Why Desi Mothers are Superior (Or Not)

If you haven’t already, I suggest you take a good, long look at the article “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” which appeared last Sunday in the WSJ by Amy Chua, a Yale Law School professor. The piece, an excerpt from her forthcoming memoir, describes Chinese parenting techniques in relation to those of “Western parents.” Chua cites her personal experiences with her two daughters, Sophia and Louisa, and all the activities she doesn’t allow them to do– like “have a playdate” or “choose their own extracurricular activities.” Sound familiar? If you grew up in a desi household, it probably does. And Chua’s recollection of a particular situation, where her seven-year old daughter Lulu had trouble learning a difficult piano piece, may also strike a chord, no pun intended:

I threatened her with no lunch, no dinner, no Christmas or Hanukkah presents, no birthday parties for two, three, four years. When she still kept playing it wrong, I told her she was purposely working herself into a frenzy because she was secretly afraid she couldn’t do it. I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic.

I rolled up my sleeves and went back to Lulu. I used every weapon and tactic I could think of. We worked right through dinner into the night, and I wouldn’t let Lulu get up, not for water, not even to go to the bathroom. The house became a war zone, and I lost my voice yelling, but still there seemed to be only negative progress, and even I began to have doubts.

Now, I consider my own mother to be a very good mother. Edit. I consider my mother to be an excellent mother. As a childhood elementary education major, my mother could be quite rigid when it came to rules, but she gave us siblings room to pursue our own interests. As long as I pulled in semi-respectable grades, I was free to audition for the school play, write for the school paper, etc. But as I read Chua’s piece, particularly the piano piece story, I instantly recalled the time when I was a nine-year old struggling with fractions and my mother, who home-schooled us, might as well have been a “Chinese parent.” Perhaps my mother was particularly frustrated or stressed that day, but my failure to comprehend adding and subtracting fractions turned her into a banshee. She yelled. She screamed. She threatened. She beat. And sobbing, I spent the entire day by her side, learning fractions. Like Lulu, I did finally make that breakthrough. I learned how to add and subtract fractions. I got it. But 16 years later, if I find myself in the slightest bit of a stressful situation involving numbers, I still freeze. Even though I’ve actually taught math to high school students, if you ask me calculate tip at a crowded table with a waiter hovering over my shoulder, I start to stutter and fumble. My heart races. I feel my hands start to shake. I’ve gotten better at controlling my nervousness when confronted with numbers, but it’s never going to go away.

Chua describes her story as a win for Chinese parenting:

Western parents worry a lot about their children’s self-esteem. But as a parent, one of the worst things you can do for your child’s self-esteem is to let them give up. On the flip side, there’s nothing better for building confidence than learning you can do something you thought you couldn’t.

And no doubt many of you appreciate your parents for pushing you into learning the basics necessary for your academic and professional success. I’ve heard any number of desi folks tell me, (and I’m paraphrasing here) “If my mother/father hadn’t beat learning into me, I wouldn’t be the person I am now.” But they go on to ask, “But at what cost?” Chua mocks Western notions of self-esteem in relation to children, but I refuse to believe that bullying and browbeating a child promotes a healthy intellectual curiosity. Sure, Chua is right in saying that children of a certain age may need to be persuaded to accomplish certain milestones. But I worry about parents who can only accomplish this through threats or bribes–which Chua apparently promotes. And Chua never mentions the beatings that usually accompany such disciplining. Many were the times that I saw my Asian peers get thrashed by their parents for failing to produce less than perfect results. I’m not anti-corporal punishment, per se, but parents with Chua’s mindset often teeter over the border between abuse and discipline.

I hope some of you parents and parents-to be will join me in condemning this kind of parenting. I love my parents, I do. And I know that compared with the kinds of punishments they and their classmates received in Pakistan, their way of raising us was relatively tame. But I’d never even considering using the shaming, belittling methods spelled out by Chua and used in so many desi households. And I’m sure neither would most of you.

Note: Thanks to Nila for editing this post.

UPDATED: Take a look at this great piece from Slate that emphasizes that Amy Chua’s parenting techniques represent one kind of “Chinese mother.”

125 thoughts on “Why Desi Mothers are Superior (Or Not)

  1. Just to add some more, I don’t want to imply that desi parents aren’t tough and single minded when they want to be, but that our culture seems relatively less rigorous in comparison. In comparison to everyone else, though, Indians are pretty much grinds IMO.

  2. Well you could also view the glass as being half full. Taking into account India’s population of 1.2 billion and a literacy rate of 68% the country has one of the highest population of literates in the world as well.

  3. Sam:

    “you’ve offered no factual rebuttal to my description of the Indian apartheid system where minimum 50-70% of education, jobs is DENIED to Brahmins and other “upper” castes in FAVOUR of RICH so-called “lower” castes.”

    1. Who created the apartheid caste system in which the 85% “once-born” hindus are at the bottom of the hierarchy?

    2. Oh how tragic that 50-70% of education and jobs is denied to 4% of brahmins or 15% of “twice-born” hindus. What? 30 to 50% is not enough for 4% of the population?

    3. Since independence India has been ruled by brahmins in an obscenely disproportionate number. Look at the years of rule by brahmin Prime Ministers and a brahmin dominated top echelon of the bureacracy. What has been the result of this affirmative action favoring brahmins? Poverty, hunger, corruption on a massive scale.

  4. I hope Amy Chua is investigated, if not prosecuted, for child abuse.

    Like polygamy, qat chewing, foot binding and female genital mutilation, we should work to prevent this approach from getting a foothold in North America. Chua’s “chinese” (in scare quotes, none of my chinese friends — immigrant or first generation – raise their children this way)child abuse practices should be officially discouraged.

