Caste no bar

Has everyone heard about the Indian government’s new plan to help erase the scourge that is the ages-old caste system? If I may offer my humble opinion…I think it is sheer brilliance. Check it:

THE Indian Government is offering 50,000 rupees (£580) to higher-caste people who marry spouses from the lowest castes in its latest controversial effort to dismantle the ancient Hindu social hierarchy…

The proposed bonus is a small fortune in a country where average annual income per capita is £280, and where official corruption is rampant. [Link]

This new incentive is making me consider taking a trip to India to find my bride. Let’s face reality. I have a lot of factors working against my search for a bride/girlfriend here in the U.S., and frankly, they are making my life miserable.

  1. I am not getting any younger
  2. I have a mountain of debt from my undergraduate years
  3. My parents insist “it is time”
  4. I blog

I do have one HUGE advantage working for me however. I am Brahmin. Why not use it? I am sure there are quite a few lower-caste girls with “good features” that will do just fine. If it helps pay down my college debt then I am not going to complain about it one bit. Besides, I hear that lower-caste girls aren’t nearly as uppity and are FAR more reasonable. Just listen:

Meira Kumar, the Social Justice Minister, who is from a lower caste, defended the plan yesterday before meeting officials from the 28 Indian states to persuade them to approve it.

“Yes, I know this is not the only way to end the caste discrimination, but one has to start somewhere,” she said. “All proposals have initial hiccups. That does not mean that we give them up.” Ever since independence in 1947, Indian governments have tried in vain to break down the complex caste system, which divides society into hereditary hierarchical groups. [Link]

There is one additional advantage that I possess which makes this plan especially appealing to me. I’m Guju:

But the amount differs from state to state – in Gujarat a couple gets the full $1,100 (50,000 rupees) – whereas in West Bengal state the amount is $45. [Link]

Ha Ha! Sucks to be an upper-caste West Bengali.

118 thoughts on “Caste no bar

  1. Abhi The amount offered in WB is musch lower than in Gujarat because caste is not such a deal there. Au contraire in Gujarat I doubt even the 1000 bucks is gonna achieve anything.

  2. No, don’t get your panties/boxers in a twist. I think a life sentence of Thayir Saadam(curd rice) is worth at least a few lakhs. I’m married to one of those and its torture. I am truly deprived. I can only dream of Biryani and juicy steaks. Who will pay me?

    dont mess with puli ogre and thayir saadam. u will make me angry. you will not like me when i am angry.

  3. JesusChrist, it’s hella freakin’ time that this smelly string I’ve worn since I was a kid helped me to snag a buxom wife and some cash! On behalf of the academy, I’d like to thank all that is holy, kind and loving that those long hours of Gayatri recitation with my uncles in the Nagpur heat has finally reached their long-fated destiny.

    Hallelujah!

  4. Do the ABCDs (read, cool accented, amreekan citizens) amongst you get bombarded with girls/marriage prospects by aunties/uncles on your visits to desh? If yes, over the last decade, (due to economic progress) has this changed at all ?

    I am 22 and already they are sending pcitures, faxes, emails and whatnot. I wanna go back to visit but i am scared for my future.

  5. From now on all kids shall have their father first name as their last name. In three generations when all the oldies die out caste is history.

    Some of us already do that. Actually some of us down south, have been doing that for close to fifty years now.

  6. One is “Brahmin” by one’s “Karma” and not “Janma”.

    Thank you Yo Dad! Now the rest of the Brahmins need to catch with that!

  7. thanks brooklynbrown… all i needed to see was a roo checking out the gonads of another roo. the things i know now that i wish i didnt.

    The funniest part about that link is how it puts “The Rocking Sikh” on the same level as Catherine Zeta Jones? Is this a reflection on her marriage to uber-geezer Michael Douglas? I’ll leave that up to you.

  8. Thank you Yo Dad! Now the rest of the Brahmins need to catch with that!

    Yo Dad is extremely enlightened. Most “traditional” Brahmins I’ve talked to in religious contexts would never concede this. Brahmanas to them by janma (birth) and not karma and guna (as the Gita holds) or the Vajrasuckica Upanishad.

  9. Yo Dad is extremely enlightened.

    Ha! Myself and Yo brother (and we won’t even consider Yo Mom) would disagree with you there. Hell, that might even be a ban worthy comment :)

  10. until someone killed it and said our original Hindu name was Brahmin. Sucks ass when you turn out to be the oppressor

    of course, this is why everyone has to mention that their ancestors were brahmin…. :-)

  11. I am in my late 20′s and still do not know what caste my ancestors were. It was never talked about, and since I picked up on alot of subtle information as a youngster, I assume that it wasn’t even hinted at. I am guessing that there is alot of inter-caste marriage in most of my extended family. And I’m not curious, either. It was only when I visited these boards did I get that people care about this.

