11/08/2015 8:12 AM IST | Updated 14/07/2017 12:02 PM IST

The Importance Of 'Maya'

Maya at Three by Rita Banerji


Maya ad Infinitum

Deeper than gravity

she anchors

earth to the womb,

she is the journey

fifty million women

could not make

through life.

More will be trashed;

flesh ridden life-less.


after birth,


street dog food.

But she lives!

Baby hands strong

grab destiny.

The world opens.

Black skin

robe beautiful,

sweeps past the blind land,

stomps on traditions,

buries them in history.

Mud in a grave,


to mourning.

Life swings her high

into new air,

she pauses,


to recompose the song


in the protection

of soul.

A breath births

the unbroken chain,

the lotus of infinite openings,

still gestating,




About the Poem

"Maya ad Infinitum" is one of a trilogy of my poems that will be published in an anthology titled Veils, Halos, and Shackles: International Poetry on the Oppression and Empowerment of Women by Kasva Press (Israel) in April 2016.

This is a deeply personal poem for me. I wrote it in 2003 when a friend from Europe moved to India, to adopt a three-month-old baby who she named Maya. The process took almost a year, and my friend chose to stay in India during this period because she did not want to miss a single moment of the first year of Maya's life.

"Maya", as a concept in Hinduism and Buddhism, means attachment to the tangible aspects of life and relationships. It is a sentiment which the scriptures sternly warn you off of, as they say it is spiritually unhealthy. They say this is all transient -- an illusion. That it is not the truth. And yet, as my friend chose the name "Maya", I was struck by the intense attachment she felt for the child. She'd often say she knew this was her daughter because she felt a powerful bond with Maya from the first time they met, like they had known each other a long time. As Maya visits India with her mother every year, I witness that bond intensify.

It is this concept of "Maya" that I wonder about often, in my work with The 50 Million Missing Campaign to stop India's female gendercide. Ninety percent of children in Indian orphanages are girls. India's 2011 census shows that 93% of girls are eliminated after the age of one year. The worst part is how this genocidal violence escalates with wealth and education. As I stand witness to the daily, intolerable cruelty to India's little girls, our daughters, I wonder if we indeed are a society devoid of Maya. Because Maya isn't illusion. It is the substance of life. It is that feeling of affection and attachment that bonds not just parents to their children, but also ties us as human beings to each other and to the larger, more compassionate process of living.

Visit the Facebook page for Veils, Halos, and Shackles to stay updated on the release of this book.

Photo Credits: 'Maya at Three' by Rita Banerji © 2005

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