Story by Rajiv Jha
A friend of mine got married instantly after we graduated from college, hence he invited us to his wedding in a small city - Rampur(name changed) in Rajasthan. The friend belongs to a minority caste of Rajasthan, but it obviously didn't concern us. I and a junior went there and we had a lot of fun with him during the entire wedding ceremony.
I had a braid on my head and mostly brahmins carry that braid, so I did feel that I was being discussed amongst his relatives but I didn't pay much heed.
We had an early morning train, the very next day and so one of his relative offered to drop us at the highway from where we could get a bus to the railway station. We readily agreed and hopped in his car.
That man owned several thekas (liquor shops) in Rajasthan and was really rich. As we sat in his car, he began bragging about the people of his castes. He began telling us - how there had been so many beaurocrats from his cast and how there were maximum beaurocrats from his caste. It was not exactly a comfortable conversation for us, but we kept quiet for we thought it was normal for a place like that. Also, we didn't want any alterations or arguments.
He was constantly trying to inquire about us, like our caste, the course we studied, etc. When we told him that we were computer engineers, he began ranting about modernization and computers. He blamed the upper caste people for modernization and how they had only used technology for their own benefits. We kept quiet.
From there he diverted the topic to caste. He began speaking against Brahmins and Kshatriyas and bragging about himself. It terrified us to the core, when he showed us the guns and the knife he was carrying, he bragged about how he was so powerful that he could kill anyone in that area.
Also, he was driving at 5 -10 km/hr, in spite of us constantly telling him to drive faster, or we would miss our train. A few kilometers seemed such a long distance at that point in time. It was probably the longest hour of my life.
After showing us his guns, he began badgering us about our caste. We finally gave in and told him that I was a brahmin and my friend was a baniya. Now that he knew my caste, he openly began criticizing the brahmins.
It was 5:45 am in the morning and it was two of us driving on a deserted road with an extremely hateful and casteist man who also had weapons. We were very scared.
Somehow we did escape the situation by sounding agreeable to him, for instance, we too bashed and criticized the upper caste. Luckily, he also got a call from somewhere, which further diverted his attention.
And this is how we escaped the situation during which we could just have been killed for belonging to a certain caste.
But this incident has taught me a lot. It taught me how deeply rooted is the insect of caste in our society and that education and only education can cure it. By education, I don't mean the bookish, rote learning, for even the literate, urban elite areas casteist, but I mean the real values and morals.