    My question is, do most of you grow up with a knowledge of your caste, and/or discussions about it?

  12. u will make me angry.

    I’ll try harder…

    Puli Ogre in da USA is really a Thayir Saadam? Or is the moniker ‘Thayir Saadam’ reserved for girls? : )

  13. It was only when I visited these boards did I get that people care about this.

    i have the same experience.

    My question is, do most of you grow up with a knowledge of your caste, and/or discussions about it?

    i only understood issues of caste or status as it pertained to my own family when i went to bangladesh, and only via implication and inference (and subsequent checking in google).

  14. vivo @ #44

    just an educated guess but perhaps the lower castes don’t need as much enticement on average to marry people of higher castes.

    Upper Castes and Lower Castes will sit down together and figure out how to diddle the Indian Gov’t, get the pay-out and still keep their castes. New levels of cooperation will be witnessed by history.

  15. of course, this is why everyone has to mention that their ancestors were brahmin…. :-)

    Good one. This is like that color issue thread (guranteed 500 comments BTW) where similar thing …….

  16. On a more serious note:

    If the Indian government wants to better integrate the North and the South, the East and the West, who should they pay to marry whom?

    I request the Mutiny scholars to work this out as they usually do: using statistics and complex algorithm.

  17. “Good one. This is like that color issue thread (guranteed 500 comments BTW) where similar thing …….”

    it is better to light than dark, and brahmin than dalit. my point would be the same as in the color thread: in the USA these differences are irrelevant. we can acknowledge they exist, but lingering over them is a waste.

    different in brownland of course.

  18. it is better to light than dark, and brahmin than dalit.

    just to be clear, i don’t mean it is objectively better or should be better. but if you mention something, even to slight yourself, that is an indication of the status it confers. this is not true of everyone of course, it is a generalization. but few people talk about being black skinned or dalit in a way that indicates that they know others will envy them :)

  19. Razib: Does rural, Bangladeshi Muslim village society have caste distinctions? My impression was that the majority of Muslim farmers there basically form one homogenous group.

  20. Jai and Drrty Poonjabi:

    Rajputs among Hindu Punjabis are rare; Rajputs among Sikhs are to be found but constitute a small percentage of the overall Sikh population; however, ironically, Muslim Punjabi Rajputs (all in Pakistan) are quite common, especially in the Potohar region (Rawalpindi and surrounding districts). For that matter, most of the Mirpuris in the UK are of Rajput background. Mirpur is near the Potohari area, and its dialect is similar to Rawalpindi Punjabi. I don’t know many details about the gradual conversion of Rajput clans to Islam in Punjab but it was fairly widespread.

  21. Razib: Does rural, Bangladeshi Muslim village society have caste distinctions? My impression was that the majority of Muslim farmers there basically form one homogenous group.

    honestly, i don’t much about this. but yes, there are distinctions. your family name is a good indicator. those with mughal ancestry vs. those without. just to be clear, my own family has branches which are recently coverted from hinduism (my paternal grandmother, maternal grandfather’s family sometime in the early within generational memory), so i was including that in. my mother made a reference to her father’s familial name (which i never new), and it sounded familiar. i googled it, and it matched the occupation which she mentioned exactly in the hindu caste list for bengalis. she never said that the family was originally hindu, but to remember caste occupational profession suggests to me that it was more recent than i had understood.

  22. Do the ABCDs (read, cool accented, amreekan citizens) amongst you get bombarded with girls/marriage prospects by aunties/uncles on your visits to desh? If yes, over the last decade, (due to economic progress) has this changed at all ?

    Not in the desh. Here’s my take: If you’re from a village, you are an attractive prospect to families there. If you are from the cities and are from an upper middle class family, you become semi-mlechha, and are not as attractive to the people there. I think Indian females in India prefer Indian males to ABD males. People may disagree.

    Here, my parents were like, “we know people if your interested,” once every six months or so. No high pressure, but that’s just my experience, again, people may have different experiences.

  23. In addition to the Muslim Rajputs, another notable thing about the Potohari region (Rawalpindi, Chakwal, Jhelum, Gujjar Khan, etc) is that it had a decent amount of Hindus (about 15-20%) prior to Partition, and the culture there, even among Muslims (who were predominantly descended from local converts anyway) had a strong Hindu stamp, in terms of wedding rituals, fairs and festivals, superstitions, etc. I believe a lot of that has changed in the decades post-Partition. There used to be some major Hindu temple complexes in that region as well, now completely in disrepair; many Sikh shrines and some major gurudwaras as well.

