caste discrimination in India

Castism is a really huge issue in India and people have crazy ideas about it. Its really sad the way we forgot real castism and now discriminate against people on the basis on their caste. In the ancient time the caste was decided by somebody’s profession and not by the caste of their parents but at present the caste is decided by their parent’s caste. I had always thought that such practices are not very strong in Indian cities amongst educated people anymore but yesterday something happened with me which made think twice about it and made me realize that the people who discriminate against others on the basis of their caste are everywhere in India.

Yesterday my uncle, who is a professor, from Andaman and Nicobar Islands was visiting me yesterday. He first went to his village and hired a taxi to come to Varanasi. The driver of the taxi was also from his village and knew him very well. I was supposed to arrange dinner and accommodation for them at my home.  After giving a room to my uncle I was going to give another room to the driver but my uncle said that the driver won’t sleep on the bed and he would sleep on the floor. I asked him why and he said because he belonged to a lower caste called Pasi.

I was to shocked to hear these words from a professor. I told him that I had no problem with him sleeping on a bed in my home and he said that he won’t allow him to do so and all this conversation was going on in front of the driver. I was really ashamed to hear this and when I looked at the driver, he was also looking down with his head down. I did not want to see this happen and I told my uncle to let him sleep in a room on bed but my uncle just did not want this to happen. He asked me to provide a mat to the driver on the roof so that he could sleep there.

Summers are terribly hot and humid in Varanasi and I knew it very well that its not comfortable at all to sleep on the roof if the weather is not good. I was feeling so bad for the driver but I just could not do anything. Finally I had to provide a mat to him on the rooftop. Now it was the food time. I took food for the driver and was going to give it to him on the roof and then again my uncle appeared and asked me to change dishes. He meant to say that I should not give him the food in the dishes we use in everyday life. This was just too much but again I could not do anything.

I again told him it was no problem for me if a person belonging to a schedule caste eats in my dishes but he said that if I do such thing then he won’t eat at home as this process would make my home impure. I think it was biggest surprise for me within past a few years to hear such wordings from a well-educated person. He asked me to take a plastic plate and serve the food in it. I took a plastic plate but I did not have a plastic bowl hence I again used the steel bowl what we use at home and he did not even want this. Finally I had to arrange a clay pot to serve food. I was so angry that I did not even want to see my uncle or listen to him hence I had to do it.

I felt really bad after seeing what happened with the driver and was wondering how my society could change if such evils like my uncle are still there in the society? A well-educated person doing such thing, unbelievable. Politicians are also taking full advantage of this system by introducing new reservations everyday and not talking about ending them at all.  India talks about becoming a world power, IT hub, super strong country but if we don’t even respect our own people, our own society then how can we can even talk about development? Is money the only happiness? Happiness and equal rights don’t mean anything? Is India really changing? Are we really developing and becoming a super power or happy country? After going through this incident I can easily say, “NO”.

 

 

the food in a plastic plate with clay bowl and plastic glass

The God got sick :)

Yesterday it was an important day for the God Jagannath’s temple. Many people all over India go to the Jagannath temple and make the God bathe with water. This happens for the whole day and in the evening time it is said that the God gets sick because of this all-day-long bathing. Usually people offer sweets in the temples but after the God gets sick, people offer parwal (a vegetable) and basil soup, and then this soup is distributed amongst people as blessing. After this offering, temples are closed for the next fifteen days.

Parwal and basil soup is an Ayurvedic medicine and is prescribed to people suffering with cold and cough. So the idea is that the God will also feel better after taking this Ayurvedic medicine. The temple gate is kept closed for the fifteen days. The priest opens the gate once everyday to offer basil and parwal soup. It is said that the God will be okay after fifteen days and then people take the statue out of the temple on a chariot and bring it to the Lord Jagganath’s Sasural temple near Rathyatra. This is done to give some good time to the God after the sickness of the fifteen days:)

In Benares, the God is brought to his Sasural temple but in Puri, people bring the statue to Lord Jagganath’s aunt’s temple. The statue is kept for the next two days in these temples and then a huge fair is organized. In Benares, the statue is brought on a chariot and is kept for three days on the main road near Rathyatra Crossing and after three days of fair, the statue is brought back again to the temple. These are the only three days in a year when the God Jagganath’s temple is out of any statue. This festival is called Rathyatra.

