The Passion of the Caste

So I finally managed to watch Sairat yesterday. Thank God it had subtitles, there was no way I would have understood the particular dialect of Marathi they speak in the movie. Loved the movie and oh my god, the music. Ajay-Atul, are absolute geniuses. I hope we get to hear more from them.

Coming back to the film, I was telling the husband that the story is a contemporary version of Qayamat se Qayamat Tak with a mix of Saathiya (Alai Payuthey). The rich girl loves poor boy theme is a constant through the ages and going by the audiences reaction at the theatres, I don’t think we will tire of it any time soon. There was so much cheering, so many whistles before the songs, in fact all the scenes where they show young love blossoming was appreciated. A lot of the people who were applauding and whistling, were definitely from the dominant castes of Maharashtra. I wonder what their reaction would be if the same scenario played out in their lives, would they be so sporting about it? Perhaps not.

As a student of Sociology, my favourite topic  in college was Sociology of Indian Society. I consider myself fortunate for being taught by some amazing lecturers in Chennai. I remember having asked my Mom, which caste we belong to and our position in the Varnashrama system. We were definitely not Brahmins, so were we Kshatriyas or Vaishyas? She didn’t seem too sure and said that people from our caste were the admin sorts. Not a very convincing answer, but we let it be there. Anyway out of our home state, the caste does not matter. My next tryst if I may say so with the Caste system came into play while taking admission in the University of Pune for my Post Graduation. Getting admission into anything  meant you had to state whether you belonged to the Open or Reserved category. The admission list also would very clearly state which Category you have got admission under. Same for the hostel list, they consider category and then merit to let you in it seems. I found these calculations to be extremely messy at the beginning. But that ceases to matter.

As luck had it, I fell in love with a Left leaning anti caste, anti mall, anti a lot-of-things boy. My parents sadly are not the filmy kinds-they had their reservations but there was no gut wrenching opposition, and definitely no ‘Ladke ka jaat kya hai’ type questions. I think it was the same situation on my husband’s side. Till date, I’m sure both sides have no idea about the which caste the other family comes from. Some distant relative asked my mother what caste was I marrying into and was taken aback when my mother said she had no clue. Way to go Girl!

I wonder if the situation would have been the same if we were not the ‘Big City’ types. Would we have been another ‘Sairat‘? I am not trying to say that caste is not a major issue in the cities. Of course it is, along with Class, Religion, Social Standing and a lot more.

We recently had a family function in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha. The catering staff and cleaning staff sat to eat their dinner, once the guests had left. One frail looking lady was sitting down and eating her food in spite of chairs and tables laid at the venue. I asked her to sit on the chair and eat. She seemed quite horrified at the idea and said ‘Babu’ will shout at me. I wonder who this ‘Babu’ was. I told her this was my house and no one will shout at her if she ate her meal sitting on the chair, to which she reluctantly sat up and ate her food all alone. She was obviously from a lower caste and must be facing stigma day in and day out.

Bombay and Bhubaneshwar are different worlds, but the stories remain the same. Caste will continue to add fuel to the fire till our need for hegemony, the need for power, the need to dominate over other exists.

How difficult is it to simply co-exist and let everyone do their jobs in peace? I don’t even know why have I written this down, I do not have a point to make.

So now  to cheer myself up, I’m going to listen to ZingatI’d recommend you to listen to it too.

What else is life for, if not to Eat, Drink and Make Merry!

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