This video made me question a lot of things and I will try to coherently narrate them in the hope that some of you will comment on this. I believe that the experience with caste, religion are very different when you are growing up and that as an adult. The reasons are numerous but will save them for another day.

However, ever since I moved to the US, one of the questions I have most frequently been asked by my peers here is – is the 4-caste’s system still very prevalent in India? This video confirmed my unease with a yes/no answer to that question. It is impossible to give a yes/no answer. And an average attention span often is way shorter than the time taken to explain the complexity of the answer I may need to give to justify that response.

The reason I mention the age of an individual when you experience caste/religion is because for me it has been that. I did not grow up in India. So when I returned to India as a teenager and started working in the social development field, my understanding of history, caste system, social construct, rich-poor divide has been key in my decisions to work with marginalized communities. Just as it is hard for people to imagine a ‘South in the North’ it is equally hard acknowledging the fate of the ‘poor’ within the Brahmin caste, otherwise synonymous with wealth, knowledge and plain well-to-do. So is there a caste divide in India? My answer is : there is a “rich-poor” caste in India and the traditional caste system plays into it depending on which side you are from!

Scenario1: Being poor is my primary identity and – if I happen to be a Brahmin then the caste system has not helped me in anyway to remain rich today, if I happen to be a Dalit then the caste system exists. Scenario2: Being rich is my primary identity and – if I happen to be a Dalit then the caste system has been reversed for the first time making me an equal, if I happen to be a Brahmin then the caste system has continued to keep my supreme status intact.

So you tell me, what kind of caste system exists in India?

2 Thoughts on “A new caste system?

  1. Well said! I encountered the same questions when I was back visiting. I felt I had to defend India by saying ‘Well, it’s just a system of social organisation…’ But honestly I had no idea how to explain it to them! 😉

  2. Shradha on June 30, 2008 at 15:24 said:

    god! is it true or is it true…it’s funny but just yesterday one of my “hyderabadi” friends staying with a bunch of “Reddy’s” here in the USC asked me which of the “varnas” I belong to…to be honest I was flabbergasted for I thought the whole concept had phased out and gen X and Y couldn’t care less about it….but here I was on another continent confronted with the “varna” distinction….anyhow I asked how does it matter…to which he said…it doesn’t but I’m just curious…and normally I wouldn’t have known…but a few months back…my sister got married and Indian weddings…ohoho!…u dont want to know…that is another ballgame altogether…but thanks to the wedding I got to know we are “kshatriyas” so I told him…and he said oh! you are a caste superior to ours…we are vaishyas…and I hated the conversation that followed because it only thudded me back face-to-face with this one facet of India that I never want to re-visit again…it agitates me to even think about how people could be so caught up with the insignificant issues of caste/ varnas when we should be worrying about and doing something about the graver, bigger problems…abject poverty…ignorance…women safety…child the list stretches to infinity

    a point very well made Piyoo…varna system still exists but is a thing to flaunt for the rich and a curse for the poor (I’m referring to the poor Brahmin’s from the video)

    Wish you luck with your website…I enjoyed reading it

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