The Tale of Gypsies
Scene 1: under the scorching heat of the golden sun travels a caravan packed with lovely damsels with glittering jewelry, men of all ages from zero to hundred, and children laughing on their journey to a destination their heart yearns to know.
Scene 2: Luxurious silks glitter in the night sky, an elaborate work of gold coins embellish the dress, and the girls of the kumpanias giggle around, admitting that the colored wedding attire of the bride is the best so far, but they challenge each other simultaneously for having a better one on the eve of their wedding.
Okay, so this isn’t a spin-off of “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding,” the American television show but it is a humble attempt from my end to take a figment of your rich imagination into the world of the Gypsies or Roma people. Because wallahi there is no fun of learning new cultures without painting a little word picture of it and without imagining being part of the culture just for the sake of some change.
It is, basically, a wonder how so many cultures breathe under the roof of one sky, mixing and blending yet preserving their identity. So, goes the tale of gypsies, the people who don colorful dresses, proudly wear gold headdresses and travel from place to place in caravans, where I would secretly like to join them because, you know, travel is like a drug addiction to me. So let’s cut to the core and talk a bit about the Roma Culture
If I had been a genie in the lamp and had been able to travel with my light blue body, I would have chosen to join a Roma caravan. It was in the past when their travel was all the fun. Now, not only the community has seen dwindling numbers, but it has also become more stationary by nature; adopting cars and RVs instead of the traditional wagons and horses, that created all the thrill of being somewhere in the movie of the Prince of Persia.
So, I guess now you know why I would like to be a time traveling genie who would join the Roma train of wagons, it’s all for the thrill of traveling in the deserts and barren lands, exploring new things on the way.
Anyways, the main point was about their population, not my genie adventures. According to the Time magazine and of course my genie calculations (laugh out loud as that is just the wildest of not only mine but anyone’s imagination) there are only about 11 million people worldwide who belong to the ethnic group of gypsies, Roma, or Romani. And I am sure; there is nothing to elaborate on the word gypsies over here, as for folks like us, the United Nation of Travellers, the term gypsies translates into travelers so that knowledge is like food to our travel-hungry soul that has already been engulfed and burped out the synonyms of travelers.
Oh and an extra snippet about the demographics of this ethnic group is the sad news that about 220,000 of their kind passed way in the Holocaust.
The Roma Spiritual Beliefs
This ethnic group has no particular religious beliefs. In the past, they have wanted the freedom from any organized set of faith. Today, however, these Romani people tend to adopt religion from their surroundings. Some of them are Muslim; others are Christians, while still others are Anglican.
There are a few principles that they strictly adhere to, and these are called the Rromano. These principles orbit around the pillars of justice, honor, respect, purity, and cleanliness. The Rromano definitely sound like a bunch of impressive and of course, sensible rules to stick with. So, at least when this ethnic group traveled and traveled they gathered some great principles instead of gibberish like most people tend to do.
The Mother Tongue
As scattered as the leaf in a wild wind are the Roma people today, pardon this was just a frail attempt at poetry or literature, whatever you prefer to call it, these people are bound by one language. This singular language is called the Romani language or Rromanës that is a derivative dialect of the North Indian region called Punjab.
The Family Structure
In the Scene One that I was trying to sketch above to spark your imagination, you imagined a large caravan. And now is the time to fill that caravan, of course, because empty caravans can’t be heading anywhere really, duh. So, several 10 to 100 families blend to form kumpanias or bands that travel together in a caravan. The leader is a chieftain, and a senior woman called the phuri dai looks after the welfare of the full group. But that was a thing of the past.
Now that the Roma don’t travel much and stay put (a sad ending to such a cool story) they live together where several generations fit together under one roof.
There is, unfortunately, no country that belongs to their traveler souls. There was an International Romani Union established officially in 1977, but the 5th World Romani Union Congress declared the Romani a non-territorial nation in 2000.
So, that’s about it for now. Sad endings really make me sobb-ish, and from the core of my heart, I would really like to see them travel; partly selfish reason being me traveling with them, but wholeheartedly a sincere wish.