Sending the Sons Away: Western Himalayan Songs of Women Alone at Home
European Bulletin of Himalayan Research 53: 35-69 (2019)
35 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2020
Date Written: October 31, 2019
The subsistence agricultural economy of the Western Himalayas necessitates the migration of men in search of jobs to far off places. This theme is well-documented by social scientists and fiction writers. However, little is understood or written about what happens in these men’s homes once they leave their families. How does the family fend for itself? What are the economic and social pressures on the women of the family and how do they negotiate the vicissitudes that come their way in the absence of men? What emotional traumas do the wives face in the absence of their husbands, who are often the only ones who provide them with emotional support? Some of these themes are articulated in the songs sung by waiting women of Kangra in Himachal Pradesh that have been transmitted over generations. These songs help us to understand the much-neglected women’s perspective, and provide a vital resource in the reconstruction of their worlds, as they battle the absence of men from their homes and lives.
Keywords: women home alone, migration, absences, trauma, folklore, women song, western himalaya, kangra, family relations, conjugality, south asia, gender
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