual decomposition since, for a traditional woman of my mother and grandmother's generations, "Husband, home and heritage were considered the prime sources of identity and emotional fulfilment' (Mitter, 1995, P. 12). Mummiji left one cage for another and there she would remain for the next ten years of her life. Uneducated Never unmarried. Never childless. Never an undutiful daughter. Never an undutiful daughter-in-law. Never an undutiful sister. Never an undutiful sister-in-law. Never an undutiful wife. Never an undutiful mother. Never an undutiful widow. Thus she is instructed. Thus she shall live. As the highest form of woman. Of Indianness. 59 Jl HanJI. NayJI. KiJI? AchaJI. LaowJI. CaowJI. THOUSIJI never thou, unlike YOUJI. Are YOU my HUSBAND or my LORD? Here's YOUR water J I, Here's YOUR roti and chaIJi Here's YOUR ironed clothes Jl, Here's YOUR shined shoes Jl, Here's YOUR massage Jl, Here's YOUR children Jl. Here's my earnings Jl, Here's my bodyJI, Here's my soulJI, Here's my lifeJI. Is there anything else that YOU desire my LORD? Before i go may YOUR servant ask your name? * Ji is the word used by my mother and many Punjabi women of her generation to refer to her/their Husband. It is considered very disrespectful to call a Husband by His name since Men are like Gods to the women who marry Them. 60 Laws of Entitlement not Title Laws declare that the land is their entitlement. Sons and daughters are to equally inherit their fair share. Her gender and Theirs, however, continues to keep her name effaced from Their will. . To have the family land in the name of a woman. Such a practise is considered scandalous in India. (Others in Canada). The Father disapproves. And after His death, the Brothers disapprove. Certainly dharthi Matha (Mother Earth) would disapprove. And so They continue to feed upon her, Use her, and abuse her. Selfish Vultures stripping her of her earthly possessions. Leaving her not even the dignity of her own name, Of her own gender. Parth Matha (Mother India), These are Their laws of entitlement not title. Many Punjabi women including my mother must accept their "proper" parents' will to leave all their assets of money and land to their Sons. The daughters receive nothing for they are to remain totally dependent on Men and only exist for Them and with Them - never on their own. How can a title exist without a subject? 61 Canada and the Hopes of a Better Future While education plans were still underway for the three of you in India, my Parents who were in Canada at the time, wrote me to tell me that THEIR IMMIGRATION LAWS had finally changed and that the letter that Grand-father had written to sponsor us in Canada had finally been chosen. We were so lucky. They said that they could now have us join them in Canada even though I was married! It was such wonderful news. I had felt so isolated in "Marray Soray's" home since my family had left me there all alone. I was happy not only because Canada meant escape from "Marray Soray' and a better life for my family, but also because I knew providing an education for my girls would be easier. Schools were free in Canada. I had only one wish now, that God willing, my girls would learn English quickly and do well in school in Canada. I worked hard toward this goal by teaching you the little English I had learned in school. I couldn't wait to come to Canada. Everything in my life would be so wonderful now, I thought. Canada, a Better Life? The better life in Canada that I had heard about was not as I had expected at all. In 1970 getting a job was very difficult. We had to live with my parents where there were 17 people living under the same roof. In order to make ends meet, the whole family including the three of you went berry picking in the farms. We used to get about $. 75 a 'flat.' The whole family usually filled about 2 flats in an hour. I would have to wake you girls up at 6:00 am and we would start picking berries at 7:00 am. We would work all day outside in the extreme heat or pouring rain sometimes till 9:00 pm. The "GORE", 'WHITE BOSSES', told us that we had to work late or work in the rain, 62 because otherwise THEIR berries would rot. THEY told the bus drivers when to take us back home in THEIR buses so we didn't have any choice but io stay there and work. The buses were another story. THEY must have jammed at least a hundred of us into each bus everyday. Thinking back now, I don't know how we breathed in there. I was always scared that somebody would sit on one of you one day or step on you. All three of you were so tiny so you usually had to sit at people's feet in the aisle ways. I tried not to let you three out of my sight in those buses, but it wasn't easy. I guess that's why I never worried about breathing. r It hurt my heart to see the three of you working in the fields in that heat, but I had no choice. I had to take you with me just like all the other 'immigrant women' there. Sometimes we even ran out of drinking water and everyone would have to wait hours for THEM to bring us water. I hated seeing my daughters and all the other children thirsty. You all looked like you would faint. Sometimes children did die from dehydration or heat stroke. It was so awful. It was so different here. THEY treated us so badly We had had people working on our farms for us in India but we never treated them like this. We always took them "roti" on time and took good care of them. Canada was not at all what I had expected. 63 We're going to the farm! We're going to the farm! We're going to the farm! Hurrah! Hurrah! I'll ride the horses, I'll feed the cows, I'll gather the eggs, I'll jump in the wagon! We'll play in the hay! Like in India and Like they say, in those books we read at school everyday! Hurrah! Hurrah! But when we arrived at the farm where we were to stay for our entire summer holidays in 1971, we didn't see any horses, or cows, or wagons or hay like in THEIR textbooks. We only saw sad, silent fields upon fields of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries waiting to be picked by our hardworking 'immigrant' hands. Fields saying "Welcome to the immigrant's life in Canada. Didn't they tell you? This is only the beginning. There's much more to come." Starting our new life in Canada in 1970 was very difficult. We had nothing, not even a home. Your Dad started to get very depressed because His poetry and education was not valued here and He didn't want to leave the house. He started drinking again. One time He ripped up a whole bag full of His published books of poetry and threw them out. Many years later When He felt more settled and wanted to start writing again, He would look everywhere to get copies of those books. Another time, He was so drunk that He started running around outside in the yard late at night screaming that there was an air-raid and wanting everyone to take cover. He just started to sink deeper and deeper into His depression. I knew I had to be strong and work hard. I was very scared because I couldn't speak English. I knew I had to find a way to do all the work at home and work outside doing whatever job I could get. I was lucky I could sew and eventually found a job as a seamstress in a factory close to home. This, however, was only after taking a sewing course. I showed THEM that I could sew but THEY still made me take a course. I remember the job interviews...the 'gaze,'..: and the horrible working conditions, she continues... When I went for job interviews, THEY said "no thank you" even before I spoke. Occasionally THEY would actually take me in for an interview, but it was usually a very short one. THEY would ask that dreaded question: "Do you have any EXPERIENCE"? When I told THEM "No, but..." THEY never let me finish. I wanted to tell THEM, "no, but I have been sewing clothes almost every single day of my life for the last 33 years." Even for dish washing they wanted EXPERIENCE. Then I applied to MANPOWER and THEY sent me to do a sewing course at the 65 Vancouver Vocational Institute even though I could already sew. After a month into the course, THEY finally realised that I really could sew so THEY sent me to a factory on Clark Street to start my first job. The pay in those factories was not very good so I was always looking out for better jobs, or jobs closer to home because taking a bus downtown by myself was very scary. In 1971, I started working in a fish cannery close to home. This was probably one of the hardest jobs I had because I was vegetarian. I had to clean, cut and pickle fish eight hours a day. When I left the cannery I reeked and my clothes, the closets and even some areas of the house constantly smelted of fish. I started to notice that people never wanted to come too close tome after I started working there. THEY had always kept THEIR distance, but how people in the Punjabi Community were beginning to do so as well. It was a better paying job and it was close to home, but I knew I had to find something else. In 1973,1 found a job as a janitor at the Royal Centre Mall in Vancouver. It paid a little more than the sewing or the fish cleaning job. The job wasn't that difficult, but everyday that I went to work I felt like a "choorr, 'an untouchable'. I was so embarrassed that I never told anyone in the Punjabi Community where I was working. There were very few choices for me here in Canada because I didn't know English very well and because THEY only gave certain jobs to 'immigrant' women. I went back to another sewing factory and have been sewing in different factories since then. It wasn't and still isn't very good pay and THEY didn't always treat us very well, but at least I'm lucky because I have a job and at least I'm lucky that the factory I'm at now has a nice OWNER. 66 Some factories that I worked in treated THEIR workers so badly. Often yearly raises were not given at all or only to those women who THEY said worked hard. In one factory that I worked in there were about 75 'immigrant' women working together in very crowded and noisy conditions. There was only one bathroom with only cold water for all of us to use and we were only allowed to use it during our lunch break. So most of our lunch break was spent waiting in line. If we were ever late coming back from the bathroom they took those extra minutes off our pay cheques. We were not allowed to make or receive phone calls during working hours and if we did THEY made us pay for them as well. It was horrible and we all hated it, but no one ever spoke up because we knew what the consequences would be. Once a loyal worker who had been working there for years tried to organise a union amongst the workers. The next day when the MANAGEMENT found out, she was fired. After that we all kept silent. THEY knew THEIR POWER and so did we. THEY treated us badly at work and OUTSIDE in the world it was just as bad. Walking in the streets cr in stores THEY all stared at us and called us names. One day when I was walking home from work, a car of four people pulled up beside me. THEY rolled down the window and as soon as they were close enough THEY spat in my face and threw things at me. I was just walking home,! hadn't done anything to THEM. I walked home silent and alone. I never told anyone. 