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Love and Honor in the Himalayas

Love and Honor in the Himalayas: Coming To Know Another Culture

Ernestine McHugh
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Love and Honor in the Himalayas
    Book Description:

    American anthropologist Ernestine McHugh arrived in the foothills of the Annapurna mountains in Nepal, and, surrounded by terraced fields, rushing streams, and rocky paths, she began one of several sojourns among the Gurung people whose ramro hawa-pani (good wind and water) not only describes the enduring bounty of their land but also reflects the climate of goodwill they seek to sustain in their community. It was in their steep Himalayan villages that McHugh came to know another culture, witnessing and learning the Buddhist appreciation for equanimity in moments of precious joy and inevitable sorrow. Love and Honor in the Himalayas is McHugh's gripping ethnographic memoir based on research among the Gurungs conducted over a span of fourteen years. As she chronicles the events of her fieldwork, she also tells a story that admits feeling and involvement, writing of the people who housed her in the terms in which they cast their relationship with her, that of family. Welcomed to call her host Ama and become a daughter in the household, McHugh engaged in a strong network of kin and friendship. She intimately describes, with a sure sense of comedy and pathos, the family's diverse experiences of life and loss, self and personhood, hope, knowledge, and affection. In mundane as well as dramatic rituals, the Gurungs ever emphasize the importance of love and honor in everyday life, regardless of circumstances, in all human relationships. Such was the lesson learned by McHugh, who arrived a young woman facing her own hardships and came to understand-and experience-the power of their ways of being. While it attends to a particular place and its inhabitants, Love and Honor in the Himalayas is, above all, about human possibility, about what people make of their lives. Through the compelling force of her narrative, McHugh lets her emotionally open fieldwork reveal insight into the privilege of joining a community and a culture. It is an invitation to sustain grace and kindness in the face of adversity, cultivate harmony and mutual support, and cherish life fully.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0276-2
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. The People
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xv-xix)
  6. 1. Reaching Tebas
    (pp. 1-15)

    Why did I go there? It is hard to say. I was looking for a home. There had been so many gaps in my life, empty spaces. I wanted to go somewhere where I could start over and be knit together whole.

    In the early 1970s, I lived on the campus among the great, dark redwoods at the University of California at Santa Cruz. There at the gate was the big wooden seal proclaiming something like “Let there be Light,” as though the chancellor were God. I liked it there, though I felt different from the other kids. My roommate...

  7. 2. Ways of Life Unfolding
    (pp. 17-27)

    There was a wooden arch over the entrance to the courtyard of the big house, opening onto the main path through the village. You could see frames of the world through the gateway, like images on film: a boy with a basket of grass, someone driving a buffalo in from pasture, two little girls running up the path laughing, bangle sellers from down in the valley walking heavily with big baskets of wares. The courtyard was paved with flagstones and overlooked a small garden and three smaller houses on the terrace below. The house to which I had been brought...

  8. 3. The Fate of Embodied Beings
    (pp. 29-57)

    As words shape your thoughts, clothes shape your body. So do houses and beds and chairs or mats and the company you keep. You will trip over a lungi if your weight is not held back a little, or if your legs are stiff when you walk. In Gurung villages, doorways are low, so you have to bow a little as you enter a house. The beds and mats are hard; you cannot sink into them. People’s bodies are contained, arms and legs held close to the trunk, so that large untidy gestures seem out of place. My body changes...

  9. 4. The Intimate Darkness of Shadows and Margins
    (pp. 59-91)

    A few weeks after Mina died, Amrit Kumari was visiting the village in the evening. A soldier home on leave had been drinking and was lurching up the trail as night fell. “Watch out,” she said, “Mina’s ghost will jump out and grab you.” Along the path at the entrance to the village was a stand of bamboo, a clump of tall stalks whose leaves rustled when the air stirred. It was stark, at the edge of the stone path and a bare field where infants were buried and effigies thrown away. Spirits of the restless dead were believed to...

  10. 5. Paths Without a Compass: Learning Family
    (pp. 93-115)

    Danger can enter even houses bolted against it. We went as a family to Torr, out of the village on the slippery path past the stream, through the forest that climbed up the steep slope, the trees opening to narrow waterfalls tumbling down, hewn log footbridges set across the flowing water where it met the path. After a while the forest opened onto fields. Travel was slow. We walked quickly, but each time we came to a settlement, we were called in for tea by friends or relatives. Apa would protest but they would insist (protesting and insisting are always...

  11. 6. Creating Selves, Crafting Lives
    (pp. 117-137)

    In a world where place and power were clearly mapped, I was peculiar. My attributes tugged in different directions. I was young and female, powerless by definition. A young female belongs to the lineage. She is a potential gift to another family, a link between lineages and clans, a vehicle for their continuity, producing from her body generations of those clan members. Grown, she can whisper to her girl-child, “You are a Plun woman’s daughter,” calling up the root of her own clan. The girl herself will go forth as a daughter of her father’s clan, a thread cast out...

  12. 7. Shattered Worlds and Shards of Love
    (pp. 139-163)

    Memories swirl around, pulling at me like an undertow. There is no direction when I move in these. I made four trips to Nepal. Currents of early and later ones flow together, then separate. Sometimes I look out on the rhythms and undulations and have a sense of control, paddling in the midst of them. Other times they wash over me and I am lost, no still point, no center, just waves of images, longing, pain.

    How could I have left? I went with my friend Saras one day to her plot of soybeans and sweet peas. The peas were...

  13. 8. Return
    (pp. 165-170)

    This is the last memory I have of her, my sometime mother: the ferns behind her, the sheltering cliff, her eyes sad but steady, Tson tall beside her. I came back in three years as promised to find the world split open and bleeding. Ama had died. There had been a gap of a few weeks in letters, but no one had mentioned that she was ill. She had died of cancer two months before I arrived. Tson was in India with her husband when I got to the village. Apa was at home with the smaller children. Agai came...

  14. Conceptual Context and Related Readings
    (pp. 171-176)

    The Gurungs have lived for centuries in a world rich with interconnections, a sophisticated universe. Their views of life have been influenced by the elaborate intellectual traditions of Buddhism, and to some degree by Hinduism, too. Their locality has included a number of diverse peoples with ways of life that differed in large and small ways from their own. Nearby were villages of high-caste Hindus following Brahmanic rules of conduct; Magars, whose life styles were similar in many respects, especially in their egalitarian ethos, to those of Gurungs; and Thakalis, another Buddhist people more closely aligned with monastic interpretations of...

  15. Index
    (pp. 177-178)
  16. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 179-180)