The caste system in India has been around for thousands of years and probably hundreds of varying books have been written on the subject.
These days article 15 of the Indian constitution states that discrimination between the castes is illegal.
I have encountered numerous instances in which the reality shows itself a little more harsh than the best intentions of the constitution ; after all, this is India and nothing is what it seems to be which for me has always been a great fascination but also a tremendousfrustration at times in this most amazing country.
Coming from a ‘casteless’ society (if that exists at all) I tend to equally interact with anyone crossing my path. A nice connection is a nice connection after all.
I would walk the streets of a city with someone from an ‘upper’ caste and come along another new friend from a ‘lower’ caste who invites me for tea in his place upon which the other friend would have to decline as he cannot enter the house. Even though he might be the most generous and friendly person around it’s deeply ingrained in his behaviour to do so.
The caste system is all over the place still but for an outsider it is very much hidden, it is between te lines of life. Indians know their place in the scheme of things and most often the continued segregation of castes has something smooth to it. In an overpopulated country knowing your place often helps in funny ways.
Me and my French travel buddy were walking the streets of the very funny town of Bundi in Rajasthan. Suddenly I was not feeling well from the heat and leaned down against the wall of a huge and beautiful Haveli mansion. The owner immediately invited us in very eager to show us around but i said I needed to take rest so he showed me a bed in the middle of a courtyard which I took to while my friend was sucked into the man’s office as he turned out to be a lawyer, and a very proud one…
I knew this was not just your average place and still being drained of my forces I joined into the lawyer’s office just in time of being shown a picture on the wall of a naked holy man. Then a tour started from room to room, to room, and then yet another room! Many spaces filled with pictures of ancestors and the stories around it concerning his lineage of the warrior caste.
Father and son exhibited an interesting interaction: where the father was acting fiercely passionate and proud, his son would be smiling and even mocking his father as if to deflate his posture a bit and bring lightness to the seriousness while the mother would turn on the television and stare at the screen in every room we entered.
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