I read this disturbing news in India Today, the other day. A person of Indian origin was travelling on a train in New Zealand. He was speaking on his cell phone to someone in Hindi. A sixteen-year Caucasian girl did not like this and told him, “You go home to your country.” The incident was reported by another passenger to the lady train conductor. The lady reached that compartment. The girl was still ranting. There were arguments, but the conductor was very firm. She made the girl get down mid-way. She also said that the girl might be a paying customer, but that does not give the girl a right to misbehave with other passengers. The train was held up for almost twenty minutes, but other passengers did not mind that.
I had complex thoughts in mind. I was pleased with the approach of the conductor; at the same time, I was distraught with the behaviour of the sixteen-year. The young girl has hardly had any worldly experience, but what made her behave the way she did. In the modern world, we see a lot of immigration. People migrate for better opportunities, or for seeking political asylums. People get posted to different countries on projects for three to six years. But then I realised that there are various “isms” in our lives since time immemorial. We have casteism; we have “colour” ism!
The most famous incident of racism was when Mahatma Gandhi was asked to get down from the train in South Africa in 1893 from “whites only” compartment. The event made a remarkable influence on Gandhi’s thinking about racial discrimination. But it took another hundred years for apartheid to end in South Africa. The trouble with these changes is that they sometimes go to other extremes. Cricket team in South Africa must now have a certain percentage of people of colour. The result is that many white players in South Africa now retire at a young age when they see that they may never get to play for the nation and move to England to play county cricket.
It is very similar to casteism issues in India. But all these “isms” are there from mythological days in Indian history. The origins of the caste system in India are shrouded, but it seems to have originated more than two thousand years ago. Under this system, which is associated with Hinduism, people were categorised by their occupations. Although originally caste depended upon a person’s work, it soon became hereditary.
All the points mentioned in the above slide are self-explanatory. But I was not aware of the Guild theory.
The guild is an association of craftsmen or merchants formed for mutual aid and protection and the furtherance of their professional interests. Guilds flourished in Europe between the 11th and 16th centuries and formed an essential part of the economic and social fabric in that era.
The details of evolutions explain to us how such practices came into existence, but the natural differentiation based on various things were used by some groups of people to their advantage. Some over a period decided that a particular group of people was better than some other groups. A specific trade was thought to be superior to other groups. You had fishmongers and ironsmiths. You had traders, and you had warriors. As time passed, some of these trades started appearing sexy! A warrior was always thought to be superior to most other people. They started looking down at other people. Many things and events were not understood by people due to lack of scientific knowledge. Some people who had better intellect started the concept of God to explain mysterious things in terms of God’s wrath. You had floods, the rain God was angry with you. You had significant fires; fire God must be appeased.
This concept of God and religion was taken over by some smart people. They learned the written scripts and became priests. Religion and Priests created Brahmins who took the position at the top of the pecking order. They chanted hymns; they had an explanation for unexplained troubles. They were considered one rung below God. Such pecking orders became caste systems and depending on their importance, the people earned respect.
At some stage, people also started understanding that nature has an evolutionary system. Theory of Darwin, The Survival of the Fittest, began to be recognised by humanity. In some cases, the humans became physically healthy, and in other cases, they became mentally superior.
The classic definition of Brahmanism is the complex sacrificial religion that emerged in post-Vedic India (900 bc) under the influence of the dominant priesthood (Brahmans), an early stage in the development of Hinduism.
But any group of people who had better intellect created progeny with even more superior humans as far as intelligence was concerned. It was well explained by Darwin’s theory. Families of warriors produced even better warriors. Families in trade had better traders in the next generation. The evolution continued.
But worst of the thinking in evolution remained based on colour. The Gods shown in pictures always had fair skin; demons had dark skin. Male Gods were clean–shaven, but the demons had big moustaches! Scientifically, the colour of the skin was explained by the areas where humans lived. Where the Sun was harsher, the more Melanin was present under the human skin. The people living in cold climate had less Melanin as the Sun was rarely harsh. So we have Goras and Kalas! On top of this, the white race became meat eaters because of the weather conditions and other circumstances. The eating habits lead to the white race becoming bigger and stronger. The white people because their colour and healthy physique were looked at as a superior race. Let us not forget that the discrimination based on colour is followed everywhere. The Dilliwalas call people from Southern states in India as “Madrasis”, as people from old Madras have been traditionally dark in colour. Ratna Rajaiah, my favourite blogger, who lives in Mysore, has written a funny take on how South Indian ladies use talcum powder to look fairer, called “Ode to Talcum”!
Will these “isms” ever go away? I don’t think so. After a couple of hundred years after the abolition of slavery in the USA, do you think that thinking about dark–skinned people changed in the Southern States of America? In northern states in India, especially in Bihar and Bengal do you think feudalism is dead? No way! You need to go 30 km from major cities, and you would know that things have hardly changed. The hierarchies will continue based on Caste, Colour, Occupation and Religious hierarchy. Mind you, some things never change.
I will share a story with you. Jaya had led a team of engineers more than 30 years back to the USA. There was one smart engineer who was from the state of Bihar. During a training class, he would have his coffee with a loud slurping sound. After a couple of days, at the hotel, Jaya brought this out in discussion and explained to the gentleman to avoid the noise. He immediately agreed. He said, “Madam, you know that I come from Bihar and nobody ever told us about public manners. But now that you have explained, I will immediately change. For me, coming to Pune for the job itself was like coming to the US! Now in the US, for me, it is like arriving on the Moon. How much can a person change? But I will try my best!”
But my blog cannot be an ode, but it shows the bad aspects of our beautiful world!