The Liberated Zones of Mother Dravidia
A note on Kali and Mariamman:
Kali and Mariamman are fiery manifestations of the gender-free divine feminine, rooted in Dravidian and Adivasi spiritual traditions all across South Asia. Kali is known as the ferocious dark goddess, the force of time, and the destroyer of evil. Mariamman is known as the divine mother, the goddess of rain and nature, as well as the curer of sickness. They were invoked spiritually for thousands of years by countless indigenous matriarchal societies with Dravidian and Adivasi roots, and are now worshipped by marginalized communities across Southern India, Eastern India, and other parts of South Asia.
They were first seen, and laughed at, as a motley crew of highly ineffective, but cloyingly annoying feminists, free thinkers, gender-liberation revolutionaries, and caste destroyers—a dysfunctional, infighting coalition of groups with names ranging from the Centre for Gender Liberation and Free Thought, to the Divine Feminine Warrior Society; from the Alliance to Dismantle Casteism and Inequality, to the Dravidian Feminist Alliance.
But none electrified the masses like the indomitable Kali Panthers and the viciously brave Mariamman Cobras. They had a touch of unpredictability about them—not to mention glorious moments in their revolutionary history.
The Kali Panthers and Mariamman Cobras were large leaderless groups predominantly consisting of marginalized women, gender non-conformists, and members of the most brutalized castes. There was always a baseline of soulful care to their gatherings and a fiercely dear independent spirit, no matter how painful it got at times. Any attempts at establishing power-centres often got rapidly diluted because they knew they could only rely on their collective spiritual strength when the going got tough. They relied on the wisdom of the elders, the doggedness of the experienced fighters, and the passion of the young 'uns.
All were needed in equal proportion.
Most importantly however, they realized the all-important need for joy and happiness, for healing and love, and for real social freedom in the spaces where they had established communes ranging from 5 to 50 members. Dense, gender-free matriarchal communes in neighborhoods and tiny towns populated primarily by vagrants, sex workers, poverty-ridden day laborers, and low-income families.
Outsiders saw the goddess communes thriving on next to nothing. Initially people paid them no heed. But soon they began to see the joy, the care, and the solidarity. They saw the conflicts and hurt between commune members being discussed with honesty—at times very loud, argumentative honesty—but honesty nonetheless. They saw pain and suffering being treated as part of the human condition rather than a burden. Violence and abuse was not tolerated. Being together was more important than settling down in a fixed location. They stayed wherever they could, in whichever spaces were most conducive, eventually developing a fluid network of housing cooperatives, independent shacks, squats, and run-down apartments—as well as some land to grow vegetables and have chickens. It gave them nimble flexibility while still maintaining a steely cohesiveness.
Soon, others wanted in. Including increasing numbers of men who eventually realized that love and healing were far more desirable than power and misogyny. The communes welcomed them, as long as all knew they were entering a gender-free matriarchy and were willing to live and die for it. The men who joined were laughed at and taunted by their friends. But once in, few who joined left, despite having every freedom to do so. Slowly, entire families, neighborhoods, and communities began establishing goddess communes.
Inevitably, they were set upon by the mercenaries of the state.
Jack-booted, misogynistic men in uniforms with big guns and even bigger egos.
(How dare their authority be questioned by some fucking anti-India, cut-hair feminists and degenerate hijra non-men.)
"You wear the uniform of a red-blooded, pure Indian man protecting his country, his family, and his women from parasites and demons!” The platoon leaders would bellow at them. “Crush them with your virile courage!"
Each of the battalion commanders would add a little bit of their own martial masala—indeed were actively encouraged to do so by higher ups—getting a little too pumped up on whiskey and nationalism, before sending the platoons on night raids.
But the Kali Panthers and Mariamman Cobras were made of sterner stuff. They waited out the raids. The Panthers had to do a lot of convincing to reign in the hotheaded Cobras. But they ultimately reasoned that there was no point becoming martyrs when they knew that the struggle to establish true zones of liberation—to truly make a push for Mother Dravidia alongside sister struggles worldwide—would require thinking across decades, generations, millennia even.
