‘Greatest disservice to God is exclusion of fellow human with intent’ – Viji
‘God made us different because She wanted us to be different’ -Viji 😀
Hindu Dharma is a way of life where we follow to this date our ancient traditions and customs that include ablutions before entering one’s home every single day and mopping floors and outside home with cow dung for instance (a practice still followed in rural India). Most of us do not sip water/coffee with our lips touching the tumbler ever. You have to watch a south Indian Hindu gulp coffee from two inch above his/her mouth without the lips touching the tumbler. That is why we are not comfortable sipping coffee or chai (tea) from china cups. Most Hindu homes therefore use thali and tumblers for eating and drinking purposes that will not be co-shared with anyone. In Islamic culture for instance, everyone will dig from the same biriyani plate and eat at the same time. Originally the purpose was to overrule any conspiracy for murder or misdeed as in arab-turk reign, killing brothers for gain and kingdom was regular practice. The Moghuls were good at it and thus murdered their own kith and kin to win access to the throne. Old habits die hard and even today you can therefore see Pakis and Afghans share a single biriyani plate for their meals. Everyone will share from the same bread basket using the same hands they eat with simultaneously. This is JUST not acceptable for Hindus. You can do whatever you want with your own ‘thali; – and nobody will touch your thali. Even the subzis (veg curry) and stews and curds are served in small cups in the thali. Once you start eating, you cannot use even your left hand to touch the common food. This is a very serious blunder for Hindus. The food etiquette of Hindus is not really complicated, but easy to follow. There is just no intermixing or sharing of food with anyone as simple as that.
Similarly, the hugging habit too was absent among Hindus mainly for one purpose: to avoid what we call ‘runana bandha’ – an emotional attachment that comes with physical proximity like brushing, caressing, touching anyone. As a Hindu’s goal in life is always renunciation of material aspect by severing bonds for detachment, the physical exchanges like the muslim men physically hugging, christians handshaking – these were never adopted by Hindus. A foot distance also is maintained with anyone anyday.
For centuries, some Hindu communities especially the upper castes have been taking this physical personal space or what you may call ‘social distancing’ today, very seriously. The flip side of Hinduism is the caste system although one cannot completely rule out the benefits of having had a protective caste/varna system that prevented gene contamination with alien races with rigid excommunication codes for ages. In Tamil, this social distancing has been called ‘aachaaram’ – not since the Corona but from time immemorial. It means maintaining physical distance with anyone and everyone, not touching anything or anyone, regular ablutions, keeping a very strict personal hygiene etc., etc. However, those Hindus born into the Panchama communties outside the Varna system (who you may call the Dalits today or SC/ST) never had the privilege of observing this so-called achcharam because, these people tended to the agricultural farms, raised cattle, dug up latrines and cleaned the communities’ poop/sewerage manually (manual scavenging is still in practice in India although legally abolished; impoverished men continue to work as scavengers in our rural areas clearing choked drains and sewerage with bare hands) since the advent of human civilization and cremated the dead. They kneaded the clay for pottery and sewed chappals for others out of animal skin. They doubled up as warriors or soldiers in war times. They ate what was left over – pigs that they reared mostly – and stayed out of urban settlements like the exclusively reserved ‘agraharams’ earmarked for the privileged castes. For their occuptional hazards perhaps, they were barred from entering the civilized part of the country and into the temples, which later became their curse. These were precisely labeled the ‘untouchable’ called the ‘Harijan’ by Mahatma Gandhi who worked to remove their social stigma thoughout his life as much as he fought in a nonviolent way for India’s independence from the British.
No Aachchaaram that denies a fellow human his/her sense of dignity is worth it. Corona is better to that.
Today, one happens to come across very distasteful posts in social media, justifying untouchability, by those who claim to be upper caeste ONLY BY VIRTUE OF BIRTH. This is not only despicable and disgusting but outright a callous and irresponsible attempt to whitewash millennia of ill=treatment and injustice meted out to a section of humanity – that too our own blood brothers in the name of culture and tradition. When the varna system was put into practice in ancient India from God knows when, there was dignity of labour. As nothing lasts for ever, corruption set in in the middle ages leading to a skewed development of the society when a slender minority began prospering at the expense of a subdued enslaved and ignorant majority. Some of us today hijack the very concept of ‘aachaaram’ as our own, because we have been precisely put in that ivory tower by our fellow brothers and sisters who chose to get their hands and feet dirty on our behalf and all we can do now is to boast of our lofty ideals shamelessly and selfishly.
The purpose of reservation is to reverse this inequality that has existed in Indian society for at least last two thousand years and make it a level playing field for everyone. And it is not even seventy five years since the restoration of the status quo commenced. India may pick up slowly drawn back by sluggish growth owing to our reservation policies, but social equality and justice are more important to Indians than material development. In my opinion, only such a just and equitable society will not be endangered by a possible civil war in future. It is sad to note that, now in the name of Corona, some wolves in sheep’s clothing are trying to justify the centuries old cruel and evil practice called ‘untouchability.’ These cowards must be reminded that they could observe without a break their so-called achcharams that morphed into a heinous practice over time, robbing fellow humans of their very dignity, only because those born unlucky got their hands and feet soiled and dirty working the farmlands and milking the cows and clearing your poop and cremating your dead. Decades after reservation came into force to restore balance in the society, there still seems to be social stigma attached to our reserved categories, what a shame!
I have written a lot on conversion. Yet I must record here that, conversion to Christianity in India is not happening without an individual’s consent. Never against someone’s will. Nobody is being forced or tortured to embrace christianity even if one may be bribed or brainwashed. What prevents these hypocratic Hindus with ‘holier than thou’ attitude from taking dharma to the grassroots levels – our masses and convincing them to stay on.