  5. Reading between the lines I get the impression that there may be some racial tensions in Amy Chua’s household.. Her daughters don’t really look like they are half chinese. She has a confrontation with her husband over her abusive treatment of her daughter and angrily overrules him. The music piece she is forcing down her daughter’s throat is called “The Little White Donkey”. Hmmm. Them donkeys aka asses are stereotyped as stupid and stubborn animals. :)

    Methinks there is more going on here than meets the eye.

  6. 1. Who created the apartheid caste system in which the 85% “once-born” hindus are at the bottom of the hierarchy?

    You know who didn’t?

    Anyone alive today. . .

    2. Oh how tragic that 50-70% of education and jobs is denied to 4% of brahmins or 15% of “twice-born” hindus. What? 30 to 50% is not enough for 4% of the population?

    Source on those statistics? Besides, do you even understand how job searching works?

    3. Since independence India has been ruled by brahmins in an obscenely disproportionate number. Look at the years of rule by brahmin Prime Ministers and a brahmin dominated top echelon of the bureacracy. What has been the result of this affirmative action favoring brahmins? Poverty, hunger, corruption on a massive scale.

    A.) Source. B.) Sensible person might see that there is a crop of people with hereditary political power that’s becoming increasingly corrupt and decide that the system of handing power over based on patronage is a bad system that breeds corruption. Ignorant racists will conclude that it has something to do intrinsically with the caste of the people involved. C.) The poorest, most corrupt states governments in India came about under Laloo Prasad Yadav and Mayawati.

    I really don’t see how you intend to form a more just society by actively cordoning off entire groups of people from opportunities for no damn reason. Crab mentality at its finest and the real reason India will never get ahead.

    Like polygamy, qat chewing, foot binding and female genital mutilation, we should work to prevent this approach from getting a foothold in North America. Chua’s “chinese” (in scare quotes, none of my chinese friends — immigrant or first generation – raise their children this way)child abuse practices should be officially discouraged.

    Really? Holding your kids up to standards = foot-binding? Do you people think before your fingers hit the keyboard or is this some sort of Sarah Palin strategy where we just say the most offensive possible thing to get attention?

  7. Source:

    http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?218913

    “In a nation that has produced eight Brahmin prime ministers out of 13 (with non-Brahmins accounting for six years of rule in 55 years of Independence), a nation where despite decades of affirmative action and Mandalisation the top echelons of bureaucracy continue to be dominated by Brahmins,”

    The poorest most corrupt states also happen to be where the highest proportion of brahmins live. India has been poor, hungry and corrupt long before Laloo and mayawati came to power. Mayawati is allied with the brahmins of U.P.

    It is obscene to see the 4% of the population who made a mess of India whine about only 30-50% of opportunities being available to them.

  8. the poorest, most corrupt states governments in India came about under Laloo Prasad Yadav and Mayawati.


    Gee, OK, then, Yoga Fire–since the non-brahmins suck at ruling, and the brahmins suck, and the Muslims suck (see Pakistan), I guess it’s time to invite back the Britishers (with apologies for having expelled them in the first place).

  9. It is obscene to see the 4% of the population who made a mess of India whine about only 30-50% of opportunities being available to them.

    It is obscene to see 4% of the population who made a mess of India go all the way to the US and run its Fortune 500 companies, and found some of the icons of Silicon Valley (Pepsi, The Hartford, Kleiner Perkins startups, Google, Zoho…)

    Maybe you should just pipe down, learn about cause-effect relationships, and stop pulling things out of your wazoo!

    Bihar and UP were actually among the better run states of India before the likes of Lalloo and co. took over. Today Uttarakhand which is as rule run by better educated people – brahmin or otherwise – is a nicer place to live than Eastern UP.

    Dev aka Prema wanna get started on a debate and be handed your wazoo? Not a problem, fisking you is like shooting fish in a barrel! Only more fun!

  10. “and found some of the icons of Silicon Valley (Pepsi, The Hartford, Kleiner Perkins startups, Google, Zoho…)”

    Pepsi is an icon of Silicon Valley? Founded brahmins? LOL.

    Google was founded by a russian jew and an jewish-american.

    Zoho and Hartford? Icons?

    Get real. It is deceitfulness like this that you know who are notorious for.

    Hmmm, you didn’t mention the indian-american governors of Louisiana and South Carolina. I wonder why? :)

  11. google was founded by brahmins…:)??:) .maybe funded by boston brahmins through KP and others but waaaaaaa?

  12. “I guess it’s time to invite back the Britishers (with apologies for having expelled them in the first place).”

    Not the British per se, but I do believe strongly that India needs some outside help.

  13. @Dev, seema

    Who created the apartheid caste system in which the 85% “once-born” hindus are at the bottom of the hierarchy?

    I have no idea what you’re talking about, you seem to be relying on some supposedly self-evident orthodoxy here. Anyway I don’t want to drag this into a debate about the Jesuits, British Colonialism, Hinduism etc. it isn’t pertinent to the issue. Because even if we buy into your assertions that Brahmins cooked up some macabre scheme to oppress their own co-religionists and followers for thousands of years, it wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference to my views on post-British India. Sins of the father simply don’t pass on to the sins of the son.

    Oh how tragic that 50-70% of education and jobs is denied to 4% of brahmins or 15% of “twice-born” hindus. What? 30 to 50% is not enough for 4% of the population?

    Your understanding of the apartheid system is wrong. 30%-50% is on the “free market”, which again can and is secured by the well educated (read rich) of which “lower” castes form a large and increasing chunk. And the 50-70% is awarded IRRESPECTIVE of income by the way, so again is secured by the rich, albeit unmeritorious, of the “lower” castes. To claim any of this is “affirmative action” or uplifting the poor (whatever their caste) is calumny. What it does illustrate is how in a democracy the elite of a majority (85%) can use the shroud of poverty and inequality to pass discriminatory laws, that are in fact wealth-blind, in perpetuity.