They decided to stay alive and well. They had fought their battles and they wanted to make sure they consolidated the liberatory gains. They only fought when faced with no other choice—upper caste goons who would terrorize them or bands of men (oftentimes including off-duty soldiers) who would prowl the neighborhoods to humiliate and sexually assault them. They used lethal violence only to eliminate realistic, nondescript targets who abused and violated families, neighborhoods, and communities.
When things got tough and the authorities started swooping in—instead of fighting, they cocooned themselves together, using their collective safety of numbers, stashing away all weapons, and resorting instead to creating a hue and cry in the vernacular, indy, and mainstream media (occasionally via their English-speaking comrades), all of which would eventually get the SAU to back off.
They started getting bolder and bolder, but always remained sensible; never falling prey to impatience and machismo that sought out a singular utopian revolutionary moment. They had studied the history of past "leftist" revolutions and had no desire for patriarchy to be replaced by patriarchy. Wasn't fun.
It often got bloody, but nowhere near the morbid levels being touted by sensationalist transnational English and Hindi media outlets. The local, vernacularized media on the other hand, as well as independent outlets belting out raw news and entertainment, such as the grassroots media houses that had sprung up like weeds during the free thought struggles of the 2140s—had been producing some jaw-dropping news specials on the goddess uprisings.
They were happening in poor neighborhoods in and around the large and medium sized cities of southern India; neighborhoods that the middle-classes and above in the latest global superpower could care less about. Self-organized yet brilliantly disorganized groups of poor women, caste liberators, abused minorities, and marginalized gender-nonconformists in the most impoverished parts of southern India were liberating a microcosm of humanity in a manner never seen before.
While the urban intellectuals, student firebrands, and tattooed activists always bickered over which struggles constituted the heart of the ongoing liberation of Mother Dravidia—everyone knew how the spark was lit. A spark that would go on to be one among many lighting a prairie fire of matriarchal revolutions across many lands.
On December 28th, 2195—the Kali Panthers and the Mariamman Cobras organized a joint assault-cum-mass-upheaval in a clutch of the most wretched neighborhoods in Chennai—the largest city in southern India and a major source of pride for the South Asian Union as one of India’s shiniest World Cities.
That day, even the pudgy monsters in New Delhi sat up for a brief moment from their thrones, before swaddling back into their velvety corruption. The pudgy monsters across the rest of the globe cast a sideways and slightly worried glance, before brushing it away from their thoughts. If it came down to it, they were sure the heavily-armed SAU forces led by India would crush whatever those weirdoes were trying to do.
The Shakti Uprisings, alongside several other smaller uprisings across the length and breadth of South India, would provide one of the many sparks lighting the prairie fire that would later be known as the Liberated Zones of Mother Dravidia. In the decades to come, well into the mid 2200s, the subsequent fierce and gorgeous defence of the liberated zones would realize the dream of Mother Dravidia itself.
For many years, goddess communes had been established and were rapidly spreading in three distinct regions of Chennai—the north in the Perambur and Purasawalkam areas, established predominantly by the Panthers; the central region in parts of Nungambakkam and Egmore, mostly organized by the Cobras; and finally in the south, by the beautiful beaches near Mylapore and parts of Adyar, established by both (neither was willing to cede ground when it came to living by the sea).
Membership in both groups was fluid, and cross-membership in communes was actively encouraged so as to foster solidarity and community, thereby preventing internecine battles. Within years of getting established, any threatening conflicts between goddess communes were very quickly resolved with nothing more than solidarity, dollops of common sense, and a fair bit of cannabis.
Gender-free matriarchy (as referred to by the English-speaking, tattooed students from the big universities who made wannabe-revolutionary pilgrimages to the communes) was spreading rapidly.
And initially quietly.
