Monday, March 14, 2005

Marital bliss

The mystery I've just been reading, A Very Private Enterprise, by Elizabeth Ironside, has a part of the story set in Ladakh, in the north of India. What I read made me curious, especially the mention of the large Tibetan exiled community there. The Man and I have had some contact with the Tibetan community in Dharamsala due to some work we've done concerning Tibetan traditional medicine.

I asked The Man about Ladakh, as I had only heard the name but knew nothing about it. I have been to India only once, but he has been numerous times.

"Everybody knows Ladakh!" he answered, scornfully.

I knew he was bullshitting when I admitted my ignorance and asked for more details, and he couldn't give me any. "It's a mixture of cultures," he said, after I'd already told him that was what the book said.

I challenged him to tell me more.

"I almost WENT to Ladakh!" he said indignantly, then left the room saying. "Look it up yourself!"

Ha! That meant he didn't know any more (and so did his little grin), so I looked it up. And look what I discovered about Ladhaki marriage customs!

The eldest son inherits the land and gets married. Unable to become independent, his brothers remain on the land and share the bed of his spouse. Although monogamy was never forbidden, it was subjected to so much economic pressure that it always remained marginal. Polyandry implies a single mistress of the house. Quarrels therefore do not exist with other women, nor with the brothers. Only the daughter-in-law/parents-in-law relationship could be strained as a result of recurrent emotional matters. The social laws of the Ladakhis give an effective answer to this scourge. Soon after the birth of the first grand-child, when it is established that the couple is fertile, the young grandfather brings together his family circle for a departure ceremony during which he officially bequeaths his lands to his son. The grandparents then withdraw to another house on the family estate and cultivate their own land as long as they can.

The harmony existing between the brothers and their wife remains a mystery to the external observer. Ladakhi law recognises the husband as the real husband and father. The others are called Little Fathers by the children. Yet there is no tension. The Ladakhis have therefore, out of necessity, developed a great sense of discipline, of civility, perhaps also of restraint...
So there you have it. The answers to social and marital harmony, the population problem, and feminine bliss, all in one happy package.

I wonder if they have any need for English teachers who are prepared to assimilate?

More seriously, there are some very interesting assumptions behind the writer's words. That there is no tension in this arrangement is presented as a great 'mystery.'

I have my own ideas, but what do you think explains the lack of tension?


tinyhands said...

Maybe the fact that I initially misread the title of this entry as "Martial Bliss" has something to do with why I'd be an outcast Ladakhi.

Badaunt said...

That is a 'reado' (as opposed to a typo). I do that one too. Another one I frequently do is reading 'uninformed police' instead of 'uniformed police,' but it doesn't make a lot of difference to the meaning so I don't worry about it.

She Weevil said...

Well, no lands have been ceded but there is a distinct lack of tension in the Sheweevil household now there is no-longer a daily skirmish at the hospital.

If I lived in Ladakh, I'd have to make sure the estate was very large and that there was a big ravine with very rickety bridge and lots of frightening wild animals - tigers would do.

Steve said...

Well, but you don't state how this works with so many women. If there's three brothers to one woman, then where do the other two women go?

Games are for Children

Badaunt said...

I'm sure it works exactly how it works with the excess men in polygamous societies.

(IOW I don't know.)