Let’s face it. Given a choice, don’t we all want to just relax, eat, drink, be with nature, live in a society which doesn’t have gender related issues and work only when we have to? Most of us will spend an entire lifetime working hard, following ambitions or fighting for rights so that in the end we individually get to that utopian state.
Yet, when we see a tribal specially the PTGs (Primitive Tribal groups and now Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups) we automatically think of them as backward and in need of help. Why? Because they like to keep to themselves, wear little or no clothes at all, drink a lot, don’t own money as we know it, their idea of wealth is a few more trees than the next guy and they like to live life at their own pace. And in our well meaning but misplaced intentions, we rush to help them get their rights and make them live the ‘real’ life – in the modern world.
If we can ever stop rushing about and forming quick judgements, we will be able to see that their attitude, culture and lifestyle are far more superior to ours. They have a few things in place which we as ‘modern’ society have been striving for years to achieve. Firstly, their closeness to nature (many city friends might not agree though I think it’s very important). Secondly, their comfort with their body and sexual freedom. In many tribes women wear saris which are folded till knee length and no blouses and take bath in the open. Pre-marital sex is allowed in most tribes. In some tribes a woman chooses a husband by sleeping with him first. If she’s not happy with him sexually, she can leave him and chose another partner. Though an unwed mother is not likely to get married, she is accepted within the society and lead a full-fledged community life. Thirdly, equality of gender. Women are not treated as submissive but as equal partners in a relationship. Husbands encourage their wives in anything she wants to so. Nobody frowns if a woman gets drunk.
Over the years, people have taken away their land, cut down forests, reviled them for not being conservative and treated their women badly. Livelihood issues have forced them to slowly adapt their lifestyles to ours. And with that, negative influences are slowly creeping into their culture and thinking like dowry system, cutting of trees for easy money, domestic violence etc.
Whether it is limited media attention, the inability of NGOs to tell their stories or just plain lack of interest on our part but we know very little about them and their culture. We look at the western societies for answer to our ills. Maybe it’s time we start looking at our own backyard and discover the wealth there.