The Varuna Voyages
"Call me Ish..."
Ishwarpreet (Ish) is a half Sikh, half British diplomat, with dark hair, dark skin and bright blue eyes. She carries a sabre, speaks countless different languages, plays the sitar, is fluid in gender and sexuality, and can hold her own in a drinking contest.
Think of her like a cross between a Geisha, Inara Serra from Firefly, and Senator Amidala from Star Wars.
Ishwarpreet (A Sikh name meaning God’s Beloved), known as ‘Ish’ for the sake of the British contemporaries and their inherent ability to butcher her birth name with their western way of pronunciation. She was born to a British general who held in high regard with Her Majesty, and the daughter of an admired and decorated Sikh veteran (who also happens to be a Prince).
Her parent’s loved each other deeply, and she spent much of her time travelling to England, the home of her father, to spend time in the high courts in the presence of Lords and Ladies. Equally though, she spent much of her time running riot in the streets of her home city Cawnpore, with street urchins and highborns alike, until a passing Sikh solider recognised the girl and snatched her up to be taken back to the palace, where she would receive a slap on the wrist and have to devise a new escape route.
Many regarded her as a curiosity, she had the dark hair and traditional features of her mother, yet she had inherited her father’s bright blue eyes.
Because of her upbringing, she was raised speaking not only English, but Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Urdu, Gujarati, Punjabi, Assamese, as well as the snippets of Swedish, French, German and countless others that she picked up on her voyages between India and Britain. Her mother was an intelligent woman, and taught her all the ways of the Sikh faith, which she embraced wholeheartedly. Her father taught her the ways of war and diplomacy.
At around aged 11 she fell into trouble when she was discovered reading a text relating to Rati, the Hindu god of love, carnal desire and sexual pleasure. Her mother, a devote Sikh, a religion that values chastity, and her father, a British gentleman through and through, were horrified.
Ish was sent away to England once again, though this time it was not a holiday, or a family visit. This time she was to be sent to school, in the hopes that it would help and educated her in the ways of being a proper upstanding lady.
After the long boring journey, where she was confined to her cabin (gone were the days of swinging on the rigging with the sailors), they landed on English shores. It was grey. Clouds hung heavy in the sky as the connecting steam locomotive wound it’s way through the countryside. Suddenly her one of her troop of attendants spotted what was to be her future home. It stuck out bold on the landscape, visible despite the droplets of rain clinging to the window. A dreary stone block fortress run by nuns and priests and attended by children as equally dull. Ish knew she had to run.
After excusing herself to visit the bathroom, she headed down the train, hood tucked over her face to hide her appearance. Ish reached the last carriage and made her way out onto the decking at the back. The train had started to slow in preparation for arrival, it was now or never. Wind howling, rain biting, heart racing, she jumped.
Ish ended up 20ft below the train track, plopped safely into a haybale, gorged upon by some friendly cows. Ish took that as a sign, the holy animal of the Hindu faith had played a part in saving her. She had been raised Sikh, Christian, she had known Nordic sailors and heard wondrous things of voodoo tribespeople. She decided, in that moment, in the damp hay looking up at the grey sky, that she would devote her life to studying religion, faiths, and what makes people tick.
She found her way to Oxford, sold her jewels and clattering bangles and, with her sharp mind and sliver tongue, fell in studying with the scholars. She changed her name to Indigo – ‘blue dye from India’ and convinced everyone that her striking eye colour was due to a harsh dye maker who tried to blind her by failed. What followed was 6 years of philosophy, drinking competitions, history, impromptu sword fights, lessons in mathematics and sciences, far too many lovers, and, most importantly, she learnt more about the religions and the faiths of the world than anyone ever had, and along the way, she learnt more about herself than she ever thought possible.
The Sikh god has no gender, this resonated with Indy/Ish, and she henceforth did away with the idea of what was expected of ‘her’. She drifted between femininity, (with her long hair uncovered and pinned back, as was the fashion, and enormous bustle skirts and tight corsets) and masculinity, with her hair in a turban, her trousers practical and her shirts buttoned tightly. She settled for somewhere between the two on most days, and as such, her peers gave up on knowing what to refer to ‘her’ as.
She continued studying Rati, the Hindu god of sex, and branched out into studying the fertility gods and the carnal gods of other faiths too, Bes, Min, Aphrodite, Freya. She discovered that sex wasn’t a disgusting act as her mother and father had led her to believe, and instead was a basic human need. And she had also discovered that she could use her sexuality to sway the minds of even the most straight edged student or scholar. She studied the Karma Sutra, got a lot of practise, and became skilled.
She too discovered that her own sexuality is fluid, she desire men and women in the same regard. And as she presents her self so well as either gender, she can make herself appeal to all!
In her time she learnt poetry and music, favouring the traditional sitar of her homeland.
She trains in Buddist combat, carries a sabre like all good Sikh soldiers, and still retains the shrewd mind of her diplomatic father.
At 18 she tires of the scholarly life and thirsts for the adventures of her childhood once again. Following the same route she took 6 years earlier, she finds herself in the town of Portsmouth, whiling away her time seeking the paying company of sailors and nobleman, waiting for her next great adventure to present itself.