Stories of Girls’ Resistance
Indrani, Trinidad and Tobago


“I was having a conversation with the universe and I realized that I had never been more powerful than at that moment. And I realized that power felt like a feather. It brushed your shoulder and it asked the question, “Are you ready? Are you ready?” Before that I thought power was like a Superman punch. After that, I started practising really peaceful power. And I think after fifty, those of us who are lucky, we get there. It’s a gift that you can give yourself for having survived that long. ”

Indrani's Story

By Ashlee Cox
Global Activist Indrani reflects on how she resolved her abusive childhood and created a safe space for other survivors of domestic abuse.

In her mid-sixties with seemingly flawless brown skin, wide smiles and brown eyes sparkling with mirth and a hint of mischief, Global Activist against domestic violence, Indrani, is a far cry from ‘a girl who was always scared’.

During a phone interview with the Girls’ Narrative Project, Indrani revealed that as a little girl growing up in the north of Trinidad and Tobago, she was constantly hyper vigilant in an effort to avoid giving her Mother a reason to beat her with whatever household item she could reach.

Speaking in the third person, she recounted, “She tried to make herself really, really small. If she was small, then maybe her mother couldn’t find the soft places on her body to hit. She was always hyper vigilant. Always looking around to find the thing that she needed to do or not do to not get in trouble. And that meant being hyper vigilant about what her siblings were doing, hyper vigilant about what was happening with her father-, just hyper vigilant all the time”.

As the eldest among her two other siblings, a boy and girl, four and eight years her junior respectively, Indrani found herself being held unfortunately accountable for their welfare and shenanigans; an unenviable position that rarely bode well for her.

One such incident where she was perceived to have failed in her siblings’ duties resulted in her mother throwing a bucket at her, which caused further calamity and severe retribution for Indrani.  She was twelve years old at the time.

Trying to paint the setting of this pivotal event, she noted, “That was the day my mother threw a bucket at me and I ducked and it hit the baby. And I got beaten for ducking, because I should have stayed and taken my beating because I deserved it. And so I felt like it was my fault that the baby was hurt and it was my fault that I ducked and how could I have protected myself when something was going to happen to the baby? And with all of that, it culminated into the thought – one thought, one sentence: I will never be like her”.

During these tumultuous years, especially from age 8 to 14,  Indrani said she felt as if she was a bad person, as it was the only way for her to understand why ‘bad things’ such as her beatings were happening to her.

She had yet to understand that such forms of discipline were in fact abuse.

She revealed that while other adults knew of her beatings, they were probably also doing the same to their own children and it was taboo to ‘bring up your dirty laundry in public’ so there was no real rescue for her at the time.

“And even if I had said something it would have been, you know, I deserved that. Because why else was that happening unless I was bad enough to deserve it? ”

“No. Those were secrets that were kept. And actually I didn’t even think of it as a secret. It was just the way it was. You know, … you are actively trying to keep a secret. But for me saying to somebody, “hey, my mother’s beating the shit out of me” is like walking up to somebody and saying, “hey, I have brown skin”. So saying that my mother is beating the hell out of me, so what? That’s just the way it is,” She explained acidly.

“This was a cultural right. You had children and they were there to be your flogging dummies”, she continued.

Furthermore, she revealed crying too loudly or making too much noise from the pain, risked more severe punishment.

“Even as you were being beaten and bleeding and broken you still shouldn’t cry, because if you cry, you’re really going to get something to cry about. So the beatings, you couldn’t even cry for that!” she laughed humourlessly.

Escapism from this harsh reality came in the form of adventure books, such as the Bobbsey Twins and the Nancy Drew series, which allowed her to get lost in their action filled pages.

Indrani explained she excelled at school, because she was smart, willing to learn and due to her developed sense of hyper vigilance, became the ‘teacher’s pet’.

These qualities went on to serve her well as she joined the Girl Guides in High School and became a patrol leader, thereby adding to her sense of empowerment and self achievement.

“There was something that I could feel good about that didn’t have to do with home. And school was my doing. Nobody could take the test but me. Even though my mother took all the credit because the only reason I did well was because she prayed; but if I didn’t do well, it was because the devil was in me,” she remembered.

In her twenties, Indrani left Trinidad to pursue higher studies within a University in New York, all the while working two jobs.

