Friday, October 19, 2012

The village gossips...

“Lectures on India: also,descriptions of remarkable customs and personages” by Caleb Wright, John James Weitbrecht, Alexander Duff,  published in the year 1848, has this description of a typical case of ‘village gossip’ in India. (page 62)

"From time immemorial, in every clime and every country, the village gossips are all alike, more busy about the affairs of others than their own. The scandalous tattle of a village in India is perhaps unequalled in any other part of the globe. If reputation experiences a wound in other countries, there it is absolutely massacred, where malice and jealousy, supported by the most unblushing falsehood, plants a barb of the most cruel slur in the reputation of many an innocent neighbor. 

"It frequently happens that some tell-tale repeats the scandal to the parties injured, which generally occasions a great uproar in the village; the slandered person rushes like a fury from her hut and pours forth a volley of the most virulent and indecent railings that ever were heard, cracking her fingers and uttering horrible curses on the infamous slanderer.

This does not fail to bring out the guilty party, who will either deny the whole with the most barefaced falsehood, or openly maintain her scandal and throw back curses on her injured neighbor's head; this produces a most furious exchange of abuses, which continues for some time with the most wonderful rapidity and loquacity, uttered in screams, somewhat resembling the cries of a jackal, till they become exhausted; still eying each other, however, with looks of rage and defiance, and unable to separate, they sit themselves down a little distance opposite each other, when one begins, her eyes sparkling with rage, the muscles of her face displaying all the malice of her heart, while the smile of irony and contempt is seen playing on her lips: she exposes to the spectators, that crowd round to enjoy the quarrel, every failing, and every scandalous tale she has either invented herself or heard of against her antagonist, heightening them with coloring of the most malignant wit and cutting sarcasm, which generally causes laughter among the bystanders. 

The other, thus outraged, endeavors to keep her fury within bounds, and joining in the laugh with a demoniac look, she claps her hands and begins to sing a sort of wild air or chant, the words of which she extemporizes for the purpose; these are a combination of more abominable railings, similes, etc., etc., against her antagonist and her ancestors, than ever were heard of in any other part of the world. The other quickly replies in the same tune, and if her brain prove more fertile in malice and wickedness, and her sarcasms more acute, she is sure to bring her neighbor to such a pitch of fury that she springs from her seat within a few steps of her, when she proceeds to all the wild extravagancies of a maniac, using the most horrible language and the most shameless and indecent gestures, till the other, darting forward, grapples with her antagonist, and a most furious battle ensues, pulling of hair, scratching and blows: this continues with most wonderful obstinacy and courage, both sides preferring to die sooner than give ground, till they are forcibly separated by their husbands or friends. 

Sometimes these quarrels become almost general in the village, especially if there are several relatives of the party injured in the neighborhood."

No comments: