Updated: Sep 24
Story By: Aahan Khandelwal
As I would walk around the gullies of my old colony, I hear and observe a lot of things around myself, but all of that is forgotten when I see my friend's beaming face, which causes me to quicken my pace and reach them as fast as I physically can. I have so much to tell them.
Some childhood conversations leave a pang of regret in my heart now. Once, I got into a squabble over something trivial (important than) and called my friend names in my hurt state and stormed back to my house. But just after entering in through the door, I regretted what I spoke to them. It was not "how", rather "what". I called them something very derogatory. It was what people of their cast would traditionally do as a source of income - a cultural identity. And I hate myself for it. We were never the same again.
They were our neighbors. So, my father would occasionally call them something derogatory out of the blue, sometimes targeting the way they lived, but more often he would criticize them based on their caste since they were of a "lower" caste. Despite trying to overcome such gaps and going about with our friends as best as I could, these thoughts still lingered in my head whenever I was around them. Even as an impressionable child, I would silently disagree with him. Did I use to always wonder, why?
Our neighbors didn't speak much against it. They would silently endure it. Given that it was more subtle in the way we would carry ourselves and behave around them. Maybe they did not wish to escalate the issue and would consider that petty. But as a child I did not understand it, nor do I now.
My tale is just a drop in this cesspool of discriminatory ideas. These "small" incidents throughout our lives amass into something big and ugly. It is high time and we should speak against it. The practice of casteism - only prevalent in our country - reduces us to the status of snake charmers in the statistics of social and economic development. The world is rapidly striving towards equality for all, and in order to catch up, we need to cross the hurdle of casteism.