The Benares fair is not big, but not small either but the Puri festival is literally huge. Over ten million people had atteneded the Puri fair last year.

Nisha in Pain

Nisha is my neighbor. She moved into my neighborhood about four years ago when she married one of my friend’s brother. She is my wife’s friend also. My wife says that her life before marriage was always painful. Her parents were so poor. One of her cousins used to help her family. He was a government employee. But he was not helping Nisha’s family because of their being his cousin’s family but because he wanted to molest Nisha. He used to make physical relations with Nisha forcibly saying that if she would resist it, he would stop helping her family.

Nisha never wanted to go with her cousin but he would come and harass her in front of her friends. She would just weep and could not do anything accept let her cousin do what he wanted. It continued for several years before her marriage, and even after marriage whenever she visited her family. Her cousin now tells her that if she doesn’t make relations with him, he will inform her husband about their relations. She still goes to her sometimes only because she is scared of her husband coming to know about her relations with her cousin.

The above story was told by my wife but I know what happened to her after marriage because she is my neighbor and my friend’s sister-in-law. Right after her marriage she was under huge pressure for dowry. Her husband would beat her nd tell her to bring some money from her family but her parents were so poor so obviously she would accept to be beaten but not ask her parents to give her husband money. Her mother-in-law would not let her husband sleep with her. They slept in different rooms until Nisha’s mother-in-law died.

She would cook the food for the whole family, clean the clothes, clean the home, and get beaten. This was her whole life. She could not even sleep with her husband. Finally she became mentally disturbed. But her husband did not take care of this family. He sent Nisha to her family. Nisha again stayed with her parents for six-seven months, until she became normal again, and during the same time she was again abused by her cousin. Finally she was okay and came back to her husband’s family but this was not end of her problems. She was beaten continuously and was told to bring some money from her parents.

Finally one of her problems ended when her mother in law died but it was beginning of another problem. Now her sister in law got involved in her life. Now she started behaving like Nisha’s mother-in-law. But she did not stop her from sleeping with her husband. Now Nisha gave birth to a male baby. I am sure it was a big help for her. If she had given birth to a female baby, it could have been a huge problem for her.

Her devil husband would have not liked having a female baby, or maybe she went under ultrasound before giving birth to check the sex of the baby. I can believe it because her family seems like they can do anything horrible. Now Nisha’s son is one year old but the problem is that her sister in law doesn’t want her baby to be with her. Her other sister in law keeps the baby busy with her so that he could forget his mother. She always keeps the baby and plays with him, feeds him etc…

Nisha wants to see her baby but she can’t even see him because her husband and sister-in-law won’t let the baby go to his mother. About seven months ago, when the baby was only five months old, Nisha’s husband sent the baby to his other sister in Delhi. The baby still used to breastfeed from his mother but when feeding was immediately stopped, it created tremendous pain in Nisha’s breasts. She was crying in pain loudly because her breasts were full of milk. She wanted her baby to feed from her, but the baby was sent to Delhi. Her husband was not at home this time. Finally neighbors heard her crying and took her to the hospital.

She was fainted by the time she reached the hospital. The Doctor told her to breast-feed immediately. The Doctor said that she would die if her baby doesn’t come and feeds from the mother. Now neighbors called her husband expecting that he would do something. But her husband started beating her in the hospital. The doctor wanted Nisha to be admitted to the hospital so that they could take the milk out of her breast but her husband did not want it. He called his sister who had the baby now.