67 Little changed for my mother as she was transported, after her marriage, from her home to her In-laws home. Her transition from India to the berry fields in CANADA only transformed the source and added to her already existing OPPRESsion. It was OPPRESsion all the same. Her transfer into the work force meant some independence, even though she never saw a cent that she earned, but it also meant acceptance. The acceptance of not always understanding the DOMINANT language, acceptance of THEIR gaze, acceptance of THEIR horrible working conditions, acceptance of being deemed inferior as a woman and as a minority by THEM. Working OUTSIDE the home and serving in the home translated into double the OPPRESsion, double the slavery, and double the acceptance. Seeing herself as lucky masked the pain and misery of her uhluckiness and forced her to accept. There was no other choice for her in her solitude. 68 Lucky for Being Luckier in THEIR/Their WORLds Clothes on our backs not the heavy loads Food in Their bodies and then in ours - only fatigued, used and abused. Houses over our heads to replace the veil. Education from THEIR schools Jobs and opportunities appropriate for our race and class Freedoms and rights of THEIR/Their will Faces unseen. Names unknown. Voices unheard. Lucky still For being luckier. Existing to Re-exist I feel nothing. I see nothing. My mind grows numb, As does my soul. At home, never eating or sleeping, Until the Earthly Lords have done so. Accepting all that They give and take. Existing for Them. Existing for my children. Never the right to exist for myself. OUTSIDE, long monotonous hours. OPPRESSIVE working conditions. My eyes no longer seeing. Somehow I manage to sew, button after button in its proper place. My lungs no longer feel anything. Somehow I manage to breathe. Coughing until all the ravelling exits my body. Father knows best. Husband knows best. SOCIety knows best. Self-denial, piety, hard labour Affirming my place, In the pattern of Karma. That is my destiny. Mari Kismat 70 Many 'immigrant women' who came to Canada in the 1960's - 1970's faced similar obstacles to my mother and grandmother. They were often isolated in their violent and restrictive homes and because of language and skill 'deficiencies' and racial discrimination, these homes were all they had-- they became their hell and haven. Those who had to seek work outside of the home did so mainly.for financial reasons rather than as a career option. Most of these women found themselves in exploitive working conditions at the farms, in sewing factories and in fish canneries. In THEIR workplace, visible minority women were often treated differently. They would not be made to feel welcome or given a sense of belonging. They were constantly being watched on their jobs and had to constantly prove themselves by working twice as hard as their Fellow workers in order to keep their jobs (Agnew, 1996). Furthermore, when being interviewed for jobs they often faced SYSTEMIC racism such as the requirement of CANADIAN experience, and in the devaluation or non-recognition of Education and work experience acquired outside the COUNTRY. As a result, their job opportunities were limited to "either... job ghettos for immigrant women or in the lower strata of 'female' jobs" (Agnew, 1996, P.79). Asian women are placed "on the lowest level in the scale of exploitation in Canada" (Bannerji, 1993, P. 179). For financial reasons, many of these 'immigrant women," like my mother were forced to work outside of the home as well as continuing all the domestic chores on their own. They were therefore "discriminated against as workers on the economic and social plane and as women on all three planes-economic, social, and domestic family" (Wong, 1991, P. 293 quoted in Agnew, 1996, P. 61). Unlike my grandmother, my mother's Education and contact with the OUTSIDE world allowed her to question the injustices of the CANADIAN SOCIETY but the racism in the 71 larger SOCIETY forced her to draw back and remain within the moral and social confines of her Punjabi Family and Culture. Also, state-initiated programs for the settlement and adaptation of new immigrants failed to reach certain women like my mother and failed to meet their needs. Furthermore, the systemic biases of society that were the obstacles to their integration and settlement were often ignored by these programs (Agnew, 1996). As a result of cultural restraints arid fear of the DOMINANT CULTURE, women with similar experiences to my mother were not actively encouraged to participate in major women's organisations. "Even as white-collar workers, they [tended] to be put in jobs that [did] not demand much public contact. This is the analogue, in practice, to our visual absence from the social space" (Bannerji, 1993, P. 179). In talking about the experiences of Chinese women, May Yee states: "But how do we individually cope with the pain.... So in certain terms we are forced to 'get used to' this alienation.... [We] are forced to rationalise and accept' (Yee quoted in Agnew, 1996, P. 70) From her static doubled caged dis placement, it was difficult for Mummiji to speak out as loudly as she would have wanted. Even now she continues to fly back and forth. Always returning home silently and alone in THEIR/Their WORIds. We will only be able to compose new narratives of Punjabi women as well as other 'minority women' "when women no longer live their lives isolated in the houses and stories of men" (Heilbrun, 1988, P.47). New definitions and a new reality of these women must not only be lived but narrated. "It is time that someone wrote a new plot" (Heilbrun, 1988, p. 89) 73 Uthi (lancing in celebration of our arrival in India in 1983. I give tier money at Biji's request/as expected between castes. WESmr 5 . J j ^ - i L * . , - * - / * ; *> Mummiji with my sisters and I in 1995. 74 Biji with my sisters and I on her 75th birthday in 1995. The last picture of Biji and Pithaji piior to his death in1992.Soon after his retirement he reclaimed his turban,his identity. Unveiling Words that I know Words that I can smAll Words that! understand Words that I can laugh at Words that I can fee' Words that I can touch Words that are true. Marray luvaz hearl Marray luvaz in print Marray luvaz valued Marray luvaz have meming Marray luvaz are unve iling. In this stage in braiding, As expected, my motheij second.with all its hai appropriate place. Astho even longer and more co nple: how to braid it, how to wear meant more difficult choices This section is the beginnii are shal This first section about Sexism and Identity. TJ from the braiding of we tri my grandmothers/My Re creation. Mywtew very co ^retranslation of he Third Strand of thd he braid continues to become longer and more complex. would take the third strand) always changing and growing third strand was sjiown tr x., The longey it got th it orVhetherlo unbraid and corata/t negotiatir always the unexpected a$ , supported by the first and the and pull it fir/mly into its e centre, the bra/d began to get £ more options there were as to it or non-braid/t. More options g between cr/oices. There was well. irjg of the third part of the m^tissag* by the/ives of my mother lifeTftyes is entitled: 1) i e stories^are Re-retransla slations anaN^tramslatiorl rfiNanslations are written i plexNandscapjB requires beyond. Stories 77 Braid The dynamics of my life land grandmother. 3-r4translation of my Stories of ii >ns\because their shape comes Df the stories of my mother and word\and language of my own tant negotiating, creating and Sexism and Identf ins "Each time a woman begi unavoidable and has awareness become clear w. else, someone who has about these changes we analyse, and that analysis context where we know wh] process tlie to speak, a liberating powerful political implications.... hen we begin to recount ex Derienced the same changfes establish our experiences as| jives us necessary perspe at to do next" ( hooks, quo inequalities struggles. I wish I had started earlier, and painful written and oral women.. It has taken me stories of OPPRESsion as admit and come to realise never made these i that of my mother, also did sexist or anti-classist ignorant and keeping us in aware of the inequalities in foster an understanding of dominant texts of culture is also my responsibility to of you) and participate in s| "overcome the multiple often in the attempt to silen my responsibility now to er women through dialogue in tdo tjie forces We must 78 begins, one that is The stages of increasing story of our lives to someone . When we write or speak valid and real, we begin to :tive to place our lives in a led in Agnew, 1996, P. 136). t<b It has taken me too long stories of my mother, long to learn and unlearr) woman of 'colour'. And f reality and validity of known to me. My not encourage me to value THEY/They had/have our places underneath SOCIety, I know now that he experiences of those 1story and curricular speak out loudly (even if ruggles to help 'immigrant) of history, society, and e [them]" (Yee, in Bannerji courage minority women order to change the i create that 'Third Space' collectively finally experience the private grarjidmother and other minority in order to speak about my own nally, it has taken me too long to tMir/my claims. My EDUCATION COf\|IMUNity, similar and unsimilar to or participate in anti-racist, anti-invested interest in keeping us hjaving finally become critically it is my responsibility to work... to have been effaced in the knowledge" (Roman, 1993, P. 214). It say this is so uncharacteristic women' and women of 'colour' Culture which press on [ them], , 1993, P. 44). And finally it is join dominant groups of white neqi|alities of our society together. who triey Although I have become mbre participate, I remain in conflusion COUNtry and THEIR/Their non-white children grow upl consciously aware of on issues of identity, pULTure. I believe this is with" (Yee, in Bannerji, 1 From my place of hybri find my identity, place I continue ceaselessly to translate different and similar culture creating myself. And it is b/ (Fanon, in bhabha, 1994, P and negotiate my [5. " In the world in which [ going beyond... that I will 9): arid buit The 'beyond' is neither past... Beginnings the middle years; moment of transit where figures of difference inclusion and exclus disturbance of direction movement caught hither and thither, sb pafet and I continue to go from the to choose between the two cultures or it is more? cultures and in the third "is unrepresentable in itself] that ensures that the mean that even the same signs anew" (bhabha, 1994, P. 3" 79 tlhe struggles in which I need to place and voice in THEIR/Their 'that 'identity crisis' that almost all 993, P. 30). dity it will never and or voice. It will alwayjs and the same always be 'easy' or uneasy to and never remain different own a new horizon nor a endings may be the in the fin de siecle, we space and time cross| and identity, past and on. For there is a sense , in the 'beyond': an well in the French renditi and forth. (Showalter quoted bfeck to the present, back and identities, two voices, the Uhable and unwilling to choose in neither or none. The [It] constitutes the discursive ng and symbols of culture be appropriated, translated 7). dan space amidst two very am travelling], I am