To a casual visitor, Bangladesh may seem an ethnically uniform country but a close look whole constellation of ethnic groups numbering several scores. Although each one of these ethnic groups is numerically tiny, they have their own history, a distinct identity and nearly all have a language of their own. This book introduces the Garos, a people indigenous to the hills of Meghalaya and the plains of Northern Bangladesh. Through text and pictures, the book introduces the present-day Garos of Bangladesh. The book also deals with the questions they are confronted with and the developments that have taken place in recent times in Garo society. These are important developments. The Garos have had to adapt to situations and demands that were unknown to their elders, who were illiterate and leading a simple life which had changed very little over the centuries. The aim of the book is to make the Garos a little better known and to highlight the ethnic diversity, which exists in Bangladesh. It is true that the present-day Garo society shows a high percentage of literacy and the young Garos enter into all levels of modern Bangladesh society. Nevertheless, their sense of identity apart seems to remain undiminished. What is the composition of this identity? How is it that it survives? These are questions which the book takes up and tries to answer.
Ellen Bal was born in the Netherlands in 1967. After having taken a Masters degree at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi 1990, and a Masters in Social History at the Erasmus University, Rotterdam, in 1992, she came to Bangladesh in 1994 to do research on the social history of the Garos. Ms Bal remained for one year in Bangladesh, living for long stretches of time in a Garo village north of Haluaghar; during that time, as well as during her numerous trips back to Bangladesh since then, she made many acquaintances and friends among the Garos. Ellen Bal is presently living in the Netharlands and teaches at the Erasmus University, Rotterdam, and the university of Amsterdam.