Identity and pride - New revelations


This is the second post on this topic, please go through the first post you'll find below titled 'Identity and pride - My allegations'.

In reply to Rajkumar's replies I made some posts which were in a way revelations to myself, especially about the idea that I had about my identity and a firm 'self'. I've come realize that both are amorphous concepts and fundametally fluid. Yet many of us treat the idea of 'self' like it's some rigid thing that lies within our tangible senses.

{{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....There are a lot of examples where people from inferior castes have treated people from the superior castes badly.}} - This is generic rosy blur of a response. I'm talking about racism and you're talking about hatred of a different kind. Did the so called inferior caste people treat the so called superior castes "badly" because of racial supremacy? (btw you might want to refrain from using the terms inferior or superior castes. If you did at least try to add a disclaimer that they have no status value and just referred for textual convenience). You're quoting isolated incidents in contrast with a well established practice that has been in existence for centuries. If Islamic terrorists injure Hindus in Kashmir it's not because they think Hindus are racially inferior, but because they have serious ideological differences with the Hindus - that is racialism (different from racism).

All of us know that in time everything will change, but it's the question of how long? An injury that is not medically treated (whichever method you choose) may heal too, but in its own time. If we truly believe in equality let the Kongu Nanbargal Sangam (KNS - the largest representative group for Gounders) publicly denounce the practice of caste supremacy in all villages and towns. Let them condemn any act of subjugation based on caste and promise to take serious actions against them. Let them get assurance from "oor-periya gounder" of each village that he won't tolerate casteist practices by anyone in his village. Would the KNS do that?

{{...that is understandable, but not any more.}} - You are talking about the condtion in urban settings. Because I've done some research in this area, I can show you with statistical evidence that more than 95% of villages in TN still practice untouchability and other such casteist crimes (including those in the Gounder dominated belts - Dindigul, Karur, Coimbatore, Udumulapet, Erode etc). Forget about human rights reports, even from my personal experience I can tell you the situation in villages is no where near "not any more".

Even if KNS announces as I said, it wouldn't necessarily ameliorate the condition of the so called lower caste people, but it will be a symbolic gesture from our side; an apology wouldn't hurt either. But would we do it? I don't think so. In the congregations that I have expressed this I've been severely criticised saying "idhellam nadakkara kadhaya?". I'm talking about tangible bodies here, not some abstract fluid institution that has no particular form or shape.

{{4. I wouldn't necessarily say that we are the only ones who arrange the weddings the way they are now.}} – That’s exactly my point, and remember I had said this too?

--quote--
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.
--unquote--

I brought that point up in reply to some of the people who were talking about "our" marriage rituals, when marriages these days are dominated by factors that I mentioned earlier. There are so many 'informal', 'out-of-tradition' things that happen in our marriages that make you wonder if those rituals are even being noticed by anone let alone understand them.

{{And to be fair enough, economic development is what we all strive far.}} - Nope, that's a generalization, that's what most of us strive for.

Anyway I just wanted to establish that idea the we are no different from others when it comes to marriage and class/status differentiation. Since you've agreed, I'll move on.

{{I believe the basic idea of having a wedding within a community is because of the culture and tradition that a community has.}} -- The sole purpose behind my initial posts is to deconstruct your assumption here, especially with regard to Gounders. What exactly is our "culture" and "tradition"? How would one explain "Gounder culture or Gounder tradition". Of course I don't expect you to list them here, but from the Gounder history that I have read and analysed there is little that is specific to "our people" and some of those are not worth mentioning at all.

{{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.}} - Here you go with your assumption again. I just established here that our marriage rituals are not that different from those of the other castes. Even if they are different, people hardly pay attention to them. Even if paid any attention people hardly understand them. Even if they understood them most of the rituals don't make any sense because they are being carried for generations totally devoid of context (in reply to your point about "reason"). That aside, I also showed how rituals are overshadowed by "materialistic" displays that as you agreed are common for many castes these days.