She also started abusing Nisha. She said why don’t you tell the doctor to stop the milk forever. Nisha’s husband told the doctor to stop the milk. Finally the doctor did something and stopped the milk. Nisha was still in tremendous pain. The doctor kept telling Nisha’s husband to admit Nisha in the hospital for few days but he did not do it. He brought Nisha back home and and started beating her. She was locked up in the room for a few days. She was not even given medicines. She would just cry and cry and nothing else.

Nisha’s husband and sister in laws want the baby to forget his mother so that they can keep the baby and kick Nisha out of the family. That’s why theytortureNisha so that either she will leave the home on her own or die or whatever. But now Nisha has no hope. She can not even go to her parents. They are so poor. Neighbors want to do something against Nisha’s husband but when they ask Nisha about it, she forbids them because she thinks if neighbors take any action against her husband, she will be killed by her sister in law and other family members.

I don’t know what will happen with Nisha but definitely something needs to happen. It is all the impact of our cultural problems where males are given more importance than the females. In Hinduism females are always given more respect than males but I don’t know when it was changed. Prepubescentgirls are prayed to in some rituals. We have the concept of giving high respect to the females but I don’t know who changed it and when. People say that India is developing but what kind of development is this where females don’t have equal rights? Is only male India developing?

We have the most number of professional girls in the whole world which is a very good example for us and it is all the impact of the last twenty years since India has started developing. Our girls have the guts to climb to the top within only twenty years. Isn’t it amazing? Why not promote them? But the reality is something different. In few states like Hariyan, UP, Bihar… the female sex ratio is still decreasing. I hope to see the change but I don’t know when I will actually see it, maybe not in my lifetime.

First Kiwi guest at home

A 55 years old guy from Auckland wrote me through couchsurfing about 3 months ago. He wanted to know about Varanasi. He said that he wanted someone to travel with him. Once he asked me if I would like to be his tour guide for all of India. I was so excited about this, and I immediately agreed with this offer. But later he said that he had lots of hosts in India, so he canceled his plan to hire me as his tour guide. We had been in touch online for the last 3 months, and finally he came to Benares on 6th.

I went to meet him at his hotel. He had brought me a ipod and a coat. He wanted to live at my place because he was interested in general Indian life. But he had already booked the hotel for two nights, so he said that he would come to my place after spending two nights in the hotel. It was Navratri time, so I took him to a tour of Varanasi. My friends and I go to see the pandals every year during night time. I took Chris also with me. We wandered the whole night, and came back home about 3 o’clock in the morning.

After spending two nights in a hotel, Chris came to my place. He wanted to go to the local church to buy old vestments, and other old stuff that have been used by churches in Varanasi. We went to the cantonment church which is only 15 years old. Chris wanted to meet the bishop, but the bishop was not in Varanasi. So we met his assistant, and his assistant said that they did not have any old stuff. He gave address of a few churches in Mumbai, Goa and south India and told Chris to go there.

Chris stayed at my place for 15 days. Actually he was planning to stay only for 10 days, but he had to stay more because he got sick. He said that he had eaten samosa somewhere on the street, and got really sick. He had diarrhea, vomiting and headache. I took him to the doctor, but it didn’t work for him. He needed extra care, so he told me to took him to a hospital. I take him to the heritage hospital. Doctors said that it was not an emergency case, and they did not want to admit him but Chris wanted to be in hospital for a few days.

Hospital charged Rs. 15000 (US $400) for their services. I had never heard of any hospital charging 15000 for diarrhea. Chris was admitted in special ward for two days. They were charging Rs. 3500 per day for the room, 600 for doctor’s visit, and a lot of other charges that even they did not know about. I have heard of the $100 hand shake in US hospital, but I did not know that there is a similar kind of system in my home town also. I was surprised at the money they charged. I asked Lane about it, and he said that it was still cheaper than western hospitals.

One thing was very interesting for me that everyone in the hospital wanted to know if Chris had health insurance or not. I asked the doctor why they wanted to know this, and he said that usually foreigners have health insurance, and if they have insurance the hospital charges them extra money. I am sure it must be an illegal activity, but it was going on openly as lots of other illegal works in India. They were not even shamed to tell me that they were doing an illegal work.