endlessly initiate my cycle of freedom" leaving behind of the sustaining myths of ourselves in the to produce complex present, inside and outside, disorientation, a exploratory, restless pn of the word au-dela, firhd fa bhabha, 1994, P. 1). forth, East and West. Attempting Iwo countries and the two I remain; displaced in both space in which I find myself conditions on enunciation [have no primordial unity or fixity; , rehistoricized and read 80 Mirror reflections of invisible, exolpc a pun/a hindu- passive, fe people questioning, staring intrusively each timfe ignorant of the pain, the su Bering I am different, but I am like I am not a stranger, i live in Why do you not see me? *Shisha is the word for mirror in Punjabi. Reflections from my childhood .colour, rful, accommodating, sub! i exist, , the obstacles and you. this soil. lervierit, the perplexity. cu *Shish|a reflections of perfed a princess-beautiful children admiring, in the barred windov)/ in the foreign taxi in the driveway as But i am not a vedette i am like you, i come Why do you not recognise ion-flawless, silent, sacred, pure, humble, obedient, riously staring, frame, limo, £xit my tiny castle. i am not a stranger, from this soil, me? riot Sunday Mornings 81 It's Sunday morning. Half mummiji. Quickly I am aw$ke ^sleep I walk into the kitchen as I hear mummiji on trie "Well it's no fault of her owrj Who would have imagined operation. And now this", It was the fault of those that she would become stl eays mummiji. (aside: And nothing was Of course lawyers would too expensive especially woman's cause.) done? I ave been tQ fight for a "Well we can't have her spending left her and remarried. At had already told Him that so that He could be with the rest of her life al Ifeast if He had told her and would help Him find a new someone who would have C aside: What! I retort.) "He kept saying "no, no" and to Him. What do you expec f "Just because He left her doesn't make everything al over Him and working full (aside: Good for you mummiji!) know she's divorced, but (aside: I can't believe Mun)miji so much stronger than the beatings secretly. The one her children trace T's on th 2 that lay ahead as theysmeyled "If she wants to get married}' Husband's Nephew who is already has children: She children". (aside #): Just a wife and incompetent Doctors in India. 3rile during an appendix then this. Of course she Mummiji'svo\ce is getting trhe bigger and better house right. Is that her compensation t|ne". Mummiji shocked. to have breakfast with phone with biji. one now that the Husband has done it with her consent. She wife and bless the marriage children". His doesn't want to see Him or talk louder. and forty thousand dollars after 12 years of slaving many divorced women gel remarried these days" iji is telling Biji this. The pne I knew in my childhoodf. who was silent when He kitchen table to secretly the alcohol make its woman I see before me now is The one who took those Entered. The one who watched Worm each other of the trouble to the kitchen.) , Mummiji continues, "S also divorced and who ha >ays that He'll be happy mother! Doesn't He mean way is<p was telling me about her no need for a child because He wth just a wife and mother for His sex and a slave?) 82 (aside#2: Oh I see an exchange of second-hand goods.) "Of course we'll make sure abuse her. They say He's need anything just a wife work if she doesn't want to' and (aside #1: That would be on Him as Their woman in (aside #2: . So maybe He demands during a second very convenient then she rfould be completely dependent \lndia have always been.) won't be asking for a dowry carriage? How could there In two minds again or for a women who want£ grandmother consider can't bear children another arranged marripge choice, but she does! Knowing the reality is and is doing the best she really believes He especially not by a shall be this time as wfell. is it three? Thrilled at mom's strength to stand up her less of a woman because she is divorced and Shocked that she would Of course she pr 'm going to make sure hat her Brother has a * In the Indian culture, lives of their sisters as that He's a nice man and he gentle type and He has| mother for His children. that He doesn't drink too much or a stable income. He doesn't He says she won't even have to to remarry. Shocked Are there normally dowry be, that was banned in 1961.) that even my mother and allow herself to go through obably doesn't have a this doesn't happen! ready arranged everything her and He really believes that He is. Just as s and His decisions a{e never to be disputed always been done and for Sister. That's the way it's Brothers have a great well their mothers. deal of control over the I wjsh for You For it is only by That For Bhaji with this sacrificial nhuch health, happiness an<|l re maining in this completely \ ou may continue to protecl four poor, helpless, dependent As I tie this brilliant You offer , colourful ornament around Ee Your hard earned monfey f my servility and subordi For the whole world to see They * Bhaji is the Punjabi wbrd *bhan is the Punjabi word Rakhi Day (Brother's pakhi, never-ending wealth, [fulfilled, nourished state, and provide *bhan Your Godlike wrist, as a reminder hation. pave always glorified Youri divine birth. Now I celebrate Your lie, For it signifies my existence. for Brother for sister 83 Day) 84 Rakhi Day celebrates Brothers (or their Cous Brothers), and celebra their lives. Brothers. Sisters custoinarily ns if they are not 'lucky e the birth and life of and One year my sisters independent women an felt that there was no tie the Rakhi on their enough' to have any [these important Males in I decided to "Boycottf d given that Sister's need to celebrate Brothbr day The adults of our Fami our protest. They were and were not willing to trying to break a very terrible happened to responsible. Out of and bought the formidable y, especially my grandmother extremely upset. They accept our resistance, S|acred tradition. They r Sons/Their Grandsbns guilt and respect for) rakhis in order to Thei fei r, Despite the fact that ou> Brothers/Cousins are) the significance/insigni tradition continues to The reality seems to be1 how much we contribu existence from being rfecognised, celebrated, Guilt, fear and respect acceptance. The fine resistance is not easily, ' Brother's Day. We are all was not celebrated, we s Day either. , were appalled by did not understand at all To Them we were only nsisted that if anything , we would be our Elders, we went out honour our Noble Brothers. too young to understand icance of this day, eaih year this age old ^hatter our already fragile self-esteem as women, that no matter how ir dependent we become or e to SOCIety, our genqler will always prevent our and honoured. Tor our Elders transformed ine between breaking translatable between our resistance into Sacred Traditions and Cultures and generations. I stumble in and out of these two gardens fragrance, beauty and the weeds of surrounded rjy the splendour of colour, FlATRIArchy. The central gardens of my LANDscape West semi-uncovered semi-"cultured" watered regularly, cautiously vacillating path clamorous distorted, detached weeds. Flying to the left As a moth at ni Camouflaging mysjelf Are there two of me gi+t one Knowing the RULes and knowing the the play. Flying out momentarily, stabilising returning. Only to begin again in the trhe flying to in search of the during the entitle acting and the qther WILL SCDMEONE PLEASfc LET ME OUT OF THIS; RACIST, CLASSIST, DOUBLIE PATRIARCHAL DOUBLY EXCLUSIVE DOUBLY INCLUSIVE WORLD!! injustices of those momentarjly next act. In the 85 East ENCLOSED "cultured" watered minimally linear path silent undisturbed weeds. right ight flight. looking on? RULes. Off stage yet also in somewhere beyond and then fext play. Ensuring that the dark hair acceptable Punjabi womer was kept oiled, braided and . Their own hair no longer Laws. These double standards were common in every from school by 3:30 pm never later. Locked in the These were their Unwritten yard Laws for women only. If a talking to a female friend (ijiever a Male) at 3:45 pm or coffee (never a cigarette) tpese stories were reported to survive. Parents whose! underpaid, parents fighting Then the Keepers of the Unwritten Laws, usually the door to collect their long av raited reward. The sight of having raised such uncont ollable daughters, for not female" ways. "What were were supposed to be insid they doing outside or in a lb cooking, cleaning, and supposed to know before marriage". Having fulfilled victory over the daughters attempts at integration and lo$t Eventually the dark hair their hair fit their new surrdundings Their culture. Untraditionai Keepers of the Unwritten and to torture the daughteris UNIVERSITY that their mo Unwritten Laws. Their dai ghters stake. The flames would not All Their attempts to push strength to resist. To stanp" anything. It became a war he Keepers of the Unwritten i l l to allow some independence, They would exit. "Thank the undercover work. For spying from dusk until dawn explanations. And then sha would watch the beatings} family name from being sh amed. it's oily shine and was cu , they were considered evil, outcasts, prostitutes, Ljaws began to use sneakier) and the mother. It was her felt a sense of relief were not witches touch them as they had only an j and per down to keep her underneath up and do what her mother [not only for the self, but for 86 Laws uncut as was for "proper" for needed to follow any Religious aspect of Their lives. Home if not the house until dark, sister dare be seen in a larte another in a restaurant having a immediately to their overworked, Indian Education did not count. knowing Uncles, waited at the the shame of the parents for i ' . . . Having taught them the "proper /olleyball tournament? They learning what "proper girls" were Their savage need for victory --victory over the parents' desire you" my mother would say for For the stories, the secrets the and the bruises that kept the despite Their Laws. Although unfit, improper for women of witches to be burned. The tactics to prove Their theories when the sisters finished release from the Keepers of the would not be burned at the tiever touched Si ta. gave her even more herself had wanted more than Imothers and for women. It from became an obsession to d' women. Without realising to the Keepers of the THEIR society. A place order to determine whethei often than not they were and is ever changing from Keepers of the Unwritten to keep and which Laws td pfy all Their Laws of the t, the metamorphosis that Unwritten Laws would help her which she would often they were acceptable to acceptable only to her moral [THEIRS to Theirs to are also at a loss for keep unkept. Laws 87 rolfes of acceptable Punjabi was to come and her resistance i >arve a more welcoming place in q jestion her ideas and actions in T HEIR or Their moral code. More code. A code that has changed somewhere beyond theM alL. And the tr ey no longer know which Laws Tangled Tangled and trying to translate, re-trslnslate forced to live a marginalized existence scrutiny of two cultures and then the 88 Translations/Retranslatiorts/Re-re-translations -translate my own space, I am landscapes under