    India has been ruled by brahmins in an obscenely disproportionate number

    Nope, that’s not quite true. India has been ruled (to use your word) disproportionately by the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. It is debatable whether any of them are brahmins given that Nehru was an atheist, Indira married into the Parsi community and Rajiv a Catholic. Choosing the Prime Minister of India is rarely democratic, often the senior-most leader is chosen, which means that circa 2000s they should have made their bones during the Indian Independence movement – a disproportionate number of them happened to be born into Brahmin families. Rao, Vajpayee and Desai fit this pattern. 3 out of 14 isn’t “obscenely disproportionate”.

    ps: The term “once-born” refers to physical birth, and a person is “twice-born” when they perform a useful role in society. They’re entirely innocuous.

    • The term “twice born” actually refers to the fact that they are “born again” after the upanayama (aka thread ceremony). Additionally, the term dvija applied to kshatriyas and vaishyas as well given that they too were permitted to undergo the ceremony. Also, I would be cautious about using the phrase “useful role in society”. Even according to the strictest understanding of varnashramadharma, all four sets of duties are critical to society. These are the types of arguments that lend credence to accusations of casteism. While people should not engage in reverse discrimination, let us bear these things in mind when deconstructing and debunking overtly anti-brahmin (or general anti-hindu) arguments made by people like prema.

  14. Get real. It is deceitfulness like this that you know who are notorious for.

    Dev aka Prema aka type-and-then-think Learn to read and parse.

    Sesondly, find out who is the 1st investor in Google; find out who runs Zoho.

    This is sort of whupass we like to hand out to ignorant blowhards like you. Also we get the idea that less the % of brahmins in a state the more prgressive it is!

    This is a perverse corollary of Godwin’s Law. Sooner than later on controversial blog threads, every strident authoritarian cloaked as a “liberal” turns out to argue for ***i solutions.

  15. “Indira married into the Parsi community”

    She married a Parsi man. Was he religious? Did she also convert to Zorastrianism?

  16. Jyotsana:

    This is sort of whupass we like to hand out to ignorant blowhards like you

    If ignorant chest-thumping and/or lying through your teeth is “handing out whupass” then you sure are doing a good job. :)

    Let me run this by your twice born brain again:

    1. Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergei Brin. They are both jewish. Not brahmins. Investors in a company are not considered its founders you ignoramus.

    2. Zoho is a tiny company that few have even heard of, with revenues of less than $50 million a year. Calling it an icon of Silicon Valley is exposing your stupidity for all to laugh at.

    3. Pepsi was created in 1893 in North Carolina, when brahmins weren’t even allowed to immigrate to America, by a guy named Caleb Bradham who was certainly not a “twice-born” hindu, though he may have been a “born again” christian. :) PepsiCo is headquartered in New York State some 3000 miles from Silicon Valley. No one but a complete idiot would call Pepsi an icon of Silicon Valley.

    4. How does any of your false claims about brahmins in mlechha-land counter my point about brahmin domination since Independence being a disaster for India?

    • The forward class population in India is anywhere from 36-38% according to Wikipedia(and not 15% like you stated) and with the new census being conducted for 2011, where caste will be collected, we should be getting a better idea of the caste breakdown in modern day India. It’s no one’s fault that brahmins dominate India. I too wonder how it would be possible for 4-5% of the population to be so disproportionately powerful. Of course, the merchant, kayastha, and kshatriya classes are also doing quite well themselves. I know this may not be P.C. but perhaps these groups have factors that have enabled them to be so productive and rich(whether genetic or cultural)? I do not mean to offend anyone and I realize that caste discrimination in rural villages and even cities has negative effects on the lower castes’ self esteem and probably does provide a barrier(by no means insurmountable) to advancement. I deplore any such discrimination but reserving seats at universities as has been mentioned only serves to allow the rich from the lower castes to enroll at colleges while having lower credentials and marks. Such students steal seats from more deserving individuals who were meritorious and poorer. This will seriously undermine India’s potential in the future. I mean, America can afford to instate policies like Affirmative action since the country is so economically advanced and talent abounds whereas India desperately needs its best individuals to advance the country in scientific, economic, and cultural spheres which in turn will lead to a better life for the whole of society.

  17. Sanjay 123:

    <

    blockquote>The term “once-born” refers to physical birth, and a person is “twice-born” when they perform a useful role in society.

    <

    blockquote>

    Yeah right. The 85% of “once-born” hindus are completely useless….by physical birth; and along with the 85% of hindus who are “not permitted” to undergo the thread ceremony all non-hindus must also be useless “once-borns”. This nonsense actually makes sense to your kind, even after you have crossed the “Kala Pani” to perform “useful roles” for the “unclean mlecchas”, in exchange for the chance to live in a non-hindu culture that you obviously find far more attractive than the one you are defending and glorifying. Completely wacko.

    • @Dev, Satyajit Wry You sound like those pseudo-intellectuals who use words like mleccha and dvija to gain credibility for your otherwise fact-free posts, only to blow it with some absurd conclusion like 85% of Hindus considered are useless. I also notice that there is no rebuttal of my factual description of the apartheid system against Brahmins and other castes which are labelled as “forward” and “upper” by the elites, despite being the poorest sections in society, in order to obfuscate and perpetuate this discrimination. Are you engaging in ad hominem attacks to try and get this comment thread deleted?

      Malik to me betrays the sort of inferiority complexes and fears that give rise to this casteist rhetoric: that Brahmins are genetically and culturally superior and institutional discrimination is the only way to raise the self-esteem of the self-titled “lower” castes. That people are proud to be “lower” caste and each is fighting to be recognized as such, points to a gravy train mentality. But I do agree with his point that India should replace its anti-Brahmin apartheid system with some sort of affirmative action policy that benefits the poor, irrespective of which caste they belong to.

