Sunday, March 20, 2011

Indignity galore

The path en route to realising the great Indian dream of a "developed nation" is ridden with thorns. One such prick being the rampant caste system and the INDIGNITY OF LABOUR followed. How much ever we may say that it has been eradicated, the harsh fact is that it is still prevalent in not only the small-time villages but also in the nearby towns!

The caste system in ancient India was conceived with the idea of classifying people according to their profession. The Brahmins were invariably priests, the kshatriyas the warriors and so on. But somewhere in the between the real meaning of the caste system was lost and it became hereditary. In ancient India this was not the case as a person could move to a caste higher, on the basis of his merit or knowledge! Every profession was respected. A washerman was as respected as a sage. Classic cases of it being the great Veda Vyas who was born to fisherman, sage Valmiki who was a hunter and the great India poet and dramatist Kalidasa who was a shepard. Somewhere something went terribly wrong in between.

Sometimes it really pains to see educated people getting into the act of degrading a person on the basis of his caste or social status.

I study in the temple town of Srirangam in Tamilnadu. The famous presiding deity of the temple Lord Ranganatha a.k.a Nam Perumal(our God) on his traditional route to another place stops by in a college. The Lord coming to that college is celebrated with great pomp and with the whole college being decorated with banners. The day is known to all and the staff and student take the blessing of the lord. Locals also come for the annual event. As we were all standing in the line suddenly a sound and a man was shoved back-

Ne ellam inga enna panra?
[What are you doing here?]

The man was dressed in crisp white dhoti and a spotless white matching shirt. The man was a watchman. He had come there early that day only to catch a glimpse of the Lord and take His blessings. He was taken aback as were we, dumbstuck! Poor guy denied the opportunity! All this done by a man who looked pretty educated. why? it because he was just a watchman and came form a lower economic strata of the society? Is it a sin to be a watchman? Where is the  dignity of labour taught to us in schools? Imagine a day without these type of workers? We'll witness the roads littered, the toilets smelling, the gutters overflowing and the thieves roaming freely unquestioned. These people may not be like the beautiful music that appeals to everyone but they are like the silence between two musical notes. Sound of music will have no meaning without the silence. In fact the silence is "eternal" and the sound of music "perishable"! They are like the space in which a beautiful piece of art exists but everyone sees only the art and not the space. But that does not mean it does not exist!

Ironically the watchman's name was "Perumal"!

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