In this photo taken in Shillong two days back, I am seen as eating corn looking straight into the lens, but from inside I am amazed by the people I am surrounded with on the Police Bazaar street. Most of them belong to the Khasi tribe of Meghalaya.
According to one of the legend that goes around, many many years ago the present day Bangladesh was under water, these people living on the valleys of the Khasi hills were brave sea faring people. Today, they are still brave, just that their bravery is now of a completely different type. They are said to be the 'largest surviving matrilineal cultures in the world'. Meaning, a wedding where the groom follows the bride to her home to start a new life together, they don't give or take dowry, children take their mother's name, most high profile jobs in businesses are held by women and the youngest daughter of the family inherits the family property and is considered the custodian and preserver of the clan ('the reason being that she will logically live the longest'). One quickly notices the freer existence of women there, this was just so refreshing and overwhelming to know, especially with the fact that most of the other states in India are super patriarchal and have extremely male-dominant societies. Just imagine that the 'men' are the ones that feel insecure that they can be kicked out of their mother's or sister's house! Incredible.
Now, I also read that this is slowly changing. With the youth migrating to other cities in search of more lucrative jobs, the Khasi parents and grandparents fear that their next generation will not take forward their traditions. And also the fact that Shillong is slowly becoming quite cosmopolitan with many people coming from other parts such as Punjab, Bihar, Bengal and Tamil Nadu, the older Khasis are generally quite suspicious of the outsiders since can easily disturb the Khasi routines. I hope this never happens. And I hope that we instead learn from these Khasi Bravehearts.
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