Archive for January, 2010

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Inter-Caste Marriages: A sham?

January 4, 2010

A recent episode of the talk show ‘Neeya Naana’ had an interesting topic. As most Tamil television viewers would be aware, Neeya Naana is a weekly talk show being telecast on Vijay TV. Each week, a topic is introduced by the show’s host, Gopinath and people argue for and against the given topic. The topics mostly range from being silly to plain ludicrous. But now and then, some interesting topics get discussed as well. These give us a good snapshot of the current society’s opinions and thoughts. This week was one such.

The subject of discussion this time around was people who had inter-caste/ inter-religious ‘love’ marriages. The moderator discussed various aspects starting from how the people found their spouses’ caste to how they faced their parents’ ire when they married and most crucially, the belief system under which they bring up their children. The opinions voiced by the audience make us wonder if the whole concept of inter-caste marriages has had any impact at all on curbing the impact of caste on the society.

Today, many people are of the opinion that caste is not as prevalent in towns and cities as in villages. With people moving to new places in search of greener pastures, it is widely believed that the different castes have truly amalgamated in the hustle and bustle of the city’s busy lifestyle. Nothing can be more far from the truth. In comparison to the open practising methods followed in villages, the folks in towns and cities adopt a more contemporary approach in establishing their hegemony. Theirs is an approach of making selective compromises that would make their life easier in a big city but not any that would affect their caste pride. In this way, they create an impression of having amicable relationship with others in the community but also retain the respect of their caste brethren. This is probably more sinister than the practices adopted in villages as the hatred is concealed in the guise of co-existence.

One of the main occasions when this caste pride comes to the fore is during marriages. All hell breaks loose when a boy or girl chooses to marry someone from a different caste. But nowadays, it seems like the people who get into these kinds of inter-caste relationships themselves know where to draw the line. This was quite evident from the opinions of the audience in the program. Just to give a glimpse, there was this woman who wanted her lover to either to be from the BC or the MBC category. Then there was this lady who went through her future partner’s certificates to figure out which caste he belonged to. Another woman told of how she knew of her partner’s caste even during her schooldays and the time when her parents threatened to kill him on knowing that he was from a different caste. This lady and many others apologised to their parents on the show for the grief the parents had been put through. The fact that those parents were prepared to kill another human being just to keep caste honour didn’t seem to bother these women. It was indeed sad to note that there wasn’t a single person who said they loathed the very system called caste and wanted to prove a point by marrying someone from a different community.

Another aspect which comes to our attention is how the offsprings of these relationships are brought up. In most inter-caste marriages, the lifestyle adopted by the couple will mostly adhere to the higher caste amongst those from which they hail from. This was also evident from the opinions voiced in the show. Examples such as the lady belonging to the Mudaliar caste giving her son a Brahmin upbringing (‘We have even performed the Poonool ceremony for him’, she said) and the Christian woman who converted to being a Hindu after marriage prove this point. Interestingly, it was mostly women who had made the compromises. It seems like the only instance where the couples make an exception is when they get a community certificate for their children!

Caste is definitely a social evil which needs to be exterminated. What’s required is a change in mindset of the society and awareness about the negative impact it has had on people’s lives. Marrying someone from another caste doesn’t serve any purpose unless there is a concrete effort to change one’s opinions about the evils of the system. Until this happens, these marriages would be no more than mere sham exercises which only serve to help programs like Neeya Naana garner more TRPs.