This is an honest question – do people still care about caste in today’s world? A person I know was asked about their caste recently from an otherwise well educated, “progressive” seeming person. The question came out of the blue from nowhere! “What’s your name? Where do you stay? What’re your hobbies? What’s your caste?”
Whoa, hold on there – back up!
I remember watching the movie Aarakshan a few years back and in that, a candidate is repeatedly asked and mocked about their caste. In job interviews no less! And all the while I was thinking to myself “Does this really happen?” So for those who know how things work and what the state affairs is today, please help a person who’s completely “out of the loop” to understand the answers to the following questions:
- Do people still care about caste?
- If so, why?
- How do you know what another person’s caste is? It’s not as if people go around holding plaquards.
- If the only clue to caste is the name, why don’t people simply change their name?
- If in a village everyone knows your caste, then won’t moving to the city end all these questions?
As far as I know, caste is invisible. While it can be difficult or impossible for a person of another race to change their skin color or features, there doesn’t seem to be anything stopping a person from simply “promoting” themselves into a higher caste. If you think your caste is low and want a better life, simply start calling yourself a Brahmin (or whatever the super duper caste is supposed to be) and you should be cool! What stops people from doing this? There must be something I’m missing or caste won’t be such a big deal.
To the best of my knowledge, caste is not something enforced by the government. Like if today I’m a Sikh and tomorrow I want to convert to Buddhism, no one is stopping me. How is caste different? Why would anyone willingly choose to be called a lower caste, face insults every day, be denied admission to schools or whatnot and not just upgrade themselves?
In my 31 years of life, no one has ever asked for my caste, and even if they did I wouldn’t know how to respond. Obviously there seem to be some people who care a great deal. From all accounts, many marriages and other important social events seem to be heavily influenced by it.
But I must admit that the matter is completely beyond my understand. Can anyone help me figure it out?