The image above is the aftermath of one of today’s interviews at Make Love Not Scars in New Delhi. This is Anahita hugging one of the survivors after we finished an incredibly moving interview.
I am experiencing the most interesting of defense mechanisms right now…
I want to share everything about the day, about the women, about Anahita and our debrief after the interviews.. I can’t. I sit here and when I think even for a moment of this woman’s story I feel as though I simply can’t handle telling the tale of the day and waking up in the morning and going to UN Women with anything less than completely puffed out eyes and a broken spirit.
What I CAN say is I give every credit there is to give to Make Love Not Scars and I urge anyone should you become moved at any time, to support them. More on MLNS’s will come in the coming weeks. For now I am just trying to see what I can eek out of my system and get on the page. I am experiencing this wild phenomenon (I can’t say I wasn’t warned): I intend to come home at night get every little thing done.. yet I can only do so much. I can’t say I am not emailing at 11pm to secure my ride for the next meeting or writing a media outlet but post processing mass photos or writing? THAT I am not doing, at least not in the quantity I would like.
Today I interviewed I think 5 women and by the end of the 2nd I was done. All I could think was A- how do the people at Make Love Not Scars do it?, B- I can’t cry on camera (I experimented with my GoPro [although it shut off in the middle of the interview with the woman above- ack].. I can’t cry on camera.. I can’t cry on camera.., C- Can I touch and comfort the women I am talking to? The woman in particular above which I am sad to realize I don’t think was captured at the end.. we held hands and looked at each other in the eyes in a way I will never forget. It was woman to woman. Not culture to culture. There was no judgment there was just love and appreciation.
And on appreciation.. I can say again from the most clinical standpoint, I am amazed at how many women mentioned me. Not a simple thank you for listening to their story but that telling it to me (and I assume knowing I am going to do my best to put it out there) makes them feel they are going in the right direction… Another woman, an Indian woman who is not an acid attack survivor, said meeting me was a breath of fresh air (this after I explained my POV for being there and doing this project and more.. also to be explained soon). This last bit was sad in that I shouldn’t be a breath of fresh air at all, I wish I wasn’t. What all this feedback did do though is inform me or rather affirm me of a notion I have long held, that we need to build bridges and bear witness if nothing else. You can bet your ass I am going to do what I can in whatever small way to continue to raise awareness and advocate for these women but it is worth remembering that simply bearing witness or simply connecting with someone from another town/ state/ country can start to build a bridge.
Tapped out. A bit disappointed that I don’t want to even look at my photographs or attempted video (video was not an initial part of the project but I thought I would give it a shot!) but I simply can’t. I am hoping at this point that I will have it in me to simply back everything up.
Moving on to my last clinical observation for the day: I went into the day worrying if I wouldn’t be willing to ask the tough questions (this is new territory for me). I was trying to write out questions in advance but feeling strongly that intuition was the way to go and as it turns out, it was. Turns out the challenge is not that I won’t have the questions and conversation, the challenge is learning to not tear up. That and I learned some technical things that come up when using a translator (I had a great one but I could change a few things on my end).
The last thought I can bear to share for now is this. You would think when someone has acid thrown on them and it burns through their skin and body, that would be the worst that woman had experienced. Every woman today had different stories but not a single one hadn’t been sexually harassed and the experiences varied from rape, child rape, beatings, threats, metal bar beatings.. it goes on, all in addition to the viciousness of the attack on their body and spirit with acid. What goes on is not okay and while I try to learn the beginnings of a solution I can say for now, from the .01% I have gathered, the start is to empower the women and men on the ground DOING THE WORK – the people who know what’s up and make it their business to influence change.