the close and re-re! in between bne beyond. "It's really nice to see that you're not like all those other Indian girls who just get married after finishing high school and depend on their Men for the rest of their lives. I'm glad you're going to continue your schooling and be independent." "I can't believe that you're still living at home. You really need to move out, be independent and experience your own space. You don't want go from living with your parents to living with a Man when you get married." two "When friends come over tonight we'll sit together and share thoughts." I will have a drink and talk with the Men (unlike a proper Punjabi women). Accused of being too passive and subservient. Continuing to serve everyone as I should or shouldn't? No! I don't need to be this way here! They will all just serve themselves. Everyone here is equal or are they? Then assertive. They are shocked. Accusations of oversensitiveness. Should one try to fit in/resist bV being more asjsertive or remain silent and accommodate? What is the "proper way" to be for someone who is neither here nor there? Nan ayth(sr Nan uther in flhis tug o war? The ropes tug and pull from both sic es. I stagger to the East. I stagger to the WEST. At last my feet find a temporary niche s one to the WE 3T and the other to the East of the borders. How long can I continue to be Indo-canac ian/Can-indian? How long before one of the ropes sr aps and erases some half of me. "What do you mean you're not. ready to get married yet? You're a girl and almost 30 years old! I've had three proposals this week what am I suppose to tell them?" "How can you even think of moving out?! Haven't we given you everything that you've needed? What will people think - -that their daughter just got up and left her parents. Is this the reward we get for educating you and giving you the freedom that traditional parents never let their children taste?" "When the Banthay (the Punjabi word for people but often used to refer to Men)/ Athmi come over, I'll see what Their needs are. They must be served on. They are Banthay, I am only a woman. I must serve them. I must not speak only serve. Cater to Their every demand and then silently exist." He wants more, the other one wanted this not that. Where is it He demands to know? Get it right now Don't you know anything? I do. If only They knew what I know but keep inside. 89 My older sister met a Man self-sacrifices my sister de were planning a life for the return to Dubai and wait fo phone that He would be marrying I Want to Marry You Hut Change your religion. Change your identi Change your namfe Now you are Musli n. Now you are minis. Until I choose another, to change in timef Did I forget to tell ydu Polygamy here is fine. rom Pakistan when she pided to marry Him. They r future children. After a His visa there. A month a second wife. was living in Dubai. After many decided to move to Canada and visit in Canada He had to He called to inform her by sHiort liter Her wedding day) They call me over to help prepare a < roman whom I hardly know for her wfdding to a Man she has hardly met. As I help envelope her in silk Lacing her hands with her na, ornamenting her with jewels of gold The dowry already in place Shipped with her from Indip "I don't want to marry Him" I fix the last fhall on the sari "He's so different from me He can hardly read" she siys. Horrified at her Parents' arrangement I start to run out to call the wedding off She pulls me back. She r< if uses She blocks the door, locking it. "My Parents have given all They sent me here to get married. When They chose Him Thoy thought They were doing! fear of alienation or perhaps it is a sense of guilt and mothers have endured for externally. It is in order to for the continuation of the she sadly utters. I have no words to use with Him. 90 that they have for this wedding. Entrance into Canada. A c ecent family. How were They to know hi would be illiterate." I nod. I understand. For he r there is no other choice. They cover her face with trfe veil. They seal her up. They send her away. Selling her for Their price For Their name. For THEIR/Their country. Daughters often feel a senie of responsibility to do ad their defiance will cause their mothers much more pain save their mothers from any further pain that they themselves relentlessly endure it instead. However, this cycle of pain must be ended cycle will mean the continuation of the pains the best for me. their Parents ask. Perhaps it is [the knowledge of the pain their hem that prevents them from disobeying. They know that internally and in many cases Knowing the Unknown 91 I had never before seen a happily in the Gurdwara ( food and the Men serving on her plate for they knew Punjabi girl in a wheelchaii emple) downstairs. She Ii ter, mostly Uncles and ler History as well. They all knew what everycfie supposed to know so noth that room, knowing and nc even greater crime. The g them unknowingly. As she rolled past me I told a lovely person she had smiled a thanking smile suffocating room. As too, my thoughts and with the other Men serving day. . She rolled around quite Ied up like everyone else for her ins gave it to her with extra pity Hdly else in that cold tiled ng was ever done because i |t doing anything about nothing ilt weighed down on Them Qkjiishe her that I had known her bien and about how much and rolled away to a place at watphed her roll away for what watehy eyes turned to the Murderer the food that the women They all wore scarves on as if They could never do counter, no one would eve| He had killed his Own wife or Grouse? My memory Killing her as a consequence special needs. heir heads like halos to harm. Looking at Him, imagine that He was an land left her at one of the me as I stare at this Man) for having produced, dny fails I had noticed the fear in her her young baby in her arm 5 eyes the last time that and cried to me her priva room knew, but were never nothing had ever happened. In made the non-ignorance an as the little girl wheeled past mother. I talked to her about what had loved her daughter. She |one of the tables lined up in the would be the last time in her life standing in the kitchen area slaved over stoves cooking all hfed shbw Their holiness. Serving God protected behind the Holy A Icoholic and a Murderer. That lopal mountains ~ was it Seymour with immense hatred and anger, sofaehow on her own, a child with h&d seen her. She was holding :e pain in the public spotlight of 92 the old Temple. We were putside so dialogues were permitted. Hier Fatigued by the weight of her in her arms. He never there was something possl • the something become nothing her legs. She still can't walk' her". Fearing for her daughter's danger. She was the culp|it who could not walk. Female Useless females produced and secretly. And then. She disappeared and had passed away. Th knowing silence. The loss Their name, THEIR countni No one else would question They all knew. All they sorrow, and the guilt. Ignora daughter who was two held her because she was bly wrong with her. Somehow She said to me, "I Then. "I'm scared. hqpe years old, she continued to hold a female, but especially because not holding her would make there is nothing wrong with He doesn't do something to Nope ife, she never imagined the it it was her own that was in She was the one who vas producing females -- females who had no legs and the refore had no head either, by useless females. Both lad to be rid of forever- slowly Iridia Her family far away in sy would never question Trlem of yet another daughter. Lbss Them either for really knew is what they never really knew what they know now - the loss, the nee was safer. Silence was safer. was told that she got sick Only bear their loss in , in exchange for Their price, 93 The Other Choice Dis member ment Dis ease Dishonour Dis tance Dis olvvn ment cussed Pis place ment Dis Dis appear a nee This poem dis cusses the alternatives for Punjabi wonen who choose not to endure the difficult lives of pain presented before them. These alternative still hold true in many households even toe ay, even in Canada. The previous story is a painful testimony of the other choii >e dis cuss ed. the Silence of Something not Right breathe. when memory she iftp It was in the badhai, big high. She had to climb the} to open the window to that would finally shatter for a time that horrible cushioned bench in front beside her. Then waking now the words do not comfe they would get there she v\| counted sheep like the girl them that year did. 1 sheeb withdrew, she moved awa} never happened. The knew. And they knew that room grarhdmother Such In the house of 17, mishap] keep locked up inside, discussed. The damage a| Man) was much too great happened again and again] dresser as it was called. The headboard to look out in The old antique her grandparents wouljj and the sickness of wouid see herself in the! . Suddenly as she felt out) to His Manhood ould. close her eyes tightly in the monster story that , 2 sheep, 3 sheep, .4 quickly and was asleep knew, the mother] no one else was ever to know one with very small windows up qrder to see the world outside or with the huge round mirror move out years later. Erasing sojnething not right. Sitting on the bed with her Uncle asleep Hands pull her hips to (even moving down her back. As |and try to sleep. She sometimes grade one teacher had read for And finally when the Hand had only been a nightmare. It knew, the Uncle knew and she Hfe Thin her sheep p took place. Giving yet anbther perversions were never hd fear of disgracing the dc ughter, So the things that happerjed and again. 