Thursday, April 06, 2006

Caste your die

As I blog these lines, a debate is raging on major 'news' channels about the proposed quotas in the IIMs and IITs. Arjun Singh, unfortunately my first-name-sake, is trying to become another V P Singh by suggesting this quota move (That bad painter said, apparently, "I will die, but nobody in this country will have the guts to undo what I have done" after implementing the Mandal commission's recommendations.). Arjun Singh has done many stupid and repulsive things. This 'idea' of his seems poised to swiftly climb to the top of the charts.

Let's see, what century do we live in? Why do things like caste and religion have so much significance? And why are they given so much importance by politicians and the media? The caste system was devised to classify people on the basis of their occupations, right? Well, now, we have much cooler names for people's occupations than "brahmin" or "kshatriya" and all that(come on, you know I'm right). Things thus being, is it not time the traditional and hoary caste system was debunked in favour of...nothing at all? Or, if that seems a bit too altruistic, a system more in keeping with the times? Let doctors wear some kind of 'sacred thread'(yes, a thinly disguised term for the stethoscope), engineers wear something else signifying their profession etc..

OK, that didn't sound intellectual enough, I admit. You would never catch a major 'intellectual' or 'thinker' putting forth an argument like that on TV and getting away unscathed. Come to think of it, even in normal conversations, that argument would be swiftly dismissed as frivolous, merely on the basis of its lucidity and simplicity. "It's not that easy," would be the beginning of most counter-arguments. "You're a fool," would go others. I know defeat when I see it. People like their arguments and debates very, very circumlocutory, long-winded and pretentious.

The point is, attempts to rectify social inequity on the basis of caste, religion and other ethereal criteria, rather than very real bases like economic deprivation, go terribly wrong and end up being defeated by what Amartya Sen describes, using a term of the armed forces, as 'friendly fire' -- an army being hit by its own fire rather than by enemy shelling. The affluent among the 'backward' classes continue to enjoy, ill-deservedly, the benefits of the well-meaning policies of reservation devised by a bespectacled man fifty-eight years ago while the severely, and truly, deprived among them remain so.

Neglect of merit is another issue. Merely on the basis of his/her birth, a person of a 'lower' caste, though he/she may be the owner of one or two small towns on the Konkan coast, can enjoy the benefits of good, affordable education while a person from a 'higher' caste has to go where he is asked to go, which is mostly out.

I've seen this happen, too. Of course, all of us have. One of my classmates got a rank of 4000-odd in our CET. Another friend of mine got the 800th rank or so. The former had a familial income greater than the GDP of Italy. The latter was of a humbler background, though he had a then-latest computer at home. The first guy(Mr 4000, let's say) got into what college and course he wanted, with peanuts as fees. The second guy had to pay the equivalent of the GDP of Italy to get into some college. That sucked, big time.

There, I've done it. I name this blog "middleclassbrahmin" and I go and say things like this. Put two and two together and....Oh my God, I'm a fundamentalist, fascist, sectarian, divisive, communally-polarizing, racist pig!!


By the way, I heard this really stupid point made by this guy on NDTV("Experience. Truth first."):-

"For all those people who say reservation should be based on economic background rather than caste or religion, I would like to ask one thing. I know many Dalits who are very wealthy and very affluent. Now, how many of you would be willing to get married to them?"

You know, if she looks like Courteney Cox or Rani Mukherjee, I would. Come to think of it, also if she looks like Sharon Stone. Come on, did you even watch the trailers of BI 2 : Risk addiction? She's 48 but, man, she's hot!! And I still thrill whenever I remember 'Sliver' (AXN, Fridays, 11 PM. Uncensored.).

Yes, that's the primary focus of the debate now, isn't it? That's why we get into the IIMs and IITs:- to get married!! As effing fast as we can!


Vishnu Rao said...

I don't see what naming your post as middle class brahmin and then talking about the disparity in our admission systems makes you a facist. By the way, thank you for your keen interest in our blog. The neighbour came to mom and said, "Aunty, I didn't want to mention this, but the days you and uncle were out of town, Vishnu threw a party. We were very upset." Mum replied,"Why is it? Is it because he didn't invite you?" Ya. Her face was quite something else.

Harish Kumar said...

Good work Arjun. I really liked your latest blog "Caste your die". Your suggestion/proposal of remaking the castes so to say on contemporary professions is a nice one. But as you have rightly said it wont cut much ice with either the media-people or the bespectacled,bearded,leather-bag-carrying self-styled "intellectuals" of our society.

Verbose Kurien said...

Ya ya... that is the him that is the I am... He is also pleasantly reminiscing about your horrendous presence now, when your shadow loomed large over his soul, at PTA.

Shantanu said...

Hey, man, arjun, i dont think you find sharon stones and rani mukherjees at iits. thats where you get nerds with soda glasses (stereotypical, thats me!) And anyway, you get if u get into iits and iims for getting married, it'll take a loooooong time for you to get out

Arjun Sharma said...

What, what, what??? No Sharon Stones and Rani Mukherjees at the IITs? Oh my God, this comes as a major shock to me!! I always thought all those guys turning slowly but surely homosexual was purely by choice and not due to any environmental factors!

My eyes have been opened!

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