And what exactly are Gounder children "brought up with" that Nadar, Chettiyar, Mudhaliyar etc and as some call themselves "casteless" people seem to miss when they bring up their children? Differences exist among all individuals in varying degrees. Don't we have friends/room-mates from other castes? The only difference between your friends/room-mates and your spouse is that you have an emotional attachment with your spouse that is partly sexual (and of "committed" economic dependence or interdependence). And this emotional attachment (often called love), in my opinion, supersedes the frivolities of "how I drink my coffee out of a tumbler" or "If I lick my fingers when I'm eating curd rice" or "If I wash my plates after eating" and/or many more things that are collectively called as "culture". If one cannot see beyond those little things that I mentioned, I don't know if that person is capable of loving someone at all.

If we are to shy away from the idea of iter-caste marriages just because of these so called differences, consider this: Could there possibly be a difference more serious than the one that exists between men and women? Like the famous saying "Men are from Mars and women are from Venus", differences exist in you as a member of a gender. Going by that idea men and women shouldn't even be marrying each other, but we do, don't we?

The idea of one's self is very murky and sometimes void. Self is nothing but a construction of an individual's perceptions built on reflecting his/her notions and ideas on various people and places under different circumstances. And this construction need not always be "right" or "wrong" and personally I don't have a strong attachment to such a self that is a result of several encounters whose gravity and morality that I'm not always sure of. This construction goes on in a continuum, for you cannot say "Now that I'm 20, I have a self and I won't let anything change it no matter what".

About arranged marriages -- I'm not going to say which one is the best (or better), because the very notion of debating over which method is the better offends me. Marriage is a personal issue and the individuals decide how they want to do it (if they want to do it at all). Even when I argue that we should be more liberal towards inter-caste marriages I wouldn't say we should all do it or that's the best way to get married. For example, a lot of us don't drink, but not because we're afraid of our parents but because we choose not to. So, though I don't drink I expect my parents to give me that "freedom" to choose. The same way, our community can preach all it wants, about the "merits" of 'arranged endogamous marriages', but the concerned individual should decide. And when a decision is made it should be respected and not be seen as an outcast.

You say things will change in 50 years, but nothing changes just because of time's progression (except physical entities). Things change because new ideas are put forth and over a period of time more people accept it and eventually as a society the idea is adopted. So it's our responsibility (especially if you favour the change) to talk about it openly, discuss it debate or even fight it. Attitudes are not formed just like that, attitudes--like I had said about formation of the self--are formed based one's environment and his experience with it (books, TV, conversations with friends, internet chat, all these are parts of one's environment).

In fact this is one of the reasons why we haven't changed a lot over so many years. Because we think we have a Gounder identity and try to maintain it regardless of what is right or wrong in it. We don't want to be less casteist or less patriarchal because it would mean losing the "Gounder identity".

{{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.}} - Sure every tradition has a reason however silly it may be. To take an example, the ritual of tying plantain trees in front of marriage halls and other places has a "reason" behind it (to wish the couple further their generations, "rich, lush and green"). But the reason itself cannot be the justification of a ritual, can it? Meaning, did all marriages that did this ritual end up being "successful"? I'm not a so called pagutharivu-vadhi who's against all rituals, because on a larger economic perspective all these are meant to employ various sections of the people (for economic and entertainment reasons). So I have nothing against rituals and tradition as long they don't trample your personal rights.

The crux of my argument is either develop attributes that we all can be proud about or accept that there is no single generic identity that encompasses all the people who belong to the Gounder clan. And as I had said there's no point in discussing these things here, especially the one about casteism. First there aren't enough people in entire Orkut tree to influence the KNS to come out with a resolution condemning casteist practices on the name of tradition. In KNS' official website they say this -- "It does not intend to instill communal feelings or grudge against other communities." If they really meant this they would address this issue in detail in any of the annual meetings, but so far they haven't, nor have they in regional meetings that I have known of. When I was in India I made sure I would attend as many meetings as possible (and talk whenever I got a chance), I think more people should take it up as a responsibility. I'll post more later.

***end of post***

Leaving aside the specifics of my argument (about Gounders and KNS) I wonder if any Caste based organization has apologized for the atrocities their caste people have done in the past (and still doing). True, the apology is not going to erase their pain, but it would at least aknowledge it. I'll wait and see if I get any comments at all.



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)....

 
©2009 english-tamil