Thursday, May 20, 2010

Casting out Casteism: Can you???

"Em Pilla, meeru evaru??" ("Hello girl..., who are you?", here 'who are you' signifies 'what caste you belong to'); this was among the first few questions asked when I entered my hostel, some 4 years back. I was not used to this type of questions. I'm brought up in a locality where almost people from most of the religions and most of the states live together. This question sounded odd to me...
Nevertheless,  I answered "Hmm.. Brahmin... why?" 
She was startled.. That's what I understood from her reaction. 
She asked "enti? Brahmin aa?" (What!, Brahmin?) giving some extra stress to the word "Brahmin".
"Why? What happenned?", I asked again. 
"Ah.. Nothing re... You don't look like a Brahmin, so...", she said. 
"Oh, is it??, By the way, I don't know how Brahmins look like... Please explain", I asked. 
She smiled this time and said, "Don't mind, but brahmins are generally of a fairer complexion". 

LOL, what an idea to identify the caste...  My mom says, "A TRUE BRAHMIN is one who has acquired brahminhood not by birth but through his noble actions." "Brahmin" in real sense means the one who has Brahma Gnana. It is not a caste. Ask anyone in today's generation and most often reply would be "One who eats only vegetarian food"... you may also get some weird replies like the man who has a V shaped or three horizontal Tilakams on forehead, or the man who wears a sacred thread (Woman, by default, is not of much importance in Indian society, she is known by the name of either father or Husband).... or  in worst cases as in the above incident "One who is of a fairer complexion!"

India has been a land obsessed by caste and has been unable to rise above it.  It is known to be “world’s biggest democracy” and ironically it is “world’s biggest social segregation" as well.  The caste system - a subtle and deeply rooted system of social differentiation and segregation - is without a doubt an exact opposite to the fundamental ideals of democratic practice.

I keep wondering why in this age, the great people of a great nation, can still be trapped in such a system of social segregation against fellow countrymen/women as caste. 

Most of the people in "so-called" modern society keep on flaunting to be heretic, but the fear of acceptance in their society makes them think the way presented in the cartoon here:  (The word "Brahmin" in the below cartoon can be changed with Reddy, Choudhary, Iyer, etc... etc... all the castes present). We forget that Society is made for man and not vice-versa. Take the recent worst cases of honor killings - Choose to have relationship outside of family's tribal affiliation and/or religious community AND YOU MAY BE KILLED... If not killed literally, you may be killed mentally as YOU ARE FORBIDDEN from the family. 
We - Indians boast a lot about having "UNITY IN DIVERSITY" but India is so much largely divided in terms of caste, region, religion, language and communities that Unity in true sense is next to impossible.
I dream of seeing a day in my life when people say that "I am a world citizen and the world is mine...Only 1 Caste exists and that is Humanity". Reminds me of a dialogue in Hindi Movie My Name is Khan where hero's  mother says, "The only difference between people is that there are good people and there are bad people."
We have to change society. We cannot change laws. We have to change society by changing ourselves, so that when we become law makers, may be for our next generations, at least then our world has a chance having new laws, sensible laws, laws which unite human beings and not divide them.


  1. Very true and well written!!!!

    After reading your blog one recent incident of Nirupama Pathak (journalist ) coming in my mind , Nirupama (Brahmin girl) wanted to marry with Priyabhanshu Ranjan who belongs to other caste.
    But Nirupama brutally murdered by her own family …
    Amazing people of India... First they will give best education to their children and once they mature enough to take decision...then they expecting spend their whole life according to 1800 century.

    Mera bharat mahan

  2. What Sowjanya? Is your parents are not allowing you to marry your boy friend?
    Don’t worry will talk to your parents… We will change the society.

  3. @ Srini - Trying to be funny... Bad Joke though... :P

  4. good post, but I was expecting u to write about what one should do when his/her parents were conservative in thinking.

  5. Given proper exposure, this would click big way! Promote this one!

  6. True!..high time we look beyond differences..all kinds of differences..caste & religion for sure..but even youngsters should go beyond statuses,stop judging others by how they dress ,communicate in english,etc..we do judge ppl very often on such bases, dont we?..we shud learn to look at someone's real SELF & persona instead.

  7. hmmm... we can change ourselves first atleast,in order to change the whole society.. in near future

  8. Sowjee,

    I am glad I didn't miss reading this post. I read the other post on Water crisis from Indiblogger but didn't read this one earlier.

    Totally true! I am sure most of us experience this, and this is something which should change. For making this world a better place. This is definitely one of the issues that baffle me a lot. I was asked by friends of American origin a couple of times about the caste divide, and I don't feel good to face their questions. And I have also read innumerable articles which make this caste divide in our country a huge issue and how it hinders creativity also.

    There is an article which talks about how the caste system and social system in India prevents its citizens from thinking creative, doing what they like and being better people. Doesn't it sound true? Yet we boast about ourselves being a biggest democracy and secular.

  9. For sure this is a bottleneck in our world... but its prevalent all over the world too.. If not caste its the color.

    The difference sometimes is not only caste but the language that we speak. the worst decision India has ever made was to divide the country into states based on the language. if not for that, then today we wont have had this fights and would have lived more harmoniously.

    I have know cases where caste and the religious follwing are so strict... that reading their religious books are so mandatory that gals and guys get rejected in a proposal just incase they dont do.

  10. Thank you for commenting.
    @Vee - True.

    @Hemal- We can never be sure.(for.. "if not for that, then today we wont have had this fights and would have lived more harmoniously")

  11. Am happy you have raised your voice. Casteism is shockingly widespread even in modern India. I do not know much about South India, but in Delhi I have been frequently asked to explain my ambiguous surname!
    The post is very well written.

  12. Everything was fine except "Woman, by default, is not of much importance in Indian society, she is known by the name of either father or Husband". In-fact it is in India that women signify the more of religion, Sindhur on their forehead, mangalsutra etc.
    Known by the name of either father or husband , I wonder what other societies do ?
    i don't support this but targeting Indian society on this particular thing is what i wanted to question.
    Rest about the article , yes , even I faced same situations and we need to come out of it sooner.
    We design society and not vice versa.TRUE.
    Finally I am world citizen was the best part.


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