A meritocracy holds that if you work hard enough, you can succeed in life, regardless of race, religion, gender or social status. But despite concrete efforts to downplay class as a forecaster for intelligence and achievement, many people still believe their destiny is tied to their station in life. Do they really believe or are made to believe?
“When you are in Rome, behave like romans”. You need to respect a country’s culture but what if the culture is having a negative impact on its image. During a recent visit to India, we had a candid chat with our colleagues from US and the inevitable and predictable question of caste and stereotype always popped up. They find it so fascinating that it had to be a part of the conversation.
Is bindi a mark of caste? How can you identify someone from a lower caste? Why do you have a caste system? How does it work, etc.? Is “general” category people superior than SC/ST/OBC? Does birth decide the deeds? Then comes the stereotypes. All Tamilians are obsessed with Engineering and Mathematics? All Tamilians can’t speak (or refuse to speak) Hindi because it is injurious to their rather fragile pride? Are Baniyas miser? Are Punjabis loud and a show-off community? All Biharis are unsophisticated and selfish people? Sikhs are short-tempered?
Their never-ending questions full with curiosity made me realize that “Indian” culture is quite famous outside and how typical we still are even in 21st century? 🙂
So accordingly, the caste system was made in India. It was a good arrangement for those days. It is just that over a period of time, one become a brahmin by birth not by worth; that is when the trouble started. That is so with every system. Whatever system we create, we must constantly work to keep it clean and make it happen well otherwise every system, no matter how beautiful the system is to start with, can become a source of exploitation.
Over a period of time, societies have tried to make every difference into a discrimination. Differences are fine. The world is bound to be different and it is nice that it is different, but we try to make every difference into discrimination, whether it is race, religion or gender. So when we lost our senses and started making everything prejudiced, the Indian caste system became an ugly system. What was once a very relevant way to develop skills in a society has unfortunately became discriminatory and negative, not productive.
We make every difference discriminatory simply because every human being is longing to be a little more than what he is right now. One unfortunate way he has found is to put down the person next to him. But we have worked like that for a long time and we are continuing to work like that. It is time to change it. A person’s worth is determined by his knowledge and capacity and the inherent qualities which mark his conduct in life.
The four fold division of castes’ in the Bhagavad Gita was created according to the apportionment of qualities and duties, not birth, not sacrament but righteous conduct alone. This sacred book says “Be he a Sudra or a member of any other class, says the Lord in the same epic, “he that serves as a raft on a raftless current, or helps to ford the unfordable, deserves respect in every-way.”
India is a great country and will always remain. Let’s build a better society and let my global colleagues and the world see and believe that Modern India is simply regurgitating the past inequalities. Brahmins are no longer pundits but Supreme Court judges, Governors and diplomats. Vaishyas are no longer baniyas with a dhoti but CEOs with a tie and a suit.
A recent statement by a couple in their late 80’s of today’s India: They told me: Nidhi, you will witness a beautiful society where “Caste or varna will not matter, the “inside” still and will count more.” Be a good human being and the problem is solved. I could not stop smiling. 🙂
Thanks for Reading!!!