The journey Rituja Indapure will have taken to the lectern on Saturday at the Vernetta Smith Chehalis Timberland Library has spanned nearly a decade, if not longer.
She first told her story of sexual abuse and South Asian cultural expectations in 2010 as part of a production of “Yoni Ki Baat,” essentially the South Asian version of “The Vagina Monologues.” Since 2017, she’s presented “The Healing Tale: How Stories Can Move Us Beyond Shame” as a speaker under the umbrella of Humanities Washington, a nonprofit that holds cultural events and gatherings around the state.
One of those events will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday when Indapure shares her experience of breaking free of the taboo around her own terrible experience and discusses how the power of storytelling can be therapeutic for both the person speaking and those who listen.
“I try to walk the audience through how hard it is to sometimes share stories of shame within our own communities, because sometimes we don’t even have the vocabulary to describe what happens to us,” Indapure said. “I think for me, it was easier for me to tell my story in front of hundreds of strangers than it was to have those conversations with close friends or even family members. I find that anyone who comes to hear my story has either experienced something similar themselves, knows someone who has, or is worried about their kids or grandkids experiencing something like it.”
Indapure lives in Sammamish and has an extensive background as a community volunteer, activist and organizer. She has directed productions of “Yoni Ki Baat” and “Bandhan,” which explores the definition of marriage. Her current project is “Wheatish,” a documentary that looks at how South Asian communities view marriage through the lens of skin color.
As someone who is no stranger to exploring the emotional intersections of cultural taboos and personal experiences, Indapure takes pride in creating an environment of trust without shame or fear at her presentations.
She spends the first 30 minutes telling her story with snippets of South Asian mythology woven in, then spends the second half of the event fielding questions and leading discussions amongst those in attendance. Those periods can become quite emotional for some, but equally rewarding as people realize they’re less isolated in their experiences than they may have told themselves.
“Her speaking about how people can overcome trauma in their lives through telling stories and how that’s an effective way for survivors to deal with the trauma in their lives, I’m hoping it’ll connect with those people to help them find a level of healing,” said Brenda McGuigan, an adult services librarian at the Chehalis Timberland Library. “Humanities Washington is really great at finding people who are wonderful speakers and can generate discussion, which is what they hope to accomplish with the program.”
Often times, there’s a person or two who will approach Indapure after the hour is up to share their own stories of sexual abuse or other traumatic experiences. Not just women — Indapure said she’s had instances of LGBTQ people in the audience sharing their stories.
“The first time I dared to be onstage, my goal was to reach one person who had maybe gone through a sexual assault and felt it was their fault,” Indapure said. “I think that’s what I strive to be each and every time I tell these stories. If I can unlock that one person from their shame, I feel like I’ve done my job.”