I have a beautiful set of tea mugs which I treasure.
Not that they are up for display, but one is fond of them.
When I make tea in the morning for myself I usually make a cup for the maid as well.
Never thought about it but due to lack of options the aforesaid mugs were used.
One evening some friends came over.
It was raining and the weather was beautiful.
Balcony + Tea + Biscuit + Dip-Dip was planned.
While pouring tea I realized one of the mugs was missing. I poured my tea in a glass and continued with the dip-dip.
A few days later a plate went missing.
Then a random bowl.
I figured a chat with the maid was in order. Try fishing for the tea mug first and then try telling her that if she needs anything she can ask.
I got the shock of my life.
Over the past 2 months, whatever food & beverage I gave her I usually did it in a plate or something. And she enjoyed eating it.
But then washed them separately and kept them away in a cupboard.
Because that was the way it was in the other houses she worked in, she said.
I asked her very sternly if she washed my dishes properly.
She swore on everything her vocabulary could allow.
I told her not to bother about them in that case.
I thank my family for bringing me up with very humanitarian values. I was taught all human beings are one. And the motto for Sikhism is ‘Manas ki jaat sab eke pehchaanbo’ (treat all humans as one). And surprisingly if you think carefully, all religions in some way or the other, say the same thing.
I remember working in my grandfathers farm in Jalandhar during my vacations from college. On day one I leisurely walked home at 1 pm from the fields for lunch and was given the firing of my life.
And sent back.
If I work, I am a worker. Behave like one.
And lunch became a routine in those days with the workers.
And trust me the food was yummy. Rich buttered daal, aalu / gobhi / mooli parantha, a bowl of sweet and lots of butter milk.
Just that it was had under a construction shed with no fans and sitting on the floor.
That taught me the biggest lesson of my life. Dignity of labour.
Something I feel the urban youth of India knows nothing about.
I know people who were not allowed by family to do a hotel management course because they couldn’t see their heir as a waiter.
Caste or economics, classifications are a very important part of the Indian society. They cannot do without it.
My father celeberates his ‘happy birthday to you’ on 1st of January. And the first morning of the year is a routine since before I was born.
There is a ceremony of the completion of the reading of the Guru Granth Sahib and recitation of the hymns of ‘Assa Di Vaar’. Followed by the most delicious, finger licking, bowl slurping ‘Langar’ or free kitchen, prepared by my mom. Poori-Aloo, Chana-Rice, Rajma, Paneer, Parantha, Raita, Saffron Rice, Kheer, Sewaiyaan and lots of awesome pickles.
On one such occasion while my father was posted in Chennai I was visiting him (I was in college in Punjab) and after the ceremony he went out for some work with mom.
I decided to hit the bed. I had been up all night partying. Up all morning playing goodboy.com with my parents. And working the previous evening clearing the living room for the prayers.
And guests arrived.
To wish “saar” happy birthday to you and choicest wishes for the coming year.
I was sitting doing small talk with them (what you doing? What stream? What year? What plans?) and the doorbell rang. Again…
I opened it to find the smiley faced Mr. Subramaniam standing in the frame of the doorway. He was an office assistant in my dads’ office. He came for the same reason as the other blokes in my house but because the dude got me great food and takes good care of me when I visit dad at work, I insisted he come in. There was ‘langar’ and it would be rude if he did not eat. It was ‘prasad’.
As he walked in, after removing his shoes, which I insisted he not, the other blokes sitting in the living room drinking butter milk, gulped down their drinks hurriedly and stood up.
Mr. Subramaniam did Good Morning Sir with everyone.
And they all hurriedly left.
Confused, later in the evening I caught hold of an offspring of the aforesaid guests. That fact that she was the prettiest girl in the colony had nothing to do with it.
I was told yes, there was a chat at home. Mr. Subramaniam is a low caste individual and on the very first day of the new year seeing his face and all ruined her parents ‘happy new year to you’.
I was disgusted.
I walked away. Never spoke to her or any of those people again. And respected Mr. Subramaniam even more.
Because knowing well, what was happening he said good morning and happy new year to them as they stomped out of my house.
When I subtly mentioned it to him, he said job was more important than pride.
So, does the caste system exist in India?
In urban - educated India.
The urban, educated, humanitarian metro – uber or whatever ‘sexual’ we like to call ourselves these days.
I am a great fan of the Hindu religion. As I am of Judaism.
You have to be born Hindu. There is no process to induct you. And you will die a Hindu. Because there is no process or mechanism in the Hindu religion to excommunicate you.
You may chose to follow or preach whatever religion or way of life you chose to, but if you’re born a Hindu, you are hooked buddy. No matter what you practice, no matter what you preach.
(If you believe in life after death, plan your last rights. You could do without that surprise.)
Now both these religions do not breed. You will never hear people converting to either of them. Because here religion is a birth right.
Every other religion in the world, can be adopted or left at will, by a legitimate recognized process.
And by that logic, Hinduism needs be the most religiously tolerant as they have no insecurity.
Because here lies the divine comedy. The Achilles’ heel of the Hindu.
The caste system has forced many so called schedule castes to adopt other religions that offer a level ground. Of humanity.
The conversions were and will continue happening at rapid pace till the Hindu religion gives up the caste system. Or the lower class classification.
We can worry and yell about religious intolerance but trust me, every other religion besides Hinduism gives you a right to live without a caste tag. Be it Christianity, Islam, Jainism, Buddhism all of them treat all humans as one.
Who wouldn’t want it? If I faced such behavior from society where I was a ‘achhoot’, I would be the first to go.
So all guardians of Hinduism, while the nation fights over the reservation issues and the government fails to find a way to uplift the under privileged and keep competition alive at the same time, brace yourself for a much bigger battle.
The one that you are waging against your own religion via the caste system. Harshly put it is called cannibalization.
I feel the priests of non-Hindu religions who are often targeted for converting people and hurting Hinduism, are not at fault. They merely facilitate the process of granting someone the psychological right to live without the caste tag. The ones who willfully came. In search of a god who doesn’t see with a jaundiced eye.
The ones at fault are the society and clergy of the religion they abandon. Imagine, someone’s’ humanity is so shaken that he needs to search for a new god.
After being used, abused, ignored, shunted and humiliated by the guardians and followers of their own.
(Apologies for any sentiments that were hurt. The intention was merely to state the truth about the state of affairs. My opinion.)