  24. Abhi, you should marry whomever you want, but only if she allows you to pass down the family title of “Yo” to indicate your descendants.

  25. Restricting your options to Indian (presumably Hindu) girls may not necessarily be helping matters — especially considering the smaller numbers of desis in the US (percentage-wise, compared to the total population) and the fact that the Indian community over there isn’t as concentrated and “close-knit” as it is in Britain.

    It depends on who you realate with, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed that people TEND to marry those of their educational, social, religious background (yes, even people who are secular like many Jews in NYC). There is nothing wrong with that, but sometimes I worry b/c there are EVEN FEWER Bangladeshis here in US (for me)!!!

  26. This is nuts- I spelled my NAME wrong!!! LOL!!!

    I meant LESS Bangladeshis than Indians (above post). Seriously, I need to get cracking on finding a guy…

  27. Here, my parents were like, “we know people if your interested,” once every six months or so. No high pressure, but that’s just my experience, again, people may have different experiences.

    Yes, that is like my family. I think FOB girls/guys get more proposals, but I haven’t known A LOT of them. It’s more “normal” to them than to ABCDs (DUH!!!)

    Razib, how does one find out if they have Mughal ancestry? Just curious…

  28. please. whites are the new brahmins. just look at the grin on the faces of desi men and women with white partners.

    It’s GREAT to see happily married people, no matter what race in our modern world. There are many reasons for this though, I feel that top one is that upper and middle-class desis and white folks have TONS in common in the US cities and suburbs. Hey, they grew up around each other since the ’60s, right?

  29. how does one find out if they have Mughal ancestry

    ask your family back in the old country, they are more interested in this stuff. surname can give you a clue. a lot of the time it is made up, but to be “mughal” really means in the broadest sense that your family received a sinecure and title from the mughals at some point. in bengal many mughal families used to speak urdu until they were assimilated in the 19th and early 20th centuries. just keep in mind a lot of the past is just made up stuff to make people happy about their “past.” everyone is the descendent of slaves & kings.

    just look at the grin on the faces of desi men and women with white partners.

    you want to know why i have a grin on my face??? …. >8-)

  30. God, not another bogus goverment scheme that can be ripped off by local officials ! Sigh ! When will we stop accepting this kind of easily corrupted handouts?

    Now promising that every indian child will complete 10th grade, now, that would be worth something. But then there would be little money to rip off, isn’t it?

    Re: these caste distinctions, maybe I just grew up in some parallel universe, but 50% of my high school class and maybe upto 75% of my college class married across jati and religous background. Many of these weddings had some quite complex negotiations: how do you explain to orthodox tamil hindus that a fish has a key role in a bengali wedding? And the need for the punjabi baratees to have 7-8 drinks each before they arrive at the staid UP brides home? I wont even get into the parsee-himachali wedding or the ahom-tambram combo. And all this in the 70s and 80s! Admittedly, I grew up in a big city and went to one of these places that accept 0.0001% of all applicants.

  31. Neat trick !!!

    It’s not a trick. I never tell people about my caste, and if they assume I’m lower caste I don’t correct them with being Brahmin because I’m not. It’s embarrassing and stupid. And I know I’m in a v small minority and even refused to believe it and thought that historian person had just made it up but it’s been verified through the type of dialect and diet habits or something. But I just wanted to show that not all people who have converted are Dalits because they’re not. If I was a Dalit but knew of people who weren’t I would have mentioned them, it just happens to be me.

    This way you get to be a “progressive”, a Christian who has transcended it all apparently, and still of the “highest” caste.

    Calm down mate. In fact I have this thing with a friend of mine where if Indian people do ask us our caste I always say I’m an outcaste to make them uncomfortable. I don’t even know what the middle ones are, and to this day my highest source of knowledge on the caste system is an Arundhati Roy novel. Maybe you think I sound like so many non-Hindus, but I don’t know that many so I can’t really comment on that.

    But you seem a bit aggro. You need a hug :)

  32. Sumiti and Desitude: Thanks.

    Abhi and rest of the Yo Yo’s (Saheli has a good point) may disagree but sometime people who are far away can see the light or “Aura” much clearer than those who are nearby and “in your face” all the time. If there is indeed a place we call “heaven” up there somewhere – which I personally do not believe – as both heaven and hell is a state of mind and it is right here – I assure you “GOD” worthy of my respect will not check at the gate whether one was born “Brahmin” or “Shudra”. Lighten up folks and marry whomever is willing to bite the bullet with you. Life is an accident, and still largely an unsolved mystery. Right Razib ??

