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Pastures, Mountains Longing and Loss: An Ethnography of Gaddi folk songs of Himanchal, India
O Gaddi!! Don’t settle for the city…Even the lambs have found their path…there is no home away from home. The paper emerges from the folk songs of loss sung by the Gaddi (an indigenous tribe of the state of Himachal Pradesh, India) men and women lamenting over the rupture and chaos which urbanisation brought to the community. The Gaddi folk songs are anchored on the sense of community, belongingness and a shared past. The article gazes at the evocative sense of irreversible loss of the mountains, the pastures and the loved ones who left for the city. Urbanisation disrupted the social structure of the nomadic communities of Himachal Pradesh. A profound effect is seen on the cultural identity and family structure. The fear of a Gaddi woman for the urban world becomes evident when she wails in a melancholic tone in the pangs of separation from her husband due to a job in the town. The Gaddi folk songs are seen as a form of discourse highlighting the collective sense of loss and nostalgia of the tribe. The paper highlights how Gaddi folk music becomes a social fabric of memory which gives a vent to repressed emotions and feelings traversing between uncomfortable yet reassuring images of the past and capturing the way people cherish and reinterpret the bruises of separation. Just like the derelict pastures bereft of its erstwhile inhabitants this paper also wanders into the hitherto unexplored saga of epitomising loss and longing among the Gaddis.