Sunday, July 8, 2012

Caste, religion and all that blah

I have been meaning to write this post since a very long time, again there was so much inside me that was waiting to get out. I have always been an anti-country, anti-religion and anti-caste. I am a human being, a woman and that is my identity in this universe. I don't even want to think I am an Indian, I belong to this globe, to this universe and it is as simple as that.

I was born into a Brahmin family (not out of my choice). I can't tell you how much I hated being born into a caste based family system. There were many things that rankled my mind when I was growing up. I never understood why my brother wore the holy thread, the mark of a brahmin. Was it to prove Brahminism? And why? There were rituals and poojas in the house and it all suffocated me after some point, especially today when I don't realise the point or sense in it. What do these religious events signify? When I was growing up, I was told to behave in a way of a Brahmin girl. Focus on traditions. So, I ask what are these traditions and why do we need them to live a life? Somehow, the child in me was always asking questions. As I was growing up, these questions became even more intense and I realised through my very own experiences that these things do not make any sense to me.

I was speaking to one of the brahmin priests (this was when my uncle passed away and the 13 day ritual was happening). I asked him the meaning of the rituals. He was appalled when I asked but was also happy and told me dad, see your daughter is asking questions, very good. I said, listen I want to know the significance of this. After I heard what I did, I completely lost it. Those were prayers to make sure my uncle went to swarglok and those prayers were meant to request people/animals in the path of his swarglok, ensuring my uncle reached only heaven. Now, tell me this, how do I know where I go, and how unless I die and experience it. We do these rituals in the name of religion, blindly, without understanding why and what. Some things in the past could be applicable in days of yore, but not now. This is what I tell my mother.

A simple example. I was at my friend's place in Bombay (she was a tamil brahmin). When I turned to touch the curd, her mother stopped me, don't touch it she said. I wondered why. It was then she told, you should touch water and then touch the curd. I understood. In those days, perishable and non perishable were kept seperately and just so that it does not get spoiled, people washed their hand and then touched the curd. Today, we have fridge, for God's sake and I still find Tam Brahms following these norms. Does that make sense?

When I probed further with spiritual gurus, I found out the concept of primary and secondary religion. Most of people do the secondary religion thing. Let me tell you the difference. Both are two ways to reach God. I think it is okay even if you don't believe in God. People who use the secondary method approach God through the thousand rituals, to appease the form God and make sure their sins are absolved. For the former, they believe in formless God and they just are spiritual people. Maybe they just believe in the supreme form and nothing else.

Dip in the ganges, rituals after rituals, going to various temples, all these are more like done to please God. I don't believe in it but yet I was forced and still forced to be a part of these pujas and rituals. Now, that I know the belief systems I possess, it is impossible for me to accept or abide by it. So, I refrain from it. I do not want to do something without understanding the purpose behind it or due to some obsolete culture or tradition.

I never liked the bindi wearing thing, or sitting and chanting some mantra because I had to. The very thing about all these things were something I could not relate to.

When people ask me about marriage and all, I say, I do not want a Brahmin guy for I do not want to be sucked into these religious things. I would rather be forced into this without a choice if I marry someone from the caste. I am an anti caste, anti religion and I am very very happy about it.

I remember once I had gone to my mother's cousin's house. He was a doctor. When the topic of marriage broached with great intent, I was spontaneous enough to tell that I chose not to marry someone from my caste. He was aghast. You will pollute our genes if you marry an outcaste. I was angered and I did not quit. I was like, how do you think caste system evolved? Basic fact-divison of labour and all this talk of Brahmin comes from head and shudras come from the feet is utter rubbish. Some sick Brahmins from the past who had all the administrative capabilities did this to have an upper hand. Nothing else. You say brahmins are more pure and educated, and what sense. If dalits or anyone else were given the opportunity to have education when brahmins did study, they would have also done well. So, the first thing, denial of basic right. So, we only controlled them, to have an upper hand and we did that by supressing them. What blood line, lineage are we talking about? I had a very healthy argument and then uncle gave up.

I once was talking to a monk who spent most of his time meditating in the Himalayas and he told me the meaning of true brahmin. It means anyone who is a pure soul. Now, tell me does a soul have caste or religion or nationality? No. Does your blood have caste, religion? No. There are only 4 blood groups, be it Indian, American, African or anyone. So, where is this caste thing?

Even the system of arranged marriage- Brahmin, Iyer, again Palakkad iyer, tamil iyer, subdivided into tanjavur, tirunelveli, and what not. Gothram, star and then horroscope, now where will you find a man? Honestly, I am a proponent of intercaste marriages. It opens you up to looking at people for being human, beyond caste, community and other things. And just imagine, you see a person for his qualities and not for which caste he belongs to, you are creating a new thought process. Also, I do not understand, how parents bring this casteism into their children. He is the maid's boy, don't play with him. Now, how will a child know that unless he or she is told about it, right? It is we who seed caste discrimination into the young hearts and we pollute their minds. It is a disgusting thought indeed. I totally agree with Richard Dawkins when he says that when a child is born, we should let them choose their religion, when they are born. Why thrust out religious responsibilities on them? They can choose to be a Buddhist, Hindu or even an atheist.

I see my niece- she cant leave the house without a bindi, my brother would hate it. He has given up on me long back because I turned deaf ears to something I do not believe in. I would do that, not occasion demanding, but me wanting it. I will never do something I am not comfortable for the sake of religious matters.

I have taught my maid's daughter back in Mumbai, gone to their house, but I never became "polluted" because they belong to a lower caste. I even hate that word lower caste. Thankfully, my grand parents, though not educated were much forward in those days. They used to feed the dhobis who came home. In their village in kerala, they had muslim neighbours who used to come to their house and jokingly ask if they wanted fish. Grandpa was always a neat man, with white clean dhoti, religiously praying, and at the same time, a man whose heart was open with no indifference for people from other caste. That seeped into my mother. She thinks brahmin is the worst community. She keeps telling me that. I agree with her. Now, let me say, its not about being brahmin or being dalit. Brahmins should not talk about their superiority or dalits should not feel and express that they are of lower caste. By saying that, they only put themselves down. So chuck all this, lets be humans and do what we want.

So, I say, stop this brahmin talk, this superiority mentality and look at individuals for who they are. I also do not believe that blood is thicker than water. Exposed to traveling international, every individual has helped me to cross a hurdle, and these do not belong to my "bloodline". They are humans with values. Period.

Also, Meena Kandasamy has written a poem on becoming a brahmin. She is a poet, and she calls herself a Dalit. Well, I do not think you got to be a brahmin hater to be a good dalit.

There was an interesting discussion in satyamev jayate today and it was really good. Check it out.

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