Gujjars being predominantly semi-nomadic and half-settled, Bakarwals happen to be the real ‘rolling stones’. Both descend down towards lowland pastures and plains from Greater Himalayas (Gujjars) and lower Siwalik ranges (Bakarwals) for more than transhumance. This seasonal resettling in and around the local Kashmiri habitations facilitates the mixing up of the three ethnicities; Kashmiris, Gujjars, and Bakarwals.
The Social Interactions
Gujjar and Bakerwaal men labour the whole day in agricultural and construction works, while women earn by washing clothes, doing dishes, cleaning up houses, winnowing, etc. This sets up a platform for interethnic interactions. “I accompany my sister to Suraiya aunty’s house, get to watch TV there, and enjoy chatting with her,” says 10-year-old Gujjar girl, Masarat whose family has migrated towards Arbal plains in Tral this spring. 55- year-old Suraiya likes the girls too and calls them ‘acha ladki’ (nice girls) who turn up frequently and help her with the chores.
Iqra (Gujjar girl) has worked as a helper at many places including Srinagar where her aunt is married off. Depending on the type of work, they are paid rupees 100-200 or more.
“Kashmiri women approach us asking to let our daughters help them, for which they pay us besides providing them basic education, food, and clothing,” says Yasmeena. Her daughter Bilquees, worked as a nanny assisting a Kashmiri mother for a month last year.
Bakarwals and Gujjars are given the consent to live, construct (temporary mud houses or tent houses), and graze, by the local landlords which means no hassle to them as “They (Gujjar-Bakerwaal)are hygienic and disciplined” says Ali Mohammad, a landlord from Tral.
Keeping Their Traditions Alive
Jameel Khan, a Bakerwaal from Rajouri does all kinds of labour while his wife takes care of the livestock and goes out for doing household chores .”We love to come here as it is green, cooler and the people are friendly,” he says. While Gujjars make mudhouses with a tarpaulin covering above, Bakarwals are more for tent houses, both settling down beside brooks and water channels. The Bakerwaal and Gujjar kids play together and know each other well and their social interaction with Kashmiris helps imbibe their values and nuances of the language.
The dressing is similar to Kashmiris, with Gujjar and Bakerwaal boys picking up the new trends, and girls do not mind putting on some makeup. All this while upholding their very own culture. The strong tradition of oral-lores and ballads is passed on with every generation. The young Gujjar and Bakerwaal boys entertain everyone including the Kashmiri-speaking, by singing various ballads in groups.
The Gujjars and Bakarwals return to their temporary houses after work every day. The familial cohesion and tribal affiliation are what define these nomadic tribes however the ease in the willingness to adapt is what keeps the inter-ethnic dealings going. Kashmiris welcome their presence and get to relax more on being assisted in the plethora of household, construction, and agricultural activities. All of them are driven by personal interests yet subtly facilitate cross-cultural interaction. With all the three ethnic groups converging for a social engagement, mediated by monetary needs essentially, is what transpires as a promising mini transcultural ecosystem.
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