94 silence to the mothers to acknowledged let alone , a family (not ever the never happened even if they 95 THIR teen* The gaze Entangled The Em poisoned WHITE SPIDER*1 The entrance shut |The screams, yells unheard Complete darknesjs Heir blood drained to the The awakening, the anger, the The metamorphos The dead silencel * Thirteen is considered there would it have belen Me Rape is considered a disgrface is always considered her fi she was dressed or looked This has been and is still woman is considered a sefcond immediately to the first ave her or kill her off. Therefor 3 roam along His path as He tibht (last drop fear, the loss s a very lucky number i|n India. Had she stayed a luckier year? **His name was SPIDER — a name that refusejs to erase from her memory to an Indian family. If ult. It is often said that she or because she was when J common view in most Inflian hand commodity and liable and willing Man if the: the dead silence. The Sf MDER pleases waiting to trap the fast approaching woman is sexually assaulted it asked for it because of the way she wasn't supposed to be. families. After her rape the Ishould be married off family decides not to disown however continues to next victim. Washing, Re-washing, Re-And she would wonder yea washed and rewashed arid door knobs and herself over she had the look of the the savage, hungry hunter scared The tests, the retests, and The probing, the pain, the he re-retests. Trying to de tear, the hatred, the anger. In her Indianness and naivbte knew the truth. She was a Family any Man. Washing those horrible, dirty, filthy cleared. Until her long dark burst with the forbidden snhoke every traditional fibre of he r her new state, her new ide itity The metamorphosis complfete fragile identity. An identity transforming and always waiting the darkness. rewashing that ahd rs later why she thought re-rewashed her hands and over and over again and the hunted in her Perhaps if He had known| sex was dirty. Why she the light switches and the Why she didn't respond, why $yes instead of the wildness of He would have understood. one at 13 thinking that no I things evil and dirty She) rewashing, re-rewashing. rjrierhories. Scrubbing herself braids were pulled out and her blood drownefcl being was transformed arfid - the new identity accepted neither here nor there. Sqmewhere , watching, looking ojt 96 ermine the damage the loss. would love her if they ever would be a disgrace to any Trying to scrape off from herself until the colour of her skin hacked off. Until her lungs in the forbidden alcohol. Until accepted by her new body, . A stronger more bitter, beyond. Constantly for the next mishap lurking in 97 Thinking toward the future would tell her husband to [that They were planning Maybe he just wouldn't tte have after Her aunt's husband had n$ver sneak out to the fields to Fattier. How could she possibly touched His dark, dirty skin. When her belly started to problems and asked to stay in the room upstairs her. So much as seeing a) unlucky for an unmarried recovered was she to be her Husband never noticed for Him, He remained untouched that maybe my aunt got one found out after the wedding. But what if He did notice? a whore? Would He accepjt Parents would be devastati was Then Just then anger set in nothing to do with an Indiah to do with a woman unless) women of their virginity, for a virgin. Like my Unclej, they tried to commit suicides with her too. My grandmother said. This need was different even want anything to do But then rape was always for same she noticed. Mom remembers one Of the "ChoorChamar"! stand their smell and That's what they all wondered well they took her to the her hidden there until the "cleaning " and no women who had been "eld vifomen. For she was evil, a approached. Soon after, she > what they all knew and for the other Men we/|e and had her period at Would He believe me or w<buld it or want me to leave? what fed. My mother... her, she wondered what she notice. when her sister used to 'untouchables' working for their their sweat. How could she have when she got pregnant. Uncle who solved all the was "cleaned". They had her i inmarried women was to go near aned" was considered very id cursed. Only after she had was married off and somehow the choorchamarknew. Lucky never told. Mummiji thought same time and that's why no what the He think that I was a slut or if He asked me to leave? My not going to have an arr inged marriage. I would have Man who had double sta idards. Men who want nothing she is a virgin, but who Tr emselves went around ridding when ready for marriac ie They searched far and wide who refused to marry wor len He had slept with even when He often even snuck out and went next door and slept knew and my Grandfat ler knew, but nothing was ever for Men as was the nee i for a virgin. Men who didn't a woman who was an i nvirgin by no fault of her own. her fault. Either she dress< sd inappropriately, acted with inappropriately or was in a h inappropriate place. What did she expect? I*t sleeveless that That is why Daddy rarely let mummiji make us sister beaten when He caijght day. The sleeveless vest tight stretch jeans that mu^t daughter walk around like parents didn't dare say tha| dressing for the other play His shame. Beaten to held For the next time He looked The goal of the Keepers of as possible without an education stories to tell. Telling their this was the only punishmdi corrode their Parents' view Hoping that if we didn't continue - animals who didn't know our different ideas, and oui This was Their real fear, bodies, over our lives. sleeveless us leave the house witho jt dresses. And maybe|that her outside with the brought attention to her] have rriade Him harden his and make Men harden ; she had changed after Beaten to prevent the Him never feel Himself hardening at her she would be fully sho family a chador-Wke coat or wouldn't 's why my Uncle had my vest on that hot spring full bosom at age 14 and the f How dare my parents let their , He demanded to know. My left the house. The actress from shame and to rid Him of again at the sight of her. covered. the Unwritten Laws was to preferably like their crimes. Crimes that were nt that They knew to fit the of educated women. our education They any better. Education woilild crimes more weight and of Their loss of comple Rear 98 have them married off as soon tiother. Daily spying, daily unished through beatings for crimes. Finding some way to (fould simply label us as pasoons give our rebellious attitudes, rhay even get us some support, e control over us, over our She and she there with HIM 99 It happened at this restaurant protect the guilty it seems, knowing that tHEy are absorbs her. She knows warn her for she does not ha ve imagined such Culture has brought her up\ she have sensed it when smell of her exotic perfumfy neither read nor cared to MEN in her doubled seen and unseen but neve\r any different? But she offered to discuss the papa\r dinner time, and she was around that, harassment. WE And now she sits here yt/sq must find a way to tell her. must follow her and tell hei. Is HE reciting ways...", but that wash't pan of her paper. What is something instead of sitting there and taking all this bathroom she will cohtemf. late not coming back but PROFESSOR; she must o me back and she must it would be very disrespeci memory in which she sits now. put the silent, horrible the corner while she is\ she must do something know the stories of such The idea would be with the utmost respect foi told her about the shine when they were in HIS locate ? But she was not with THem. She heard and unheard. Why] expected... But she over dinner and to go thei hungry but if only she had ofi ice us id EXPBRIences never around the corner not She knows that she'll be d Shakespeare going talk 'ul to assume such things. (The name has been changed to remains. The strangeness of here having fun with her party 'before it's too late. She must INSTITUTIONS. She would never completely foreign to her for her PROFESSORS. But couldn't pfher hair in the sunlight or the going over a paper HE had to being the subject around ifvas always brought up to be would this demented case be have known! When HE e in HIS WHITE car. It was tinown HIS real intentions. should knowing what only she knows. She gping to the bathroom soon. She to her, "Let me count the On! Wake up and do ! When she will goto the does she? HE is her to HIM about her paper; besides This wasn't really happening. abuse! why* ill that it She was just imagining it and blue flowered dress prevent her from wearing by her mother won't let hei with the imprints of the dirt suffocates her now. If only doesn't. For if she ever would never forgive herseff. in her own life; she need knew not everyone She can still hear HIM reeling about her Boyfriend and OLDER MAN, HE demand? silent woman who is seen really wants to tell HIM it's insult HIM in front of films on T. V: and at the theatre her Family do anything like who would side with her woman in the restaurant, her not HIM. MONSIEUR HIS POWER over her as wfe//. There she is! She is finally who is wondering why she\'s starts walking but falls into and besides she should now sits stained in her c\ ever again but the love throw it out. Even after She tells her mother her mother knew as she that her dreams of Besides she has already hear of more. 100 lever have worn the short black oset. The shameful memories that it was made with from scraps sdveral washings it remains tainted that)she no longer wears it because it kftows now. But it is best that she educating her children led to this she seen enough PATRIArchal pain HIS ard as HE orders more wir\e rriarriage. What would her to know? She evades land not seen and heard none of His business and else in the restaurant!! . Do they really do that to a MAN especially believe her even if she purely if there was something PROFESSEUR as I hear H thid? riot, ahd going to the bathroom! '  been so distant all a giant crater that was notfthere evening . And now HE'S asking her parents think if she married an questions as a respectable not heard should do, but she throw her plate in HIS face and Like the women she sees in She's never seen anyone in a PROFESSOR. And besides (j//af? She is the only 'coloured' wrong it would be because of M telling the waitress. To show She sees her and leaves her party and she follows her. She when she had arrived or it PROFANELY-into was. She finally surfaces goes back to the advances when she falls it She's tried to do this many\ to her on time. She's so learned and unlearned is again fearing for her life instead of the 'another', simply no thank you, but POSITION forced her to the WHITE car into the WHITENESS of HIS look... from She the bathroom PROCESSOR' $nd rushes towards the -PRESTIGIOUS another crater! And ther\ times before and she knotys n^ive to THEIR ways. You her double PATRlArchal because she was thinking had wanted to say no /'/ Power of her Refined And now she sits at so no-one would see. MASCULINE HAND accept, daikness POWERFUL 101 to get to her before she Stable. She hardly another! And then another!! that she never manages to get \kould think she would have last experiences... But here she and acting from the other spaces not hungry you PERVERT! Or and the POWER of HIS \he beach where HE has pulled She sees only. The coming towards her... And the Cuhure "A certain glassy-eyed whi e male look that does not s}< fantasy... The pervasive stereotypes of Asian women see us but sees some kind of n Western culture as being submissive, exotic and easfily sexually available..." (Ype in Bannerji, 1993 P. 26), THEY and They are the kept not for the sake of THEIR and Their actions i keeps THEM and Them in that THEY/They do not underneath the POWER. losing POWERful KEEPers OF keeping order, but kept for the| re guided by the fear of i ]THEIR/Their positions abovJB waht to relinquish, because of hat place under neath, be THE 102 UNWRITten LAws. LAws sake of ensuring UNorder. POWER -- POWER that |3 them. POWER/AUTHORITY THEIR/Their fear of being placed neath, or hind, be is too powerless, too fearful and too unjust for THEM <|>r Them to live in daily, but never for them. 103 The Third Strand of the Braid Continued In this stage in braiding, As expected, my mothe| second,with all its h appropriate place. As th even longer and more shiny blackness would be non-braid It changed between spea\ing or r would take the third strani ir always changing and grc fe third strand was shown tr cojriplex. The longer/it got tho mockesL pulled,yand mi little, fosjt ne/ver made i| silent tebout the abufce e the end v*ry rernaining This is the third part dtthe" This second section ab of Racism and Iden/ty.' comes from tha^aidinb mother and my^gtrandmotri of myj>wffcreation. My Re-retranslation he braid continues to complex. becdme even longer and even more istreated metissjkge continued. Th(p