Life’s Station or Status!

Yesterday during Diwali celebrations and chit chat, a very interesting subject suddenly came up for discussion. The discussion became hotter than heat generated by Diwali crackers. Situ told a story of a lady doctor who married a plumber, in America. He also said that such events are pretty regular in foreign countries. He further said that in foreign countries like the US, the social fabric is such that people from different professions in life can be close friends. I said that this a rare case even in America . Jaya and Ashwini were pro this and I was against this thought process. I said that there are two points we are discussing simultaneously and mixing them. One is the respect given to professions/professionals and the other is social friendships, getting married as mentioned about the doctor’s marriage.

My point is that in India, there is no respect given to professions other than the engineers, doctors, pilots, architects and in certain professions. Our society does not give respect to technicians or artisans like carpenters, plumbers, lock smiths and so on. In fact such professions are treated as “lowly”, unfortunately. In foreign countries these trades are definitely respected. But the point being disputed was when it comes to the social status or a social station of these people, will they be treated equally in one’s mind? Will a top notch brain surgeon be a friend of an electrician?  It may so happen that they were classmates in school/college. A small percentage, very small one, will continue to be friends but as a norm this does not happen in real life! Let’s be honest! Utopian thinking says that this happens but will a guy living on Malabar Hills in Mumbai be weekly drink mate of a guy living in Virar or Kalyan! These names written by me are for explanation, please do not take this as my opinion.

Let us look at the background in India, the oldest civilization! There were four Varnas described in Hinduism.

  • Brahmins: priests, scholars and teachers.
  • Kshatriyas: rulers, warriors and administrators.
  • Vaishyas: agriculturalists and merchants.
  • Shudras: laborers and service providers.

These are called savarnas and are supposedly forward classes; remaining are tribes and scheduled tribes are avarnas, with no Varnas and are supposedly backward classes. These are not to be mixed up with Jatis or Castes. With this separation in India for thousands of years, the so called discrimination always happened discretely and many times not so discretely. Does this happen in foreign countries? My opinion is it happens but mostly discretely. To give example of British royalty, Queen Elizabeth’s sister Margaret, fell love with Snowden, a commoner and a photographer. Well, the family was graceful in allowing the marriage (there was no honour killing the way we have in India!) but Snowden was made Lord Snowden. How can Margaret’s husband be a commoner? This is how the discretion was resolved!

World over, there are different types of discretions and discriminations. In India, it is so ingrained in our blood, it’s embedded in our DNA. Coming back to subject of respect for courses or professions, it changes from region to region. It is the parents wish that the child gets well settled as early as possible, after education. In Maharashtra there have been many industries existing for a long time hence engineering course was a top runner. Doctors anyway are respected hence that was another course respected. But up north previously not many industries were around. Jobs were mostly available in government, so there the aim was to a take a basic degree and appear for competitive examinations.

A person’s success is measured by where the person reaches on the ladder to success.  Utopian thinking says that someone is successful in life when one gets to do things in life that the person loves. People love to sing, dance, and paint, play instruments or become writers of travelogues. In their goal to achieve success what are the steps of the ladder made up of! Are steps made up of the quality, in what you are doing; are you the best in your field and are also commercially successful! But the world is not utopia, so my thinking tells me that people go by quality as well as commercial success. To give an example you may be doing quality stuff in what you are doing but you are not able to buy a car to move around. 99% people will say he is damn good but not successful. That my friends is a fact of life! In whatever you are doing longevity is also equally important. One song wonder or one movie wonders are never called successful and it is said that the person did not live up to the potential, which in other ways is unsuccessful. A person who is already “successful” in something and achieves moderate success in some other field is considered more successful than someone who has achieved more, only in the second field!

Coming back to our “hot” discussion that we had yesterday, in India there is a discrimination in the type of work a person is doing; they are respected as per hierarchy of professions which got defined over a period. At the same time, success of a person is dependent on how that person has commercially succeeded in field rather the quality that has been achieved. But in western countries there is a respect to ALL professionals irrespective of the profession. But the success of the person is still judged the same way as is done by us.

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