An earth shaking book
When I was reading Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, even before completing the book I realised that a Black sister had come to our older house of 3,500 years from an old house of 400 years.
She told us that you have to pull it down and build a new one. She told us the story of the oldest house (Germany the original home of Aryans) where caste actually was born. I realised that with the Second World War it was pulled down and rebuilt. In the USA they are on the way to pulling down their old house. Their caste practitioners, the Whites, are on the way to reconciliation.
Isabel Wilkerson tells a remarkable truth: Caste is in the bones of Indians and Americans whereas race is in the skin of humans. Aryans are the creators of the caste virus, which has been eating away the bones of Indians for longer than any other humans on the planet.
The bones of us Indians are full of caste smell that no English educated Brahmin sister in American or European universities realised with tool in hands should be checked, or at least a discussion should be begun on the condition of this house. Our Brahmin brothers who had an education of millennia in Sanskrit, in Persian and now in high class English at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard never wanted anybody to allow the house to be understood.
Our Brahminic sisters from Bengal, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and so on achieved many things in the old house. Kamala Harris, Nikki Haley, Indira Nooyi and so on are doing so well in the old house, but they never wanted the Americans know about the rotting bones in the older house to which they belonged.
Having settled in the USA many Brahmin women wrote many books and got awards from the global power house. But nobody wrote about the older house, about the disease that struck our bones, not just skin. And it has been there for 3,500 years making us stink.
The pandits who returned to the older house after learning high-end engineering skills at American universities to manage the IITs and IIMs and other high-end universities sold a story for dollars around the world about Indian democracy just like old house democracy. They said that the freedoms given here reveal the truth.
However, they said it is better than the system in the oldest house, near which Hitler was born and where he grew up to become a dictator, using the symbol of the bone disease – Swasthik – to make the world, and wanted to see the oldest house of racism and casteism spread the world over. Luckily he was defeated by Russians.
There are many dictators in the older house in the garb of constitutional democracy but we do not know how to fight them.
Our Brahmin-Bania brothers and sisters told stories about their problems with their names or married life there and here (by writing novels like The Namesake or Life Is What You Make It) after migrating to the old house. Jumpa Lahiri and Anita Desai kind of writers from the old house make more money from the Indian book market than any writer living in the older house.
Our Dwija men talked about their marriages and older house customs within their Aryan homes. They talked about A Suitable Boy and The Glass Palace and so on. Vikram Set and Amitav Ghosh kind of writers occupy the high tables of all literature festivals and win awards. But they never wrote about the disease that came from the Aryan race as far back as 3500 BCE to this older house.
Tony Joseph writes in Early Indians that this disease called caste which is eating the Indian bones came here in the third wave of migration of Aryans to Sindhustan around 1500 BCE.
But a sister of ours with roots from the same Africa as the first settlers’ colour (of Ando-Africans) thousands of years before the Harappan rural and urban civilisation was built, without any problem of racism and casteism, comes to see our plight and tells us the truth opposite to M.K Gandhi’s truth. In Harappan times we all were as black and as beautiful as our Isabel is. We later got mixed up after the Aryan migration.
We were not sure our Brahmin-Bania sisters were original Aryans. Brahma, Indra, Agni, Vayu and so on (all Rigvedic gods, and Avestan demons) who did seem to have migrated from the oldest house, never seem to have brought women with them.
The Brahmin, Bania and Ksatriya women who suffered Sati, child marriage and permanent widowhood were, perhaps, our Ando-African sisters taken over by the early migrants from what is now Germany, which Isabel calls the oldest house, and over millennia got their present colour, complexion, texture.
But now they do not like to marry the blacks in the old house–with Kamala’s mother Shyamala being an exception.
In the 1970s and 80s there was a feminist wave in the older house. The Brahmin-Bania women were very active only to make themselves better educated but not to see our plight of 3,500 years. There were communists, liberals and secularists among them. They saw only our outward poverty but not the disease in the bones.
Since their skin was far lighter than ours, its beauty found all the place in Bollywood, though in the old house Hollywood accommodated many black brothers and sisters. Our men and women are unfortunate not because of their skin problem but because of their bone problem.
As our Euro-American Dwija male and female pandits wanted to hide the collapsing beams, leaking roofs stinking walls of this older house from the Western world of opportunities, our Black sister now broke open the doors of the actual living older house.
She called America old house where there is ‘infrared light’.
She called Germany the oldest house of racism and caste giving us a new clue of analysis.
India is inbetween the two, suffering the worst although Buddhism, Chritianity and Islam exist here. The Swasthic and Trishul rule the roost from the Nagpur headquarters.
But our sisters, leave alone brothers, did not want any light in the older house so that there could be all round darkness, and no outsider could light a torch to check what lies inside. Many Whites from the East India Empire days came here. They believed what our Aryan Brahmins told them.
Dear sister Isabela, we thank you for your visit to our older house. We thank you for carrying our doctor’s (B.R Ambedkar) portrait in the folds of your clothes through the thoroughly checking airports, as it was your beloved gift. When even the black brother-officials did not know who he was, and when you told them he is the Martin Luther King of India, we felt so excited that our Brahmin-Bania brothers and sisters cannot hide their Caste under their skin now. It will reach their bones too.
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is an Indian activist and author
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is published by Penguin, 2020