      • First of all Sanjay123, calm down and take a deep breadth.

        Second, based on the quality of your posts, you’ve done an excellent job of putting yourself under the dev/prema category of pseudo-intellectualism. you did not even have a proper understanding of the basis of the term dvija, so please do some self-reflection first.

        Third, if you actually read my arguments, you would see that they are in no way shape or form justifying discrimination of any sort. What I did mention was that you should be more cautious in your choice of language. It was you who used the word “useful” above to describe brahmin caste duties, and everyone here read that:

        ” the term “once-born” refers to physical birth, and a person is “twice-born” when they perform a useful role in society”.

        So what is the implication then? That was the purpose of my urging caution in your word choice.

        Fourth,

        “Malik to me betrays the sort of inferiority complexes and fears that give rise to this casteist rhetoric: that Brahmins are genetically and culturally superior and institutional discrimination is the only way to raise the self-esteem of the self-titled “lower” castes”.

        Actually, that line of reasoning about genetic superiority is generally promoted by brahmins themselves, with no statistically significant data as evidence. The point is that you can argue against anti-brahmin discrimination without coming across as casteist. The problem is that you are epically failing at doing so.

        Finally, neither varnashramadharma nor current brahmin representation in various fields should be any basis for discrimination. I have actually tangled with prema on this point before (on varna), but because he/she/it is a troll, caste is naturally resurrected at the earliest convenience as a stick with which to beat hinduism. By all means make your case, and there is one for the traditional varnashramadharma (not caste as it is practiced today), but if you cannot distinguish friend from foe and fail to make meaningful arguments, you are neither helping yourself nor your dialectical position.

  18. I too wonder how it would be possible for 4-5% of the population to be so disproportionately powerful. Of course, the merchant, kayastha, and kshatriya classes are also doing quite well themselves. I know this may not be P.C. but perhaps these groups have factors that have enabled them to be so productive and rich(whether genetic or cultural)?

    You understand that prior to the first census the British took in India, castes that did manage to become successful actually became considered to be higher right?

    So if you manage to acquire land, money, and an education then your descendants are also going to have an easier time getting money and an education since these things tend to grow exponentially (assuming you don’t gamble or drink it all away.) Trying to use caste as the unit of analysis doesn’t make sense. These castes aren’t rich and educated because of their caste, they’re rich and educated because rich and educated families tend to stay rich and educated. Historically, rich castes were conferred with more respect so it stands to reason that the more respected castes will be richer and more educated.

    • So, Yoga Fire, which castes are “rich and educated”??

      Remember, I said that using “caste” as the unit of analysis doesn’t make sense. This is because the differential rates of success you see today aren’t because of peoples’ caste but because of their access to stuff that breeds success like money and an education. Asking the question you’re asking is like saying “Which races in America are richer and more educated.” Yeah, White people are disproportionally represented in the higher echelons of society, but they’re also the highest level of welfare recipients. Clearly, Whiteness is not a sufficient factor for success and status. In fact, high status White people are generally more prone to hanging out with with successful, high-status non-Whites than with poor, low-status Whites. So trying to point at Brahmin faces in this or that agency as evidence of (What is Prema trying to use it as evidence for? I don’t even know) whatever doesn’t make sense because those Brahmins are not the same people as the poor ones the other guy was talking about. Insofar as they’re even the same caste it’s only on paper because there is no way the convent educated richie rich is going to end up marrying the country bumpkin.

  19. Aren’t newscasters and journalists disproportionately Brahmin, too (in addition to politicians)? You can’t read caste out of the social power structure just because there are some economically distressed brahmins. I don’t stay up nights seething against Brahmins or anything, but it’s weird to try to whitewash the whole situation as just being reducible to how much money a particular family has, with caste falling out of the picture.

  20. Malik:

    It’s no one’s fault that brahmins dominate India. I too wonder how it would be possible for 4-5% of the population to be so disproportionately powerful. Of course, the merchant, kayastha, and kshatriya classes are also doing quite well themselves. I know this may not be P.C. but perhaps these groups have factors that have enabled them to be so productive and rich(whether genetic or cultural)?
    1. If the twice-born brahmins dominate India because they are genetically or culturally superior to the once-born hindu masses, then why is India such a poor and backwarda nation? Why are the states with the most brahmins the poorest and most backward? What exactly is “superior” about the culture of corruption and incompetence which is the result of brahmin domination of India?

    2. If India desperately needs its best students to advance as you wrote and since it is still miserably poor and backward then it follows that the brahmins who have dominated India since Independence weren’t its best students. So why do you claim they are superior?

    3.. According to a poster above christians in Karnataka have almost three times the per capita income of brahmins. We keep hearing from brahmins that its mostly low caste hindus who convert to christianity. How does that jibe with your genetically and culturally superior brahmins argument?

    1. If superiority is measured by wealth as you argued then why are you complaining about rich backward castes taking seats in college? Why are they even considered backward useless once-borns while impoverished brahmin janitors and domestic servants are considered forward twice-borns? Just because of some thread ceremony?
    • Commenters seem to have completely misunderstood my post. I am not arguing for the superiority of any group over another and I fully condemn caste discrimination and strife. Dev seems to be making my point for me by asking why many brahmins are poor or why India is an impoverished country if the brahmins are so intelligent. By highlighting that there are many within the brahmin (and other forward classes) community who are extremely disadvantaged shouldn’t that be enough reason for reservations to be abolished? If Christians in Kerala are three times as rich as brahmins then why should they have reservations(I doubt Syrian Christians in Kerala are eligible for reservations anyway)? Your comments in that post belie a sense of inferiority. I am not arguing for brahmin superiority but only meritocracy. Your strategy seems to be to try to villify brahmins in every way. Success of forward castes in India is not false achievement that arises from oppressing others or the many eminent Indians in science, medicine, and the arts would never have reached the levels they have today.

