It was a regular evening at a coffee shop where I used to hang out, primarily because of the food and the company.
The latter part was about to change — the company I had was about to get into a debate with me on why he thinks he deserves better just because he carries a certain surname.
“You know, in our village, a person from the lower caste still cannot enter our colony without removing their slippers.”
This statement from a 23-year-old upper-caste Hindu boy changed the idea of tolerance for me. However, when I still wanted to storm out of the coffee shop where we used to “hang out” in the tier 2 city of Jaipur with a few others, I chose to stay and scrutinise from where this idea of self-proclaimed ownership is derived.
I kept staring at him looking for a hint of guilt or shame or at least awkwardness after spewing out that offensive statement. Quite predictably, I did not find any of that.
This person was from a district in Rajasthan, and his childhood stories showed that his family had appropriate influence that he was rather unapologetic about. He never shied away from blaming the lower castes and the government policies around them for everything wrong in his life — including reservations.
He somehow believed that he deserved respect, recognition, a job or anything under the Sun just because he had a surname he thought was “gifted”. And yes, this entitlement also translated into how he treated women around him.
While women who are submissive were held on a higher pedestal by him, the women who threatened his self-proclaimed regard for himself were either attacked by his gaslighting, sexist jokes or public shaming. The stint had more to offer — sexist and patronising ideas of why women should not be intoxicated in a public space, etc.
His statements reeked of caste-dominance and lack of responsibility around it or any act that was a consequence of his beliefs.
This entitlement is a molecular version of what is happening in the country — and it expands to the ghastly realities we can’t imagine. From caste-based murders to community-based rapes, we have enough material on them to mark the wrath of a self-established, superseded and toxic mentality.
On a slightly different note, the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) is also a by-product of this entitlement where a few privileged, over the honourable Constitution of this country, decide who enters this country and who doesn’t.
Coming back to my minute experience, yes, I wanted to throw all the values of feminism and caste equality that I knew into the discussion to make them see that his statements come across as unacceptable in a democracy, or what is left of it.
And I tried. I made the arguments that were logical. I pretended he was listening even as his grim smile said something else. Beyond a point, I felt my words were falling on deaf ears, and the only reason I still had an audience (however uninterested) was that it would look very obvious to abandon me like that.
Anyway, why was I still breathing the same air as them?
I know that in the coming times, I will pick my side to be with the forces evacuating caste and gender biases out of this country. Conversations like these help me get a temperature check to know the people I am up against. However, it was mentally exhausting to push logic over bullying constantly.
And that’s where I needed to take a step back, find stronger grounds for my arguments and unwind progressive views. Investing time in the process did help me gauge the mindset of the audience.
Belonging to the privileged class myself, growing up I never consciously acknowledged the challenges of the victims and survivors of the caste system. I faced the wrath of patriarchy in many ways, though. We could choose to keep an open mind and listen to concerns.
But that was too much to expect from an entitled mind. However, my take-away, and I hope it’s true, is that the people who are at the right side should not bear the brunt of this hatred anymore. And the people who want to have things on a platter need to rise up and acknowledge responsibility.