Thursday, February 3, 2011

We get by with a little help from our friends

So far in my life I have been lucky enough to call three places home (four if you count the home where I lived until the age of two but my memories of that are limited to home videos). I have lived in my home in Haddonfield, (South) New Jersey for 19 years. For the past four, except last year, it has been Loyola’s campus in Baltimore, Maryland that has been my home for nine months out of the year. Last year, ten months were spent living in Leuven, Belgium and those hot tears that I cried before beginning the journey to leave that place could only be ones of leaving a home. In each of these places, miles apart and exceedingly different from one another, there has been one commonality and that is the people. Of course they have been different people but they have had the same feature in that they had all been strangers to me until I arrived and met them. Then, before I knew it, they were family—the people to whom I would come home to share my day with, the people I would eat with and seek comfort from. The people we surround ourselves with are what make up our world, they serve as inspiration, and they are there for whatever we need from a cup of sugar to a hug after a long week. These images came rushing to mind as I read Chandra’s description of Ganga’s home in “Shakti” and lingered incessantly as I considered what to write about.

Ganga sitting in her doorway talking to her neighbors is what first reminded me of my home in Haddonfield. In a way my neighborhood is centered on our porches and at any given time you are sure to see one or two standing on the steps chatting while the kids run around the yard. Like Ganga’s doorway and Sheila’s clubs it is a place to gossip and keep up with the real-life drama of the lives of acquaintances. The description of this home on its “nameless lane” puts it in stark contrast to the mansions on the hillside but it feels full of love and belonging. Leaving it and the people behind was not only “a fuss” but sad (45). She doesn’t say why she is leaving but her ambition comes from what could be considered her other home, among the houses on the hillside. There is a parallel drawn between Sheila and Ganga in that they both calculated every step they took towards a singular goal. The title of the story is “Shakti,” defined on Wikipedia as coming “from Sanskrit shak – “to be able,” meaning sacred force or empowerment…” Both women exemplify this “concept, or personification, of divine feminine creative power” in order to get exactly what they want. Each surrounded themselves with powerful people, Sheila as “the poor girl” in the Walsingham School and Ganga as the maid for a dozen different houses of the most materially successful people in the city (34). They learned from these people and strategized and worked hard until they were ready for the next step. Sheila’s ultimate goal was power and Ganga’s seemed to be peace, which she achieved at the moment of her daughter’s happy marriage; the woman who “flung herself at her work” and seemed to never stop moving, at her daughter’s wedding “seemed at rest, her knees drawn up and her hands held in front of her” (42, 67). Their goals ultimately became the leaping point for their own children to build their own homes.

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