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Moebius Trip: Digressions from India’s Highways, by Giti Thadani.

March 16, 2013

Moebius Trip: Digressions from India’s Highways, by Giti Thadani. Spinifex Press (2007), Paperback, 173 pages

GLOBAL WOMEN OF COLOR

A woman’s outer and inner journeys through India’s geography, history, religions, mythology, languages, and archeology in search of early images of the divine female as well as new ways of understanding the world.

Giti Thadani is a native of India, a lesbian activist and a scholar who has explored the back-roads and byways of India and of Indian thought.  In Moebius Trip, she gives a travelogue of her outer and inner journeys.  We read of her actual travels, driving her four-wheeler on bad roads and staying in lodging ranging from idyllic to dreadful.  We also accompany her in examining the ruins of ancient Indian temples in search of an understanding of the iconography of the goddesses.  Again, some of the sites are almost impossible to find while others are overflowing with loud speakers and tourists, dirt and the erasure of female images, a situation that Thadani deplores.  Yet here and there Thadani finds exciting erotic female figures which inspire new understanding.  Here and there she finds deep stillness and peace.  She shares these varying reactions to ruins, land, and water with her readers.

The writing in Moebius Trip is loosely organized, lyrical, and symbolic; even almost mystical despite Thandani’s rejection of formal religion.  The language is often poetic and Thadani includes excerpts from her own poems as well as from the Rig Veda and others.  I found the writing challenging, but even more I knew too little about the places and traditions to grasp what she was saying.  Those more knowledgeable about Indian cultural would probably have less trouble than I did.  At times I was confused by her retelling of mythical stories and the strange, to my eyes, behavior of the gods and goddesses.  By the latter part of “Part Two,” however, Thadani had captured me.  I could surf with her, in a way that was only partly rational.  Here she described how Sanskrit not only has single and plural words; it also has “dual” words that indict a linked condition such as that of twins, reflections, and past/present.  I understood this as a means of avoiding the sharp “either-or” of “western” thought and allowed an acceptance and tolerance of truths that outsiders would claim as mutually exclusive.  Tolerance, so hostile to monotheisms, is high among Thandani’s list of values.

As I read Thandani’s book, I learned a great deal about Indian geography, history, and thought.  I consulted Goggle Earth to follow her travels with maps and more images than the book itself supplied. [A map would be a good addition to this book.]  But the book is about much more than the surfaces she covered.  Her lesbianism is present in the book, not as a major theme but in her appreciation of the erotic female statues. In discussing these, she traces the shift from a religion that focused on the female to one that defined divinity as male.  I have studied that shift in the rise of Christianity, and I was fascinated to see the same pattern being played out in India.

I recommend Moebius Trip to all curious about inner and outer India, to those interested in female images of the divine, and to those open to new understandings that reach beyond the dichotomies of post-Enlightenment western thought.

Thanks to Spinifex Books for sending me a digital copy of this book

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 16, 2013 3:34 pm

    I almost choose this as my Spinifex giveaway book! So I enjoyed getting to read more about it even though I didn’t end up picking it.

    • March 17, 2013 9:14 am

      Thanks. I hope you are enjoying the book you chose. I barely scratched the surface of this one. You may still want to read it.

  2. March 18, 2013 4:43 pm

    I chose this for the Spinifex giveaway. Even keener now!

    • March 22, 2013 5:13 pm

      Good. I hope you enjoy it. You will certainly recognize more of what she describes than I did.

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