Casteism in India, A New Book by Stephen Knapp

Casteism in India has gotten a lot of criticism, and rightly so. Many look at it as a means for the upper castes to live a privileged life while keeping all lower castes oppressed without the means for upgrading themselves. Present day casteism is based on the idea that whatever caste your father was, that will also be the caste of the sons and daughters, without any means to change it. But this is not what is actually prescribed in the Vedic or Hindu texts of old. This is what must be understood and corrected. So this book is a short study of what the Vedic texts actually say about what the Vedic social arrangement is really supposed to be and the purpose of it.

The real Vedic process of social organization is what is called varna and ashrama. It was meant to help everyone progress throughout life, to live happily in a career that suites the talents, interests, and intellectual level of the person, and to guide them toward attaining higher levels of consciousness, awareness and understanding. That is why any confusion about the difference between today’s caste system and the real Vedic varnashrama system must be cleared up.

This book goes into detail about,

* What is the real varnashrama system of social organization and how it works.

* How the present-day caste system got started.

* How we can correct this misunderstanding and be rid of the present-day caste system.

* Where the Vedic literature explains how the caste by birth system is unjust.

* The benefits of following the varnashrama system.

* How the Vedic varnashrama system of social arrangement was to help propel everyone to the spiritual domain.

* How an analysis of the modes of nature with which we associate can help determine what is our most natural varna or occupational class.

* How the varna system is a natural process of selecting one’s occupation and career by recognizing a person’s natural interests, talents, tendencies, proclivities, and intellectual capacity.

This is a process that is used by many schools and colleges today, but was started many years ago in the Vedic tradition.

This book will help show the difference between what has become the present caste system, and why it is unnecessary and even harmful to Hinduism and Indian society, and explain the value of the Vedic system of varna and ashrama.


What Casteism is Today * What is the Original Vedic System Called Varnashrama * The Four Varnas are Here to Stay * The Earliest Reference to the Varnas * How the Present Casteism Developed * The Dangers of Casteism as we Find it Today * What We can do to Eliminate the Modern Caste System

How do we Recognize One’s Varna * We are All Quite Alike * It is Only Our Actions and Qualifications That Differentiate Us * A Caste System Based on Birth is Unjust * The Damage of Unqualified Brahmanas * So Who is a Real Brahmana? * A Brahmana can Easily Fall Down, While a Shudra can Easily Move Forward * When a Brahmana Becomes Lower Than a Shudra * How Everyone Can Advance * Classifications Based on the Body are Completely False * One Misses the Goal of Life When Preoccupied by Caste * The Difference of Proper Consciousness and Intent, or Merely Going Through the Motions * Expected Characteristics and Actions of Each Person of the Four Varnas * In Conclusion

What are the Modes of Nature * How the Modes of Nature Work * Action and Consciousness in Various Modes * Action and Work * Residence * Faith * Understanding * Knowledge * Sacrifices * Austerities * Charity * Foods * Happiness * Where the Modes Take Us * Becoming Free From the Modes







This book is 100 pages, Paperback at $5.95, 5 1/2″ x 8 1/2″, ISBN-10: 1530963842, ISBN-13: 978-1530963843, Paperback $5.95.



AVAILABLE AS PAPERBACK AND KINDLE EBOOK in the local currencies through the following amazon outlets: USUKDEFRESITNLJPBRCAMXAUIN

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Book Review: Pyre,Author: Perumal Murugan

Book: Pyre
Author: Perumal Murugan
Translated from the Tamil by Aniruddhan Vasudevan
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
Pages: 270
Price: Rs 399

The prose is deceptively simple and sparse. And yet it has the effect of hitting you hard like the blazing sun, the parched land, the rock, and the thorny karuvelum shrubs. A perfect setting in the true Tamil literary tradition of the bards from Sangam period — it is the landscape that symbolises the nature of men.

Tamil writer Perumal Murugan, a poet and a scholar, knows how to handle masterful imagery and human emotions. Especially when he delves into the emotional space of his women characters, be it a coarse, unloving mother-in-law or the soft, sparrow-like, bewildered new bride.

Murugan’s Tamil novel Pookkuzi, translated into English (Pyre) by Aniruddhan Vasudevan, brings out the subtle nuances in an amazing, evocative style. It must have been a challenging job translating the Kongu rural dialect into English. Thankfully, Vasudevan does not slip into an idiomatic literal translation, which would have marred a supple narrative, while retaining the regional colour and the lilting tone of the original prose. It is a sensitive translation done with great care. There is not a single word that jars and the narrative is more tightly woven. (The original drags in the middle and is repetitive). One wonders why the translator’s name is not on the cover.

It is a haunting tale, of love and desperation; of societal prejudice that is potent enough to destroy ; of the fire of hatred that consumes the community; of caste pride and its resilient force that is felt to be life-affirming though there is nothing else to boast about; of innocent love that fails to understand the engulfing fire.

Pyre is the love story of Saroja and Kumaresan, who belong to different castes. Murugan is careful not to mention the specific castes to which they belong. Saroja is a city girl, a motherless child, reared fondly by her father and brother. Kumaresan, from a faraway village, goes to the city in search of a job and finds shelter in the building Saroja lives in. They fall in love. The love narrative that is woven in between the chapters is like a silent song.

They elope, get married with the help of a friend and Kumaresan takes her to his remote village. Family bonding is very important to him and he knows that the village community will not approve of the inter-caste marriage. But he believes that once his mother and the others have a look at the fair-skinned, pretty Saroja, everything would be fine.

He is, however, shocked, and Saroja is terrified when they come face to face with a mother and a family raging in fury at this breach of faith. It is no ordinary fury. The words spit like fire. The abuse showered with physical blows is dehumanising. Why did Kumaresan take her there? The story unfolds mostly through Saroja’s perspective. The scorching, vast expanses of arid land, the taunting language of women, and Marayi, the mother-in –law, who is in constant dialogue with goats and dogs and the sky, bewilders her. Marayi’s monologues are laments that she sings as dirges, as if her son were dead.

Is she real, wonders Saroja. She is frightened to the core. It is Saroja’s story; her struggle to cope with the surroundings that reject her. She, a dreamer, clings to every word of assurance from Kumaresan, believing a better day would dawn. Kumaresan is loving and kind but feels helpless at the unreasonableness of his people. “Is it a crime to marry the girl I love?” he asks his mother after days of silence. It angers her even more, a woman who was widowed at the age of 20 and had remained “impeccable” in her conduct.

Honour killings in Tamil Nadu, the land that saw a unique movement against caste hierarchy, have become more visible than before. By getting us close to the lives of Saroja and Kumaresan, to the land and language, of beliefs and prejudices, of hatred and cruelty, Murugan seems to attempt to shake us out of the numbness. He gives us a terrifying vision of intolerance. It will haunt the reader for a long time.

Vaasanthi is a Tamil writer


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Talk like a Parsi by Chintan Girish Modi

Did you know that a baira master is a casanova, tumboo ma saheb means that someone is pregnant, andsuhrah chhuh noh kato is a euphemism for impotence? The news of a person’s death is announced aswicket puree guyee , an expert in cock-and-bull tales is termed a fekology master , and a never-ending story is sarcastically called dastaan-e-dilrooba .

This is a tiny sampling from 1,058 phrases crowd-sourced from 308 contributors and compiled by photographer-screenwriter Sooni Taraporevala and writer-editor Meher Marfatia in Parsi Bol 2 , a book that released in March 2016. The success of the book will be celebrated, quite fittingly at SodaBottleOpenerWala, this evening. The new edition, an expansion of Parsi Bol , which was published in December 2013, features a large new collection of phrases, and an audio CD with the phrases recorded by Boman Irani, and Dolly and Bomi Dotiwala.

While the text is enjoyable in itself, the audio CD is a significant value addition for visually-challenged readers, younger Parsis who are unsure of the pronunciation, and for people not familiar with Gujarati. It places emphasis on preserving the cultural legacy of the Parsis through their rich linguistic repertoire. It’s a thought that resonates with Irani, who got roped into the book project by Taraporevala after she directed him in Little Zizou (2008), a film about the adventures of two Parsi families.

“We, Parsis, have our own special vernacular,” says Irani, “which is unabashed and metaphorical in a twisted sort of way. Young people hardly use these phrases now, but what is rare becomes more cherished by oldies like myself. I hope there never comes the day when we lose this Parsi Gujarati language. It would be like losing our identity, like losing the recipe for dhansak or patra ni machchhi.”

Taraporevala says the book celebrates how Parsis have subverted the Gujarati language and made it their own. “What we have now is a language full of imagery and funny associations, wild juxtapositions and inventiveness,” she says. The contributions to this book “were received orally, via email, handwritten letters. People sent them from Gujarat and other parts of India, New Zealand, Canada, the U.S., and other places. We also collected phrases on a visit to an old people’s home.”

