Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Old Post Alert: Castes - When did we fall apart?

I had a fairly secular childhood with no strong infulences of any caste, no discrimination at all. My amma had friends of every imaginable sect, and we as a practice never spoke of others personal habits in a derogatory manner. Amma never kept food away from any house. It was not a habit to not eat food from "other caste" houses. I still love Anne aunty's avials and Shymala Aunt's nendrampazham halwas.

Once again, with no special purpose - my schooling and primary college education happened in a hindu institution, and yes it was brahminical. I did have CCA classes singing Vatapi Ganapathim, and wore pattu pavadais, ate sundals during navarathri. My school had a opening day ( the first day school repoens after summer holidays)homam, and I loved sitting there, with my eyes closed fervently praying to Ganapathi, and asking blessings from all the others there. Half of my school life went on knowing when amavasyas occured, and on why guys had avani avittam off. At the home front, I was told Ramayana, Mahabharatha and we watched Krishna on DD every sunday. Thatha was a expert story teller. He knew the art of weaving Draupadi's vasthra abhaharnam ( yes, i learnt sanskrit too) , meaning - taking the vasthram(cloth, essentially meaning saree), off( abhaharnam) with the case of how every woman is stripped off dignity in modern today. He spoke on Ramunajar, the Alwars, the story behind them, took me to temples and spoke on the sthala varalaru ( the legend of the place) and made me read shlokas( divine verses) almost every day. When Thatha went to the USA, Amma took over his place, and it was a habit to prayfrom 6:00PM to 6:10 PM everyday till I finished schooling.

As much as the previous paragraph speaks on my idealistic, religous woven, and of course casteistic childhood, it never came to me that way! It was not meant to. i have invited quite a few Nancy's and Nazarina's home, who and hear to Mahabharathams and eat my amma made rasams. They never felt they were at one of those brahmins homes, and we never felt it was a Nancy eating off my plate. Knowing Draupadi was not to worship Krishna in my family. It was to realise that as a woman, I need not respect my husband (s) always. She never called any of the 5 warriors to rescue her. Somehow, my childhood never had any traces of a caste, iyers, iyengars, christians, and the much derogatory term of non-brahmins. I dont recollect the usage of the work at all during my growing up years.

College happened to be at one of those elite, vaishnav funded institutes, where by all means - there is no influence of any caste, except getting only vegeterian food in canteen and having te words in the college's name, neither of which can influence me in any strong manner.

With all that there, I am now wondering where it all begin. I am trying to recollect when the question of my caste started becoming a part of my identity. Was it when I started talking about amma's samayal, and that i dont eat meat? Or, was it when I said non-veg, and unconciously discrimnated a friend of mine, or was it the day i spoke at length about the rituals and traditions in a marriage, once again absolutely unconciously bringing in a notice of - "Enga edhula..."( edhula refers to my caste). When did all this begin?

As a person, I highly respect any religion, caste and creed. A lot of others around me do so too. There has not been a single incident in my life where we have been made felt in any superior, or given any special priveleges for being a brahmin. We have not formed websites, ( other than for religious purposes) to promote our community. We do not convert people, or show any resistance to others practicing their schools of thought. Nor have we muttered a word when the madisar was shown as a sexy attire, or when mamis were made to be the modern sex symbols. We also kept quite mum to all those rants of being called a thayir sadham.Infact,some like me still do not mind being called one,though my lunch box has never carried it in the last 1 year.

I am sure almost all of us have seen such instances around, but either we decided to vent it out with the virtual world, taking sides and supporting our faiths- being true brahmins or otherwise, as the case may be. We have started taking sides now, with almost everything.

When I found too many people speaking the same thing in different ways, I thought it is high time I say what I have to. This is a retort,not for a caste that rules the blood, but for the head that is now sensible enough to think. It is high time we listened to music as just swaras together, and saw movies appreciating the art, if there is any. A secular nature of mind is so important to report to a Laura at Florida, get the assistance of Mudassir at work place and still remain a Ranganayaki.

If not to protect your identity, atleast to carry what ammas and thathas wanted to - A sense of blissful understanding, with no differences in caste, creed and sect and using only two possible reasoning skills in making relationships - The Heart and the Head - not the blood!

P.S : This post was originally published in 2009 after a heavy debate with a colleague on castes, the supremacy of Tambrahms etc. I happened to read a series of blog posts today on how conservative the caste is, and somewhere this struck a chord. Today, I find this post half amateurish, and the rest mad. Yet, the point was to remain secular. Let me add agnostic to it now. It is still a surprise how I became one.


  1. ppl should be comfortable with their own caste and identity without being judgemental about other castes - is this what you are trying to say? or have I got it wrong?

  2. Quite a bit. It is wrong to be judgemental and arrive at a conclusion, without knowing anything at all about it. Dont you think we nowdays, the educated youth give too much importance to it?

  3. importance to caste n things? am not too sure.... I generally keep away from ppl who give importance to such stuff.... n I hardly talk abt such things.... To me, religions and castes are more of social structures based on common practices among a set of ppl... and that is that.... anything more sounds silly to me...

  4. I wish.I wish! It does go beyond that Prathap.I have been through it, in ways more than one.The post was only to make people like you - not to give importance! I hope the post retained that thought, and did not portray otherwise

  5. The Heart and the Head - not the blood!
    Beautiful lady!

  6. Thoughtfully written blog.

    May God bless you always.

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. Brim over I to but I contemplate the post should secure more info then it has.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. I like your approach to it - it is very similar to mine.
    " A secular nature of mind is so important to report to a Laura at Florida, get the assistance of Mudassir at work place and still remain a Ranganayaki."

    Rightly said. My dad is a very very proud Tambrahm, and kept praising how.. docile we are. Annoyed, I asked him not to discriminate so blatantly. He quietly replied that one of his best friends was a Non-Bram, and another one,a Muslim. What I assumed as discrimination was just an observation.


I love your comments. Say it out, don't be shy!