I am sure all of you, after reading the title of this post are thinking: –
Who are Black Angrez? Who can be the Black Angrez?
It was just a usual day when I was leaving the school I work in, for a field visit and waiting for the jeep to come. 40 minutes had already passed and I was still waiting and looking at the way the sun was shining on the green fields and a warm wind was blowing gently, making the green leaves dance.
“Has school got over? My daughter Sunita* studies here”, asked a woman in Marwadi who was passing by the school. After figuring out to what exactly she was asking about, I said, “Not yet, it will take an hour more for the school to shut.” The woman was still looking at the gate of the school and had a worrisome look on her face. This is a village where most parents don’t even know whether their child goes to school or not, or are not even aware of the class in which their children study, and then there was this woman. She started walking towards me, smiled and we had a small conversation, trying to get to know me in terms of my work and where I was staying, though I should tell you one thing, both of us couldn’t understand each other’s language much. We conveyed through actions and emotions and seemed to have managed a conversation.
This is the story of a village name Bhoola. The village is located in Pindwara Tehsil of Sirohi district. Sirohi is a city in southern Rajasthan state in western India. As per the Population Census 2011, there are total 1,184 families residing in the village Bhoola. The total population of Bhoola is 6,550 out of which 3,322 are males and 3,228 are females thus the Average Sex Ratio of Bhoola is 972. Schedule Caste (SC) constitutes 0% while Schedule Tribe (ST) constitutes 99.4% of total population in Bhoola village. One might not have ever heard about this place, but Bhoola has a rich history full of inspiring stories of sacrifice and struggle for their battle against the British.
The very next day, I was sitting in the staff room and was having a conversation with some teachers on conducting some extra classes before the school starts. To that one of the teachers advised against the risk of taking these classes, as a few months ago, one of the girls was chased by some guys on a motorbike. As they were trying to make her sit on the bike, other kids who were coming along threw stones on them and saved her. When I inquired about who the girl was, the teacher replied, “She’s Sunita, studying in 10th standard. For few days she had stopped coming to school, but now she has started again.” At that moment, I recounted the conversation I had with the women the previous day and the teacher confirmed that that was her mother and she often checks on her daughter.
In between this conversation, another teacher asked me,“Madam, do you know the tribal people of this place are known as ‘The Black Angrez’.” I had evidently not, and asked them about it.
In the Indian society, most people tend to regard marriage as a holy union of two individuals of different sex (though I would ponder about the idea of holiness and question the rigidity of the idea of marriage only of people of the opposite sex).
However, Bhoola has a different tale to tell. What if I tell you that if a guy touches a girl on the road, even by accident, the girl will have to marry the same guy. Even if the girl didn’t wish to, the whole village will know about this and there would be no option but to get married to each other. The man has the freedom if in the latter years he doesn’t wish to get married to that girl, he is required to pay a small amount of money in front of the whole Panchayat and both of them are free. While there is some regard given to marriages, it is not enforced to a great extent. Live-in relationships, which are considered a taboo in most parts of our country, is rampant here. One may think that having such relationships in rural areas would invite a lot of scorn and trouble for everyone, but not in this region of Rajasthan. Yes, even I was surprised to hear this. The culture of a live-in relationship is quite common in the tribal people here; this is since the time of pre-colonial India. A man and a woman can decide if they want to stay together without getting married, and if the woman gets pregnant multiple times and they have kids, the kids grow up and then at some point the kids attend their parent’s marriage.
And the people in the village agree to this custom. This is why the people of this region of Rajasthan are known as ‘Black Angrez’. Not only this, most of the tribal people in the region go to work only for 2-3 days and spend their earnings on the rest of the days of the week, without much of a notion of saving. The colour of the hair of men and women is somewhat a mixture of brown and golden, and they usually bathe in front of each other in the river. All these traits add to the name of the tribe, attributing much of their customs to the west. It is believed that the tribe got many of these customs from the British era.
After hearing this, I pondered if the presence of these customs made the tribal people of Bhoola more progressive in their thought than mainstream culture, or does this culture actually make the lives of the women much more insecure than other regions?
*Names changed to protect identity