In India and among the Indian Diaspora, there are different stories. They invariably tell of dejection and rejection, disgust, pain and agony. Very few people understand the ramification of falling in love outside the boundaries of one’s own bira-dari. The Indian media is replete with the consequential stories of assaults, traumas, violence, murders etc.
Such a story was made into a dramatic movie as far back as 1936 with Ashok Kumar playing the role of Pratap, the Brahmin son of the grocer Mohan and Devika Rani playing the character of Kasturi, the Untouchable daughter (The Ugly Duckling) of the railway level-crossing guard Dukhia portraying the ramifications resulting from the dangerous love affair of a young couple.
That film was made before the independence of mother India. We have travelled a long road since then. Gigantic progress has been made in almost every walk of life. It’s about two hundred years as well since the Girtmiyas (indenture labourers) had been taken to former colonial countries where their children have covered wonderful economic, social and political milestones. They have particularly excelled on the educational front.
But what has, in India and among the Indian Diasporas, changed in their attitude towards marriage outside their respective caste boundaries? The Indian media is replete with atrocities and assaults on such cross border liaisons whether they be from poor illiterate or rich educated folks across India from north to south, from east to west. Rather than declining, the social evils seem to increase.
In the contemporary world of Hinduism while there is a Sanskritisation process at work promoting the principle of a unitary Hindu identity, caste conflicts demonstrate the deep genetic divisions imposed by the institution of caste since time immemorial which no power will be able to eliminate. History demonstrates the failure of great souls like Lord Gautama Buddha to liberate the society from the stigma who has successfully illuminated Indo-China where his disciples, teachings and philosophy continue to blossom and prosper.
It is a general belief that the British partitioned India. This is a fallacy as the Indians were deeply divided before their arrival. Caste was a breeding soil for foreign religions to root and grow since many centuries. It is caste that has created Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is not a paradox that the equality and hierarchical parity which the proselytizing Muslims preached and promised never redeemed the converts. The caste hierarchy rather followed them in their new religions and homelands.
Caste follows from womb to tomb whether one converts or not.
The people of India are the descendants of a multitude of races. Nobody quite knows how many languages and dialects are spoken in India. Racial, linguistic and religious divisions are deeply embedded in the Indian mind.
The individual is of little importance in the Hindu society. What matters is religion and for further identification, village of birth, caste and profession. This is the legacy of multiple invasions over thousands of years, the pride and prejudice of some and the tribulations of others.
Was not the practice of burning of the widow (Sati) on the dead husband’s pyre, outlawed in 1829, a legacy of hatred and racial discrimination without any religious justification unparalleled in human history?
The Indian Cottage
Among the Scythians, it was a custom to bury the dead king with his mistresses or wives, servants and other things so that they could continue to serve him in the next world. When these Scythians arrived in India, they adopted the Indian system of funeral, which was cremating the dead. And so instead of burying their kings and their servants they started cremating their dead with his surviving lovers. They perhaps introduced this practice because they did not want the native population to take those lovers as wives or mistresses and to procreate any children in their zeal to keep the purity of their race.
The French author Bernadain de St Pierre has immortalized the love story of Paul and Virginie inspired by the ship wreck, St Geran, that took place in the east coast of Mauritius, which is also the name of one of the most beautiful resort hotels of the world. In his book written on India – The Indian Cottage – beautifully but awfully and horrendously depicted the meeting of a Paria and a Young beautiful Brahmin woman in a cemetery. The woman, who observing her rituals makes offerings to her departed mother, having set herself aflame along with her old dead husband and lamenting her own imminent death, due to the fact, that she had, like her mother, been married to an old dying man of her caste. They both ultimately run away to an unknown destination and raise a family.
The Future lies in Mélange
We cannot do away with the great diverse traditions, manners, habits, tastes and customs. Each and every region of the country portrays different customs and traditions. But though we speak different languages yet we are all Indians. 'Unity in Diversity' has been the chanting song of our culture.
Recent history is testimony that people from every different community joined together in the struggle for freedom as one army because at that time there were towering stalwarts and patriots to inspire and guide them. The aftermath created clans, tribes and dynasties all bent to grab the spoils of freedom without tending the social fabric and giving rise to electoral bank votes, breaking the nation into pieces.
Both the political leadership and the religious body need to understand that the survival of India depends on Mélange, on sharing, on cohabitation. They need to rewrite the history of India and teach the new generation that future lies in the past where everyone was interdependent and humanity is but one.