lives/of my mother and my l i fe^es is entitle^f: 1) These stonesare^e-retra1 )f the translations and re , supported by th* first and the wing and pull it tirmly in its e centre, the braid began to get more noticeable it became. Its Attempts to unbraid it and any less visible. Negotiating , I hoped t/at one day I would dynafnics of my life are shaped (mother. y Re-retranslations are writte>un words and language lew very^ramrjlex landsca creating aad going be/<bnd iy Stories/of Th|e Canadian Elementary- School PUN! PAKI! HINDU! PUN JAB! NIGER! GO HOME! THEY didn't know what we) were, but neither did we This Realisation of Our Difference How did THEY know that vVere our back lane after a long arrived from India and wer* No it's our proper pants. But her coat covers her No it's because there's tod But you two were sick the No it's our accent. But, they've never heard u i speak. No, it's our skin it's different. It is? They are white and we're (park. See look! OH! *We were not allowed to wear that they looked too ragged different? My cousins Ivalk home with the usual between the ages of six Maybe it's our long, dark hfair oiled with saro the thai fjmustard oil) and combed neatly into braids. But our hair is hidden undefer our hoods today. many of us walking home bther day and the two of us jeans when we were yd>ung and were not proper, espscially 104 sisters and I asked each other in harassment. We had newly seven. arid 1 hey're not jeans*, papts and they almost look likle jeans. They still bothered her. ;ogether. still got bugged. because our parents felt for decent Punjabi girls. Tjhe Daily Dreaded Race Home The three WHITE MEMSAHIBS money! Give ME your Canpy Bark!" Wack! Boot! Ouch "untouchables" were treated Carry " Carry MY bag! 1 Give ME your food! Si They treated us like slaves In India, but THEY also stoi Scratches, bruises, and te advice They could. "Just ignore them", They said other kids. They didn't dar 5 think anymore of it than could be done? What wen J They going to tell the hardly speak any English, rjesides, They were too country of many opportunit es. They kept quiet and and hide our pain as best | s we could. In grade of it. frrs forced us to tell our Patents. They gave us the best tried to see it as kids bullying What was the use? What school? This is racism? They could surviving in this wonderful fe tried to race home each day They said it would be the end Until High school PUN! PAKI! HINDU! PUNJAB! NIGER! GO HOME! YOU'RE NOT BRIGHT IF YJOU'RE NOT WHITE! They tr at. busy W2 seven The Canadian High School 105 MY jacket! Give ME your ! Stand! Run! Walk! Jump! THEY treated us like the |e from us. Is it possible that I remember it all so vividly after 15 yoars. That phrase the very moment, the very spot on who casually spat it in my words from my face. Silen| embarrassed by her WHITI wondered for an instant. Embarrassment changed What else was there to do alone. Realising HIS favour. A laugh from HIS But this was going to be Until the next... the sidewalk of that school, ace. Embarrassed, I looke|d :e as my FRiend and I con ENESS and I by my could I not be bright anger, anger to acceptance At least HE could have for attention, I knew thi$ ffiend at the cost of my self-lasttime! How tt disease thfe This time the spit was real. That ELDER WOMAN on up with tears as I remember sister and then me: Almost again protected by her WOmen, ADoleseents, CH silence mean? We compcjsed how weird she was: SHE red light we managed to escape But the next time was really going to be the last. HIS tongue pierced througp become a teacher. I was happened to me happen to| OLD BOY in grade one in 106 The very grade 10 blond BOY away and tried to wipe the inued our path. She unbrigljitness. But what did HE mean I a visible minority. This wasn't my COUNTRY, it a little more quietly or to me would not have been in HIS festeem. That was HIS only cure. bding said The Real Spit t<b yelled The kind that was known (fcranville Street. What harrrj the fear of when she hitting us with her tightly Blinded by thej Idren all staring, immobile ourselves as our FRierkds |was like a mother, didn't sr temporarily. BRIGHTNESS. Stabbed By a Six Year Old my back. The non-existeht cjoing to make change happsn others. Stabbed. Paralys ed rrny second week of my very hit the "Untouchables" in India, was I to her? My eyes still swell and screamed and spat at my cjenched fists. My FRiend once BRIGHTNESS of MEN, fcnd silent. What did THEIR tried to console us saying |e have children? Running the teacher. Proud of having was not going to let what . Stabbed by a SIX YEAR first job. Shocked! No this is not supposed to be happening only my class saw the disrespect, approached HIM HE was regrets. " I don't like colou untouchable -" gantha choor chimar' my own opinion my Mom Not to teachers. Not No one else notice 4ware that HE had done ed people", HE spat out. ( " the words ring from nd DAD said so". The next year HE left the away I was told. (Usually sphool before HE could com India it was the "untouchatl in When I discuss the problem DOMINANT, loud, cold, icy| have a funny smell. It's always brush His teeth", (Ii childhood). Shocked! Hor| where do I start? Where, is the end?! Not on the teachers' publid 107 sy STUDEnts at least. Hopefully i Silence once again. As I so nettling wrong, but HE had no You're just a dirty filthy my childhood.) "I have a right to p into my class. THEY moved les" who had to leave.) But, He is a Bit Different 1997 in an intermediate classroom while the teacher i£ out. I walk in unexpectedly. Punjab Wop Hindu ; Chink He stinks Go home Stop! I yell. This is unacceptable! This is racism! I fihally speak out. Their ke with the classroom teacher voice, "you have to admit food. I think He eats a I those "Untouchables" -- ag#n ified! 1 walk away in rage The Public Teachers' E-mail after school, she says in her He is a bit different and He does Dt of garlic at home and doesn't the words ring from my know I must do more, but Conference E-mail conferences and ndt in 1997. That was the year when I was called a "humcjurless EDUCATORS' comments for the viewing pleasure of humourless when one doe flicks, pun and paki... as jqkes individual" for eferring to sentimental women as "chick flicks" fe not understand the And it did not end in 1998 EDUCAtors made some oft "... I wager that we are a lot less ricist women to speak out in our sociei y "We in Canada also do not eat p^ t animals such as cats and dogs f- a practise which may be considered quite common in other lands...." When I along with the support following comments, we became at all prepared -- especial y Our responses to the abovfe comments included: " How can we expect to eradicate we simply say it's part of hunjian less of something doesn't subconscious excuse for make " We may not eat cats and do<|s here, but we do eat pigs and eastern countries". tfou Mo$t "Yes, you may be lucky, but Canadian women. What about] the of their homes sewing clothe; money to survive, or the worr recognised as legitimate? 'unearned privileges' in this others to speak out because etc.. Many 'third world' womftn heard". Both our mothers wi >rked Knowing their reality and wha: 108 speaking up against an mol/ies supposedly designed only omehow one is considered triviallsing of labels such as chick when I had difficulty stayin 3 the following narrow minded ist and sexist in Canada than other countries.... It is not a crime for (Lucky for me!) as it may be in others" of my colleague responded involved in a full fleqged not against EDUCAtors. teaqh have these occurrences, or nature, and at least we it any more acceptable. In fa] accepting these shortcomings... cannot speak for everyone many ethnic women who 1 , or working on farms picking |en who must stay home to dominant, white, middle clasfc cbuntry and as a result they pf cultural restrictions, lang have never been given the all their lives in Canadia we have faced individually as quiet when the same and other comments: by saying some of the war for which we were not children to grow up free of them if less of it here? Unfortunately, bt, this tends to become a bows which are sacred in many as this is not the reality for all re being paid slave wages to work out ferries because they need the extra children and want their work to be educated woman have many not realise how difficult it is for restrictions or lack of education blatform from which to speak or be p factories for slave labour, a result of not belonging to the raise rrtay uaie 'dominant' culture we feel th; not speak for these women will be a very long time beforfe is the result of many very copil jt your point about being luck} because you could never imagine the voices of these women plex oppressions". Responses to our responses continued to pour in and included some of the following " But in Canada we all have th nothing in Canadian law which] opinions, but we have the ri; she cannot express herself, that is stopping her, but her which prohibits this". i right to vote, obtain an education prohibits this. We may not w ant If a Canadian Citizen who cpmes the fault of the country or own cultural fears or norms. grt tr is oHly "You know, you are not the ancestors. My grandparents their children with as many advantages as possible, now but that does not mean people to have come from c own trodden and underprivileged jeft everything behind in the L kraine to work for peanuts and raise may s x>rt a "white Anglo Saxon" surname no not understand or have a family history of my own". I also fear that vou have donfe yourself more damage with your "undeserved privileges" comment than vou will know. Aside: What is most shocking abdut EDUCAtors and this is in claims to be "Multicultural" difficult change must be in Canadian SCHOOLS clainji reality very little is actually to teach and know about required course in Teachef important yet non-dominant will 109 is not valid. You cannot and should what it has been like for them. It be heard. Their silence speak in pubic etc. There is or feel the need to express our from another culture feels that he culture of origin. It is not Canada here is nothing in Canadian Law All the best to you and Harjit the these comments and the; years 1997 - 1998 in a and to treat everyone as e<huals Icountries where no such cl aims se attacks is that these are sjociety like CANADA which . It's hard to imagine how are made. to be promoting "Multicultluralism being done to achieve this -racist and anti-sexist pedagogy, Preparation Programs wh social concerns. ahti "/Anti-racism, but in goal. EDUCAtors are expected , yet there is not a single ich deals with this topic or other Lack of training/experience* often renders the responses/non-responses against racism and sexism of the do respond THeir respons* appropriate "Full Addressa provides consequences for unaddressed, un-understqod opposition to the racist/sex|st EDUCAtor. How can society when THey THEMfcelves EDUCAtors towards student is simply a "Partial Addrefcsal (Culhane & Yee, 1995, P. the PERPETRATOR yet tHie , and ignored as if not va id comments or actions ari be expected to prepare are not always adequately TEACHers Explaining, re-explaining A *s "unearned" not undeserved feminist and anti-racist pedagogy have living in a society