Caste and color in urban India
October 19, 2009 · Print
When cities become the cultural centrality of Indian civilization, the caste lose their preponderance, more solidly established in rural India. In large cities or Euro-American-Indian-everyday personal contacts are much more flexible and less identity. With a mere visual or a brief exchange transaction services, no way to assign a person to Rajput caste, however powerful sense of belonging or my desire to find out. The breed does not leave marks and ethnic operates as a magma that exceeds linguistic, regional gaps, and in some cases, religious and labor. So be diluted when no longer useful. But this really intuitive except that the undersigned a significant proportion of Indian sociologists not mean it will disappear inequality and, at a stroke.
In recent years, the Indian elite boasts that its purchasing and cultural 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 social class segregation (! Hear me if Lenin), the traditional cleavage between the rich and the poor, more attentive to the disquisitions of pocket Cot consumption and chivalry. I checked this in full last party Dashera, advocacy of good over evil. Each year, the authority of the neighborhood riding a makeshift stage, with hundreds of deck chairs and three devils giant bobbleheads that will direct the faller pyre once the concrete god Ram's victory over the demon Ravana.
The sum of theatrical, religious paraphernalia and burning lousy end, the result is the typical human flood that colors every religious festival in India. But this time there were guards watching over and selectively course requiring a free ticket. This I knew then, I spent the makeshift barrier without knowing anything about the story. Seeing how respectable is organized, I began to understand what was happening: the park was filled with "kameez" silk young children in jeans and maid. And against the fence, huddled struggling to see something the caste of servants noisy teenagers with loud clothes, saris bad material, ie, people with apegotado repeinada bathing in tubs hair without shampoo bottle.
The guards, rather than organize access, were separating the wheat from the chaff, the commander of India which does not count, with the excuse of a ticket to me or asked me because there was.'s That you do not have sleazy he even told me a neighbor with an argument of night joint. This is India, my son. It is true that with the waiting time, the alert guardian relaxed and the brightest 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, 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 boss: "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 by their ornate clothes, rough lines unequivocally low designs, and also darker skin, working in the sun, used as errand boys, chauffeurs, 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 today's India's northern cities, the visual gap is not varna, but mostly clothing and sunglasses, according to the highly valued smooth complexion walks no high-whitening creams in each toilet for this fight constantly and complexion Agromán people salary below 100 euros, which is so prohibited from entering the malls as the mention of its existence in India of the "success story", that is, the version that elites strive to sell abroad and thus be taken seriously in international forums.
"In India, 'said the other day sociologist Dipankar Gupta - the rich depend on the poor. They could not live without them at their level. Take for example the field of information technology, supposedly a success story. They themselves acknowledge that their profits come from scarce labor costs, and based on no technical training tasks. I know you get two big rich dollar tip the hotel porter and angry at the same time when a servant asks a small increase. "
Propaganda campaigns and other books business mantra, 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 draw the line at $ 2 a day, which is 75.6 percent of the Indian population does not passes: 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 relates to the Indian model. As Gupta himself recalls in his book "The caged phoenix", this way of measuring poverty is a sad understatement because what marks the line is whether 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 is not only in poverty, but of sheer starvation. That is, for better or worse, starving.
In the city, yet still shelter the fourth world, the situation is not as dramatic and urgent and the most impoverished rural areas. The bulk of the Indian growth in the post-reform years it has taken the top of the pyramid, ie, manufacturing and service sector companies. But this does not mean that the urban poor are not subjected to a brutal drama. In full party Dashera knew the very illustrative story of one of the ironers in the area: I was lucky or unlucky enough to give birth to a girl white skin, so appreciated-girls skinned feature presupposes them a better future and positioned further consideration social-husband that her neighbor abducted her and tried to snatch it away until the police intervened to bring peace and nothing else.
Tion to something else: a few days after the party in the park, I was able to witness what kind of plague afflicting the police. It was night market and was walking patrol agents stationed along the stalls specializing in Firecrackers Diwali (the festival of lights). At ten hours, closing time, a whispered discussion between vendors-all women, coming and going quietly agitated and one of the agents, discreetly supported on a pole next to the road was filed. "They ask me one of them confessed-500 rupees for an hour let us continue to sell." Living up to the reputation crushing police among the poor, the main victims of corruption and bribery, one passed a bill in his pocket, policeman surnamed Bhardwaj (nameplate), the After another survivor.
The power of the agents of neighborhood-tanned skin in the sun, to be exact-reach people in the neighborhood: the police never talk the same way to the white tigers that daily wages subject to their masters. Rich and poor are closely connected, but social segregation is the caliber that separates the citizen subject, certainly with the occasional hiatus elections: some out of the malls, the others remain faithful-they can choose-your dusty "dhabas" of teas to five rupees.
A big-country is rightly indignant scholars-is much more than the class gap is reduced to a simplistic dichotomy of rich and poor. Okay, because wealth inequality explains only a part of India, but is of fundamental importance: the castes, religions, languages, dimes and regional diretes operate inside India and underlying organization of the country. Also classes: but also add that to the outside are the wealthy, among whom the powerful diaspora who act as ambassadors of the country, because with his closest West uses to manage its national strategy story is told.
Let me explain with an example: shortly after arriving in India, I 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 won the World Cricket, today we got to the moon , everyone admires the power of India, poverty-les is to say- 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 feature of the landscape with carrying one coexisting ("closely connected" ) from birth, and therefore, in general it is not material-news. What to expect-come-say is that India is already a success story.
The great paradox of the Indian elite in this regard is that, while practicing a wild social dumping within its borders and take advantage of the low cost of the maid in the kitchen and the buttons of the company, try to mute or turn down the noise of its existence and of the hundreds of millions of poor people who are still in the country. The minister of Interior-before-Finance Palaniappan Chidambaram, juggling came to say that India is not a poor country, but a country where "the bulk of the population is poor." I also said, I agree that if the administration added to 200 or 300 million people a productive market, the country's gross domestic product will shoot. The dilemma is whether to do the authorities will start sending tickets to white tigers for the next theatrical role. Because until now, the best way I still have the servants to enjoy the party is throwing firecrackers of Diwali purchased by the master, that his heir have fun safely.