The communes themselves had already a thousand steadfast members with barely a rumble from the authorities; with another thousand who were more peripheral members (mostly consisting of tattooed university students), either in the process of finding their feet within an existing commune or establishing a whole new one.
But no matter what they did to establish themselves peacefully, even passing under the radar of the state for now, the neighborhood goons and upper caste militias would simply not allow them to be. There were about thirty communes in total, with almost double the number in the process of being established, and rapidly increasing interest from other neighborhoods in the three regions to establish more.
The goons and militias were standing in the way and they had to be dealt with.
So, after much planning and back-and-forth, the mother elders organized a solidarity action between all the goddess communes with one objective—a final push to drive out all the rapists, thugs, and upper caste goondas from their neighborhoods once and for all.
Of course, all members of the goddess communes knew what the Panthers and Cobras meant when they said "drive out."
It meant all niceties had been exhausted. All the pieces were in place to implement the Shakti Uprsings.
Seven attack squads, or dalams, four from the Panthers and three from the Cobras, each consisting of over thirty of the fiercest warrior-healers skilled in a variety of organic martial arts, urban guerilla strategy, and fierce spiritual courage were organized by the mother elders to carry out the assault. All the warrior-healers were rooted members of the communes, or loyal allies and friends from other parts of the Dravidian lands in South India. They all activated their contacts in the vernacular and indy media houses across the world; told their journalist buddies to be on the lookout for infobytes on the peoples net on what was likely going to be the greatest spark for matriarchal revolutions worldwide that had ever been witnessed in recent times. (The latter was critical, as it ensured continued survival, post-uprising, via international solidarity networks and transnational community relationships.)
In keeping with the demographic breakup of the communes themselves, only 25% of the warrior-healers were men. The rest were either women or thirunar.
Each dalam had elected one of their most experienced and battle-scarred comrades—women or thirunar—to lead them into battle.
All the warrior-healers met for one final bonding ritual and prayer-cum-strategy session.
And of course—one final party, where we join two buddies getting ready to do battle together, yet again.
Date—Dec 27th, 2195, 11:25pm.
Location—Main Hall of the South Chennai Goddess Community Centre located in the Mylapore Beaches.
Nods and grunts from all the dalam members indicated full consent.
Mother elders did a final look-see and assessment of moods before collectively adopting the plan laid out by the squad leaders of the Kali Panthers. The mother elders then called upon the next set of squad leaders, from the Mariamman Cobras, to lay out their plan, as the cannabis pipes and kabab platters made the rounds through the dancing, singing warrior-healers of the squads; assembled over a prolonged period of planning by the mother elders of the Kali Panthers and Mariamman Cobras.
Zareenai and Kalikai looked at each other as the discussion continued and, giving knowing nods, peeled away from the rest of the group after paying their respects to the mother elders.
Comrades in arms in well over a hundred protest marches, arrests, detentions, guerilla skirmishes, and gang fights. They often buddied up for fights and skirmishes. Even though both were rooted in different communes, they stayed over in each other's buildings so often, that they really couldn't tell whose commune was whose any longer. They were now co-squad leaders Both had subtle but mischievous smiles.
And glints in their eyes.
And fire in their hearts.
And both were thinking the same thing on the eve of the biggest battle they were riding into together.
Mother Dravidia was breaking free.
And she was having fun doing it.
"So, what do you think?" Zareenai openly asked Kalikai as she rolled a tobacco leaf around a thick clump of cannabis she was cradling in the palm of her hand.
"I don't know Z. This plan has every chance of success, but it really will depend on the greenhorns being as fucking calm as possible and not getting into hero-shero mode."
Kalikai, having spent their childhood in the middle class suburbs of North Pondi had always been the more pragmatic and grounded of the two, which is what made them feel that spiritual bond with Zareenai, who, on account of having grown up in a commune her whole life, was celebrated for having a creative and unshackled mind her entire life.