in whi ch background sexual orientation systems/institutions of advan tage does it refer to or negate past (We believe this has bejen Why is it always up to us POWER, the role of the inequalities? raise In speaking up in a public colleague's was to help etc., exist even in Canadian small change toward lessening change, there was greatei to pour in for months. We experience is that promotiijig the DOMINANT and the expected. When should cost of speaking be? Wha] 1 1 0 / : ^ ineffective. Often when THey " as opposed to the more f>). The Partial Addressal usually victim's feelings usually go i . Furthermore, no direct demonstrated by the students for a more just (if at all) prepared? nd re-re-explaining. response mentioned in our earlier . It refers to u n f a i r advantages the majority of the people etc. As a result they may taMe that clearly operate to b snefit the battles that have be in misinterpreted in this thrdad) inform THEM/Them? Shquld INSTITUTIONS who claim to tHat we silence teachers' conference, my i awareness of the fact culture, and in doing so those injustices. However hatred. "Hate mail" and Received very little support, awareness and change, DOMINANCE was much morfe speak? When should will the cost of remaining one orhe is the term used in current that a member of a group may have the same or similar cultural for granted the the majority group. In no way fought by Canadians in the this not be the role of those in be addressing the injustices, the ptention along with my racism, sexism, homophobia had hoped to make some , instead of awareness and from EDUCAtors continued What we realised from our and speaking out about/against difficult than we had ever remain silent? What will the iilent be? In the past two years, after Leslie Roman's very thougpt and Anti-sexist Pedagogy of urgency to speak up against I can no longer remain as an EDUCAtor as I have INSTITUTIONS that confer believe that THEIR teachings wcprk having begun my thesis provoking, non^traditioncjl 've gained the increased injustices and the OPPRESSIONS and after having taken Dr. course at U.B.C. on Anti-racist Awareness, courage and sense as silent as a minority, been taught to do advantage and dorhinance are neutral and a women, and especially py THEIR immense , but make us Universal and speak for all. 111 The minority teacher teaching m 112 ndrity programs My work as a French immersion English Second Language imagined. with (Aside: Am I trilingual or a) tri/semi-lingual language (Aside: Wasn't dealing sexism of THEIR CULTURl culture or other cultures and constantly negotiating (Aside: Why as a minorityl )emi-lingual? Maybe an Inqo-Canadian, tri/semi-cultural, aacher???) the the Patriarchy of the E enough for me. Why do /| when I don't even belong to <c ???) My experience as a minority scrutiny, and questioning by have some invested intere the needs of the DOMINANT questions are necessary, r|o necessary, no extra inform are easy and everything is drain Often resentful, unfounded taking up extra money and Language students who But nothing is ever mentioned economy in later years, always go unnoticed and SHe opens her mouth and doing with my teaching tim| "If I were an administrator are servicing the English teacher, French as a| teacher has proven to be second language teacher, and rtriore complex than I had ever would I out of choice teach teacher teaching minority the MAJORITY. Somehow t that should be questioned CULTURE all questions extra permission is necessary i^tion is necessary... before logical when one CONFORMS Punjabi culture, the racism and choose to try to be part of a third the two in which I'm wandering in minority programmes ?) programs has involved close being a minority THEY feel I . However, when catering to [already have answers. No extra , no extra votes are decisions are made. The steps comments are heard about extra space in THEIR schcpols THEIR system by requi about their contribution! Iportant contributions of money lmentioned in THEIR INSltlTUTIONSin her POWERFUL loud voico |e. A colleague questioning but you're not, I want to sci earn) Programme. Most of your tir ne French Immersion students or English Second ing so much extra assistance, to THEIR society or THEIR , ideas and hard work that THEIR TEXTS. demands to know what I am my professional autonomy. , I would question how you is going to service the French Immersion Programme or fact that the real administrator my use of teaching time, teaching a minority or evert he English Second Lang had the utmost yvould this colleague ever a non-minority programme But the teachers of the minority French programme must surely be on my side, or were they' Sitting around the meeting There are others and they better. This time I'm not what I am not. I am not in my head. "Quand tu va£ eleves parlent jamais en their students' errors. Maybe students never speak French Mine is not I want to speakl of an example are we setting to this school district must university credentials professional decision of remain speechless, silent. In my place of a semi teaching minority programmes 113 uige Programme"? Despite the confidence in my teaching ability and in dare attack a non-minority woman in the same way? fd>r noses table: Feeling my face go are not even coloured, discriminated against Francophone. With their dans les classes des frlancais." those non they don't know the p in class. It's because out. I want to yell, "Are wej for students? May I rem, bass an extensive oral to teach in French, anlother colleague? I can't their necessary lingual, non-francophone I am tripley or tid. But I'm not alone this time, ehow this makes it slightly the colour that I am -- it's for in the air their words still echo proffesseurs non-francophones les francophone teachers never correct corrlect answer themselves. Their first language is English, professionals here"? What kind ind you that every teacher hired inteiview and must have the VjVho are you to judge the shouldn't let this go on but I arid visible minority teacher it is quadrupley doomed! 114 Negotiating Kali In negotiating, translating, re-translating and space, I am forced to live a marginalized exis more conflicting and a fiicting landscapes ancj two or more opposing and imposing cultures I continue to fly to the two or more cages comme * Kali (Kalai) is the word fo' black in Punjabi. It is also i me when I was born becai se I was not as fair skinne( I as my older sister. East and West, West un oiseau *Kali qui re-retranslating my own ence in between two or under the close scrutiny of arid East disoriented between ne dort jamais. the name that my father gave The Guyanese writer Wilson accompanying the 'assimilation which presage powerful cultural In negotiating and translating space, I am simultaneously determine more clearly from this third space Will and unnecessary changes society. Kithe uther Harris quoted in bhabha and contraries' and changes" (bhabha, 115 sees third space "as creating that occult instability 1994, P. 38). retranslating, moving apart and my direction in THEIR|Their/my I be able to make in this equally andl rje-retranslating my third together in order to society. Only unmake the necessary unequally dominant artid I continue to travel ceaselessly between THEIR LANGUAGES and Theirs between THEIR POWER and Theirfe between THEIR RULES and Their* between THEIR CULTURE and Theirs between THEIR INSTITUTIONS and Theirs constantly searching for my body, my mind, my self Somewhere in the beyonb Where I am not, and yet I ajn gahan 116 Conclusion/NonConclusion: In the past, during the generation of my grandmother, women have remained passive, not because they lacked a consciousness of their own oppression, but because the Patriarchal Punjabi Culture necessarily determined and secured women's roles and legitimised caste divisions; By clearly defining their restrictive lives, by not addressing or allowing them to address the specific conditions of their lives, and by not permitting them a voice to express their silences, They kept women and untouchables in their long determined places -- underneath. When in CANADA, restraints of their own culture, unfamiliarity with the language and fear of the ways of 'main' culture kept them dependent on their Families and the Men of their Culture. As a result of their confinement and dependence, they were prevented from questioning or acting in Their/THEIR SOCIety. The later generations of women from Asia, such as my mother's began to have more contact with the outside DOMINANT culture and began to question the injustices that were/are prevalent not only in the Punjabi Culture, but also those in CANADIAN SOCIETY. They questioned, but were silenced for they also were enclosed and alone, weighed down by those in CONTrol of their minds, their bodies, their lives. Any attempts at resistance were quickly turned into accommodation, and so many of these women continue to live with double the OPPRESsion, and double the acceptance. More recently, Asian women who have been fortunate enough to be empowered by THEIR EDUCATION, are beginning to speak out against racism, sexism and classism of THEIR INSTITUTIONS. "The exclusions, marginalizations and biased representations of the lives and experiences of women from Asia... have been exposed by middle-class women from Asia... This exposure is part of their struggle to overthrow the domination of race and gender and to empower women from their own ethnic and racial groups" (Agnew, 1996, P. 95). As a working/middle class visible/invisible minority educated and uneducated woman of colour, I can no longer remain silent for my silence will mean the acceptance and continuation of the sexism, racism, and classism that entangles not only my life, but also the lives of many women such as my mother and grandmother. As I continue to 117 live and negotiate my place and identity in THEIR/Their CULTures, my work has allowed me to come to the realisation that I must use my newly earned and unearned privilege to speak with and help those who have worked hard through their pain and struggles to help me earn it, It is my responsibility as a minority women and as an educator to help empower the women who have helped me, but have themselves remained essentially powerless. As I come to the beginning of the end of the breaking of my silence and the silences of my mother and grandmother, I am forced to ask whether readers will live my writing as I have lived it? Will there be universal relevance gained from my stories? Will my long poem contribute in any meaningful way to society? In short will the braided stories of three Punjabi women seen through the eyes of one inform many or any? Growing up in Canada, I had always wished that someone at school, in the community, or on T.V. would speak out /or allow us to speak out about the OPPRESsions in the lives of the women who surrounded me and defined me. No-one ever did. THEY only spoke of OTHERS and only OTHERS spoke, because we were not worthy of THEIR time, of THEIR energy, of THEIR space, just as we had not been worthy with Theirs in India . The EXTERNAL silence forced us to keep a painfully internal silence. During those moments of painful silence, I would often take an imaginary journey back to India to my great grandmother's