Marfatia, who wrote and self-published Laughter in the House: 20th Century Parsi Theatre (2011) says, “Language is such a vital part of one’s culture, so I used to regret the fact that my kids hesitated to speak Gujarati. After Parsi Bol 1 and 2 , I find that my daughter has got more interested in using some of the phrases. She finds them cool. I think a large part of the appeal of the book lies in the illustrations. They bring in a level of humour that people find endearing.”

The art for the tomes has been done by Hemant Morparia and Farzana Cooper. “Being a Parsi, I enjoyed this project very much,” says Cooper. “It was effortless. For example, we call each other kagra khaobecause our bodies are traditionally feasted on by the crows after we die. We also refer to Queen Elizabeth as aapni rani . Working on this book gave me a chance to celebrate and also laugh at my own community.”

Morparia, whose illustration features on the cover of Parsi Bol 2 , says, “Since I am a Gujarati, many of the phrases were familiar to me. Of course, the naughty ones were more fun to illustrate. I have been living in South Mumbai for several years and there are many Parsis here. Therefore, this book was great fun to work on.”

Irani and a lot of people hope that Taraporevala and Marfatia will consider compiling a collection of Parsi gaalis or swear words. However, “I am afraid it will be an expensive volume. It is bound to run into several pages,” says the actor. We hope not; that book will definitely be a knee-slapper.

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Book Review: The Great Departu Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World. By Tara Zahra

EASTERN Europe is in the midst of a migration panic. Milos Zeman, the
Czech Republich’s president, has called the influx of refugees to the
continent an “organised invasion”; Jaroslaw Kaczynski, chairman of
Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, warns that they may be carrying
“very dangerous diseases”. But anxieties about migration in the region
are nothing new. In 1890 a lawyer in Galicia described it as “one of
the most important, burning problems of the day”. Yet as Tara Zahra
recounts in “The Great Departure”, a perceptive history of migration
and eastern Europe, until very recently that problem was not
immigration but emigration.

considered a “fever”, that could empty villages. For most, the
destination was America: 300,000 made the journey from Austria-Hungary
in 1907, the highest number to arrive from one country in a single
year. The story of their arrival there has been told many times; Ms
Zahra, of the University of Chicago, describes the impact that leaving
had on their homelands and the debates it provoked. The departure of
so many men of working age, for example, created new opportunities: in
one Hungarian town women reportedly took over most of the positions in
local government. But it alarmed local elites. Polish nobles were
deprived of cheap agricultural labour, Austrian and Hungarian military
officials of conscripts.

The authorities quickly found a convenient scapegoat. They fined and
arrested Austria-Hungary’s travel agents, accusing them of duping
gullible peasants into leaving the country. This was part of a wider
propaganda battle, in which newspapers ran lurid items about violence
and exploitation in America. After the first world war, scare stories
no longer sufficed. Populations had been devastated, first by the
fighting and then by the Spanish flu. The region’s new nation-states
quickly deemed emigration an existential threat. In 1920 Poland
introduced stricter passport controls; Czechoslovakia sought to lure
back expatriates to boost the national stock.

Emigration did have its uses for some, though. Politicians realised
they could exploit migration policy to remove unwanted minorities.
Despite the passport restrictions, in Poland Jews were encouraged to
emigrate. By the mid-1930s many politicians in the region were in
favour of mass Jewish emigration. Seeking a solution to what was
widely referred to as the “Jewish problem”, Western officials
fruitlessly considered places—Madagascar, British Guyana—where eastern
European Jews could be resettled. As Ms Zahra points out, these
efforts blurred the lines between “rescue and removal…emigration and
expulsion”, while doing little to save Jews from the horrors that
awaited them. Even before the Holocaust, removing Jews from eastern
Europe had become politically acceptable.

For the author the Iron Curtain was the “culmination” of eastern
Europe’s struggle against emigration. Communist regimes had long
warned of the misery that awaited emigrants to the West; now, however,
the political stakes were far higher. Embarrassed by defections to the
West, eastern-European governments sought to woo back other �©migr�©s,
offering them financial incentives even as they denounced the greed of
capitalist societies. But still they were willing to let certain
citizens leave. Dissidents and unwelcome minorities could be sold to
West Germany or Israel in exchange for substantial ransoms: in the
1970s, Nicolae Ceausescu said that Romania’s best export commodities
were “Jews, Germans and oil”.

Eastern Europeans now enjoy the freedom of movement that so many
longed for under communism. The expansion of the EU in 2004 gave
Poles, Hungarians and Czechs, among others, the right to live anywhere
in the union, stimulating the biggest wave of east-west migration in a
century. Migration today is never one-way. Some people spend just a
couple of years in the West before returning. Others never leave at
all. Now that east Europeans can move as they please, for many true
freedom is the “freedom to stay home”.

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