      How does it follow that the brahmins who have dominated India weren’t its best students? The most optimal way in the present day to measure a student’s ability is by his prior academic performance and test scores. If the ones who have performed at the topmost ranks are brahmins why should they be excluded from obtaining seats at premiere institutions in accordance with their scores? It shouldn’t matter whether the best student is an adivasi or an iyengar, past academic performance and scores on standardized exams should be the factors to consider.

      I acknowledge that there may be social and discriminational barriers in rural villages and to a lesser extent in urban areas but this should be tackled through social reforms and extending and fortifying the K-12 education system for all instead of allowing students who do not measure up to claim seats at universities when others have outperformed them, ESPECIALLY if the ones who have excelled them are poorer. I can’t stress this enough but people everywhere REALLY need to be inculcated to believe in themselves as individuals and not feel despondent by being members of a lower performing caste/ethnic/racial or socioeconomic group.

      As goes the oft-mentioned proverb, if you give a man a fish you will have fed him for a day while if you teach a man to fish, you will have fed him for a lifetime.

      I might be breaching the P.C. no-go-zone again but perhaps India has remained backwards because of such awful socialist policies including reservations? How is it that South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore were able to rapidly develop into first world nations from prior conditions of African levels of poverty within the time span of 40-60 years: the same date as when South Asian countries gained independence?

  21. You can’t read caste out of the social power structure just because there are some economically distressed brahmins. I don’t stay up nights seething against Brahmins or anything, but it’s weird to try to whitewash the whole situation as just being reducible to how much money a particular family has, with caste falling out of the picture.

    Except Brahmins don’t actually exercise much social power solely by virtue of their caste anymore. I’m not a Marxist by any means, but this is one case where caste identification really does create a false consciousness that blinds people to the distinctions of class.

  22. typo above, meant to write “upanayana”–stupid qwerty keyboard.

    additionally, FC classifications also include non-dvija castes. It is possible to be high economic class and middle/lower caste, even in pre-independence India. Over the years the FC/BC debate has become rather silly, with numerous advantaged groups seeking the classification so that they can gain reservation advantages. Even various brahmin communities at one point lobbied for BC classification.

    also, perhaps the proper course regarding the question of brahmin representation in politics, science, and commerce may also have to do with the fact that they took to english language education the earliest (during the time when it offered access to colonial administration). many of them left traditional villages and the agrahara system first and sought employment in civil services under british rule. though ms. chua’s latest publication deservedly raises eyebrows, her central contention in “World on Fire” was that success breeds success. If you have the first mover advantage, it is only natural that you can consolidate your gains rather quickly, especially during a period where people retained strong caste feelings. Additionally, given british divide and rule policies (also highlighted by Ms. Chua), it would be no surprise that they may have sought to favor some (a la martial races/tutsi). So rather than chest thumping, or engaging in wholesale diatribes a la prema, perhaps there is a more obvious and rational explanation.

    Finally, as the traditional scholarly community in india, it shouldn’t be surprising that they have thrived in the knowledge economy. I would, however, caution against silly genetic explanations (eugenics is so last century) and remark that success and privilege should also breed humility and understanding. Tragically, wealth and position cannot buy manners and etiquette.

  23. @dev

    Why are the states with the most brahmins the poorest and most backward?

    You’re making my point for me! Brahmins are the poorest and most backward, yet the apartheid system in education and jobs is setup to discriminate against them.

    According to a poster above christians in Karnataka have almost three times the per capita income of brahmins. We keep hearing from brahmins that its mostly low caste hindus who convert to christianity.
    Why are they even considered backward useless once-borns while impoverished brahmin janitors and domestic servants are considered forward twice-borns?

    You’re making my point for me! The term “low” caste has no relation to their “lowness” nor does “forward/upper” means “high up”, the FORMER are some of the RICHEST and the LATTER poorest. This fictitious pyramid toted around by the elites is in reality an inverted one.

  24. Brahmim % by state isn’t necessarily causal with respect to economic development. The real driver seems to be that (broadly speaking) the South (exception Kerala) is booming, the north not so much except for a few metros (Delhi, Bombay). There are (due to Aryan immigration/invastion?) higher Brahmin %’s in the north than in the south. Also, higher Muslim %’s (exception Punjab). So, I would be slow to impute causation between Brahmin % and economic status of the state.

    The whole topic is a bit tiresome to me–Brahmins will endlessly complain they’re discriminated against while secretly feeling superior, the rest of us will opportunistically discriminate against them when we can, while feeling secretly inferior. Sad but true–I guess it’s the human condition.

  25. This is getting ridiculous. It is no more morally superior or justifiable to discriminate against brahmins than it is to discriminate against shudras. People are people, some are good and others are douchebags. People should be treated as individuals and the caste system has to go being as it is completely incompatible with a modern democracy, but to simply state that all brahmins are evil and responsible for everything wrong with independent India is idiotic.

    Affirmative action policies in India should be similar to policies in Californis, no quotas, but points for being socioeconomically disdvantaged. As has been stated above, it is entirely possible to be a rich “shudra” or a poor “brahmin” so both should be able to get a higher education. One might be socially disadvantaged and another economically. But both are disadvantaged. Reverse discrimination is not the way forward, just treatment of all citizens is.

  26. Sanjay 123:

    The term “once-born” refers to physical birth, and a person is “twice-born” when they perform a useful role in society. They’re entirely innocuous.,

    Sounds like a pernicious not an “innocuous” system that demeans the 85% of hindus who are not of the “twice-born” castes as useless members of society.

    You need to explain then why so many “useful” brahmins are so poor while so many useless “once-borns” are so successful.

    If you had a brain you would conclude that the whole system is a farce.

