Saturday, November 22, 2014

Black black black curse of the caste system

Many educated Indians are uncomfortable talking about caste! They say, "All that has changed!" We don't believe in caste any more, is what they think. The truth is they have not given the matter much thought because these people are usually from the metros which have a cosmopolitan environment. They do not realize the way in which caste is embedded into our psyches.

To explain it from my own experience, a great Marathi woman lived opposite to my house. She deserves a separate post, and I will merely mention that she was a honest high ranking official, who stood up against very powerful and ruthless politicians and yet spoke in gentle tones and was totally unassuming. Behind my house lived a family of Bengalis. The lady of the house taught a variety of Indian dances and made all the kids perform on stages that are coveted by professionals. A Hungarian national with eight kids lived next door. There was a rumour that the man was the third husband of the woman, and we all gossiped about it pretending that such a thing was unbelievable. Actually, we kids were mute witnesses to the cheating and flirtation that adults in our society indulged in, just as they did in probably every human society.

What I am trying to point out is that the metro city can be very cosmopolitan, and children brought up in such places do not know how caste in India actually works. The metros are a very tiny part of India, although they support millions of people. Millions more live in second tier cities, millions and milllions more live in towns and villages, and here a human being is classified based on his caste. High caste people insist on being revered for the simple reason that they were born into high caste families. Low caste people are looked down upon as of inferior birth. And this is just the beginning of the unhappy tale of rank cruelty and injustice. What can we do about it, if we don't even know it exists?

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