Twenty-Nine-Year-Old scientific assistant Rivertis Pariong, who lives in Meghalaya’s capital, Shillong, often asks himself a question that betrays a deep anxiety: “Why would any woman like me?” For a young, handsome, educated, single man, the despair seems misplaced; but Pariong, who belongs to the Khasi tribe, likens his predicament to that of a “gypsy with no status in his society” and believes he has little chance of getting married. “Khasi girls find non-Khasis exciting. As for non-Khasi girls—they won’t marry someone with no inheritance,” he says.
Pariong has grown up watching family inheritance pass from mother to daughter. The ways of the Khasi’s matrilineal society, he feels, impedes men throughout their lives—whether it’s in the matter of finding brides or securing loans: “I feel useless. In my society, men are useful only as breeders.”
Pariong recently decided to join the non-governmental organisation Syngkhong Rympei Thymmai (which roughly translates as ‘Home Hearth Restructured’), a burgeoning men’s rights group in Meghalaya that seeks to put men on an equal playing field with women in Khasi society.