  27. Sanjay 123:

    <

    blockquote>You’re making my point for me! Brahmins are the poorest and most backward,…….The term “low” caste has no relation to their “lowness” nor does “forward/upper” means “high up”, the FORMER are some of the RICHEST and the LATTER poorest. ,/blockquote>

    No you are making my point for me, if you only had the brains to see it. What the above highlights is the farcical nature of the brahminical caste system. If the twice-born are so useful and so superior by birth then why aren’t they all more successful than the useless once-born low castes? Obviously the brahminical system is a lie.

  28. What the above highlights is the farcical nature of the brahminical caste system. If the twice-born are so useful and so superior by birth then why aren’t they all more successful than the useless once-born low castes? Obviously the brahminical system is a lie.

    Great point. I’ve always maintained that the brahminical caste system (from portugese casta) cooked up by the Jesuits and the British colonialists is a big fat lie.

  29. Actually, that line of reasoning about genetic superiority is generally promoted by brahmins themselves with no statistically significant data as evidence.

    Cough cough cough cough

    Excuse me, I just needed to clear my throat.

  30. How is it that South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore were able to rapidly develop into first world nations from prior conditions of African levels of poverty within the time span of 40-60 years: the same date as when South Asian countries gained independence?


    That’s easy–higher IQ than most places. See IQ and Wealth of Nations. Now, the big question is why is desi IQ so low–one reason may be brahminical notions of ritual cleanliness as opposed to the more assimilationist (!) Chinese adopting western, scientific hygiene practices (you can’t poop in the street in Hong Kong or Singapore!). That may be why desis do so well abroad–they get to free-ride on the local hygiene practices. Strange, but true! The ephipany hit me the first time I got out of the plane back in desh (I’m a DBD).

  31. “Now, the big question is why is desi IQ so low–one reason may be brahminical notions of ritual cleanliness as opposed to the more assimilationist (!) Chinese adopting western, scientific hygiene practices (you can’t poop in the street in Hong Kong or Singapore!).”

    Any stats on which Indian caste poops in the streets the most? I’m not aware that its exclusively a brahmical practice.

  32. No stats, but since the brahmins are alleged upthread to be the poorest, you draw your own inference!

  33. Yoga Fire, what are the stats on Indian spelling bee winners wrt caste?

    I put that link up to provide an example of people alleging innate intellectual superiority based on specious evidence.

    That’s easy–higher IQ than most places. See IQ and Wealth of Nations. Now, the big question is why is desi IQ so low–one reason may be brahminical notions of ritual cleanliness as opposed to the more assimilationist (!) Chinese adopting western, scientific hygiene practices (you can’t poop in the street in Hong Kong or Singapore!). That may be why desis do so well abroad–they get to free-ride on the local hygiene practices. Strange, but true! The ephipany hit me the first time I got out of the plane back in desh (I’m a DBD).

    This must be some kind of joke right? Do you know how IQ is measured? You do realize that the book you cited has been thoroughly debunked for having gotten the direction of causation totally wrong right? IQ rises as nutrition and education improves. Not the other way around.

    And the fact that you think dirty streets in India has something to do with lack of Indian assimilation rather than the fact that there are mobs of homeless people without indoor plumbing is so blindly ignorant that I literally sat here blinking and rereading your post for some evidence of sarcasm or satire.

  34. I see Seema is exposing her proud-to-be-low-caste inferiority complex again with talk of IQ. Always blaming others or things you can’t change from birth eh?

    I saw her casteism first on the “The Absolutely Sick Sikh Knowledge” thread where she said some Sikhs don’t have this anti-dark-skin mentality because they are of low caste. Of course implying that “higher” caste people engage in/originate that sort of thing or that being of “lower” caste absolves you of all discriminatory tendencies. So I just tried to rub her nose in her own BS but my conversation got deleted there but not today.

    I have personal experience of this. My Dad was a medical student in Tamil Nadu but couldn’t continue into the post-graduate program despite being the top ranked student in his class. He was told that they wanted to “Dravidize” i.e. De-Brahminize higher education. He always mingled, shared dorms/food with everyone else and also met my mom (who was a SC or very low caste) there. Throughout their marriage they faced so much crap from my mother’s side of the family and virtually none from my dad’s. Later on my parents volunteered many days a month in villages, treating Dalits and other poor people. Eventually one village received a grant, which could have gone towards some developmental activity like a school, but they used it to commission a statue of Periyar who was a notorious castemonger and demagogue. The kids of the local politician, who also owned most of the land, went to a boarding school, availed of all the benefits of the Apartheid system and promptly moved to Singapore.

    These corrupt “low” caste politicians are periodically exposed by the media, which is why Seema wants to make it look like it is a “brahmin-dominated” industry – case in point was the “low” caste scum A. Raja of the DMK party who looted the Indian taxpayer of thousands of crores recently. The beneficiaries of the Apartheid system, themselves privileged to begin with and who Seema reminds me of, should really stop whining about the “upper” castes. YOU’RE 100% responsible for the state of affairs after decades of this Apartheid system against “upper” castes which you seek to perpetuate for your own dismal ends.

    I also see this apologetic deferential attitude towards “lower” castes on this thread. They are given sympathy for some past crimes, which had nothing to do with them, and allowed to get away with the most vile casteist talk like “It is deceitfulness like this that you know who are notorious for”. Brahmins on the other hand are subject to this: “Actually, that line of reasoning about genetic superiority is generally promoted by brahmins themselves with no statistically significant data as evidence.” – do you even realize the irony in this statement?

  35. looted the Indian taxpayer of thousands of crores recently.

    To be fair, mere thousands, among Indian politicians, might just be an indicator of restraint.