secret garden. The specialgarden which became a meeting ground for daughters, grand-daughters, and great grand-daughters. The village of Jeenthwal prided in its internal beauty. The villagers could only walk by and imagine, smell, and feel its secrets. They were never to enter. It belonged to my great grandmother and only she held the key and the power. The shiny golden key, that opened the huge golden padlock was secretly stored in the pocket of her jemper so that no-one could ever steal the magic. When she would lead us across from the house to her garden -- her secret garden, our minds, bodies, and spirits began to live stories. Finally, after a careful, last, slow, 118 sideway stare, she would unlock the door with her shaky hands and hide the key. Breathless we momentarily dwelled in the silence, the smells, the sacredness, the splendour. Silent and still, we admired the freshness and the colours of the garden, of the guavas, of the pomegranates, of the mangoes, of the Kali, Jasmine, vines. Then as we found places to sit on my great-grandmother's manjays we "indwelled". The sound of savory chatter, laughter and secrets was creative, lively and loud, but it always stayed inside the garden for there was no other choice. The peaceful paradise of safe secrets. The meaningful meeting ground of four generations of women's voices, of women's internal silences. The sacred, secret garden of my great-grandmother. This work has been the unlocking of the secret door of the internal silences of three generations of women. A work that has not had the opportunity of being, becoming, and living until now because of THEIR schools, THEIR curriculum, THEIR books. Always being asked to write about THEIR experiences through THEIR language and THEIR Structures in order to be approved in THEIR way by THEIR authorities in THEIR institutions. My mother always made me believe in the empowerment of education in order to fight back against the OPPRESsions and the injustices. However, my experiences have lived a different reality ~ empowerment through education has also revealed the POWER of educational INSTITUTIONS to teach learning selectively. Rather than opening doors to secret gardens of insight and dialogue, THEY have closed doors of creativity and meaning-making by forcing us to conform rather than allowing us to reform or re-reform. One of the goals of my education has been to gain knowledge and strength in order to escape the restrictions that Patriarchal Power has placed on the lives of women like my grandmother and mother. Although the limitations placed on my life are different than those of my grandmother and mother, I see parallels here between Patriarchal Power in our personal lives and the HEGEMONIC POWERS in educational INSTITUTIONS. Just as They played a key role in determining the lives and places of women and untouchables in Indian Society, THEY and THEIR INSTITUTIONS play a key 119 role in determining the lives and the places of minority women and minorities in THEIR SOCIETY. These POWERS claim to know what is to know. These POWERS determine how much knowledge is to fill our minds and when to stop. THEY determine our actions and define our roles as women, as educators, and as students. In addition to the Power of the NABOBS, the Husbands, the Uncles, the Brothers and the Sons I have uncovered, through the reading and writing of my work, the POWER of the CURRICULUM MAKERS whose agenda is the DOMINANT curriculum, the DOMINANT knowledge. After coming to Canada, the first time that I took the journey back to the garden of my great grandmother was in grade six when I discovered the book, The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Although it was not at all the garden of my great grandmother, it was the only book that I was introduced to at that time that spoke to me about India and came the closest to making any of my experiences as a child relevant. "Enfin j'ai trouve le vecu de mon enfance". Through my reading of this book, I re-read and retranslated, and rediscovered the splendour and magic of my great grandmother's secret garden: Although this was very empowering as a young girl, it is very shocking today. Since grade six, this autobiographical work is the first piece of meaningful writing in my many years of EDUCATION. This work represents the first writing in my words about my experiences in order to make those experiences valid. It is written not only for myself, my grandmother, and my mother, but for many readers who may be able to share and actively construct reality from these experiences. It is my hope that these readers will re-read their lives and begin to write about those lives and I hope that EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS will not disrupt this process or prevent it from ever becoming as has been the case in the past and in my past. The majority of the sea of texts that inform and govern students in schools continue to be written by CURRICULUM planners who "are, in a sense, condemned to plan for faceless people, students shorn of their uniqueness or for all teachers, who become generalised entities often defined in terms of generalised performance roles" (Aoki, 1992a, P. 5). Dr. Aoki, in his lecture at the Annual Conference of the Association for 120 Supervision and Curriculum Development in 1992, eloquently proposes an alternative to curriculum-as-plan. He states that "the lived curricula offers us a re-textured landscape populated by a multiplicity of curricula..." (P. 5). He continues by saying "I feel it will do well for curriculum developers and curriculum supervisors to heed thoughtful practising teachers that the privilege of the traditional C&l landscape may no longer hold, but must give way to a more open landscape that offers possibilities by, in part, giving legitimacy to the wisdom held in lived stories of people who dwell within the landscape" (P. 15). The process of legitimising lived curriculum is beginning, but it will be a slow change before ALL begin to understand and accept its relevance in EDUCATION and in academia. As an educator and as a minority woman having lived my writing for the last two years, I realise the importance and value of the lived curriculum. As a student, however, the journey has not been as easy. Although I have broken three generations of silence of Punjabi women, my work continues to remain a silent reflection. I still continue to hide my writing even from close family members, friends and colleagues. I fear that my personally charged experiences will be too shocking for them. I fear that their knowledge of these experiences may cause them to somehow treat me differently. I fear that they will not consider my work "academic" enough, or meaningful enough, or creative enough, or good enough for a research thesis. However, being in the position of a minority woman and educator, I cannot allow such fears to prevent me from speaking out. Longer silence will only translate into more injustices and more missed opportunities. I must take the risk in the hope that my work will enrich and in some way transform the lives of readers so that they also will be encouraged to participate in a personal and active manner by writing their own stories. The insight and knowledge to be gained from the writing of these stories far outweighs the risks and fears that may be involved in the writing process. The writing of this autobiographical work has been a painful but enlightening journey: I have tried to create a text that reflects my personal world as a Punjabi female whose life of constant negotiating is braided with the PATRIArchy and intertwined with the lived experiences of racism and classism of my mother and my grandmother. Having 121 been given this rare opportunity to write autobiographically has increased my awareness and understanding of issues of sexism, racism, and classism not only in my life, but also in the lives of my mother and my grandmother. It has also made me aware of the lack of credibility and value granted to autobiographical work. This research has been a very enriching and creative educational process ~ one that I hope others will have the opportunity to experience earlier than I have learned and unlearned to do. I believe that educators play a key role from their positions of POWer to encourage this type of meaning reading and meaning making. As EDUCAtors we cannot allow PATRIARCHAL reality to ignore women's stories especially those of minorities. Academic institutions must begin to give more importance to these stories in THEIR DOMINANT culture. CURRICULUM PLANNERS also need to be more willing to relinquish THEIR POWER (unlike the Keepers of the Unwritten Laws) and make way for the "lived curriculum" of the non-dominant. Furthermore, it is crucial that educators be prepared to take risks and reform rather than conform. And finally, readers and writers ~ minority women and white women, need to form coalitions and be willing to work together so that effective change will be more POWERFUL. "Our identity and strength will grow out of sharing the struggle to fight that which has tried to dehumanise us and find the common ground that we share as women..., as decolonising people, as workers, as humans" (Yee quoted in Bannerji, 1993, P. 44). Together from our collective "THIRD Space" we can take on the challenge of assuming the responsibility of repositioning the positions of power that have been placed upon us through centuries of Oppression and EXPLOITATION. 122 My Journey, my long poem, has been imprisoned within me. Impenetrable. Caged so securely that I was never even aware of it's existence. A journey I never imagined that I would have had the courage to undertake. A journey that finally exploded from somewhere within the deep. This journey has been a journey in the waiting amidst an intricate maze of contradictions and silences. Journey in the Waiting Stories waiting to re-exist. Events waiting to be repealled. Emotions waiting to be re-experienced. Histories waiting to be re-learned. Oppression waiting to be re-exposed. Images waiting to be re-projected. Languages waiting to be re-translated. Lives waiting to be re-presented. Identities waiting to be re-negotiated. Ideas waiting to be created. Voices waiting to be heard. Resistance waiting to arise. Silences waiting to be broken. A journey waiting to be-come. Waiting in THEIR INSTITUTIONS to finally be re-awakened by THEIR INSTITUTIONS. By Educators willing to take risks in order to allow such journeys to dis rupt traditional narratives. Educators willing to enter the beyond. The THIRD Space. We have come to wnat appears continues to groto infinitely even change, and must rebraiof and be rebraided and e end of the brain, however it is not. Hair death, and as a res pit the braid/braids grow, re-rebraided... 123 Reflections, re-refl^Qtions and re^re-reflections... by writefs and readers will allow my long journey, my/tong^aoem, to cbntinue its endless path. In living the metissage and the metissages, the life^and liues, the story and/ne sto ies, I have lived only the beginning of thje end because^^Vautobiograpfiical story c annot end with The End'; it must end wtfi\ 'Etc / 'Leggo, 1998, P[ 18) 124 References Agnew, Vijay. 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