SHILLONG, May 5: While there is ignorance which could be defined as a lack of knowledge or information, there is also sciolism which Surendra Veeru, the author of a most distasteful article, which portrays the women of Meghalaya in a deeply disrespectful light, is indeed suffering from.
In today’s age of technology and knowledge, it is baffling to find that there still exists individuals who would sit comfortably coiled up before a screen and in the relieve of their chair use their superfluous knowledge on numerous things around them with utter disregard for not only what they write but also of whom they write.
Surendra Veeru as it may seem was neither computer nor internet illiterate and yet forces his little knowledge of the English language to present his understanding of a people of Meghalaya, especially the womenfolk.
The writer of this superfluous article is a testimony to the popular saying “Little knowledge is dangerous”.
FLAWS IN THE ARTICLE
## Freedom: Firstly, his article introduces a grand idea that Meghalaya is a state of freedom and in that freedom, women can marry many men. I wonder what research he did on these people that got him ‘out of the world’ fictional facts, which perhaps only exists in his imaginary world.
Meghalaya is indeed a land of the free but the freedom he was referring to only reflects his intellectual lack of knowledge.
## ‘Shocking’ is a word used to describe the Khasi tradition. Well, what is more shocking than his article!
Let us see what is shocking. When he stated ‘where women are women rather than men,’ perhaps he wanted to articulate that women have a great position in society or perhaps it is a cultural failure from his side which finds it so shocking (using his words) that a woman and a girl child is much sought after in the Khasi family while it may not be so as in the case of the ‘old (Indian) mindset’. What Surendra seemed to be unaware is that numerous aspects of the Khasi tradition are neither female nor male-centric as a complete whole.
## Gender Imbalance: The birth of a boy child is never considered bad as he suggested. A male child too have powerful roles in the society as an uncle, as guardians and as authority in family, religious and political affairs of the state while the girl child is blessed with the honour of continuing the family’s name and its legacy in the matrilineal setup. Her advices before every political decisions, her presence in the family which has a voice as much as that of a man puts neither male nor female in a domineering nor subordinating position and it would not be possible to present it all in one short writing.
## Superwomen: It is also not true that the Khasi community is dominated by women. There is a great difference between a matrilineal and matriarchal society. In fact, the societal structure of the community as a whole attempt to ensure that women are not undermined nor that the men are relegated out of significance in the entire setup beginning from a family and extending towards a social group and as a people on a whole. The symbolic importance of the Queen, the legacy of kingship from uncle to nephew and not father to son, the term ‘shynrang khatarbor’ which depicts a man’s ability in strength and vigour, the mother and the legacy drawn through her all might now sound ‘shocking’ and perhaps even too much to be explained all at once.
## Inheritance: I would not say that in recent years there have not been a movement to provide children with the father’s surname for there have been such a dispute which is still debated but when one does go deeper in studying why such a structure existed for such a long time in the Khasi community, one is bound to find that the structure had never ‘undermined men or women’. Surely, there are aspects that need revision in the Khasi community like any other organic cultural organism for with time human understanding changes and transforms and so must old habits, traditions and customs and that is what has made human societies so beautiful and distinct even when analysing one cultural group from another.
## Barbarism: “The youngest daughter in the Khasi community gets the highest share of heritage. For this reason, he has to take care of parents, unmarried siblings and property. The little daughter is said to be eaten. His house remains open to every relative. Girls in this community play with animal parts in childhood and use them as jewelery.”
The above-quoted paragraph is also the most disturbing part of the whole article. Confusion between he and she is greatly prevalent but what really catches the eyes is the sentence on ‘the little daughter (which) is said to be eaten.’ Surendra Veeru was trying to suggest the barbarism that his disrespectful pseudo intellect is trying to convey and project the society in a most inhumane light.
In fact, Khasi folklore accounts such a tale of ‘Ka Likai’, where the step-father murders his step-daughter, cooks and feeds his wife with the same. This lore, though dark and woeful if one would like to know or read would find that it carries with it warnings and the message of human capacity at its filthiest trait as well as sentiments, emotions and detachments and the idea of the sense of belonging and the child as the other self of a parent.
That is why I have provided the name of the lore too so that you, the reader, would see for yourself and not take my opinions alone as the final word.
## Decoding Cannibalism: Lastly, on “Girls in this community play with animal parts in childhood and use them as jewelry.” It is indeed SHOCKING to me. Yes! I am Khasi and in all generations, perhaps, this is the boldest and most deplorable claim anyone else had made of my people and it seems, the jewellery of 22 carat gold and a semi-precious stone known as paila to the Khasis, means nothing to the writer.
Perhaps this article will do the same rounds as the false one did and perhaps through it, the veil of ignorance and sciolism is lifted.
By Auswyn Winter Japang (The opinion in this article is that of the writer and not necessarily of TNT-The Northeast Today)
Original article here — Meghalaya: Here women have freedom, they can marry many men