Why don’t we talk about caste?
As a nation, as we get together to discuss issues that perturb us, how do we manage to skip out this system that has existed in our civilisation forever?
A system that imprints itself on your name, your title, your identity, your family. A tag that you carry down the tunnels of time, generation to generation, never able to break free from?
Why doesn’t news of a Dalit’s hands being cut off, or being stripped and paraded naked, or beaten up for reaching out to their basic rights, anger us? Why don’t we speak about a system that has crept into our mainstream – into our marriages and proposals, into our websites and matrimonials?
Why don’t we talk about Caste when we mock Islamic countries for their rigid rules? Why doesn’t Caste seem as appalling to us as a 10 year old boy in Syria forced to behead another man? Why doesn’t it shock us that our parents still adhere and abide by a tradition that existed even before the idea of India was born?
But hey, there are cool parents, yours and mine. We dare not think about such things. Let’s discuss the weather, may be?
Why don’t we talk about caste with the same anger and furore as we discuss a Gangrape?
I mean, look at the word – GANGRAPE.
Look at all that it carries with it – a bunch of lecherous men feasting upon a crying girl, tearing her flesh. Look at the word – strutting around and demanding our attention like a tramp.
And then look at this word – CASTE.
It signifies nothing. An old, dusted discussion, fleeting memories of that Amar Chitra Katha comic of BR Ambedkar, and how ‘millions’ of Indians were relieved from thousands of years of misery. The word is an old cow, loitering about in the wild till it dies an insignificant, lonely death.
Why don’t we talk about caste when it blatantly stares at us in every sphere of life? On our birthdays, and festivals, and weddings, and funerals. Why don’t we talk about caste in our places of worship, our temples of love and compassion?
Why are our Gods biased? 33,000 crore Gods in our nation, why do they watch stone-faced and silent, as this inhumane discrimination is openly propagated in their places of worship?
Why doesn’t it disgust us that a cruel system, whose earliest remains date back to the first script ever written in Hinduism, still exists today? A system that cruelly discriminated upon people for no fault of theirs. A system that relegated you to be a cobbler or barber or sewage-cleaner, year after year, generation after generation?
Why don’t we talk about Caste?
We don’t talk about caste because it’s not cool, yo!
It embarrasses us. Like a stain of menstrual blood on a pure white, silk saree, Caste is a blot on our glorious past as the beacon of the world.
We don’t talk about caste because it doesn’t exist in the world we grow up in. It never did.
Raj and Simran never discussed their caste. Neither did Prem, or Amar, Akbar, Anthony before him. Caste doesn’t go with our idea of modern India.
The one we see in PPTs and news briefs. How do you place that dark elephant of an issue on sparkling flyovers? It doesn’t look good on spotless roads or among fair, shiny kids in blazers smiling in front of their colleges. It doesn’t fit in, bro.
We don’t talk about Caste because it’s not really a serious problem. Nope. Serious problems are Illiteracy, Unemployment, and Gender Sensitivity. Yup, we’re talking about Gender Sensitivity now, but it doesn’t shock us that 80% of the country is divided into four imaginary divisions that began thousands of years ago.
We don’t talk about Caste because we don’t believe in the ‘Ugly, cruel caste system’ that we learnt about in Social Studies. We follow a cleaner version of the Caste System.
We don’t beat up Dalits. But we’ll eat and breed among our own kind. We will look for matches within our incestuous little group and find a ‘match’ for our children. We follow the ‘good caste system’. The harmless butterfly version of the ugly black snake that exists out there, in the wilderness somewhere.
We don’t talk about Caste because our parents never questioned it. And on never questions one’s parents’ beliefs in anything. Cos bro, Matru Devo Bhava, Pitru Devo Bhava, yo!
Also, look at India today. We have left all that shit behind, brother. We are marching forward towards progress and growth and glossy cars and shiny roads. Why bring up something from so far back? Do you know that Mark Zuckerberg wears the same kind of T-shirts every day? Ha, thought so!
We don’t talk about Caste because we have never questioned our beliefs.
We will invest our money in hedge-funds and manage our accounts on our smartphones, and yet, we will invite a Pundit and Pujari to do our poojas. Because you see, God is Almighty and All-knowing and All-powerful, but he has a little soft corner for people who were born in a certain caste only.
We know all the prayers, they’re a click away on our glitzy smartphones. But we will pay this man to sit shirtless in front of us and chant them out, because God likes them prayers when they come off his lips. Of course, he’s God. But we all have our weaknesses, and Brahmins are God’s weakness. God is trying to wean off the habit, but it’ll take some time.
We don’t talk about Caste because it embarrasses us.
Like the uncle who touches a 12 year old girl between her thighs one summer afternoon, and then meets her ten years later at a family function, we are filled with dread and guilt. We don’t want to talk about it.
I’m not going to talk about it.
And I know you aren’t, either.