‘There’s nothing like caste, we are all the same. All people from the lower caste are economically forward now and they no-longer deserve reservation. Remove it!” These are the words I normally hear from friends talking to each other and see on social media platforms like facebook and twitter daily. If you have noticed all the people discussing these so called serious issues are mostly from big metros like Mumbai and Kolkata.
Why I know what people think? I look like a higher class person (as reviewed by some of my friends) because of my Jewish ancestors. So, many people don’t suspect me to be from the so called backward community and vomit their harsh words in front of me. I am smart when it comes to knowing what people think and I never argue at front but I listen carefully. Out of many such cases there was a direct reference from a fellow colleague who said not only harsh words but referred the people of the backward class as ‘an inscect from the gutter which should be erradicated’, nope not the eradication of the caste system the eradication by killing he meant. Let me narrate it.
After I completed my bachelors and before I started working in hotels, I worked in a call centre in Powai, Mumbai for three months. I always wanted to experience the call centre after I read Chetan Bhagat’s comparitively not so famous book ‘One Night @ the Call Centre.’ For three months I was meeting new people at trainings and at work and the atmosphere felt very liberal and too modern for the conservative society to accept. To reach work my company used to pick me up from my house and leave me at the same place after I finished my hours of duty, the car was pooled and there used to be 2 to 4 of us including myself.
Amit (name changed because I dont remember. Sorry!) and me had the same shifts for almost 2 weeks and were at the verge of becoming best friends and we used to talk about the world and many things in the 1 hour journey. Processes, college life, politics, Ideas, Education, Career and much more used to be our points of discussion. One day as we were passing a certain locality on the highway, I was shocked to hear these works from my friend. The conversation was as follows;
“Ye, locality dikh rahi hai. Yaha pe India ka kachra rehta hai,” said Amit pointing at the locality and with a face which explained he regards them low.
“Kachra rehta hai matlab?” I asked
“Matlab, saale SC..ST..OBC log. Ye India ka kachra hai. Jab tak ye log zinda hai tab tak iss desh ka kabhi bhala nahi ho sakta. Ye log gatar mai paida hue gatar jaisa baas chodenge aur India ko ganda karenge. Keede hai ye sab. Sab ko maardalna chahiye, ek danga inke saat ho aur hum log inko talwar ghused ghused ke maregne.”
I was so shocked that neither I could show my facial emotions nor could I speak. I was actually more terrified of his thoughts and people like him now.
He continued, “Mera ek dost hai, woh Jai Bhim hai aur usne ek musalman ke saath shaadi ki. Gatar ka toh tha hi woh, ab aur bhi ganda ho gaya hai. Kaise log he ye saab. Saab ko goli mar ke uda dena chahiye is Golibar ilake me.”
I didn’t utter a word, I was confused whether he knew who I am or not. I was silent for most part of the trip and I only spoke when this conversation happened.
“Kya re Gaurav! Itna shaant kyu hai?” asked Amit.
“Bhai, tune marne maar dalne ki baat kar di. I am shocked.” I said.
“Bhai…tu tension mat le. Hum toh unse upar hai. Unki koi barabari nahi. Bhai, aaj gadi mai sirf tu aur mai tha isliye bola meri maan ki baat, nahi toh kaun kya hai kya pata,” said Amit.
At this point I became angry as I got to know that he spoke to me such harsh words about the backward class community thinking I am not one of them. I was angry about the thoughts of people because this incident was big for me but was one of many such caste discrimination episodes.
Now I spoke in a soft tone, “Terko pata hai Amit, maine BSc kiya hai, ab PG karunga, Call Centre toh time paas hai.” Amit was listening as I spoke further, “mere pitaji ek renowned Custom Officer hai jinko Award mila hai aur unhone bade bade cases solve kiye hai aur ek zamane me voh apni pure salary garibo mat baat dete the voh bhi shaadi hone ke baad. Mere dadajibhi Custom me the, unho ne promotion decline kiya kyuki samaj ko sudharna tha woh Acharya college ke founder member hai. Mere pardada woh Municipalty me the unho ne kayee morche kiye aur kayee gareebo ko zameen dilwaye.”
“Are tu intne bade khandaan se hai?” asked Amit.
“Haah, mera khandan bohut bada hai…Paise se, zubaan se aur dil se bhi. Tujh se bhi bada. Terko pata hai me kaun hu?” I asked.
“Kaun???” Amit asked.
“Mai woh ek Jai Bhim hu!” I exclaimed.
There was a totally different silence in the car. A somewhat disturbed but settled silence. This long silence of Amit was a proof that I had won the war of words and social respect. For me it was a win of my self respect and morals. This was the first instance I realised what people show versus how their thoughts are.
Amit must be a good guy but may be his family speak bad about the backward community and so it passed on. It will pass on again to his children as he will again speak the same in front of his children.
The above is not the only instance from which I am going to conclude my theory of people’s thinking on casteism but it is an important one to know as such people exist on a large scale. When a so called lower community excels and starts gaining positive economic change people think of ending reservation out of jealosy, but when they dont excel people compare them as a negative costant of the society and speak about them behind their back (and speak politely in front of them). Many of my Scheduled Caste friends (of Mumbai) say that casteism has ended, but only only I know how other people speak of them.
Just for knowledge, villages in Maharashtra are further divided into Marathwada and Maharwada. Maharwada is where Mahar’s live and people from the other divisions avoid drinking water from a Mahar’s house or stepping foot in their division.