  33. But I just wanted to show that not all people who have converted are Dalits because they’re not.

    this is objectively true. nevertheless, in the context of this blog you have to be careful of what you say shrug color & caste matters. no one here is slyly implying that their ancestors were dalits.

    look, i had an acquaintance of mine mock me because my family was of muslim origin, and everyone knows that “muslism are converted from dalits.” i didn’t say, “not all.” i simply said, “and what kind of primitive is preoccupied with such trivialities?” (i wasn’t as polite, but you get the gist)

    a true king does not claim royal ancestry, he comports himself like a king. a primitive should be made to feel primitive first, the facts of history are relevant second.

  34. and what kind of primitive is preoccupied with such trivialities

    and tashie, if you do that in your “real” life, more power to you. i didn’t mean to generalize based on one comment, but i have noticed a tendency for muslims and christians to claim brahmin ancestry* (generally in a offhand i-don’t-care manner) to the point where you would wonder if most indians were brahmin at some point :-)

  35. It was only when I visited these boards did I get that people care about this.

    Yeah, same.

    My question is, do most of you grow up with a knowledge of your caste, and/or discussions about it?

    Not at all. I only asked about it this year because I was stunned that an Indian girl at uni asked me what mine was in the course of conversation. I only lived in India until I was 8 so I had caste-free times in India too :)

    I know what some people mean, after reading this whole thread, about people mentioning that they’re actually from a higher caste. I wouldn’t have mentioned mine unless someone unaccurately said that all converts are lower castes, just because it’s an historical error. Maybe the statistical relevance is small, but then it’s about the same as the population ratio of desi’s in the USA and people still think that’s important.

    I know that because of my religion and maybe even my complexion (desitude, do I get points for saying I’m darker-skinned and still hating colourism?) people think I’m lower caste but I’ve never even brought it up in ‘public’ until now.

    I don’t think that people’s ‘original status’ should make their views on things less authentic. I have dark skin and hate the ‘Fair and Lovely’ complex but I also recently found out that my family were a higher caste ages ago so I’m not allowed to dislike the caste system, desitude? So does that mean it’s okay for me to hate colourism but not the caste system because I’m obviously just showing off about some genetic random factor that mattered (literally) 200 years ago to my family, because I’m darker skinned I understand the pain of fellow dusky maidens of not looking like Aishwarya…

    Get a grip. I don’t care if a lower caste/upper caste/no caste person says they hate the caste system, because I think it sucks ass too.

  36. in the context of this blog you have to be careful of what you say *shrug* color & caste matters. no one here is slyly implying that their ancestors were dalits.

    Yeah, I realise that now looking at the comments of some people that they’ve grown up a lot more Indian than me, whereas I don’t speak any Indian languages or know much history etc.

    i didn’t mean to generalize based on one comment, but i have noticed a tendency for muslims and christians to claim brahmin ancestry* (generally in a offhand i-don’t-care manner) to the point where you would wonder if most indians were brahmin at some point :-)

    And you’re right, a lot of people do say that they were higher caste. Which is why I didn’t believe what my parents said for ages because it sounds about as unlikely as an elephant jumping out of my ass and proposing to me in the next five seconds.

  37. When I said what my original status was I was saying it in a ‘How crazy is that, huh, that for once it’s actually true but it’s all so dumb’ kinday way because I have honestly grown up without it ever being an issue, or with any Indians I know thinking I’m lower caste anyway and me not even knowing caste names or my own one until this year.

    But I’m guessing that people on here have grown up with much more Indian contact than I have and also with a much greater awareness of caste, so it did look like one of those things when someone’s showing off and trying to act cool at the same time. It was sincerely not meant that way, because to me even the fact that people commenting on here have grown up with so much more caste system exposure is kinda depressing.

  38. tashie,

    perhaps some of us need to be proactive and take a “pledge.” the reality is that when

    person x says they “this & that” person y responds that “my community is even more this & that”

    pretty soon the whole thread devolves into “only brahmins of blah blah blah preserve the true traditions of blah blah blah” vs “the brahmins of blah blah blah aren’t real brahmins, while the khatris of blah blah blah are true aryans who preserve true blah blah blah….”

    i don’t know if i have left big hints on this blog of what my personal background is aside from being bangladeshi and “mixed” as i said before (i did a quick search but the SM search algorithm is pretty loose). someone could connect the dots pretty obviously. i have also made references to my trivial complexion differences from my brother, but i made that a relative assertion. so i’ll take a pledge: i won’t get all primitive, no way, no how. the only way people will know what color i am is by meeting me (the pic on my website is fake), the only way people will know of my familial background (whether it is fake or real, i don’t know) is through personal communication. let’s as many of us try and do this so that the comments don’t always devolve into status-signally via trivial (color) differences or unearned ones (familial background).

