We live in a world where many wish to say they do not identify themselves with the hideous Caste System. They do not publicly say they have a caste but carry their caste name with them. Some would say it is not easy to change. It might be a bit of work but it is possible. People change their names to match silly numerology mumbo jumbo but find it hard to remove the repressive, and horrid caste name from their names. How funny or should I say How awful?
Last year when the Malayalam Cineactor Suresh Gopi in a speech said we should have a Nair Bank for Nairs (Nair being a caste in Kerala) I wrote against it and many came out and defended it. I was amazed at the frevor in which people came out and defended the need to be identified as a caste. Now when people keep a caste name and talk against caste I take it with not a pinch but a hand full of salt and have a disgusting look all over my face.
It is not about Nairs alone but many other people who consider them as forward castes including namboodiri, menon, nambiar and so on in Kerala and similar denominations in other parts of India. You are not against caste until you remove that wretched reference from your name and even then you need a lot of self correction to go and get that off your system and not let it touch the next generation.
Caste name is not a badge of honor but a badge of dishonor because of ones narrow primitive mind and the repression and atrocities it did to other people.
Organizations in the name of caste is another face of the caste system in my opinion. And when that is coupled with some references that define it as a caste (without a mention of how bad a caste system is) I find it it difficult not to pen against it.
The picture here that I have is taken from the public website of an association in California pertaining to the Nairs. In their about section they have some quoted from various references which is interesting and references it to castes.
“Nair – Hindu Caste of the Indian State of Kerala.”
“Nair – A people of Malabar coast of India that are probably Dravidians with Aryan admixture”
“Nairs are not a caste, but a race with its numerous sub-castes and surnames”
Now one can say these are quotes and not the direct thought of the bearers and to give some benefit of doubt we can say someone who made this site content did a cut and paste from somewhere without reading and thinking about the impact. Yes I also found same references in the the Nair site in India http://www.nairs.in/nair.htm. But then in my opinion if you take up roles with an organization you should read through what is being publicly projected. That not just a ‘nice to have’ but a must do responsibility because you are accountable for every single word or message you put there.
Now what really made me pen this is one specific statement taken from a book “The Decline of Nayar Dominance” by Robin Jefferey
“Nairs are the savarna hindus”
Really? Savarnna? what does that mean? Let us look at the wiki
“Savarna (English: caste Hindus) are considered part of the Hindu Varna system of social classes. For those who are unaware of the meaning of Varna. ‘Varna’ is a Sanskrit word which means type, order, color or class. A term that refers to social classes in Brahminical books like the Manusmriti.
A system that divided people based on their color and other factors so they can have a system putting a privileged few in the upper strata of the society and rule over them. People have fought the Varna system in India for so long and still it is reflected around in the society.
Savarnna is a very derogatory word to use in the modern times.
I had initially thought that in America caste references are less but over time I have found that caste feeling is much more imbibed into people even without them realizing. Even after people leave India, and lived here for so long and even taken citizenship here and some have not left the caste system. The tail that man lost in evolution is back in the name of castes pushing you back.
Why should we all talk against caste?
Kids raised in US often have no much clue of the indian caste system and they look at equality and inclusiveness in everybody. That is if they are left to grow their thoughts based on what they see and read in this society. But when people get confused between caste and culture they put the kids in an extremely difficult position as the kids cannot comprehend with this caste system as for them it is as bad and equivalent as racism. I don’t think you can teach caste to kids in a good way, because there is nothing good with the caste system.
Caste and Community
When we talk about this we need to also talk about community.
One another reference here is “Nair is not a caste, but a society of the Dravidian culture.(Nair Samudayathinte Ithihasm – Pattom G.Ramachandran Nair)”
This statement shows a kind of progress over the years where people converted caste into a community and many people call themselves as from Nair community or Nambudiri community and not as a caste, but still that name denotes a caste system. And here though the reference was this particular site; the caste system is not just among one group, it extends across many who like being called or be referred to as a “forward caste” in the repulsive caste system. This is the subconscious demon that many have to fight and overcome.
I will not discount the efforts some communities do to reach the sections of society for help. But that can also be done without a caste name. Or do people do it because a caste name gives a more common community feeling over the fact that we are all just one community of human beings? I am not sure. Will a Nair community or Nambudiri community take in membership people who are not from that, and here I mean people who when they use the ‘savarnna’ word belongs to the ‘avarnna’ word? I cannot answer as I am not part of any such organization.
I had two thoughts before writing this as I think many people I know are part of this organization as well as similar ones. But then I cannot hold back thoughts based on who is in my friend list and who is not.
Caste is an evil which many agree publicly but in my opinion people who were so called ‘forward caste’ fail to fight it as much as needed and may be it is because they feel they are the victims of the reservation system.
Many who fight the reservation system also feel their past glory (the glory they got being a forward caste in india) was taken away from them. Once example of that I found in a statement in this website as well
“They are the owners of this land. However, the cruel political policies by the UDF and LDF governments for over 50 years in Kerala has snatched the majority of the land ownership out of Nairs. Now very little land of Kerala is owned by Nairs.”
But the fact is people of some castes including Nambudiris, Nairs and many others were landowners in the past not because of merit but because of a caste system on which they took an easy ride to prosperity.
If we really need a tomorrow where our kids do not care for a caste system then it is important that caste references not be made. let them grow as people with no caste rather than as Nairs or Nambudiris or menons or any denomination of a caste society which is a primitive and uncivilized way of looking at the world.
Some would say why do I talk about caste, because no one cares.. well people do care and that is why we should talk against it and voice against any reference of it.
I hope this post meets people positively and we discuss why it is important to talk against caste just like we talk against racism and any other thing that differentiates people based on their birth. May be these organizations should hold an anti-caste system seminar. Just throwing ideas.
I will end this note with my thought of culture. Culture is not something always of the past, it is what we develop when we have a secular humanist approach to life, that is the culture we should develop in our kids.