I’ve realised that I use the word caste a lot in this blog. Especially when mentioning weddings and so on. I shouldn’t be using that word. I’m from a secular country and as someone who comes from a community that fought the absolute feudalism espoused in Kerala at one point in time, I should not be throwing a word like caste around in any way or form.
However, despite this being 2010, I have a profile listed in a matrimonial website that specifies that the boys or boys’ families asking for my hand in marriage should be the same caste as me.
It’s a very ironic thing if you ask me. Because the guru that my community follows, Sree Narayana Guru, had one major teaching – one caste, one religion and one God for man. (Oru jaathi, oru madam, oru deivam, manushyanu.) Despite being his followers, we have managed to, over the years, become more and more firmly entrenched in the belief that only Ezhavas are good enough to marry and mate with and breed more Ezhavas.
Elsewhere in my country, people are killing for caste. States like Haryana report honour killings on an eerily regular basis. The only crime of the victims concerned is that they fel in love with the wrong person. In some states, grooms are apparently kidnapped and forced to wed young girls who are or are not willing to get married (a film, Antardwand, was made on the same subject). A very good friend of mine is going through all kinds of mental trauma because her boyfriend’s parents refused to approve of their marriage. She’s been fighting for close to three years now. Their concern is that she’s not the same caste as them.
I’m not sure what all of it means from an anthropological point of view or from a cultural point of view or from a watchamacallit point of view. I do know that despite this being the 21st century and despite us being more evolved, it doesn’t seem to me as if we’ve moved anywhere. As a city-dweller, the quantities of apathy in my bloodstream are only increasing.
It doesn’t mean much to me, but it does to so many of the billion that reside in this country. For some people, it’s everything. I can understand if religion was the big thing, but when a so-called religion (I don’t think Hinduism is a religion per se. No one book to follow to the letter, etc.) itself has as many divisions within its framework, how the hell is one to escape that and look at the bigger picture.
Caste and its associated trauma was one of the reasons why there were so many mass conversions in India. A lot of the people who switched religions did so because to them being Hindu was more of a pain than it was peace of mind. They wanted to escape the shackles of social propriety imposed on them because of their religious beliefs and chose to follow a path to God that was not centred in classifications.
It’s a hard subject to articulate and debate, especially for me. I don’t know enough jargon to pull this off. Nor am I going to justify my usage of a word, in whatever spirit, in my posts. Suffice to say, it is what it is and it exists. I read the papers and sometimes there are stories of how an innocent, consenting, adult couple had to deal with the consequences of disapproval…