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Deconstructing notions of power: Are Khasis ready for a patrilineal change?

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Rukma Singh

Upon a visit to a hospital ward in the Khasi region of North Eastern India, one is most likely to hear cheerful sounds of joy and applause over a girl’s birth, as opposed to disinterest and grief over a boy’s birth.

The Khasi region, holds more in store than what meets the eye. It houses some ancient traditions, characterized by high regard for women, especially in decision making processes. This stands out as a significant anomaly in a male dominated society. So much so, that the region is on the verge of becoming a prospective battleground, with the male section attempting to put an end to the existing matrilineality, once and for all.

Fighting for the ‘right’

Women are believed to stand right at the centre of the Khasi community. The youngest daughter inherits, children take their mother’s surname, and once married, men live in their mother-in-law’s home.

One of the major complaints made by the Khasi community is that only mothers or mother-in-laws look after the children. They  believe that men are not even entitled to take part in family gatherings. That way, the husband is up against a whole clan of people: his wife, his mother-in-law and his children.

Analysing the reasons

When it comes to mapping the reasons behind the existing matrilineality in the region, there is an evident clash of opinions.

On one hand, Valentina Pakyntein, an anthropologist at Shillong University says the matrilineal system goes back to a time when Khasis had several partners and it was hard to determine the paternity of children.

On the other hand, members of the Synkhong Rympei Thymmai (SRT) deny this. SRT was a platform formed in 1990 to deal with issues faced by the male community and voice their discomforts. In response to Pakyntein’s claim, they said that their ancestors were away from home for too long fighting wars to be able to look after their families.

What appalls the Khasi men further is the fact that in the past, there have been further efforts towards the expansion of rights of Khasi women. Men’s rights have rarely come under scrutiny and debate.

Women’s response

Women disregard the whole debate and movement against their dominance. They don’t agree with the stand that society is biased towards men. Rather, they regard the prevailing system as a logical one.

They justify their position by claiming that parents can put faith in them and expect them to take their responsibility. This parental dependence is a strong evidence of the stark contrast between the Khasi community and the major part of the rest of the country. Because of this dependence, Khasi women also do not face parental pressure in terms of marriage, no matter what their age is.

Women often question, “Why bother with a husband when I’m able enough to sustain a large family on my own?”

Blurring the lines

These existing conditions tend to create a chaotic picture. More often than not, people tend to overlook the intricacies of the situation,and without delving deeper into the situation, blow the existing details out of proportion.

What is essential to understand is that there is matrilineality, and not matriarchy and the lines between the two shouldn’t be blurred. Khasi women have never held positions of power. All the chief government ministers are men and few women even sit on village councils.  A survey about the “Social transition and status of women among the khasi tribe of Meghalaya” points out some unseen realities of the condition of women.

Even though Khasi women have rights over their children, this does not often translate into authority, which in most cases is shared between the mother’s brother/brother  on the one side and by the father/husband on the other side, an arrangement obviously made to reconcile male authority.

The position of women in the Khasi society becomes clear when we examine the role of the youngest daughter, who is the traditional heir to the ancestral property of the household.

As the heir to the family property, the youngest daughter is not only expected to be closely guided by the counsel of the mother’s brother, who controls the property but is also obliged to look after her aged parents and other vulnerable members of the family.She needs to provide testimony to her moral conduct, the non-adherence to which will result in the taking away of her rights.

Hence, the role of maternal uncles is crucial in determining the ‘real’ sense of women’s position in the society.

The resilient fight of the SRT

Khasi men often talk about how their position in the society has been reduced to breeding bulls. Their activities are merely restricted to recreation, and they are far away from being given real responsibilities.

The male community has continuously been complaining about the lack of authority given to them.They voice their concerns through SRT and its activities.

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                                                            Extract from an SRT flyer in Shillong

The SRT sends across its messages regularly through flyers and posters. They prefer to keep their identity concealed due to the fear of being ostracized by the community. With a strength of over 1000 members, SRT also has some female members, mostly from West Bengal, who fear that their sons might fall for Khasi women and give in to their control.

The SRT group believes in solving the ills of the Khasi community by supporting the transition from matriliny to patriliny. For catering to the Christian community, the SRT spokespersons use the Bible as their selling point.

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These 8 successful Muslim women are showcasing Freedom their way!

Though there are forsure many but here we present to you the some handful of success stories of Muslim women in modern world. Totally independant and unbounded, they have carved a niche for themselves in many fields through their creativity, talent and self - belief

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Muslim women
Bashing unfreedom-The new age Muslim woman.Pixeby

Not everyone is following rigid fundamentalism these days. In 2017, people and specially some inspiring Muslim women are embracing freedom and individuality through their inspirational work in global markets. Be it fashion, lifestyle,sports or politics- they are setting standards in every domain, breaking stereotypes all the way long!

Have a look at the success stories of these leading Muslim ladies and what they believe in.

