Mirabai; the rebel princess and me.
The first time I visited India, I fell in love. It was like I finally saw the world in colour! I was especially struck by the grace of the girls and women in their bright saris and the lusciousness of the many-armed goddesses. But there seemed to be two different Indias: a modern India where the top political positions are held by female power houses like Sonia Gandhi, and an India that seems to be stuck in the Dark Ages, where the vast majority of women have “no choice, voice or rights,” to quote Sushma Kapoor, South Asia deputy director for U.N. Women.
At the time, I was told a story of a sixteenth century poet-princess who was a feminist avant la lettre. Her name was Mirabai. Married to a rich prince against her will, she didn’t worship the gods of her husband’s family, she refused to commit suicide after her husband died and she remained childless for the rest of her life. Instead, she became an artistic nomad, traveling from temple to temple, possessing nothing but a saffron sari. The sacred songs she wrote –well over 1300- were incredibly sensual and are still sung today.
You understand I had to dedicate a collection to this rebel princess! And I believe the timing couldn’t be more right. As India’s global influence and affluence are growing, increasing numbers of women are becoming financially independent and are beginning to assert their own choices. Men who feel threatened by these newly emancipated women have been reacting in outbursts of sexual violence. At the moment in India, one rape is reported every 16 minutes. It’s a problem with very deep roots, linked to other forms of violence against women such as domestic abuse, female infanticide and forced prostitution.
A new movement of fed up women believes that tougher laws can only partly solve the problem; patriarchal views need to be challenged. And they are using their female energy to do just that. A great example is a comic book that was recently launched with a female rape survivor as its super hero. ‘Priya’s Shakti’ (more about this inspiring project in my next blogpost) tells the story of gang-rape survivor Priya and Goddess Parvati as they fight against gender crimes in India. The message to rapists and violators? Like Mirabai and our goddesses, no amount of violence is going to drive us back!
In the upcoming weeks, let me take you on a whirlwind tour of India with Mirabai as our guide. Enjoy the ride! And who knows; the rebel princess might even inspire you to find your own voice.
REFLECTIONS FROM YOUR MIRROR
FOR THE WOMEN OF THE WORLD
Between king and QUEEN
Who is Tasya van Ree? The mysterious girl in the big black hat has been fascinating art connoisseurs and fashion lovers alike since she burst onto the scene with her stunning black-and-white photographs of celebrities like Michelle Rodriguez and (one-time lover) Amber Heard. I asked the Hawaiian-born visual artist of Dutch-Japanese ancestry (41) about her art and soul. “Between both King and Queen is where I exist.”
Sara Mearns (31) is New York City Ballet’s boldest ballerina. A passionate, intense dancer, she started dancing at 3 and starred in Swan Lake when she was only 19. But instead of resting on her laurels, Sara has kept challenging herself with daring projects, from a collaboration with hip-hop dancers to a leading role in a Broadway show. I talked with the fierce Swan Queen about sacrifices, body confidence, and how to turn pain into gain. “I’m not the typical skinny, tall, long-neck kind of ballerina.”
The art of love!
Get your creative juices flowing
This Valentine’s, don’t wait around for that love-note or those fancy chocolates to feel loved and desired. Express yourself to fall in love with yourself, now!