Thursday, November 29, 2007

Need for self-realization

So do they still have caste system in India?
Why do they have that in India?
Which caste do you belong to?
Yes, I like India you know? Buddhism was founded there. I am a follower of the teachings of Buddha. I know a lot about India.. The caste system too.

These are some comments I get when I mention about my country. Everyone who is aware of India will be aware of caste system in India. Another interesting thing is that though Americans are not aware of the number of Indians in their country, they do know about caste system. They might not even locate where India is on the map but would be able to talk about caste system. This is not just the case of the students but also the teachers. They have half-baked knowledge about this system but talk about it very confidently. I was getting tired of explaining them that caste system was not present in the ancient ages. But it was a creation of the middle ages wherein the divisions created as per the knowledge or skill of a person were supposed to help the society. The ones having extensive knowledge were revered and had the task of creating great literature. The ones who were strong and aggressive were given the responsibility of guarding the country/territories. The one who were shrewd were trading and opening businesses. The ones who were did not have nay of the above were there to provide services to the people by doing menial jobs and manual labor. However, these divisions were based on the individual skills of a person but later were passed to the progeny. No one ever mentions that when they talk about caste system in India. Many of them still think that this country is full of snake charmers and bullock carts.

Any ways, I am not writing this to criticize the western media but to reprimand our fellow Indians. I had never in my life experienced and discrimination with regard to my caste/creed/religion. We never decided friends based on their caste /creed/religion. I went to a convent school wherein I used to frequent the church in our campus during the exam times. We as a family used to visit the thombs of some great muslim saints and have a cook out there. Never did we think about segregating ourselves. I never understood why the western media was always writing about the negative aspects of our culture more often. It didn’t make me feel good.

Any ways, during my previous visit to India, I decided to spend some time at my in-laws place. I was astonished as to how prominent role a person’s caste and religion plays in his/her daily life. It was crazy. People liked to mingle with people of the same caste. Even winning elections was a challenge for the ones belonging to the lower castes. You are supposed to befriend a person of your caste and also marry someone from the same caste. It was very bad. I was depressed about the situation.

So who was right? Me trying to defend my culture and my roots or the western media who only potrays the negatives of a culture?
Well, I do not know the answer for this but I for sure know this:
We Indians need to stop this discrimination against our own brothers and sisters. Why do we do this to our fellow countrymen?
Why do you think Indians are more prosperous in other countries than in their own country ? Why can’t we apply our secular attitude towards people of different castes? Why are we so competitive against our own brothers and sisters?
Why do we like to segregate ourselves and destroy our country?
Why are we not progressing when we have great brains, a very ancient civilization with great treasures, a huge manpower, a democracy with all the powers vested in all the individuals?

Open up your eyes.

Why? Why? Why?

I don’t understand it. Whenever I hear the song “Vandemataram” (any version), I burst into tears. This August, I was in Ongole, attending the Independence Day parade. I was seated just beside my mother-in-law very much in the VIPs’ isle to witness the national celebration. It was a hot day and I needed my shades. The parade kept going on and there was a running commentary going on in my mind some times criticizing the programs and some times appreciating them. However, every time they played the “Vande mataram” song I was unable to hold it together. I just burst into tears. It was good that I had my shades and no one noticed it. But I had to try hard to stop myself.
While there was a presentation by some group, I started analyzing myself:
What is wrong with me? Why am I crying? Is it because I feel so strong about my motherland or is that the song is so emotional that it can make anyone cry? Well, I don’t see anyone crying? Then why am I doing it?

It was tough situation. I was close to the performers. To top it all, my mother-in-law was sitting beside me. Gosh! I did not want her to notice that. I don’t want her to feel sorry for asking me to accompany her in the celebrations. I didn’t want photographers to click me and make a big deal out of it. You know the paparazzi? Aren’t they crazy some times? Hmm.. What should I do now?
I kept thinking and then an idea struck me. Of course I can do that! I have been having a running commentary of the whole program in my mind trying to criticize/appreciate the different shows. I decided to put in my entire mind on that rather than the song.

I made up my mind and waited to see how my strategy worked. There were these group of kids who sat in the sun for almost 2 hours listening to the never ending speech of the minister and lined up to perform. They might have practiced the steps for days in advance but they barely had 8 minutes to perform. Wow! There you go. Now I can debate on this when they play “Vande mataram” I will be so obsessed with the argument in my mind that I will not have time to cry. Great! I was happy. So I kept working thinking about it till the next group came to present theirs. The dance and the performance of the kids was so good that my mind stopped arguing and got into an intense observation mode. Seems like the organizers did not mind the performance stretching beyond their allotted time. And, as part of the choreography and the steps, they at last played the “Vandemataram” song.
Ohhhh! I couldn’t stop it. My eyes were filled with tears. Now I had to stop them from crossing their boundaries. I immediately started batting my eyelids to dry them up and thinking about the previous performance. The group finished their play. Great! “Good” I told myself. However I was not happy that I could not be myself. I was also not happy that I started acting the way I used to act when I was 6 or 7 years old. I could not see the actors on the screen in sorrow or despair and I would burst out crying like I was the victim.

I remember how I cried and cried and cried when Kamal Hassan was whipped by his uncle in the film Swathimuthyam. My cousin continued to tease me till I was 22 or so. Well, if you remind him of that movie now, I am sure he will start chuckling again. Any ways, so I was now determined to control my emotions and let go off the sentimental feeling towards the song. As the groups kept performing, I tried to engage in their dances or their steps or kept running a commentary in my mind. Most of the times I didn’t have to do that, as they did not play the song. BUT they did play it at least 5 to 6 times. I was able to control myself whenever I diverted my attention to the other things. I was happy. The show was almost coming to an end when a huge group of students came forward to perform on different patriotic songs from the bollywood movies. It was a feast to watch those kids perform in the scorching heat. They were looking so cute dressed up in different costumes. They played some of the old songs and the new patriotic songs. The students moved to those tunes and acted accordingly. It was a feast to the eyes and my mind. It was soo good! Oh no! I couldn’t hold it. I again burst into tears. My tears rolled down the cheeks. I wiped them out and tried hard but couldn’t hold it. Well, I wanted to make sure no one was looking at me. Surprisingly everyone was so involved in the show that they did not notice me. I was able to cry for a few more minutes and wipe my cheeks off the tears.

GOSH! This time I cried when they played other songs. Why am I so emotional towards patriotic songs? Is it a manifestation my patriotism or the nature of these songs on the emotions of a person? I know I love my country but why should I cry? I kept debating about it my mind again. Pretty soon I forgot everything and got back into my routing.

Today while browsing through some of the blogs, I came through the “Vandemataram” song again played using different musical instruments and sung by eminent artists from India. And of course! it was composed by A. R Rehman. While watching the video, the picture suddenly blurred. I knew there was nothing wrong with the screen but my eyes were full again. Tears rolled. I let myself watch it without any inhibitions. I cried and cried and cried.
After calming down, I still don’t understand why I was crying?

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