    (p.s. i reserve the right to talk about how blonde and leggy my gf is, glory that comes via personal attainment is all kosher :)

  39. Kritic, I got bombarded with proposals after I inherited a bit of property in India. Before that, I definitely was a mleccha. Got bombarded by ABD parents before that, though. They started with all of us in our teens – poor things – and saw their best-laid plans go awry.

    Desitude, I never notice grins on the faces of those with white partners; around other desis, they invariably look uncomfortable. Second: Most middle-class Indians, like white liberals on race, know the party line when it comes to caste – always say modern day casteism is wrong, and that caste was originally either/or a 1)division of labour 2) based on workers’ guilds 3) based on merit. I haven’t heard any middle-class educated Indians defending the existent caste system in India as a good thing.

    Metric, My parents were always conscious of caste – my father was always bashing his caste (he was a Commie when young), and my mother proud of our caste. It was still somewhat real to them. Partly, I think, because both my parents’ immediate families suffered during the Bengal Partition, and struggled as the ‘genteel poor’ (a la Victorian lore), there was a clinging on their parts to the (un)reality of caste. Sort of like shabby Russian emigres working in menial jobs can talk about how many serfs their grandparents owned, or something.

  40. You guys ever been in a mixed FOB-ABD gathering? The ABD men seem perfectly comfortable chatting up FOB women. FOB men are usually shunned by ABD women like they have the plague. This is the weirdest form of social behavior I have observed.

  41. I occasionally call a brahmin over to help me honor the gods. little man don’t look oppressive to me :) the social order in India is in transition; the link between birth and occupation has been shattered; yes, the high achieving brahmins are now your professors and project managers, but the modes of oppression in India need reassessment, its far more complex than the Marxist-inspired “evil brahmin” worldview. i suspect what really rankles people– especially non Brahmin Hindus–is arrogance more than oppression.

  42. anantha (#57):

    From now on all kids shall have their father first name as their last name. In three generations when all the oldies die out caste is history.
    Some of us already do that. Actually some of us down south, have been doing that for close to fifty years now.

    Boy howdy! In my family my great-grandfather was the last one to bear a caste name, and my grandfather was born in 1913. That doesn’t mean they’ve stopped observing the caste system, though…

    Inter-caste marriage has to be one of the most important ways to dillute caste consciousness and begin the process of erradicating it altogether. That and a reservation policy based on socio-economic status and not purely on caste. To quote Jay Billington Bulworth:

    All we need is a voluntary, free-spirited, open-ended program of procreative racial deconstruction. Everybody just gotta keep fuckin’ everybody ’til they’re all the same color.

    Yeah! Enough sexual repression! Let’s get it on!

    Oh yeah, and it might help to dump caste consciousness in the diaspora as well…

  43. sorry, bad formatting:

    anantha (#57):

    From now on all kids shall have their father first name as their last name. In three generations when all the oldies die out caste is history.
    Some of us already do that. Actually some of us down south, have been doing that for close to fifty years now.
  44. hi. I am just trying to understand all this. I am in a brand new relationship with an Indian guy. About 3 months. Im american, white, and christian. He is from India, he has been here in the USA for 7 years. hes a Hindu and a Brahmin. Hes been throwing alot of culture-isms at me…and gave me a copy of the Gita to read… and Yes, I thought Brahim was like an old family name or something…until I googled it, and came upon this site and others. So now I am starting to feel a little uneasy. It all seems a little racist to me, and hes made a point to mention to me that “where [he] comes from, [he] is considered to be ‘fair’”, which just made me laugh, because well..I like a man with a little tan ;) ….Then another time he was taking me to meet his friend…who was “dusky” as he put it. I had no clue what the term meant. So he explained it to me…and well I was a little perplexed as to why he kept mentioning her skin tone. Yes, skin tone is something he mentions often, like I think Ive heard about my skin tone 1000x. Im very pale, too pale, I dont like it, he loves it, and is always mentioning it.

    Anyway, I think he is a bit fetishistic about skin tone and ancestry…Im not sure, he seems too intelligent to be like this, but sometimes, I think my new boyfriend could be something of a racist. Not anything like the crazy ones..but in a subtle way, or maybe there is something in the culture I dont understand yet.