Thursday, June 3, 2010

GYPSY, the word

It was a misnomer from the beginning. When a group of travelers arrived
into medieval Europe in the fourteen hundreds, they were believed to
come from Egypt, therefore they were called Egyptians/Gypsies. These
colorful travelers, entertainers, fortune-tellers, horse-people did
nothing to dispel that misconception. Their country, ever since leaving
India hundreds of years before, was the open road; they interacted with
outsiders merely to supply their families with the necessities of life.

At first these entertaining people were greeted with open arms, they
brought joy into the harsh life of sedentary folks who were divided into
a handful of rulers and a vast majority of the poor who had to serve
these few rich and powerful. But it did not take long for this
underclass of peasants and servants to become envious of the freedom and
independence of these often dark-skinned nomadic strangers, who were and
always had been people of peace. The sedentary folks started taking up
whatever arms were at hand – after all wars were part of their lives –
and went to hunt down these nomads who abhorred violence and killings.
They killed many outright, in brutal medieval fashion, many were caged
like animals of the wild. The persecution of the Gypsies, their real
name is Roma, has had its ups and downs, but has never truly stopped. It
is reaching another peak in Europe as I am writing this.

Many, not all, of the Gypsy people now want to be known as Roma only.
That is their right, their choice. To them the word Gypsy has become a
derogatory term, a curse. I cannot help but feel a certain sadness. To
me personally the word Gypsy has always meant warmth, loyalty, and love
of life. In my darkest moments there was always some Gypsy or other to
pat me on the shoulder, to sit down with me and talk. It is not the
Gypsy who has sullied that word, it is us. For, be honest, who among you
has ever experienced harm done by a Gypsy, a Roma? Most of you know them
only through hearsay and prejudice. In reality they are part of and
contributors to our culture. I would feel mournful at having to bury the
Gypsy word. But nomads have always buried their loved ones and tragedies
and walked into the future. We have much to learn from them.

No comments:

Post a Comment