Identity and pride - My allegations

I made this post in a 'Gounder community' in Orkut. I thought it's worth sharing here (as I know it's going to remain dormat if I left just in Orkut). The initial set of posts were to question the idea of 'Gounder pride' that most of the members there seemed to endorse. On a larger perspective my questions/points apply to any pride in general. Here goes...

I don't know what people mean when they say "proud to be a gounder" or any body/community that is too generic and encompasses good and bad (sometimes horrendous) things in equal proportion. Try to explain what makes a gounder? (we are not Dalmatian dogs, we don't get 'spots' in our body by birth so that we can feel proud about something we got by birth).
What are attributes that one would use to identify a person just by his behaviour? And how often have you identified someone as gounder without actually asking that person?

I feel good about being Gounder because of the following,
1. My family and my 'surroundings' (because they were mostly gounder) taught me how to respect other people (at least when you speak to them).
2. I learnt about "virundhombal" because of the same
3. Gounders usually make good food, and because of that my mother was a good cook and I learnt cooking from her so much that even my friends would say "gounder ootu koli kolambu kalakudhu..."
What else? that's it! I cannot remember anything else that I got just because I was a Gounder.

One the other hand, I have felt bad (and even ashamed) to be a Gounder because
1. The Gounder community for the most part (esp in villages and towns) discriminates fellow human beings based on caste. And even I was taught to treat them like that.
2. Even after moving to cities there is a great deal of condescension toward people from so called inferior castes and are often derogotarily referred to as "palavatra naainga maari..."
3. The community encourages patriarchal ways to upbring girls and imbue gender inferiority in their minds. Pardon my candor but most of gounder women are socially inept because of this. And then we complain about them "being dumb".
4. Class inequality that is virtually never addressed in any of the Kongu meetings. I think this is the issues that they could have taken up easily and openly (because of the top level members still belong to "old" generation and they really believe in "Gounder superiority" and "manliness in everything).

To explain point 4, Gounder community, from my observation, encourages an attitude to put economic development above everything else. We can witness the "heat" if I may, in marriages; the way people from various social strata "bitch" about each other. I started hating marriage funtions as they were hardly an occassion for fellow relatives to get together and celebrate the unification of two people/families. They are for the most part "bitch fests" where everyone is trying hard to flaunt what they have or hide what they don't have.
5. Resistance to inter-caste marriage. Because of points 1 and 2 endogamy is propagated as the best way to get married. Some families have gone to the extent of causing severe physical harm (sometimes resulting in death) to the people involved in "love marriages".
In response to point 5 a lot of you might say (many did in the meetings in which I expressed this), inter-caste marriages would result in dilution of the Gounder community.
But my questions: Is it not happening now? Sure people are marrying people who are born for "Gounder people", but does that mean they continue to carry the "Gounder identity"?
And what kind of "Gounder identity" are you trying perpetuate anyway? The one that is full of the points 1 through 5?

Some of you "proud" Gounders might say that all 5 points apply to all communities, so why target ourselves? - Well, if they are common to all so are the first 3 points (Chettinaatu koliyum, Thanjavur Tamil'um much better than ours). Which would mean that there is nothing unique about our community. And what's the point in feeling proud about something that isn't unique at all?

Despite all these shortcomings we are basically soft-natured people. Vettu kuthu kolai rape'nu we are not like southern disctricts and their corresponding castes. We have a decent history of non-violent behavior. So our caste is easier to refine and better ourselves if only we people make the right moves. We need to urge the top level members of the Kongu Nanbar Sangam to take these issues in to consideration and talk about it openly (instead of talking about Dheeran Chinnamalai's valor and a girl who topped the CBSE exams).
That's another thing, in almost all meetings I've been to, they talk about CBSE or IAS or some academic achievement done by a Gounder and say "she/he has made us proud". As if that persons achievement came by because of the "teachings" or lifestyle of the Gounder caste. It's onething to appreciate their achievement but to claim indirect responsibility for their achievement is inappropriate.
I'll stop here and wait for your responses (Oh yeah that's another thing, please think about these issues and post sensibly. It's sad that there are 40 posts to express your "kootam's" name but not in a thread where you explain what it means to belong to a caste (which includes the "kootam").

In response to my post someone by the name Rajkumar said the following,

Suresh and others... These are again my own thoughts and not to target any individual...

1 & 2. Yes it was a case and lets be frank it is still a case, but as Divya mentioned in the other forum, its changing. Like always, I would want to give a benefit of doubt here to ourselves. Like nature/person or anything a community constantly evolves. And I strongly believe that we have evolved as a strong and close knit society. Only now, this generation is moving out of our shells and trying to see and explore what the world is all about. And even with that closeness and with education and learning from the world outside our society, we are changing in that spectrum. Its a slow process and one day we would be there no support to this discrimination and the so called caste division will evade in time. However, here we need to be cautious. The other societies are at least the inferior castes also need to pull themselves up. No reservation can change the minds of a people. There are a lot of examples where people from inferior castes have treated people from the superior castes badly. That’s because of the hatred that have carried all along and that is understandable, but not any more.

3. Again you are right here. But again this is changing. Almost all girls that I've known are educated and some 50 % are working. Also, you could see the change in the attitude of the previous generation. When parents seek girls for their boys, these days they look out for girls who are educated and some look out for girls who do work. I understand that this is not the case in all of the rural areas, but its just 10 years from now, when the importance of women educated will be realized completely.

