This part of the globe is constantly looked up to by the rest of the world for its morals, religious beliefs, value systems and what not. India, in particular, has been a favourite destination for the people hunting for these.
In a bid to boast these ‘values’, we still hold on to the age-old concept of casteism, even in independent India. This has made me question several things. Is our society educated enough? Is education effective enough to get rid of society’s ignorance? Can we boast of being a country which believes in ‘equality in diversity’? Are human beings humane enough?
Neither am I a great saint, nor am I a powerful preacher. I am just an ordinary woman from a middle-class household in a small town. However, the turn of events around me has shaken me to the core. It has also instilled in me a strange confidence – to be honest, fearlessly voice opinions and to call a spade, a spade.
Yes, I’ve had an inter-caste/inter-state marriage – and I’m sure there must be thousands out there who share the same experiences as mine. The harrowing process of trying to convince both the families, till the culmination of the wedding, is an unforgettable memory. We faced endless irrational and preposterous opinions, trying to justify why this marriage should NOT happen – “A Brahmin getting married to a non-Brahmin is abnormal”, “You are committing a ‘grave sin’ by even thinking of such an alliance”, “You will get a much better groom than him”, “Do you have any respect for us, or are you simply trying to kill us?”, “Because of your unprecedented wishes, our family members will suffer a cardiac arrest” , “We will find much better English-speaking girls for you”, “We live in a society and we need to abide by the rules of the society”, and so on.
Despite all the odds, my husband managed to lead me to the altar, with both our families participating equally in the wedding. There were times when we got weak in the face of all the difficulties surrounding us. But the one aspect that remained constant in all this was our resilience. Whenever one of us went weak, the other stayed rock-solid, and was a strong support.
I feel lucky that my marriage with the man of my dreams materialised. There are many who have either parted ways or got married without their families’ consent. One of the primary reasons for such incidents is caste discrimination. The magnitude of this discrimination is humongous – and it will definitely need a lot of courage and determination to sail against the tides. We tried doing our bit, and my purpose will be served if our story inspires even one person.
Even then, I’ve had countless observations which somehow make me question whether I actually belong to a civilised society (as modern India is projected to be), or if I’m just another scapegoat, amidst the millions, ready to succumb to the false, caste-ridden and biased pressure in one or the other step of my life.
Welcome to the hypocrisy of the much-acclaimed Indian society!
Even in the 21st century, I’ve witnessed instances of people discriminating between prospective brides, on the basis of their colour. Individuals are deprived of companionship, if they belong to different castes/religions, and these individuals are mature enough and have the complete right to channelise their lives in their own ways.
Who are these torch-bearers of society who decide what’s right/wrong, what’s ethical/unethical, and what’s allowed/not allowed? Such is the menace of this mask called ‘society’ that even people, whose consciences speak loud and clear against this bias, either choose to remain mute spectators of this sad state of affairs, or vehemently oppose any such alliance, because of their nagging fear of facing boycott from their own ‘society’.
Let alone marital alliances, we still have people around us, who have inhibitions about having a glass of water in the house of a person, who is considered to belong to a lower caste. And these same people hire servants to cater to their lavish needs without even questioning about their ‘caste’ or ‘rank’!
This is how hypocritical we are gradually becoming – amidst the illusions of being one of the most progressive and fastest-developing nations in the world. And yes, if ‘education’ is the word harking on your minds, and you strongly believe that this ignorance can be fought with grass-root level education, then let me clarify – all the examples cited above are about civilised, literate people.
We keep reading about nuances of casteism and religion in the incidents of murders, rapes, physical violence, molestation, mass social boycott and many more (effectively termed as ‘heinous crimes’, by the law of the country), especially in rural areas. If not more, even our elite urban areas are not far behind in participating in this virtual societal circus – all in the name of caste! Finally, it all comes down to the ‘attitude’ of the people who proudly call themselves Indians.
The biggest irony is that people here believe in preaching equality, but not practising it.
My message to all would be to please keep your minds open and be flexible enough to judge both sides of the same coin. ‘Rigidity’ suits dead bodies, not living humans. We breathe the same air and stand under the same sky. Let not these invisible lines/borders separate us. Let’s live together.
There must be many more people who share my beliefs and thoughts. It’s time we come together to channelise this anguish within ourselves, in delivering a message to society. Let’s set an example, in our own way, in every small step of our lives. Let’s face the truth. Let’s be fearless in at least calling what’s right as right, and what’s wrong as wrong. Small steps will make big differences.
It’s time we wake up to the stark reality of Indian society. It’s time we joined hands to resurrect our diminishing glory!
I’ve won my first battle and I’m sure there are many more to come. I seek for courage and resilience for all our individual battles across the country.
Someday, we’ll win over this ghastly dogma called casteism!