Gifts of love and friendship in the Garhwal Himalayas
Karin Polit (University of Heidelberg)
Paper short abstract:
Next to obligatory practices of gift-exchange, gifts of love and friendship have become important for young Garhwali people. I will analyze these practices as subversive acts that point towards changing attitudes of what it means to lead a good life in contemporary Garhwal.
Paper long abstract:
Many unwritten rules of obligatory gift giving for official occasion such as engagements or marriages exist in the Garhwal Himalayas. Usually, the value and the number of gifts are carefully recorded so as to ensure an adequate gift in return in due time. These gifts are part of a normative world through which relationships between families and within villages are negotiated. Next to these obligatory gift-giving practices, gifts of love and friendship have become important for young Garhwali people. Taking these practices of gift giving as subversive acts that point towards changing attitudes of what it means to lead a good life, I will analyze gift giving as intimate practices of school children and students in the Garhwal region in North India. Formal education plays a crucial role here, as the experience of going to school and later to universities provides children and young adults with possibilities to experience friendships unrelated to obligations of village and family relations. Cards and gifts circulate between friends and are highly valued. These signs of friendship and love are usually kept in a special place in the house, often publicly displayed and proudly shown to visitors with remarks about the affectionate relationship between gift-giver and receiver. I will argue that these seemingly harmless practices are often rebellious acts that mark a shift in the way young people look at rules of conduct for friendship and marriage.
Give and take: gift exchange in South Asia