Ever since I've returned to Rajkot, I've been getting this uneasy feeling. The feeling you get when unknown people, people you’re meeting for the first time, want to know your caste. I left this city after I completed school and at that age, I didn't care about all this, but now that I observe peoples’ behaviour, I realize that casteism is still very much prevalent in our society even though we might say that we've progressed beyond all this religious fervour and now we are secular and all that tripe.
Ever since I've started working, I have had to go and meet clients personally or talk to people before an interview or just basically meet a lot of people. I've observed that at least 20% of those people ask me my caste. I chuckle inside my head and tell them of my Gujarati heritage even though I’m a fourth generation convert. But, in retrospect, it’s quite disconcerting to see them nod in acknowledgement to my response because apparently, my family used to be in the upper-caste warrior class scheme of things. I wonder if it’s the same case everywhere, because the city of Rajkot is the third-highest in development in the state of Gujarat and if this is the case here, I shudder to think of what must be happening in other backward areas of this state and country.
Do people decide the character of others on basis of their religion and caste?
Are important decisions made taking castes into consideration?
Are business deals made this way?
Are alliances formed on the basis of such archaic traditions?
If that is the case, then I now understand how politicians and other so-called heads of the society manage to divide the people into groups for their own advantage. I now understand how self-serving fundamentalists manage to bring strife among the people by playing the caste card. I also understand how certain people take up the mantle of the lower-caste and rise to power on the wave of fervour under their feet.
The things that I've observed in the past month are very disturbing to me and I hope it is to you too, because if it’s not, I fear for the future of this country.