Youth seems to represent both a crisis and opportunity within the confines of tradition. It allows freedom from history and space to negotiate one’s own response to what the world delivers, but puts us in check when the system seems so much bigger than we are.
Take the 19 year old Dalit boy from the far the far Western village of Silgadi. With his Guns’n’Roses wristband and his unguarded smile, I liked him immediately. He asked so many questions about life in the city that it seemed the breathtaking scenery surrounding his quiet mountain village only confined him. Humble yet confident, he’d already developed a stare that would reach Kathmandu if the mountains would let it.
He showed no apology when recounting the beating he took at his local temple, and was even less apologetic for defying village customs by gathering water from the village pond. (In Silgadi, it is still believed that snakes will plague the village if Dalits come in contact with the pond). Confident enough to know what basic dignities a human should enjoy, he won’t surrender in a system he doesn’t believe in. But there is another division which complicates a teenager’s life in Silgadi.
There is a generation gap that exists within his own Dalit community. It is wide enough to allow the 19 year old to refute traditions he knows to be cruel, but it is narrow enough to restrain his actions. He has not approached the pond again, but that’s because of his own elder’s requests, not because of the beliefs or repercussions non-Dalits wield.
It is difficult to say whether his elders have been forced to accept the village myth on some level – bought just enough of it to assist in its preservation. Or are simply battle weary and have found shelter for their families on the path of least resistance. For a 19 year old relegated to life in Silgadi’s caste system, perhaps there’s little difference.
Posted By Devin Greenleaf
Posted Aug 1st, 2007