Caste and color in urban India
October 19, 2009 · Print
As cities become the cultural centrality of Indian civilization, the caste lose their preponderance, more solidly established in rural India. In big cities or Euro-American-Indian-the everyday personal contacts are much more flexible and less identity. With a mere exchange transaction a brief visual or service, no way to assign a person to Rajput caste, however powerful sense of belonging or my desire to find out. The breed is mark ethnic and operates as a magma gaps exceeding linguistic, regional and in some cases, religious and labor. So be diluted when no longer useful. But this truth intuitively if not for the undersigned a significant proportion of Indian sociologists, does not mean it will disappear inequality and, at a stroke.
In recent years, the Indian elite that boasts cultural purchasing power has shortened the distance to the West. And in a sense, they are right: in urban India is much more effective as an instrument of class social segregation (if I heard Lenin!), The traditional cleavage between the rich and the poor, more attentive to the disquisitions of pocket Cradle consumption and chivalry. I checked this in the past squarely Dashera party, advocacy of good over evil. Each year, the authority of the neighborhood assembled a makeshift stage, with hundreds of deck chairs and three gigantic hell cabezones that will direct the pyre faller once the god Ram concrete his victory over the demon Ravana.
The sum for theatrical, religious paraphernalia and lousy burning end, the result is the typical human flood that colors every religious festival in India. But this time there watching guards and requiring step free ticket selectively course. This I learned later-passed the makeshift barrier without knowing anything about the story. Seeing how organized the respectable, I began to understand that what was happening: the park was full of "kameez" silk, jeans and young children with maid. And against the fence, struggling huddled see something caste of servants: the noisy teenagers with loud clothes, the fabric sarees bad, that is, people with hair repeinada apegotado bathing in tubs without shampoo bottle.
The guards, rather than organize access, were separating the wheat from the chaff, commander of India which has not, under the guise of a ticket to me or asked me because there was.'s That you do not have bad looking , a neighbor came to me with an argument of nocturnal den. This is India, my son. It is true that the waiting time, the Guardian Alert relaxed and more savvy kids managed, one way or another (climbing fence, taking the guard) to enter the park and join the fun, without the right to chair. But by then, I had already forgotten the god Ram and I was busy watching the servants and Sita Ram Prasad of New Delhi.
The Ram and Sita who would own the words of Balram, the driver of the novel awarded the British Booker "White Tiger", talking about the shirt of his chief: "It was not like the shirt I would buy in a store. Most of it was empty and white, and had a small design in the middle. I would have bought something very colorful, with lots of words and designs on it. More value for your money ". A white tigers are recognized for their ornate designs clothing lines unequivocal turbulent low price, and also darker skin, to work in the sun, used as errand boys, drivers, cleaners. In all cases, with salaries that cause embarrassment and a life that only rarely rises above the standards of dignity.
The first historical mention of the castes or varnas ("colors") is paramount in the mythical "Rig Veda", songs with more than 3,000 years. But in India's current northern cities, the gap is not varna visual but mostly clothing and sun, depending on soft complexion well valued higher social classes-no bleaching creams in each toilet for this fight and complexion constantly Agromán salary people below 100 euros, which is so prohibited from entering the malls as the mention of its existence in India of the "success story", ie the version that elites strive to sell abroad and thus be taken seriously in international forums.
"In India, 'said the other day the sociologist Dipankar Gupta - the rich depend on the poor. They could not live on their level without them. Take for example the field of information technology, supposedly a success story. They themselves admit that their profits come from scarce labor costs, which are based on no technical training tasks. I know big spenders are two dollar tip the hotel porter while angry when a servant asked a small increase. "
Propaganda campaigns and business mantra books aside, here are the details: according to the World Bank (2005), 41.6 percent of Indians live on less than $ 1.25 a day, the international poverty line (according to the indicator Indian national, the percentage drops to 27.5 percent). The figures are alarming, but we must also put them two clauses. The first is to live with more than $ 1.25 a day does not mean you live with relief. If we put the limit at $ 2 a day, is that 75.6 percent of the Indian population not exceeded: this means that in India, 800 million people live on less than two dollars a day. The "great indian middle class" (great Indian middle class) is less great in a society where only 3 percent of the population owns a car.
