Casteism: Let’s lock it indoors!

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My mom and dad hail from different castes.

The husband and I come from different castes despite ours being a 100% arranged marriage.

My sister crossed the caste, religion, and national borders in marriage.

All of it says how far a progress one generation has made in diluting casteism – within just one family! Well, to people like me who grew up with absolutely no caste feeling, this is a ‘progress,’ while we can be an absolutely ‘absurd’ family to some for whom continuing the purity of the lineage is important.

 Neither is right or wrong!

Said that, this post is not against casteism. The necessity to identify oneself to their caste is a personal choice. However, when we pass down that ‘casteism’ to our legacy, can we be sensitive not to pass down pride, superiority, inferiority, hatred, discrimination, stigmas, or prejudices on any caste for that matter?

That’s what this post attempts at, today! That is, can we lock our casteism indoors without spilling it out into the society?

C – Casteism: Let’s lock it indoors!

On the outlook it might seem like the people of our country have become more open in accepting diversity in castes mostly because of the steep rise in love marriages in the last few decades. Yet, we cannot deny that many continue to judge and treat ourselves and others for the caste tag that’s tied to each of us. Unfortunately, children too learn to read caste tags and treat people for what’s written on their tags. Here are some ways we can help spare them from learning it if we want to.

Can we please stop being interested in knowing someone else’s caste, at least when children are around?

Three decades ago, if I were to go to a new friend’s house for the first time, one of the inevitable questions from the elders used to be, “What caste are you from?” I am glad that not many ask this question to children today. However, the ‘curiosity’ in people to know the caste of a friend, neighbour, children’s friends, or that co-passenger in train (trust me, it happens) hasn’t really died.

Recently, when a few of our friends met, we discovered that all of us present were vegetarians. The apparent discussion that followed was who among us hailed from a particular caste. Such discussions are so common that we fail to realize the necessity, or rather the unnecessity in it.

To know that someone is a vegetarian can be an information, yes. But what kind of information does it make to know whether the vegetarianism is because of their caste? I have thought many times how this piece of information about someone can change your perception about that person in your mind. There’s only one purpose in it: to judge if the person belongs to an upper or lower caste.

When a group of children playing in the same room where these mommies were talking overhears this conversation (that children are naturally adept at), aren’t we unintentionally stressing to them the importance of identifying castes? How necessary is this conversation? How important is it to know someone’s caste?

Can we please break the chain of prejudices (according to Thesaurus: beliefs without basis) about castes?

Last year I invited a neighbour aunty for a pooja at home. During the course of the conversation, she casually asked me if I belonged to a particular caste. I was quite surprised with her question because it had been quite a few years, perhaps, at least a decade, since someone attempted to know the caste I came from, and also I was curious to know what could have made her ask that question.

“Why do you ask that aunty?” I shot my question before I could answer her.

“Because your house, portico and garden are always clean. Usually, only they (people of that caste) keep their place clean,” was her naïve reply.

I laughed to myself as my memory instantly recollected a comment that another neighbour aunty made when I was a child, “These people (people of that same caste referred above) will superficially talk about being very clean, this and that. You should open their fridge to see how it stinks and see their wardrobes full of untidy clothes.”

 What do you think about these two beliefs? You may be in favour of one or both or neither. But would you like your children to grow up hearing several of such remarks? Imagine with one question of that aunty’s if my brain could recollect a statement that I had heard as a child, then how many such statements are floating around now in so many people’s brains in the last so many years.

Would you want to continue being a part of this chain of circulating prejudices? Would you want to be that neighbour aunty who seeded such a memory in a child? If your answer is No, be conscious when you make such statements in front of your children, my children, and all the children in the world. Think of all such notions you might carry about your caste or other castes? It doesn’t matter if it is right or wrong from your point of view. Our children simply need not hear these!

Can we please refrain from using derogatory names to people of certain castes?

It is common that people use certain words to call people of certain castes that can be disrespectful. Most of such words have become a natural part of our conversation that we don’t realize that discrimination is already attached to it. Needless to explain, let these not enter our children’s vocabulary, ever!

Can we please stop educating children about upper and lower castes?

Caste discrimination is certainly not something children are born with. They learn from the cues from adults in the society. For ages people have been ostracized, treated badly, and in fact some lives have been taken for granted because of the caste one comes from.

If we belong to one of those ‘superior’ castes, we ought to be responsible to not instil a sense of pride of the caste in children. If we belong to one of those ‘lower’ castes, we ought to be responsible to not instil any negative emotions that could have bothered people of the bygone generations. Irrespective of what caste we belong to, we are responsible for dividing or not dividing people on the basis of castes.

How do we do it?

If we followed our intentions, we would know how to do it if we wanted to do it. It’s a personal choice that lies within an individual. It can include holding from making comparative statements like people of a certain caste are more good-looking, more fair, more knowledgeable, more clean, more educated, more rich, more cultured,….you know how long this list can get to. It can include the way we treat people – say your notion of where someone of a certain caste can sit and eat, or if you can sit or eat along with people of a certain caste. Again, it’s not a matter of getting into the analysis of who is right or wrong. To end caste discriminations getting passed over, we need to hold the analyses within ourselves and don’t take it to the next generations.

It cannot be possible to make a comprehensive post on this topic because caste discriminations have infused our everyday lives so deeply that we might not be able to separate them unless we made a conscious effort. To put simply, at home, while it can be important for some parents to impart the traditions of their caste in the children, in the process we need to take care that ‘casteism’ does not give way to ‘caste discrimination’.

 If you have anything to say, please share.

2 Replies to “Casteism: Let’s lock it indoors!”

  1. Such a pleasure reading your words ☺️
    That one line “ can we lock our casteism indoors without spilling it out into the society?” is so powerful! Nethiyadi, hope our children will not continue and in a a few more generations this will change.

    1. Yes, let’s whole-heartedly hope so! Thanks for the continued reader in you Cathy!

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