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Caste Away

We recently constructed a Rain water harvesting pond at our farm. The construction took 6 long days of which the first 4 days I happened to be there to oversee the acitvities. It was a fun filled activity - needed operations planning, materials/people management and more importantly making optimal use of the expensive JCB (oh and I got a cool collectible - the JCB 3CX tech specs manual!). But it was also spiritually uplifting - I happened to sleep in the farm to the 3d stereo sound of insects and frogs. We ate in the farm and I even shat once in an open ground, village style! It was also an emotionally affective experience and this is what this post is all about.

This post is the story of Mani.

Mani is a 32 year old "SC guy". "SC" might not ring a bell if you've lived all your life in the city. But there is an "SC street" in every village in this country. To those who don't know, "SC" stands for "Scheduled Caste".

Did you know that "SC people" have "owners"? Yes, its true! In this Culture Rich Country, it is indeed possible for people to own people! The politicians want the caste system to stay, the lower castes continue to get oppressed, work gets extracted. In many ways, they're our farm animals only you don't even have a festival to pay any sort of respect.

Mani has been personally assigned by a higher caste guy to my family (my family belongs to the super high caste, close-to-God brahmin community). Mani was very glad, though. I nauseated at the thought of "owning" Mani and my children owning his children.

Mani has a sad story and only after this "ownership" experience, did I get to hear it: Mani's used to work in the fields of a higher caste guy. The higher caste guy offered Mani a 1 acre piece of his 6+ acre farm on Lease. Don't start imagining a Lease Agreement - out here, everything is by the Word. Boy, how those words change meanings based on one's caste! He was offered this land for a period of 1 year for Rs.27,000/-. Mani duly paid it from his savings. Mani wanted to get back his father's land that his father had pawned off for Mani's sister's marriage.

Everything looked good for once. It was time for the next sowing, dry season. The owner started pumping water to irrigate his fields. Mani waited for his turn.

The pump was shutdown after 3 days of filling up the owner's land. But Mani was denied water. "I only said land on lease. Why should the pump run unnecessarily for you?" said the land owner.

So you see what's wrong with this picture?

To me, it is a horrible way in the opposite direction of living peacefully. There can be plenty if we are wise. There can be amity and happiness for all.

Normally, you'd expect a man of average dignity and self-confidence to put up a fight for justice. But I guess we speak from a state of mind and freedom that we take for granted. How would my confidence be if someone had an unjustified right to how he'd treat / exploit me?

I don't know what the solution is. But the problem is very clear - If Mani can't grow food without water, he'd lose whatever little assets he has by way of losing his hard earnt money being enjoyed by the land owner. I don't think I can even have a solution to Mani's problem. But I believe it is possible to work with nature than against it.

Money, today, is a means to meet one's needs and wants. But the needs and wants are ultimately stuff made out of the planet. Today, the one with the most amount of money can lay claim to limitless amounts of Stuff. But money has no intrinsic value - the moment money stops working, people will gather up other means. I believe, its possible to work with nature than against it. Money only works against it.

However, Caste is a much more deep-rooted non systemic problem. I don't know if I'd be able to change anybody's lives at all. But things are coming to an end and I'm sure I'll have ample opportunities to prove that working with nature will free me of my need to meet my basic needs - that I'm no different from him, only that I have all the time to sit and think using the very brains he is gifted with. I'd like to ultimately show to the Higher castes that even oppression is suffering.

Its time to wait until the pond fills up.


( 5 comments — Comment on this )
Aug. 11th, 2009 05:17 pm (UTC)
With the glorious land reforms(which were partly good and effective) of Indira Gandhi regime, I bet that the lessor would also belong to a backward class and most probably be a SC(belonging to a superior sect maybe)!

Aug. 12th, 2009 04:14 am (UTC)

hmm, this is why there are revolutions I suppose. With no paper he can't exactly sue. If these actions are common, is murder also common?
Aug. 13th, 2009 04:47 am (UTC)
I believe, a revolution is in the making. There have been many revolutions in this region before. My own "caste" (the superior brahmins) used to do this: The lower caste man must enter "our area" only after his footwear has been removed and kept on top of his head.

I guess, People would have continued taking the humiliation forever until Mr.Periyar started creating the first Dravidian revolution. There was a massive revolution against the highest caste Brahmins at the end of which, the balance shifted. The brahmins were humiliated and there was "justice" but no change in the minds of the people. However, I'd say, revolutions only change balances - those who lost will always be licking their wounds planning their next move.

There must be a fundamental change in mindsets - to that of understanding our place in the grand scheme of things. Without that silly differences will only seem important.
Aug. 14th, 2009 01:33 am (UTC)

There must be a fundamental change in mindsets.

Yeah maybe, either that or a large die back of the human species.
Aug. 12th, 2009 08:17 am (UTC)
That's sad
I don't have an answer to the solution to this problem. Maybe if education becomes pervasive and common place by his next generation, his kids could have a better chance. It's not the ideal solution, but since there has been no progress over the last 60 years, I don't see anything else radically changing to help people like these.
( 5 comments — Comment on this )