After spending two days at the hospital, Chris just wanted to come out. He said that nurses didn’t care for him, would not change the drip, don’t give him medicine and don’t give food. I talked to the doctor, but they wanted Chris to stay in hospital for at least two more days. But Chris did not want to stay there even for an hour. Chris told doctor to let him go, so finally they gave a few medicines and discharged him from the hospital. Chris was so happy to come back home. Chris went to Mumbai on the 24 th.

Flood in Bihar

Now it seems like situation is completely out of control. More than 4 million people are affected by flood in Bihar and Indian government is doing nothing, just nothing. I saw a lot of people fighting for food, weeping, crying, dead bodies of animals. I had never ever seen such a situation like that before. People don’t have food, they don’t have roof, they don’t have medicines but there is no one to take care of them. People say that it will take at least 4 to 5 months for situation to be normal again, and after that diseases and poverty.

I saw people fighting for a packet of roasted garbanzo in a relief camp. There was more than 50 people fighting for one packet of garbanzo and finally no body could get it, all the garbanzo fell down on ground, people were walking over it and few people were still collecting as much as they could hoping that at least it will keep them alive. Government officers bring a packet of food and find that there are already hundreds of people waiting.

I saw a family who drowned their cow in flood just because they could not feed the cow any more. Being a Indian I could understand the situation when a family kill their cow. First of all they decorated the cow, did puja and then let it go in the flood water and within few minutes it drowned. All the family members were weeping and abusing government.

Indian government is investing huge money on Delhi Metro project, they are preparing for Commonwealth Games 2010, building new stadiums, building new roads which seems like huge investment but they don’t have enough money to save life of 4 million people of Bihar. I think they need to spend the same money on buying resources to save life not to show off by building Delhi Metro and preparing for Commonwealth Games.

Chicago guest learns Hindi

An anthropology student named Adam Sergant from University of Chicago came to my guest house for a month. He also wanted to learn Hindi with Bhasha Bharti like Lane and Dave. Adam wanted to learn Hindi with Bhasha Bharti for his whole stay, three months, but Bhasha Bharti didn’t have that much time so he decided to learn in Varanasi for a month then move to Masoori for another two months.

He had already learned Hindi with Virendra Singh at Wisconsin University so his Hindi was so so. I asked him about why he was not learning with Virendra Singh in Varanasi so he said that Virendra Singh is in the US every year during summer time to teach students at Wisconsin University. He comes India only in winter with the same students he teaches at University in Madison. Adam used to go Bhasha Bharti for 6 hours a day.

His classes timings were not convenient for him, 8 to 11 morning and 4 to 7 in the evening. He went there for almost 15 days and decided to leave early because he had to do some research regarding his future work in India. He was doing PhD from University of Chicago and was interested in labors at construction sites.

Adam had great time in Varanasi learning Hindi with Bhasha Bharti. He said that teachers were not best but not bad either. Adam had few complaints about the dirt in classroom. He said that his chair was right under the fan and the dust would always fall at him from the fan. His overall experience with Bhasha Bharti was good, he was happy with them.

He left to Delhi to watch construction sites for his future project. He gave contact of my brother in Delhi so that he could hear something from a local person. After spending 2 days and eating Delhi food, Adam got sick. He was admitted in hospital for 3 days and got 4 drips. I dont understand why Delhi’s food is so bad. Even I had some problem when I ate in Delhi last time I was there.

Some how Adam reached Masoori to learn Hindi with a school. He had arranged his accommodation through his school so he was quiet sure that he will get a place to stay for two months. But when he reached at the place he was supposed to stay, he found that door was locked. He contacted the house owner and owner said that they have shifted to Dehradoon for next one month and would not be able to host him.

Again Adam contacted me look for housing in Masoori. I had a friend Dehradoon so I contacted him to look for some nice place in Masoori. It took three days to him to find a home but Adam had already found a place to stay. Adam cancelled his Hindi classes and left Masoori early because of some family problem.