    I also see this apologetic deferential attitude towards “lower” castes on this thread. They are given sympathy for some past crimes, which had nothing to do with them, and allowed to get away with the most vile casteist talk like “It is deceitfulness like this that you know who are notorious for”. Brahmins on the other hand are subject to this: “Actually, that line of reasoning about genetic superiority is generally promoted by brahmins themselves with no statistically significant data as evidence.” – do you even realize the irony in this statement?

    Don’t rise to Dev/Prema’s bait. She is going to get banned whenever an admin gets around to checking the thread and isn’t worth paying the troll-toll.

    And I believe Wry, like myself, is more interested in an India that works towards the improvement of all its citizens rather than a discourse that just keeps unproductively dredging up old enmities again and again. Look forward, not backwards.

  36. “I saw her casteism first on the “The Absolutely Sick Sikh Knowledge” thread where she said some Sikhs don’t have this anti-dark-skin mentality because they are of low caste.”

    Most brahmins in India are dark. There is no correlation between “fair skin” and brahminism.

  37. Yoga Fire, my apologies if I’m speaking bluntly, but–those hordes of homeless aren’t exogenous–they are arising from (or, within) a set of social, legal, political and economic institutions. And their presence is a consequence of those institutions. If the institutions were otherwise (like in America) they wouldn’t be homeless (in the main). Now, who is responsible for those institutions that are governing in India? I get tired pretty quickly of the bs of the latter.

  38. Sanjay 123:

    Great point. I’ve always maintained that the brahminical caste system (from portugese casta) cooked up by the Jesuits and the British colonialists is a big fat lie.,

    This is the height of dumbness and deceit, blaming western christians for an ancient hindu social system just because the word they used to describe it isn’t sanskrit! By your reasoning India does not exist since the word “India” is of foreign origin.

  39. Sanjay 123:

    How does it follow that the brahmins who have dominated India weren’t its best students? The most optimal way in the present day to measure a student’s ability is by his prior academic performance and test scores. If the ones who have performed at the topmost ranks are brahmins why should they be excluded from obtaining seats at premiere institutions in accordance with their scores? It shouldn’t matter whether the best student is an adivasi or an iyengar, past academic performance and scores on standardized exams should be the factors to consider.

    If rote learning which is the brahminical vocation, and resultant test scores in India flawed educational system, is the only criteria to measure aptitude for leading a nation then India is doomed for good. You are ignoring the fact that brahmin domination has been a disaster for India. Why would any rational person want more of the same?

  40. Sanjay 123:

    I might be breaching the P.C. no-go-zone again but perhaps India has remained backwards because of such awful socialist policies including reservations? How is it that South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore were able to rapidly develop into first world nations from prior conditions of African levels of poverty within the time span of 40-60 years: the same date as when South Asian countries gained independence?
    1. None of these countries have a hereditary caste system

    2. All of them have embraced the Enlightenment egalitarianism or equality of opportunity that has also made the western nations so prosperous. Unlike India they educate ALL their children.

    3. You conveniently neglected to mention China which is also leaving India in its dust.

    4. East asians are a far more intelligent race on average than south asians. Whether this is a result of culture, genes, diet, hygiene or whatever is debatable but the actual facts of IQ test scores and their far better societies is not.

  41. Now, who is responsible for those institutions that are governing in India? I get tired pretty quickly of the bs of the latter.

    “Who is responsible?” Just asking a question like that is myopic. It’s not just who, it’s also why and what. What kind of answer are you looking for to a question like that? Do you want a 6 hour lecture on the development of Indian political insitutions? Because that’s the short story starting at independence and I guarantee you any bullshit notions of caste have little to do with it.

    The shortest possible story is that we had an economically ignorant neophyte running the Congress party immediately after independence who thought import substitution was a viable economic strategy. His lack of leadership skill further guaranteed that the only way the multifaceted, incredibly diverse republic would ever hold together in its formative years would be if his party instituted a comprehensive patronage system to buy off local leaders through cushy jobs and appointments in which concerns about accountability and performance were not discussed. On top of that you have an incredibly majoritarian constitution that guarantees that while everyone has the power to veto shit they don’t like, nobody has the power to implement anything they do unless it’s under the table. This creates a beautiful negative feedback loop where low performance breeds lowered expectations which further reduce incentives to perform.

  42. Jesus Christ people IQ is neither innate or genetic. The only people who pretend it is are confirmed racists who have an axe to grind and will abuse any statistic they can find to do it. Stop buying into their bullshit.

  43. Satyajit Wry:

    you did not even have a proper understanding of the basis of the term dvija, so please do some self-reflection first.

    Your definition of the term dvija is just as indefensible as Sanjay123′s though you seem unable to realize it.

    1. How does a ritual of putting on a thread makes one superior to the those who do not undergo that ritual?

    2. How many non-brahmin upper castes actually undergo that ritual? Why are they still considered dvija?

    3. If only certain castes are “permitted” to undergo that ritual how is your explanation any better than just saying dvija status is determined by birth?

    4. On what psuedo-intellectual basis do you justify such a hereditary hierarchy?

    5. Why do you all demand a rational meritocracy on the hand and on the other cling to a patently irrational non-meritocratic social system that is given religious sanction?

    • Satyajit Wry:

      you did not even have a proper understanding of the basis of the term dvija, so please do some self-reflection first.
      

      Your definition of the term dvija is just as indefensible as Sanjay123′s though you seem unable to realize it.

      1. How does a ritual of putting on a thread makes one superior to the those who do not undergo that ritual?

      2. How many non-brahmin upper castes actually undergo that ritual? Why are they still considered dvija?

      3. If only certain castes are “permitted” to undergo that ritual how is your explanation any better than just saying dvija status is determined by birth?

      4. On what psuedo-intellectual basis do you justify such a hereditary hierarchy?

      5. Why do you all demand a rational meritocracy on the hand and on the other cling to a patently irrational non-meritocratic social system that is given religious sanction?

