Recently I left my "jungle ashram" and went with a lady who used to be affiliated with the ashram as its manager.
|Evening service at the ashram|
For the most part, we were going to villages and talking about sanitary pads and menstruation and feminine hygiene.
|A group of about 40 women (aged 17-35) gathered to learn about sanitary pads|
I also sat in on some sewing classes for village girls, learned some stuff about village agricultural farming, and I saw the local hospital and how things are done there. It was an enlightening experience all around. I'm so very glad I went :).
|Piles of black peppercorn being left out to dry before selling|
|Two village women cutting rice crops|
But also at the hospital I saw a woman who died shortly after she left our premises. And because I'm this delicate mix of being simultaneously overly-sensitive and strangely-stoic, I now have all these feelings that I've been shoving down my throat and keeping them unprocessed.
I suppose I thought writing this out might help me process them; thanks for reading my processings.
She was a young girl, newly married, probably in her early twenties. She arrived at our hospital being carried in like a sack of potatoes because she was totally immobile; her pulse was 150 beats per minute, which is outrageously high. We gradually learned she had consumed poison, though her husband (the one carrying her) was not very helpful in giving such information upfront. She was mostly unresponsive; the poison having already gotten to her brain.
As time went on, and as I listened to the doctors and staff discuss, it became clear to me that there was a good chance her mother in law had poisoned her. Either that or she had drank the poison herself because she no longer wanted to live this life. Locals said it was probably kerosene that she consumed, or maybe some kind of pesticide. The doctors weren't sure.
|Some of the girls from surrounding villages who came to take sewing classes |
offered by the mission hospital's outreach programs.
Our tiny mission hospital didn't have the facilities for her so we had to refer her out, to a town hospital which had a poison specialist (because such things are so common here.) The husband loaded her onto a motorbike that our hospital had on hand, he sat behind her, and our driver sat at the front. The woman was plopped onto the bike, sandwiched between them, and her husband held her body to keep it upright as they drove off.
She died en route; we were notified of this later that evening.
In the days that followed (and even the days leading up to it, in a sort of eerily strange foreshadowing) I heard a number of stories about young women--especially newly married wives--who either killed themselves or who were killed by their husbands or mother in laws. The reasons for murder ranged: she wasn't pretty enough, she wasn't working hard enough, she didn't get pregnant fast enough, the dowry wasn't big enough...etc. The reasons for suicide were similiar: afterall, it is difficult to find value, beauty, or joy in life when these are the kinds of things being told to you about yourself.
I do not know how to process the reality of a world in which one individual decides that such reasons are enough to poison someone, or to douse them in kerosene and then burn them to death.
How can this world be the same one that I live in? How can my reality be so different than the realities of others? How can this be the world we live in?
I wonder if I could find any reason to live if that were my life. I'm not sure that I could. I'd like to think that I'd change my scenario--I'd leave my husband, or I'd leave my in-laws........but what if I had no where else to go? What if I had no other options? What if even my parents didn't want me to return, or perhaps never even wanted me to be born in the first place since I'm a village girl and would only be a financial burden to them? What if the thought of taking care of myself and prioritising my own needs/wants never even crossed my mind?
......For my own part (and I realise that my perspective is limited), I feel that the subconscious minds of many village girls are trained from a young age to never even contemplate such thoughts. Certainly not all..but it seems that many are.
I don't even know her name. I'm not sure our mission hospital even recorded it; I think we discharged her without a record that she even came--we hadn't bothered registering her as her husband carried her in because we rushed her to our unused hospital ward where she could lay down on a bed as the doctor monitored her. We still don't know if it was a murder or a suicide; but since she is so newly married the police will likely investigate it as if it were a murder.
And, in all my bewilderment and sadness/confusion, I find myself wondering if she ever regretted having consumed poison or if she ever wished she hadn't. I don't know if, in even those final moments of life, she felt convinced that it would be better to be dead than be alive. I don't know.
I don't know that I know how to provoke any positive change in this particular phenomenon. I wouldn't even know where to start. I feel so overwhelmed and helpless and hopeless sometimes. But what I know is this: we all need to strive to transform our world into one in which all individuals experience joy, peace, and love. And I think we can, we must, each do this--- at least on some micro-level! That is all I know.
Today, may you experience joy, peace, and love.
And may you share it with others.