It was a match made in platonic, comradeship heaven.
"You know that's not what I mean Kali..." Zareenai said, now looking at her friend directly in the eye as they each checked their gear and weapons.
Kalikai briefly met Z's gaze with a knowing look, but didn't betray much emotion.
"Yeah, I know, it gets resolved today with him..." they trailed off, while pretending to inspect their backpack with intent.
"It really did all start when SAU got the invitation to the Security Alliance by those fucking pinken and mando bastards in Ameri-Sino Fed. Indos have been just waiting to get on that shit, eh macchi?" Zareenai, said giving a muscular, affectionate shake while clasping Kali's meaty forearm.
Kali returned the clasp, and immediately got a little distant, thinking about that time. They knew the exact moment it happened with him.
"Weren't you already in the movement by then, Kali akka?"
"Oh, hell yes, Z..." Kali responded with firmness, as retroactive memories of their defiant stand came rushing back.
"In any case..."
Z wondered if Kali would talk about him, before this battle of all the battles they had been in together.
Kali went geopolitical.
"You'd think it's always been like that—the brown indo elites, craving the imperial spotlight shared by the pinken and mando elites, across two great oceans."
Z knew what was coming next, a touch exasperated that another opportunity to get some gossip on him went amiss.
"Expect this time..." Kali continued on their geopolitical treatise.
"The pinken and mando elites were genuflecting at the feet of the indo elites—hindu, muslim, sikh, goddamn warlords...didn't matter!"
Z nodded in resignation, "Yes, I know Kali."
"They forgot one ocean that had not yet been conquered by them, and there was no way the indo elites were giving up that one."
"Yup, indeed akka." Z mechanically repeated, now pretending to check her backpack with great focus, as Kali continued their tirade against the imperial overlords of the world.
"And the elites of the different nations and religions of the subcontinent had no problem presenting a united face to get more of that delicious imperial power." Kali continued, still only within Z's earshot, but as if they were orating to an audience of thousands.
"Mmm hmm..." Z mumbled, now pretending to check her multi-phase batton and arm-shield for the nth time.
"So, yeah...I knew a fucking fight was on our hands, because it's the Dravidian Mothers who first established life on this land..."
Z now was rolling her eyes to the back of her skull, well out of eyeshot from Kali's burning intensity.
"Not the indo elites..."
Z started shadowboxing with her power-knuckles on, and had by now completely given up even pretending to pay attention.
"And certainly not the pinken or mando elites..."
Z was now shadowboxing within a foot of where Kali was standing, calm like a burning ember.
"So yeah, I was never going to leave the movement, no matter how much he asked me to. If anything, I was planning on getting full-time into the communes. I had already been on a bunch of protest marches and gang skirmishes, cut my teeth in some tough-ass street battles..."
Z clocked the intensity down to simple movements at low efforts, listening even more intently.
Kali rarely brought him up in conversation. Should she venture a question? Kali was now stuffing some spare phase cartridges into their gargantuan XXL battle vest. Z decided to pretend asking an innocent question nonchalantly while still focusing on her shadowboxing.
"So..." Z ventured, mid-breath and mid-sequence, her lean, tough-as-rawhide body now going into smooth, fluid motions from muscle memory, "was he, like, a mid-level officer in the marines or something?"
"Yeah, also a Warrior Ball enthusiast...taught me how to be a gureilla fighter and an mma-cricketer at the same time."
"Pity..." Kali continued.
Z now turned to look Kali in the eyes.
"Daddy gonna feel the heat of the Shakti Uprisings..." Kali said with fiercer determination than she had ever thought capable of mustering in recent times.
Z smiled a cheeky smile.
Mother Dravidia was definitely going to have fun tonight.
Mama elephant in training; wannabe writer; and failed activist turned community jester—Shree Varuna leads a spiritually liberating intercontinental life alongside the two greatest human beings on earth, Sus and Daya (as well as his feline bffs, Faiz and Rumi).