Saturday, 1 October 2011

A witness account on REDS

My roots, My life

A group of three young women visited our organization REDS in 2010. The following is a short witness by one of them. We have many such witnesses. Instead writing a blog on my own, I thought that the readers must be treated with what someone else writes about us. – M C Raj  

Wow oh my Gosh. Ok I don’t even know exactly where to start….. The only thing I can do first is to apologize for my self-centered nature and lack of communication. I have learned an abundance of lessons from the time I spent with you at Booshakthi Kendra as well as REDS and really not a day goes by since being introduced to the Dalit Movement and your struggles have I not used your lessons and knowledge as a constant reminder. I think I approached writing to you with anxiety. To tell you the truth the weeks we spent together and with the community, the elders, children, cultural team and DCDS shook the very foundations of my existence and identity. And it is my existence and identity that is dependent upon my communities, my culture, my people and my ancestry, all this was made more clear to me through you and my first journey to South India as a young woman of the diaspora. Our dialogues, your patience and explanations gave me so much to think about and digest. So, when it came to thanking you, explaining to you what I am now doing… the words did not seem to come so eloquently. I think the meditation of everything that happened for my spirit, politics and life while in Tumkur needed to be translated to you, however at first I myself was not sure how to fully articulate the meaning. Now I am surer than ever that this is part of the journey, and I think by writing more and further reflection that the relevance of our relationship will be revealed. But there are some things in my heart that did immediately compel me and really are quite simple to explain. For my rather egotistical reflection time, I need to say again that I am sorry because the love I felt at your home and with your family is so immense. I should not have taken this long to give you a reminder of how thankful and blessed I feel to have met you at 21 and be introduced to a movement older than I! It’s a blessing to have stayed with your community at such a critical point in my life on the search for my roots, and my complexities as a mixed up Sri Lankan, a Thamil Woman.

The project was just a vessel opening up floodgates of possibilities. I have no doubt in my mind that I want to tangibly support REDS in any way I can directly and through the everyday work I do in my community of Toronto. Rakhi, Gillian and I walk with a different pace, this change in step no doubt is due to the huge footsteps so many Dalits have walked for thousands of years. I can’t help but feel intrinsically inspired and moved, as I see this as a part of me and my understanding of “Indianness”, as well as the Aryan dominated dialogues so prominent in our mothers and fathers from the lies they were told as children. I need this, we need you, you have documented and helped foster stories that need to be told. I cannot find words in my language to tell you how much you have given me, I think my life will be spent in some ways repaying you, the elders, my ancestors, my comrades who have given so much to the Movement and my self-reflection. It sickens me to think of a system of slavery that still exists in the Indian subcontinent, and because it is caste-ism and not seen as necessarily an ethnic, political or racial issue, the mainstream uses religion as some sort of disguise and westernized view of barbaric Indians and their Hindu beliefs. If one cannot see the all so many of the Indian subcontinents keep their own people at the bottom, we lose perspective.  This happens because people do not see the humanity in others, currently there is no perceived relation. In gagging the complexity of caste hierarchy, it becomes simple how people lack compassion for human populations labeled BLACK, UNTOUCHABLE; for some reason dark bodies are worth less mourning than light ones. The silence on the issue and lack of serious research carries such heavy colonial and racist mentalities even those labeled progressive will not clearly state these paradigms, but rather indirectly point and gently nudge at the idea. This is not an option for me! I refuse to gently nudge at anything, it is impossible to do so when people are on the ground fighting and choosing to look at themselves with worth, with love and with respect when everything around them tells them the opposite.

Upon my arrival to Canada, my family and friends noticed the changes. I was able to hold my head a little higher yet humble myself at how much I did not know and see from the villages we went to. I learned to be more patient with my family and start inquiring more about their silences regarding certain issues. Silences so many from my island have learned from not being able to speak and think freely due to the war and colonialism. I think it’s nearly impossible for us as a people to move on with the many scars we bear. Something very pronounced in the work you do is healing aspect. This is complimentary to the struggle, the more we fight the more we need to heal in a meaningful way. This is also a balance that is not so easily attained but must be paid attention to personally and collectively. My feet have not yet touched the ground since last February and probably form the year before that as well. Hahaha there is so much more to tell, but there will be more emails I promise. I would also like to describe more of the tangible ways we have been spreading what you do and the specifics as to the work and dissemination of our experience with REDS that we have been undergoing here in Toronto. As for right now I know you guys are immensely busy but please check out and read our website. 

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