“Sushila’s Bhakti” by Shani Mootoo is a story about a female artist who struggles with her distorted self-perception as “a good Brahmin girl.” In the story Sushila is confused about where she really comes from. To end her confusion, Sushila seeks a way to connect with her religion that does not contradict her unwillingness to bow before a patriarchal God. Her main goal in her path is to connect with her point of origin and feel properly rooted. “I want to connect with my point of origin. Not the point of origin as in ‘Who-made-me-God-made-me,’ nor the point at which we are said to have flipped over from animal to human, but rather the origin of Indian-ness. … What is my point of origin? How far back do I need to go to feel properly rooted?” (Sushilas Bhakti, Mootoo).
In the search to find her identity, Sushila tries many things that a Brahmin girl does. Every attempt to find herself, such as painting landscapes and still life, brought back memories of her past, but did not link her to her origin. Towards the end of the story Sushila decided to do something that her grandmother did in the past. She claims the art of mehendi from its unused place in her early memories and channels it into her own artwork. Sushila used saffron for her art, and a coloring that dies her hands orange making any trace of white or pink from her fingernails disappear. Her canvas was being imbued with purpose and finally she begins to see herself in her work. By incorporating mehendi into her creations, Sushila feels far more organically connected to her origin than any of her other attempts to find her identity. At this point in the story, Sushila realizes that her identity does not need to conform to storied history or anything documented, but that here identity only need to be her story.
Sushilas Bhakti is a story that is truly inspiring. The message of the story is so strong and implicit, that the search of ones cultural identity can be its own...
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