It was a great opportunity to be commissioned by Hers to dig deep into my own personal history and memories as an Indian-born American and interpret the idea of feminity. The main inspiration for this image is goddess Durga herself, who is the central figure. I grew up in a Hindu Bengali family worshipping female deities. India is a country which had long elected a female head of state, Hindus in India worship female goddesses. Yet the country has a pervasive culture of violence against women. I thought it was important to represent Durga, the goddess of energy, as the central figure in the image.
I also used some of my personal belongings and memories to inform the other characters in the image. The wooden doll of the owl is a very popular icon in Bengal. The second figurine is of a woman holding a hand over her head. She is clutching a towel folded to protect her head from the bucket of water she most likely carried over a long distance to her home. When I was growing up in Calcutta, the freshest water would be obtained from a “tube well”. Families employed women to get fresh water for drinking from these wells. The water that was provided by the city municipality was largely considered to not be potable, though I drank it many times without any deleterious effects. (It is ironic that tube wells are rare in Calcutta today and almost everyone buys bottled plastic water or has a home filtration system). The photograph was taken on vacation in Rajasthan when I was a teenager. I remember seeing Rajasthani women wearing large bracelets stacked up to the top of their arm on that trip (like so). I also remembered having taken a photograph with one of them but as you can see, this particular woman was not wearing those bracelets. Somehow, I had projected my own memories onto her.