SAUFEEYA GOODSON

Dubai based fashion entrepreneur Saufeeya is a global figure appearing in many fashion magazines. Being the co-owner of Modest Route, she has re- branded Modest fashion in a very stylised manner grabbing the attention of 2million followers on instagram page. She is frequently mentioned in Vogue or Teen Vogue under the trademark of her bold, daring and contemporary outfits made for modern age Muslim woman. This trendsetter with her avant garde style has been revolutionizing Islamic modest clothing in world.

CAROLYN WALKER-DIALLO

Carolyn hit the headlines when she was sworn in with the Quran back in 2015, becoming the first ever New York City Civil court judge to do so. She bravely stood up to the backlash that resulted later but her strong act inspired many Muslim women around the world. It somehow relieved them from communal stigmatization that they go through.

LINDA SARSOUR

Linda Sarsour- civil right's activist
Linda Sarsour- civil right’s activist.wikimedia.commons

 

Linda, a Palestinian- American civil rights activist, is popularly known for her key role in helping to organize the 2017 Women’s March in Washington.It was a public demonstartion led by women coming together from all walks of life. With her resolute, Linda instilled in a belief in thousands of women to fight for their vanity,esteem and rights.

BEHNAZ SHAFIEI

it is hard to imagine a female road racer/motocross rider and being a Muslim woman makes it a rare case, but Behnaz is exactly that. Born in Iran- a country where women are not allowed for exercising such liberties and are often ridiculed for their driving skills, Behnaz enjoys the fact that many men cannot do the stunts she performs with ease and confidence on her motorbike. She is the only Iranian female to be involved in road racing professionally challenging the preconceived notions of the society in regard to women.

RUMA

Known for her fashion blogs, Ruma recently got mentioned on the Twitter page of H&M where she was applauded for her distinctive panache that voice traditional modesty. According to her the haute hijab empowers feminine sensibility.Being a dreamer as well as achiever, she looks forward to inspire her followers with stories and lessons learned from her life by using social media to promote the art of fashion.

HALIMA ADEN

Halima is a model known for being the first Somali-American Muslim woman to take part in a beauty pageant donning a hijab.With all grace and modesty she hit news by reaching the semifinals of Minnesota USA pageant. She even graced the fashion runway for Kanye West at his show Yeezy season 5. Keeping at bay all Muslim stereotypes, this flamboyant model appeared on the front cover of Allure, wearing a Nike hijab with a caption saying, “This is American Beauty.” 

SHAHD BATAL

As a YouTuber and blogger, Shahd’s focus is mainly on providing viewers with her own original tips on how to attain healthy skin or apply makeup. Sudanese by birth but now living in Minneapolis, her tutorial videos are popularly hitting the internet since 2014. They were recently rehashed and showcased via her new sleek channel. From wearing a classic head-wrap and making pen perfect eyebrows, to her very personal stories with regard to the Hijab, she has been earnestly devoting herself to portray Hijab as a motif of modern age accessory.

 

SHARMEEN OBAID-CHINOY     

Muslim Women
SHARMEEN OBAID-CHINOY- Pakistani filmaker.wikimedia.commons

 Sharmeen has been mentioned by esteemed Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. A Muslim woman filmmaker, journalist and activist born in Pakistan, most of her films highlight the inequalities that women face. She has received two Academy awards, six Emmy and Lux Style award for her bold vision. Even the Pakistani government has honored her with the second highest civilian honor of the country, the Hilal-i-Imtiaz for her dauntless contribution to films.

These handful examples of empowering, influential and compelling Muslim women express a great deal- to come out of the shackles of a society that restricts you and your creative energies.Not just to the Muslim women of today, they are inspirational for all women who seek for self – actualization.

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Checkout Ten Must-Read Books For Women

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Must reads for a woman.
Must reads for a woman. Pixabay

Nothing in this world can give you the feeling which books do. Some stories, some word just touch your heart and end up giving you the greatest lessons of life. Books can be inspiring at times, and help you make the toughest decisions of life. Below are ten must-read books for women:

  1. A Thousand Splendid Suns

The book, “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini, who has also authored ‘Kite Runner’ revolves around the lives of two women, Mariam and Laila. The beautiful friendship of these two and the things they go through is mesmerizing. The book’s subtlety puts it under the category of must-read books for women.

2. Millennium Series by Stieg Larsson

The Millennium series has three books- “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “The Girl who kicked the Hornet’s Nest” and “The Girl who Played with Fire”. The lead character of the series, Lisabeth Salander, is a confident and bold woman who never follows the old norms of the society and leads her life differently. Her rebellious nature can inspire the girls out there to stand for themselves.

3.  Pride And Prejudice

Must-Reads for women
Pride and Prejudice. Wikimedia.

The classic by Jane Austen teaches you to distinguish between the essential and the superficial. It makes you come across a way of looking at women, which is not judgmental. It teaches you to stand up for righteousness. It is definitely ones of the must-read books for women.

4. The Book Thief

Th novel, “The Book Thief” by the Australian author Markus Zusak gives out the inspiring message that no matter what the situation is, women can come out of it strongly on their own.

