Thursday, August 08, 2013

Same-(sub)caste marriage is no longer the default. Yay!!!

"Finally, a wedding invitation" father said when I called up my parents the other day.  The drought of no invites this season is over for him!  Given his earlier complaint, he will surely take this one.

"It is at perhaps the most expensive hall in Chennai" he added. It is a different world out there.  A wedding is no simple thing.  The more affluent and well-connected the parents are, the grander is the celebration.  Wedding invitations go out in the hundreds. It does not matter at all that the bride and the groom would not even know even five percent of the people at their wedding.  Well, hey, I guess the bride and groom do not care either because they aren't paying for the expenses anyway ;)

So, father gave me the details on the venue.  The location--which I don't really comprehend, given that I have never been a resident of Chennai.  The number of parking spaces--it is now a big thing, understandably so with so many people owning cars.  The capacity of the dining halls--one for vegetarians and another for the non-veg people.

My parents have been invited by the groom's grandfather, who is an old colleague of father's. I asked father if he had any idea of the bride's people from the information in the invitation.

"All I know is it is not an inter-religious marriage because all the names are Hindu names" he replied.  He added that it could be an all-brahmin wedding, or an inter-caste wedding.

This is simply a fantastic measure of how things are rapidly changing in India.  It is no longer a given that a Tamil Brahmin will be marrying a Tamil Brahmin.

Over the years, my parents have attended quite a few weddings where the brahmins they know or are related to were marrying non-brahmins, or non-Tamils, or non-Hindus.

It surely is not my grandfather's India, not even my father's.  It is a brand new India where, to quote Rabindranath Tagore, "the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls."

I am never excited by India's economic success as I am with with such social indicators of progress.  When the rigid notions of caste and religion begin to collapse, or when women are not held back, I get excited about my old country.

But then, to a large extent, Tamil Nadu has been a leader in such progressive thoughts and practices:
In 1967, Tamil Nadu chief minister C.N. Annadurai created history by amending the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. To this day, it’s the only state in India that recognises what’s called a ‘self-respect’ marriage (suyamariyaathai or seethiruththa marriage) rejecting priests and dowry and encouraging inter-caste matrimony. Garlands, mangalsutras, even rings are optional. Tamil leader Periyar called this “daring not just for Tamil Nadu but also the entire world”.
Now, I am not that naive to believe that the world that my parents and sister experience is representative of all of India.  But, hey, changes do not happen instantaneously, especially when nobody is held at gun point by revolutionaries, right?

It was, therefore, terribly disappointing when I read in The Hindu a few days ago that educated young men were protesting against inter-caste marriages.  Educated?  If they are protesting that, then surely they cannot be educated!
[P. Karthik (22), an engineering professional] was among other educated youth who were busy distributing pamphlets at the launch of the ‘Campaign Against Inter-Caste Marriage Movement’ – organised by the Kongu Velala Goundergal Peravai in Namakkal
His fellow campaigner N. Saravanan (20), a third year B.Tech student, told The Hindu that inter-caste marriages cannot be accepted even if the boy is from a well-off family among Forward (FC), Backward (BC) or other caste Hindu communities.
“India is known for its rich tradition that is preserved by communities in the country over the years. Inter-caste marriages will put an end to this tradition”, he added.
What the hell is wrong with these people?

Meanwhile, after the death of a young man under suspicious circumstances, young people in inter-caste marriages in some parts of the state worry about their safety--enough to seek judicial help:
The Madras High Court has directed the Superintendent of Police, Dharmapuri, to give meaningful protection to an inter-caste couple’s family which had been ex-communicated and was receiving continuous threats.
“This writ petition projects a sorry state of affairs in the State of Tamil Nadu and District of Dharmapuri, in particular, observed Justice K.K.Sasidharan in his order on a writ petition by a woman. It was open to the petitioner to return to her village and live along with her in-laws. The police should ensure that the woman lived peacefully without any threat or attack and was permitted to take water and use other common amenities without any problem. “The police protection should be meaningful.” The Judge ordered notice, returnable by August 19.
I suppose change is never easy.  Here is to hoping that the educated idiots will soon become irrelevant, and that the special stories on successful inter-caste marriages will become so routine that there won't be any need to report on them.  For now, report we shall:

"Kathir and Tilakam fell in love when they were working together in an NGO in Madurai,
and got married under the Special Marriages Act."

2 comments:

Chris said...

As I read your post, I was disappointed that so-called "educated" men were protesting inter-caste marriages, but then I thought about how it might be possible for educated individuals to participate in such protests. The only answer I could come up with was that these "educated" individuals strongly identified with their own castes.

This identification is so strong that as the caste system continues to be undermined, they are forced to create new identities that gives them a place in the world. Some groups are able to adopt new identifies over time, but some are not. History is littered with groups that failed to adapt during and after major social changes or a revolution. Consequently, some of these groups become disenfranchised and struggle to survive in the new society.

Hopefully, as the caste system continues to erode, these "educated" individuals will find new identities that are more accepting of change.

Sriram Khé said...

Yep, here is to hoping that those educated idiots will fail to adapt to the changing world and will suffer a Darwinian fate ;)

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