She said during that time, she took much guidance from her professors as they allowed her to create a concept of a better adult in her mind and even when she did not understand it, were looking out for her best interests.

“At 12 my allies were just an idea of “I could be different”, but at 20 my allies were my professors who were showing me different ways to be in the world,” she said awe lacing her words.

“They didn’t scream and yell and curse at people. They were adults who laughed and who could enjoy life. I was looking around and cobbling together an adult, it was almost like sculpting a thing that I could become. But it wasn’t,- I wasn’t that clear in those times”.

For this West Indian from the Indian Diaspora, there never seemed to be anyone who she could speak to about her abuse or it’s correlating trauma, as no one was talking about the invisible ways to come out of oppression or to find one’s value, rather in her twenties what she remembered of the feminist movement did not include people who looked like her or had been through the same upbringing as her.

Indrani said it is her belief that if she had had someone in her life who noticed her pain, or someone she could relate and talk to, she would have found her inner strength sooner, because  she knows now it did not come from thin air, it had always been there within her.

In spite of the aggressive violence that characterised her childhood, Indrani has learnt to practice what she calls ‘peaceful power’.

She remembers entering an Olympic distance triathlon at the age of fifty and during a conversation with the Universe before the first event, she noticed in that moment feeling more powerful than ever before.

“And I realized that power felt like a feather. It brushed your shoulder and it asked the question, “Are you ready? Are you ready?” Before that, I thought power was like a Superman punch,” She confessed.

“I have learnt how to set and sustain boundaries in a very peaceful way. I can say no and I hear my ‘No’, and even if the other person does not hear it, that is not my business”.

It is often said that it is imperative to become the person you wished you had as a child and that is exactly what Indrani did by creating her own Foundation to help other survivors thrive and step into their own power.

“And one of the reasons I formed my foundation was to bring these skills to shelters free of charge so that at least we could begin to teach some of the people who wanted to listen, some skills: how to say ‘No’; boundaries; what shame looks like and how to be resilient to shame. Self care by taking a break and saying, “You know for the next 5 minutes I belong to me,”; that that is not selfish. That is actually the most brilliant thing that anyone can do,” she says, passion evident in her voice.

Having gone through her own trauma and worked towards healing it, Indrani, a wife, mother , coach, yoga teacher and holder of positive psychology certificates revealed that it feels like a ‘ warm blanket’ to be in solidarity with others.

“It feels like my arms can circle the globe and I can say, “I can hold your pain. I know how to do that. And I know how to help you get over it. And I know that you can hold it. I can see your strength.” It feels like warmth, it feels like acceptance. It feels like, you know if I could put words to it, “Come here baby girl, come here,” she said with a gentle tone.

For Indrani solidarity in feminism can only be possible if women stand with women. In her opinion, if a woman said she has been raped, no other woman should question it, rather it is important to believe each other, stay together and accept that pain in whatever form it manifests, is still pain.

“Every single abused woman who has the courage to tell their story, whether or not she leaves, inspires me to continue; because if she can tell me the story, she can begin to hear little places where she might make a change. Every time I hear a story about a woman or I stand and I do a speech and somebody comes up to me and says, “That thing you said, I needed to hear that,” that just tells me, “Indrani, you’re in the right place, you’re doing the right thing. Don’t stop.”

As a global activist working only with ending domestic violence against women and children, Indrani has travelled the world speaking in many different venues, such as TEDx Trinidad and at the UN, about her own story and her message of peace.

“My message is always the same: If we don’t end violence at home, we cannot dare to envision a world without violence,” she extols passionately.

It is her strong belief that everyone needs to focus on their own home to resolve violence.

“And if everybody who’s hearing […] my voice in that moment, if we all go home and say to our families, “I’m sorry that I’ve been violent. Let us together be peaceful,” then she said we could end violence as the tools needed were already at everyone’s disposal.

“As trite as it sounds, it is called love and respect. If I say I love the people I live with the most, then my behaviours better show that.” She declared.

Indrani is a wonderful example of someone who is determined to break the cycle of abuse and heal it in others. While her mother firmly denies having been so abusive to her, claiming that these stories are made up, Indrani has nonetheless, worked on solving her own pain and takes ‘excellent financial care‘ of her mother.

