Caste dictated my story once, but I am rewriting it now Part(1)
Story by Richa Khobargade
My name gave away my roots. Coming from a scheduled class community and growing up as a Buddhist in a small town in Maharashtra, was not easy. In school, people credited my caste for my marks as my hard work went unacknowledged; I was even called out for my scholarship due to reservation. It became harder with my father’s death when I was studying in 11th. I lost both of my parents in a way, as my mother fell apart after the incident. Being the eldest among the three siblings, I had to look after my family. I felt all alone.
As I left home for engineering studies, I found many girls in the hostel living in a world completely different from mine. They were carefree, enjoying college life, while I was dedicated to my studies, almost obsequious to the ways of my place. While everyone else had a boyfriend, I saw it as a crime. Stuck between the two voices in my head that desired to experience things and that controlled my actions and mind to be an achiever, I was lost. And there began my battle with mental health. I guess, I had laid so many expectations on a 17-year-old that I forgot to live for myself.
Having moved to a new city, I decided to build a new life; telling myself that it is acceptable to have a boyfriend. And later I did find myself in a relationship. I guess, because I was battling so many things all alone, he felt like my support system.
I wasn’t aware of the fact that he was a Brahmin, until quite some time into the relationship. And I realised he knew about my caste on the day he came forward and told me “Jai Bhim” on Dussehra which is also celebrated as Dhamma Parivartan diwas (marking the day Dr. Ambedkar converted to Buddhism) in Maharashtra. I was pretty sure this would affect our relationship. We never talked about it again; it remained as a tacit fact.
Later we started working in 2 cities.
Whenever the topic of marriage was up for discussion, he avoided it.
My mother found about my relationship. She was angry and even hit me. She said, “I sent you to the engineering college to study, hoping you would get a good job and then take care of the family. But look at what you are up to. He is a Brahmin. He will definitely leave you.”
Despite being together for 6-7 years, his family was unaware of our relationship. And when he finally spoke to his parents, they were against our union because of my caste. I still remember his father’s words, “A Maratha or OBC woman would have been fine. But not a scheduled caste/Dalit. They hate and abuse Brahmins. We will have no standing left in society”. This went on for a while. The reasons kept changing, from caste to differences in upbringing and culture.
Remaining undaunted by their statements, his parents wanted to match our horoscopes. However, this was not something that was observed in our house. I didn’t even have a patrika. And when my boyfriend asked me for my time of birth, I never thought it would be used make my horoscope. After having an astrologer check our horoscopes, I was told that our dashas were not aligning and that I would bring bad luck into the marriage, causing the death of his family and would even give birth to stillborn children or children with defects.
This affected me a lot. Adding on to this, my family expected me to get married as I was the eldest. My sister did not want to wait until I got married. I was even given an ultimatum by my mother to get married or to have my sister married first. I agreed and saw my sister’s marriage. My entire family was taken aback.
Despite all that, I kept my trust in “us”. Little did I know that it was all in vain, as my 10 year relationship came to an end. My caste had a bigger say in our relationship.