The second point refers to the Indian model. As noted by Gupta himself in his book "The caged phoenix", this way of measuring poverty is a sad understatement, because what makes the line is if people can buy enough food to ensure their own survival. This means that 27.5 percent of the population unable to reach the amount set by the standards not only in poverty, but of actual starvation. So, for better or worse, going hungry.
In the city, although shelter the fourth world, the situation is not as dramatic and urgent and in impoverished rural areas. The bulk of Indian growth in postreform years it has taken the top of the pyramid, ie, the manufacturing and the service sector. But this does not mean that the urban poor are not subjected to a brutal drama. In full Dashera party knew very illustrative of the history of one of the area ironers: was lucky or unlucky enough to give birth to a girl with very white skin, a feature much appreciated-to light-skinned girls they presuppose a future husband better positioned and more social consideration that her neighbor abducted her and tried to snatch it away, until police intervened to bring peace and nothing else.
Lie, for something more: a few days after the party in the park, I had occasion to witness what kind of plague afflicting the police. It was night market and walked Patrol agents stationed along the stalls, specialists in the firecrackers of Diwali (the festival of lights). At ten in the evening, closing time, are engaged in a whispering-selling discussion among all women, in a restless silently come and go, and one of the officers, discreetly supported on a pole next to the road. "They ask, I confessed one of them-500 rupees for an hour to let us continue selling". True to the police demolishing the poor reputation, main victims of corruption and bribery, one passed a bill to pocket police, surnamed Bhardwaj (by the board), the After another survivor.
The power of the agents of neighborhood-tanned in the sun, to be exact-reach people in the neighborhood: the police do not ever speak the same way to the white tigers daily wages subject to their masters. Rich and poor are closely connected, but social segregation is the gauge that separates the citizen subject, true that the occasional parentheses elections: some out of the malls, the others remain faithful-no choice-their dusty "dhabas" of teas to five rupees.
A large country-are rightly indignant scholars-is much more than the class gap is reduced to a simplistic dichotomy of rich and poor. Okay, the reason of wealth inequality explains only a part of India, but is of fundamental importance: the castes, religions, languages, regional bickering operate inside India and underpin the organization of the country. Also classes: but also added that for the outside are the wealthy-between who has the very powerful diaspora who act as ambassadors of the country because its closest to the West uses handle its national narrative strategy.
Let me explain with an example: shortly after arriving in India, I was surprised the hocus-pocus of the Anglophone press, which is using (use) the West to take the pulse of the country. On the street, I saw streams of people struggling for survival, the constant recourse to the tricks of Lazarillo de Tormes. But the media were far more occupied customary events taking place in the cavalcade: Yesterday we won the World Cup Cricket, today we got to the moon , everyone admires the power of India, poverty-that-is lacking an invention of Pakistan to destabilize the country. Then I realized the trick: for many readers (readers elite, which are expressed in English), poverty has become part of the props, is a landscape element with which one has coexisting ("closely connected" ) from birth, and therefore generally not material-news. What you need to tell, come to say-is that India is already a success story.
The great paradox of the Indian elite in this regard is that, while practicing a savage social dumping within its borders and take advantage of the low costs of the maid in the kitchen and the buttons of the company, while trying to mute or lower the noise of its existence and of the hundreds of millions of poor people in the country still. The minister of Interior before Finance Palaniappan Chidambaram, came to juggling say that India is not a poor country, but a country in which "the bulk of the population is poor". Also said I agree with you-that if the administration added to 200 or 300 million people into productive, the country's gross domestic product will shoot. The dilemma is whether to do start sending officials to the White Tigers tickets for the upcoming theatrical feature. Because until now, the best way for the servants still enjoy the party is pulling Diwali Firecrackers purchased by the master, that his heir have fun safely.