5. How To Be A Bawse

The Book, “How to be a Bawse”, by the Canadian YouTuber Lily Singh is a beautiful guide on tackling tough situations in life, supported by the examples of real-life situations. Lily’s classy and sassy video style has already been loved by a lot of women out there.

6. The Hunger Games Trilogy

Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games Trilogy is one of the must-read books for women out there as the book’s lead character Katniss, makes you feel proud of being a girl. Her character motivates you to be your own hero.

7. Daughter By Court Order

“Daughter By Court Order”, by Ratna revolves around the story of a woman who has been disowned by her own family. The woman is fighting against money, power, deceit, and for her right to be recognized as a daughter. She has to handle everything on her own.

8. To Kill A Mocking Bird

The book is written by Harper Lee and is an all-time classic. The book revolves around a six-year-old protagonist who is a feminist and refuses to accept the societal norms and always challenges them.

9. The Diary Of A Young Girl

Must-Read Books For Women
The Diary Of A Young Girl. Wikimedia.

The novel by Anne Frank is set during the time of Nazi invading Netherlands. Anne Frank shares her feelings with her diary while she was in hiding for two years. The emotions and struggles make it one of the must-read books for women.

10. The Palace of Illusions

The book Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni shows the epic Mahabharata, through Draupadi’s eyes. Her problems and shortcomings are shown, along with the fact that how ego can lead to a battle.

by Megha Acharya of NewsGram. She can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya

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7 Beautiful Places To Visit In North East India

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Places to visit in North East India.
Places to visit in North East India. Pixabay

North Eastern India, the home to the ‘Seven Sisters’ is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful regions, yet the most unexplored part of the country. From Shillong’s rainfall to Assam’s beautiful tea gardens, the region is indeed the home to exotic beauty. However, the tourism of the region has gained pace in the recent years. The picturesque views of the streams, hills and farms are breathtaking.

Here is the list of 7 beautiful places to visit in North East India:

1. Kaziranga National Park

places to visit in North East India
Kaziranga National Park. Pixabay.

Kaziranga national park in Assam is famous for its one-horned rhinoceros. It is the most famous tourist spot & one of the beautiful places to visit in North East India. The place has been declared a UNESCO heritage site and attracts a lot of tourists from all over the world. Hundreds of migratory birds and around 35 species of mammals fly down every season to the national park. The incredible fauna cannot be found anywhere else in India.

2. Nathula Pass

Places to visit in North East India.
Nathula Pass. Wikimedia.

A trek on the Nathula Pass in Sikkim will give you a memory completely irreplaceable. The beautiful scenic views which you will observe through your trek journey can be found nowhere else in India & makes if one of the beautiful places to visit in North East India. A vacation to this place with your family during the summers is a must. Also the fact that a bearable temperature in the summer season will let you enjoy your trek more. A trek in the Nathula pass should right away be added to your bucket list.

3. Cherrapunji

Places to visit in North East India.
Cherrapunji. Wikimedia.

Cherrapunji in Meghalaya is the world’s wettest place. The place is known for receiving the maximum rainfall in the world. And, the weather of the place adds to its beauty. It is definitely one of the beautiful places to visit in North East India.

Also Read: 5 Inspiring Travel Stories That Will Give You Serious Wanderlust

4. Phodong Monastery

Places to visit in North East India.
Phodong Monastery. Wikimedia.

According to reports, the Phodong monastery in Sikkim is built in the 18th century. It situated 28 kms from Gangtok. It is known to be one of the most religious places for a sect of Buddhists. The place is a residence to around 260 monks. The place is full of positive energy. The people around the monastery are amicable and have some interesting stories in their pockets to tell you. The architecture of the monastery depicts a unique culture and beauty. These characteristics make this monastery, one of the beutiful places to visit in North East India. So grab your tickets soon!

5. Dampa Tiger Reserve

places to visit in North East India
A bird in the Dampa Tiger Reserve. Wikimedia.

Dampa Tiger Reserve in Mizoram is the largest wildlife sanctuary in Mizoram & a must visit place in north east india. The Tiger Reserve is a home to leopards, barking deer, sloth bear, langurs, Indian Python and a variety of birds. The fauna and flora of the place will leave you stunned.

6. Majuli Islands

Places to visit in North East India.
Majuli Island. Wikimedia.

A river island situated along the Brahmaputra is a home to many tribes. A variety of birds can be found on the island. The size of the island has been reduced due to river erosion by the Brahmaputra.

7. Shilloi lake

Places to visit in North East India.
Shilloi Lake. Wikimedia.

Shilloi lake, the largest natural lake in Nagaland situated in the state’s Phek district is covered by picturesque views including beautiful mountain peaks and trees. The best time to visit this lake is in the summer season. The beauty of the lake makes it one of the most beautiful places to visit in North East India.

-by Megha Acharya of NewsGram.

 Twitter: @ImMeghaacharya.