She has very strict emotional boundaries with her mother who she has learnt suffers from clinical depression, was at the time going through several deep financial stressors and was unable to break the cycle of using abuse as discipline as Indrani now has.

“For the little girl now who is being hurt and she’s being hurt by people that she loves, I want her to hear this: Whatever has happened to you that has hurt you, you did not deserve it. There is nothing that you have done as a child that should give an adult the right to inflict pain. I would love for you to begin to understand how precious you are,” she declared.

Indrani describes herself now as fearless, relentless and someone who anyone going through a hard time would want on their team.

Artist Description

This image of Indrani was created by Elizabeth Barrera, who explains their thoughts behind the illustration: I wanted to represent that she suffered abuse since she was a child and the fear of doing something wrong and getting abused was very present in her life. I tried to represent hands that are constantly trying to abuse her, while she is always searching for someone to rescue her.


Running Scars

Aphia Blugh

“ your honour if I May “

I was forced to take a plea deal on what was said to be “ the best choice  to make” if I may elaborate on my emotions  your honour , concerning my mother I feel as if  I am not her kid , I could never be her child , you don’t treat your child the way my mother does. Your honour if I May direct my emotions to the other defendant.

I never asked how hard the work is cause I have a hard and indestructible surface  it’s hard to live up to there’s expectations that  facing cause I never asked for this life I was given . When I express my emotions you say I’m rude , my emotions apparently automatically becomes an issue and when I’m right the left hand rises to slam my left cheek followed by my right , right there and then at that Young age I realized that my emotions or view had no value .

I could see myself hating people the way I hate myself or even more than that . You are not  the only one allowed to be tired of the life you are living  because i am tired too . It’s unfair I can’t always be the strong one because under the surface the grass isn’t green .

You expect me to be strong as Samson the great but I can’t I’m not him and life treats me less of a human . You made my life a never ending roller coaster ride of pressure and one day I knew that i would blow.

I understand I’m the eldest of my siblings but I can’t continue to carry all the heavy weight on my Shoulders

You made me afraid to fail , make friends,  be social because I’m always  looking around for the rod , the rod the source of fear and I wish  I can cure myself but I can’t deal with the growing pressure,  I mean sure give it to your sister see if she can handle every family burden  who would I be if I can’t take it all ? I hope some day I’ll make it out of hear even if it take all night or a hundred years.

You flooded my brain and infuriated my heart a house with no items  would be such a relief I wouldn’t have to hide items but then again where would I hide.  I’d have to rely on my body that would bend and shape itself to cover my soft spots from “the rod “.

Your words cut deeper than a knife , the look of disappointment plastered on your face , I shut out all my dreams in attempt to fulfil your dreams and wishes but i still manage to disappoint you .

What can I do differently please tell me,  I’m ready to learn.  Your voice sent my heart to 300 meters per hour   the squinting of your eyes were my preparation  time and your right hand my sigh to begin the race , but I always lose.

You made me compare myself instead of embracing and loving myself. “I searched for places where i can see light but i can’t see all the places where there  might be light(zevia). You made me start to anticipate my death day.  Pleasing you seems more of difficult task than going to heaven.  I feel so miss understood and no one sees that poetry can come from the hood.

When I do something worth Acknowledgement I’m suddenly your kid which means at any other time I’m not your child? Well that explains  a lot . You always said love would break me or hurt me first but you were wrong, you broke me first and i hate myself for allowing it , I didn’t know any better and still don’t at heart .

When things go wrong you expect me to fix it and like me,  I did , in attempt to ease the work load and again your not impressed. I might not be the kid you wanted but I am the kid YOU  got and I’ll still strive to make you and myself proud .

Despite my rough life I have no choice but to stand up and take my fixture in my hands and dreams one step at a time .

In conclusion your honour, “I was having a conversation with the universe and I realized that I had never been more powerful than at the moment , and I realized that power felt like a feather . It brushed your shoulder and it asked the question, “are you ready? Are you ready? Before that I thought power was like a superman punch that I stared practicing really powerful power and i think after fifty,  those of us  who are lucky we get there. It’s a gift that you can give yourself for surviving that long “

So your honour as u see I was filled with a lot of unsaid words , but that is all your honour thank you