Type-Cast(e)ing

Do you remember the first time you got to know about The Great Indian Caste system? You may not remember the four varnas buried in your history books, but you will surely remember your entrance forms, where you had to fill your “category” and that’s when you realized that you admission doesn’t depend ONLY on your marks in the said exam, but also on what your forefathers did or were. Long story short, if you are an Aam Aadmi ka beta/beti, you have spent much of your graduation and post graduation, cursing the fallacy of Indian social system, and developing strong biases against those who “reap the benefits”.

But if you, by any chance, didn’t experience the above mentioned situation, then there is absolutely no way, that you didn’t experience the worst form of racism, stereotyping, and prejudices, in the most thriving industry of this country – Indian weddings.

Take a look at your Sunday paper closely for once. Have you ever seen the way the matrimonial supplement is categorized? As if Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian and Jain was not enough, we have Punjabi, Gujrati, Marathi, Reddy, Brahmins, Thakurs, Bengali, etc etc etc. The requirement, the advertisement remains the same in all of them – Want a professionally qualified match for daughter/son – simple enough, till you see that invisible asterisk -but of our culture/community/religion/caste/gotra and so on and so forth. And God forbid, if you, being an educated person, of educated parents, decide to cross these boundaries. You will be asked to question your judgment more than once, and in many ways, and it will all come down to this- caste/community/religion/gotra etc etc etc. I mean, don’t you remember “Two States?” That stuff is as real as reality gets.

I was born in Delhi, brought up in Rajasthan, did my engineering from UP and living in Karnataka from past 3.5 years. Prejudices exists everywhere – the caste system in UP is extremely rigid. And Bangalore has been in news more than once for its biases against non-Kannadigas. In Delhi and Punjab, Biharis are looked down upon, and the population there is famous for calling every South Indian “Madrasi”. When we try to absolve the differences, by forming friendships or relationships with people beyond our culture, often the societal pressure is to talk us out of it.

And yet you see, so many couples, getting married with partners of their own choice, irrespective of their caste or community. You look at happy pictures, and think “India is progressing”. Sometimes, it is not so rosy. India has, and keeps having, its own share of honor killings. Some make headlines, some are buried in oblivion.

You might get frustrated and ask yourself, is there a way around all this? Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. Because eventually, it doesn’t matter who stereotypes and how. What matters is your sense of right and wrong.

My brush with this stereotyping and prejudices happened very recently, and led me to write this post. What has been your experience? You think we can eliminate deep-rooted racism and prejudices from our surroundings, for once and for all? Leave a comment below.