Friday, February 16, 2007



Before I reached my college days, this caste situation underwent a lot of changes, good and bad. Waiters in the hotels were not addressed anymore as sami. They were simply waiters irrespective of their caste affiliations. This was due to, I strongly believe, the social reformation that was brought by Periyar and his Dravidian movement. But the sad thing was this movement was mostly anti-brahminic and not pro-dalit, a term which came into being only very late. So sami was replaced by ‘waiter’ but the so called low-castes and the treatment they meted out in the society remained so for long – rather, it still continues. Periyar’s service would have made people realize that brahmins were not from the forehead of Brahman as believed but the pitiable plight of shudras and panchamas remained and is remaining almost the same as it had been for centuries.

Even in college days, I never became conscious of this caste differences. Caste was a thing about which I never bothered. The first instance in my life when caste or its importance surfaced was when I shot my very first application for a job. It was even before results of masters exam. I responded to an advertisement from a college. I applied. Though people suggested that I should mention my caste I did not. Somebody gave me an idea that I should add my caste name as the postfix to my appa’s name so that I get an advantage since the college was run by people of my own caste. I did not. Then in the interview I was repeatedly asked some indirect questions – like my father’s name, the grand-father’s name – since that was the period when the previous generation always had the caste name added to one’s name and the next generation slowly shedding it -, then my native place which could be clue to my caste. So both I and the interviewer were beating around the bush. Then came the very direct question. I had to answer. When the interviewer came to know of my caste he started saying how sad he felt since the job had already been promised to another guy – of course not belonging to my caste and how glad he would be if I applied again later. I enjoyed his predicament. But never applied to that college again.

More than half of my career went on without any shade of casteism. But in the later years this evil had spread so much in the society it got very much reflected in the college life too. In the later eighties, as I know, the dalit movement had come up in the open making the dalits demand their social and political rights. Animosity between dalits and people of thevar caste, the later being just above dalits in the caste hierarchy caused a lot of friction in the social milieu and this got reflected in every social sphere. The saddest part was that even in a college like The American College, which was and is a cut above many other colleges, had been afflicted with this social malady.

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