      Prema/Dev,

      You are a troll. You were always a troll. You will always be a troll. I don’t need to defend my remarks to you now more than I had to during your previous incarnation as vivek. You have an elementary school level understanding of hinduism, with a graduate school level chip on your shoulder. We’ve been over this before:

      http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/006389.html#addcomment

      But, in the interest of our readers here, I will oblige:

      “Your definition of the term dvija is just as indefensible as Sanjay123′s though you seem unable to realize it.”

      You seem unable to comprehend anything beyond your own biases which equate hinduism only with caste, curries and cows. I gave a definition. It does not mean I am advocating anything. The logic of it is that the worker/artisan class, aka shudra varna, should focus on craft and providing labor. As such, members of this varna likely did not have the time or disposable income to go to a gurukul to become proficient in the sacred texts (and therefore undergo the thread ceremony). Do I personally think the texts and ceremony should be open to all classes? Yes, of course. But the realities of the time dictated otherwise. Western civilization tied down serfs to the land. By living in western society do you support that there should be serfs and that they must be tied down to the land?

      1. How does a ritual of putting on a thread makes one superior to the those who do not undergo that ritual?

      I don’t believe that a mere ritual or puja makes anyone superior–and neither did the wisest of ancients. The Mahabharata clearly discusses how it is conduct that makes the brahmin not birth. A mere ceremony is meaningless without proper thinking and conduct.

      1. How many non-brahmin upper castes actually undergo that ritual? Why are they still considered dvija?

      I recommend you consult Sacred Thread Magazine for those statistics.

      1. If only certain castes are “permitted” to undergo that ritual how is your explanation any better than just saying dvija status is determined by birth?

      See above.

      1. On what psuedo-intellectual basis do you justify such a hereditary hierarchy?

      On what pseudo intellectual basis do you support a civilization that justified and practiced chattel slavery, committed the worst genocide in history, and engaged in religiously sanctioned feudalism and inquisitions? Civilizations and cultures reform and have the propensity to reform. Recognize that and have some humility when you attempt to learn and discuss another culture that is not your own.

      1. Why do you all demand a rational meritocracy on the hand and on the other cling to a patently irrational non-meritocratic social system that is given religious sanction?

      Why do you insist on trollery? Is your personal or professional life not fulfilling?

  44. Yoga Fire:

    Jesus Christ people IQ is neither innate or genetic. The only people who pretend it is are confirmed racists who have an axe to grind and will abuse any statistic they can find to do it. Stop buying into their bullshit.

    The IQ tests may be flawed but If they are “bullshit” then the test scores in India’s educational system, which emphasizes rote-learning, are a hundred times worse bullshit when it comes to measuring aptitude. Yet according to the brahmins whining about reservations that should be the only criteria for jobs etc.

    • Aren’t test scores and academic performance the criteria for measuring aptitude/preparedness/dedication in every nation, including the four east asian tigers mentioned earlier? What better alternative would you propose? Like I have already mentioned multiple times by now, I am against any sort of caste discrimination and only advocate for a meritocratic system. If dalits and other low castes were to outperform the forward castes, I would be more than overjoyed!

      Furthermore, if you believe that east asians are a far more intelligent race, then wouldn’t that sort of a rationale lead you to the logical conclusion that the Brahmins and forward castes of India are similarly more intelligent than castes requiring reservations?

  45. Yoga Fire:

    *Cough cough cough cough* Excuse me, I just needed to clear my throat.

    Now that you have cleared your throat please explain how dominating spelling bees that reward rote memorization more than anything else is proof of brahmin “genetic superiority”?

    I don’t see brahmins, or any indians, dominating international Math Olympiads, Software competitions etc. Far from it. Even Iran has won the Math Olympiad once, India never. Chinese dominate it.

  46. “Actually, that line of reasoning about genetic superiority is generally promoted by brahmins themselves with no statistically significant data as evidence.” – do you even realize the irony in this statement?

    Umm, what were you looking for? “89% of brahmins assert their genetic superiority to other castes according to Sacred Thread Magazine”? Dude, you just wasted an entire post discussing the anecdotal evidence in the form of your parents’ life story. Did it ever occur to you that for every one of those cases there could be ten very casteist people in that era? You claim your father’s relatives did not behave in a casteist manner, but can you attest to everything they said behind close doors? There were and are numerous cases of brahmin families disowning their children for marrying outside of caste.

    Two wrongs absolutely do not make a right. But any decent and right thinking person will acknowledge that casteism did exist. If brahmins had not discriminated against E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker, there would not have been a periyar (not that I support any of his positions). The reality is casteism does exist, whether it’s brahmin v. kshatriya, vaishya or shudra, or all the rest v. dalit. Even actors such as Ajay Devgan (actually sikh but retains caste identifiers) have attested to this in bollywood. All hindus, whatever their roots, must acknowledge this, and at least to the dalits, make amends. Is wholesale reservation the answer? Obviously not. An apartheid system is certainly not the way forward, (nor are anti-brahmin/anti-hindu postures in the guise of “rationalism” in TN). But to this day, many dalits face overt discrimination, and this must end. And whether you like it or not, many brahmins do retain strong caste feelings, frequently reflected in the power structures of political parties (and that includes even the national “secular” party). If you want people to acknowledge what you or your community may face, you must return the coin and do the same for them.

  47. My position is more or less that of Satyajit Wry. Well-said. It is easy to get pushed to extremes on this issue–you are putting the true position very nicely.

  48. All hindus, whatever their roots, must acknowledge this, and at least to the dalits, make amends.

    Nope, sorry I’m not a Marxist. I don’t believe I should make amends for whatever my father, my sisters or any of my other relatives and ancestors did. I’m not responsible for their actions nor do I feel ashamed or sorry about any of it. Do I feel sad about it? Sure, all discrimination sucks. Would I pay out of my pocket to make up for it? Absolutely not.