Monday, March 20, 2006
Reading about some of the tribal societies in India really makes you wonder where Indian culture is heading – where culture in general is heading. The Dards and the Broghpas for example, are a tribe living in Ladakh, with none of the usual inhibitions which hamper the rest of us civilised Indians. Supposed to be descendents of a group of soldiers who lost their way returning to Greece, after the battle with Porous, they settled down in the fertile valley of Dhahnu in Ladakh. According to Norboo, a scholar who has extensively studied this tribe, they worship the cow, offer sacrifices, are fond of music and wine, and dance together at the onset of spring.
The interesting thing is that the Brogpas traditionally practise polygamy and polyandry and pre-marital sex is not looked down upon. “We didn’t know what shame was,” says one of the tribesmen, Tashi. “But we are learning it gradually, because of modern education and giving up our culture and traditions.” And so polyandry has vanished although instances of polygamy are still to be found, with a man having two wives and up to ten children.
The sad thing is the way the Indian army has succeeded in breaking down local culture, labelling tribal practices as “uncivilised.” Till 1970, groups of men and women would kiss each other openly without consideration for marital partnerships. “Now we do it only when there are no outsiders around,” says Tashi.
It takes so little to destroy the freedom and innocence of others, and so long for us human beings to retrieve it – if it is at all possible to get something like innocence back! Sexual innocence. Do any of us in the civilised world even vaguely understand what that is? In fact many people will try to counteract the notion with instances of sexual abuse in the western countries, or indeed, all over the world. But then one has to see, that sexual abuse and perversion is not the same thing at all, as freedom.
Questions as to why and how sex began to acquire the connotations of shame and guilt which they have today, will continue to bother those of us who have an inkling of the role that sexuality plays in the drama of life. Of the frustration and violence that result through our lack of understanding of the subject. Those of us brought up with the kind of conditioning which has made us almost neurotic, will know what it means to struggle with such issues and continue to grapple with the riddle. The rest will continue to seal the subject up in a mental box, not meant to be looked at or spoken about and will continue to act prissy and a bit weird all their days. Never quite realising all that we have lost, in losing our freedom and innocence.
(Am off to Goa tomorrow morning and will be back next week. See you then).
Group website: www.basicindia.net