4. I wouldn't necessarily say that we are the only ones who arrange the weddings the way they are now. In fact, even here, we are changing. These days weddings don't happen like what it used to be earlier. Not a 2 day affair or in some cases more than that. People go with their relatives to a temple and have a reception later on. And one more thing that we need to understand here is that the areas we live only these days, being "employed" is considered to be fine. Else we are just a business or an agricultural family and we need to "maintain" our social status. And to be fair enough, economic development is what we all strive far. When the nation is like that we are also bound to be like that. Everything needs money. From food, water (these days) to education, we need money. If our parents didn't mind money, I'm sure you and me wouldn't be sitting in front of a computer and exchanging our views. This I believe cannot be changed as we all are moving or moved already into a materialistic mentality.

5. Inter caste marriage; that’s a debate that will never end. Forget love marriages that are inter caste ones. We face resistance for love marriages between two gounder people. I believe the basic idea of having a wedding within a community is because of the culture and tradition that a community has. When we have an intercaste marriage, its all going to be a different one, not just for the rituals during the wedding, but for the entire life itself. Believe me, its not going to be easy to give away something that you have been brought up with. It’s like loosing one's self. I do believe in a marriage between gounders and that too an arranged one. The reason is very simple; we are not ready yet for that. Probably 50 years down the line when our grand generation comes up with a different attitude, things might probably change.

Seeing my replies, it might imply that I'm trying to argue with Suresh on this. No. I'm not at all. I honestly agree with all the points that Suresh has put forth here. But these are not negatives to me. These are all the tradition that people have created and I believe every tradition was created for a reason. But that does not mean that a tradition created in 1300 should be followed even now. My problem with our community is the attitude that we all carry as a community. We are very slow to the changes even though we know that those are inevitable.

....(removed a small portion that is not quite relate to the discussion)....


Priya said...

Hi Suresh,

Ok, i found out what the D word is. I didn't know how it was spelt but i came across the word in the wiki links you gave. Thanks for that. Its 'Dalit.' That's the D word. Not Dramatic;) Haha... It's ok. Thanks for leaving such long comments in my blog. I read you posts on 'Indentity and Pride.' Quite good.

Have you watched the movie Desam? Or the hindi movie Swades? It depicts the life of the villagers as you have said. The gounders, the untouchables, so-called forward and backward castes. If you have not, you ought to see the movie. It's really a nice movie, eventhough i have my share of criticisms on it.


Suresh said...

hey Priya,

I didn't see you had left a comment here. I'm surprised you haven't come across the word 'Dalit' before, must have been totally kept away from mainstream politics when you were in India.

I haven't seen 'Swades' yet, I heard it's an ok movie, would try it some time :).

Priya said...

Hi Suresh,

Of course, you didn't see because it was one of your old posts. I am commenting on your old posts, podcasts and so on because for me this is the first time i'm reading or listening to your comments and views. But for you it's quite old.

I've never shown any interest in politics when i was younger. That is partly true even now. No wonder i didn't know about the word 'Dalits' even until now. But interestingly, today we had a discussion on an essay topic that brought up issues on the allocation of 50% of seats in universities for the lower castes. The essay topic was ''We don't accept; we only tolerate.' Is this an accurate reflection of our attitudes towards the less privileged?' It was an interesting essay topic that came out in my preliminary exam, which was 2 weeks ago.

In case you are wondering, how caste-based reservation connects to this essay topic, here is the connection: We were discussing about the less privileged people, who are mainly those who are discriminated against. And then we went into how sometimes the minorites/discriminated people do not necessarily have to be less privileged and how the government is trying to integrate these people into the society through various social and educational campaigns. And then we went into examples. That was how the caste reservation thing was brought up. It was an excellent example to use in this essay.

There was also an interesting point brought up in this discussion. While the government is willing to give employment to the physically disabled, so as to integrate them into the society and to give them equal opportunities as the rest of the citizens, it does not implement the same treatment to the mentally disabled. These mentally disabled might have the ability to do the job but yet they are marginalized. This is evident in Singapore. So therefore, we accept people when they are 'useful' to the society/company/whatever and not accept them when they don't have any use for us. Do you think that this argument is flawed? Or is it true to a certain extent?

You can mail me regarding this, if you do not want to reply to me here. Hope you know my email add. Pardon me for such a long comment.

Anonymous said...

I simply hope your blog will reach out to as many Gounders as possible especially to the parent community. It is high time Gounders realize the other community are becoming powerful (love, building relationship, friends annd trust) through intercaste marriages. I have sister in laws and brother in laws frm other community except Gounder. I dated a Gounder guy from a well educated family but alas we discovered after 5 years of dating that our marriage was impossible because I am not a Gounder. When will they realize???? other communities are looking down on Gounders please change and be humane.

Anonymous said...

These people never change, a father wants his daughter to sacrifice her love since i am not a gounder. he emotionally threatens her that he would commit suicide. Oorula 4 peru naalu vidhama pesuvanga solluranga la, avan kudumbam ellam nasama poganum, total family therula ninnu pichai edukanum. and for the above people info i am not a dalit, i to belong to backward community as gounders.

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