“Could I have a ticket to Warwickshire please?”
“Sure that’d be please”
“I meant a first class rail ticket Mr. umm.. Stevens”
“Oh sorry Ma’am, that would be then, thank you”
Yes, I’d grade the caste system like a seat on a the first class car of the British Rail. A ticket to hover above the lower castes, a permit to show them how unfortunate they are to be born with a name bestowed upon them by their ancestors, elected by their vocations in the 1500′s! The caste system is strictly followed in places all over Asia, like India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh et cetera but the influence of these echelons on the Indian society and its people has been greater than the others. The nation and its people had been divided into different castes, which placed a certain community of people over the others, gave them more privileges, made them powerful and allowed them to belittle the other communities. Why should one fragment of the nation enjoy more privileges than others? Why should children of a certain caste be given priority in schools? Healthcare be biased? Education and classes bigoted? Temples have separate facilities and the dos and don’ts for people of a certain caste? Even in the shrine of God, people are overtly practising racism. They call it the caste system. Oh yes, and the “untouchables” or “Dalits” exist! People of the Brahmin caste are said not to have even touched anyone outside their caste in the 18th century.
Imagine what this does to the morality and self-confidence of the one billion people in India alone. Their whole world is pruned into a cesspool where they are prohibited to hold dreams for themselves, travel outside their ignorant little worlds and explore humanity because it is not what the “society” wants. It would be a crime to even contemplate a matrimony between two people outside their respective castes. Who cares if they are in love? It doesn’t matter if they commit suicide as long as they abide by the ignorant, racist rules of the juggernaut of the secular culture as per se.
Fortunately, the caste system has been fragmented and closeted in the rural areas of the country, it hasn’t been able to survive in the fast-paced, modern world where the youth are fast adopting an urban lifestyle. However, thats just the picture on the outside. Take a peek into most of these households and you’ll still find the caste system actively practised amidst the hustle-bustle of the city. The “shudras” or people of the labour caste aren’t allowed to enter the threshold and are labelled as a bad omen if pass by you early in the morning, you became impure if they touched you and many of these labour caste people are scorned for every move they make because they are NOT allowed to even make an effort to fit in. They are by default considered ineligible to take part in any of the important decisions of the community like run for village counsellor “sar panch” or demand for equal rights.
The generations have pioneered the adaptation of almost everything from the west. Technology is advancing effusively while clothing is shrinking dynamically, western music is a rage, fine dining is an art and the literacy rate is climbing. The country is exporting knowledge and brilliant graduates and despite all the hunky-dory flurry that take place, the cultural setbacks continue to cut down on the opportunities for the ignored niche of the country. How can we as a society allow this? Encourage it and embrace it?
Today, we might not allow people of a certain caste into our kitchens, not get our daughters married to man of a “lower” caste even if they had a high yielding job because their her children still be christened with their father’s second name, which automatically makes them a subject of the “low” caste, and oh what a shame that would be! Today, we will discriminate our own people in front of God and holy places of worship, give them separate facilities in schools that provide education and build our nation, we will have biased healthcare too, because these people aren’t made of flesh and blood like us, they are made of, umm God knows better, or “Wait!” we are made of something superior. Let’s scorn these people with names and let’s use their surnames to chastise our caste members when they do wrong. Maybe they should be put into villages and confined. That would keep them out of the way!
Hold on a second, do these upper echelons of people ever think, what if I was a “Shudra” or a “Chandala” (those who disposed the dead) instead of a Brahmin, would I like to be treated this way? Do I deserve this treatment? What happens to the children in the orphanage, born to Brahmin parents but adopted by Vaishyas (traders class) and Panchamas (lowest caste)? I find the entire rigmarole baseless and pointless. You can never really divide people. In a world where we are trying to bridge communication gaps, digital bridges and trying to educate the world to be competitive and confident, making an attempt to get gay marriages legalised and women equality in our societies, there, in the heart of a developing nation, lies the impenetrable caste culture which is nothing but a barrier. One billion people, 28 states and 1,108 castes all under the patriotism of one flag. A bit too many castes to conquer? The battle lies within.
Education alone is the answer I believe. Children are taught to believe that if you’re from the upper caste, you are lucky and the children from the lower caste are taught that they shall forever be looked down upon as the leftovers of the society. Teach the positive idea. Caste doesn’t mean anything. Each child is special, encourage intercaste marriages that would make the caste system redundant. People of the old era will not understand, so speak up and make sure they don’t enforce their ideologies on you. The minute you encourage them, its another foothold for this modus operandi to make itself stronger. Discrimination is a crime!
The change begins at home. The change begins now. The change is YOU.
Bridge the gap. Reach out. These are our people. Unite. We’re all made of dust, and to dust we shall return.