Fun-filled, traumatic, joyous, troublesome, boring, cruel, pleasing, satisfying, challenging, tempting, misleading - yes Life is full of 'em - that is why life is so very SPECIAL - and yet the thrill is in "living" life! And all the accompanying ordeals are the frills attached with the thrills.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Casteism - what does it offer?

No, I am not starting with another post opposing casteism or questioning the need for it. On the contrary, I am supporting it! To give a background, castes were formed based on professions - the potter, the cobbler, the undertaker, the scavenger, the priest, the farmer - all were segregated based on their professions. So, how did this help? Today, we talk about a merged society, anybody can take up any profession which suits him/her. What about in the past when the society was small, cohesive and a closed one - say a small village or taluk which was probably ruled by a chieftain? The community then had to ensure that it was self-sustained in all respects. Even the so-called low profile jobs were important - there had to be somebody to do them. So a barber's son had to be a barber to ensure that there was a barber in their community. The same holds good for a priest, potter, artisans and the likes. What did they get in return? The chieftain ensured that their needs were taken care - they were given houses, their kin's marriage taken care and any needs would be addressed by the community. But the side kicks were that some communities were kept off from the rest because of their work - which probably was deemed as dirty work then - say like that of a scavenger, a cobbler or barber. But never (I presume) were they left uncared for or made to feel unimportant. Infact one particular person who is incharge of regulating the water flow from canals to the fields who is from a lower caste is considered important and he has the final say. Even the chieftain looks upon him for inputs and details!

So what does caste has to offer? I see a rich tradition and a whole plethora of different lifestyles associated with the different castes and there is nothing better or worse here - each is unique and special in its own way. Even in the customs and traditions, I do not see exhibition of any hatred or ill-feelings towards other people or castes.

Why are we targetting castes when caste is not that bad at all? What is bad and which needs to be condemned is the hatred and apartheid arising out of casteism and not casteism itself. What we have today even otherwise is segregation based on education, social status, money - how are these better than casteism? If not caste, humans would have come up with something else to differentiate and show superiority over other.

When I visit the agraharam like setup in Mylapore or Srirangam, I wish they continue to uphold their authencity inspite of modernisation. I wish the theru koothus, thiruvizhas, the peasant livelihood, the potters - all continue to exist irrespective of the radical changes in the world. I admire the skills of the sculptor, cobbler, barber - all alike. I get inspired by the little saving techniques of the down trodden and equally get amazed by the architectural beauty of the Chettinadu houses. So which caste is bad? which caste promotes hatred? or apartheid? none! Its us who cultivate these.

Maybe we should start appreciating casteism - not for the differences - but for the rich culture and heritage it holds and instead shun the hatred and differences arising out of it!