Monday, May 08, 2006

Chandalika & the Caste Drama

Chandalika is a dance drama written by Rabindranath Tagore back in 1933. I was watching it on TV last night and found that it is perhaps as relevant now as it was in 1933.

It's a story of a girl named Prakriti, who is ostracized by the society and lives on its edges. She does not understand the consequences of her birth into a family which is regarded as 'untouchable'. She watches wistfully from the shadows as the world passes her by as even her shadow was inauspicious, the sweet meat vendor, the bangle seller and the flower girls all shunned her existence. One day a Buddhist monk appeared and asked her for some water to quench his thirst, he brushed aside her hesitance and said God made all men equal and her origins were inconsequential and proceeded to drink water offered by her.

The 'caste system' sometimes rears its ugly head during matrimonial alliances but otherwise it’s quite forgotten - at least in urban India. Now with the fresh wave of proposed reservations in education institutions like IIT and IIM, we are reminded again of the antiquated concept of 'castes' and discrimination on the basis of religion.

Now if we extrapolated the Chandalika situation to education and reservation, things are quite simple. Education is the 'water' to be given to one and all irrespective of his or her origins. Unfortunately, money and not caste or religion, is a limiting factor. Some students may be brilliant (no matter what caste or religion they belong to) but have limited financial resources to consume premium education. If reservations are necessary then they should be modeled in a different way which helps such students to gain education on basis of merit.

Obviously the creators of such preposterous plans are some dim witted politicians and political parties who have their own agendas to pursue and think that there are even dim(mer) witted people out there who'll just accept their diktat as manna from heaven. Before India can truly compete at a global level we still have many such seemingly ridiculous problems to solve at the grass roots.

14 comments:

Sandeep Meher said...

there was a fantastic 'films division' short film on chandalika which used to be aired on doordarshan long back (15-18 yrs back). i still remember it, such was the impression. now, many of those short films can make a good subject for a blog :-)
btw, here are my views on the reservation debate

The Comic Project said...

Chatterbai - If education is water, then IIT and IIM education will be evian mineral water na? Anyway, this stupidity won't stop unless these quotas are rejected by the ones who are supposed to benefit from them.

Achtlandia said...

lol...u wont believe I was just watching a ultra-artistic-meant-to-be-very-slick rendition of chandalika just last night! But recall the end...it all comes together, and knowledge does win, rather, the thirst for knowledge wins over the whole caste funda. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. Let’s just hope knowledge wins out here as well … (just so tired of ranting about the whole reservation thingy… :-)

Albatross said...

@TCP : I doubt if that would ever happen...who in India denies free benefits? Also, the politicians would probably make sure that this goes through...

@ichatteralot : Sorry for being away these days...I was just pretending to be working and not being on the bench ;-)

ichatteralot said...

@Sandeep: I have watched umpteen renditions in the durga pujas every year and the connection seemed worth exploring!

@TCP: Even I take advantage of the 'ladies seat' when I am tired so I dont think thats gonna happen soon...

@Achtlandia: Maybe we watched the same show as this post is kinda inspired by the story! I know - its hackneyed but could not resist a pot shot!

@Albatross: Welcome back, as long as you are pretending - its fine. I am tired of pretending now!

indianpeppone said...

Sorry for the hiatus... but am back on full throttle now. :-)

But I dont totally subscribe to the view that Quotas will harm India's growth... The economy is too capitalistic and meritocritic.... it will balance itself.... but the achivers who will miss the bus due to this will b the only losers

Kausum said...

I would like to disagree with you on one point. "Politicians are dim-witted". They are not, they are as sly as ever.

They with their years of corruption have failed to provide basic primary education or uplift standards of them to the rural population. This is their way of appeasement else their 'kursi' will be in danger. We see a rise in people demanding basic needs now and the politicians know how to save themselves. 'Survival of the Slyest'.

The quotas has to be rejected by us, by showing that doing this will cause trouble to the kursi of all politicians. Have a 100% electorate on voting day in all cities against it and reject that preposterous idea. It will not be rejected by the ones benefitting. Human nature is to be selfish.

As Rajiv Gandhi said during the Mandal Commission report proceedings to VP Singh in the parliament. "You are going to divide my country, I will not allow that".

@TCP: I dont believe IIT is Evian Mineral Water. ANd it may so happen that I am the only person saying that in the entire country. But let me reason it out. I believe, IIT should be the quality of water as everyone has it. What invention in its 60 years of history has it done? - None - Give me a pathbreaking scientific breakthrough acheived by a premier institute know world over. - None -

It may have given rise to Vinod Khosla etc .. but aint they good managers. A technical insitute is for progress of science.A managerial institute is for developing leaders. Think about it.

Compare IIT to an undergrad program in MIT and you will come to know, it is the water which should be the standard. It is not Evian Water.

Albatross said...

@Kausum : Although I agree almost to everything you said, we have to keep in mind that we still are a developing nation. Even though we have loads of talent, the opportunities that we get are still limited. I am sure there will be a day when we would start contributing to important inventions in science or whatever field.

@chatterbai : I finally managed to put down something today...hope to keep it up regularly now on :)

rishabh_flop_ruler said...

reservation is wrong. there has been enough discussion on it. financial assistance is a better option.

Sue said...

Did you know that in colleges down South they have 'Caste Picnics', where all the students and professors of the organising caste get together? It's supposed to be a good way to break the ice.

ichatteralot said...

@Indianpeppone: Welcome back! I hope you had fun while youwere away.

@Kausum: Agree on all points. Hopefully, politics in India will take a new turn with IIT-ians forming a party. We need more educated and sane people.

@Albatross: Good - keep writing!

@Rishabh: Agree and agree. Hope the fresh wave of reservations will not be implemented

@Sue: Omigosh! But yes down south caste is a big thing. If you notice, in udipi joints the ppl who serve are brahmins and ppl who clear away are from lower castes.

Babois said...

Sandeep, the Films Division short film is now on line at mms://216.185.51.162/rajiv/fd/wmv/1260_chandalika_128k.wmv

durgalakshmi said...

iam reading CHANDALIKA as my INDIAN ENGLISH PIECE

Anonymous said...

you have started out with chandalika but have missed the point of both the play and the reservation system in india. the blog and the comments that follow all show how sleek and sweepy are the upper caste cum class's views are on the issue