Chicken soup for the bahujan soul- A few words to the students

Chanchal Kumar

 

chanchalkumarI will start with an anecdote: I used to share a flat with a Brahmin and other savarnas when I first moved to Delhi from my home in Jharkhand. And I remember them poking fun at the surnames of those from adivasi backgrounds. I used to join in the activity, not knowing any better. I realize now I was as much a casteist a*****e as them. The only excuse I can give is that I was not politically and socially aware to realize what I was doing. The need to have one’s own circle of friends who belong to the same social strata dawns on me when I look back on this memory. It is true, often for youngsters from bahujan families who hail from distant parts, they don’t know what casteism is unless they are guided by those who came before them. They internalize the insults and contempt shown to them by savarnas about being reservation-holders, securing admission easily etc. The Hindu culture is such an overarching, all-subsuming ideology that it feeds on our own distinct culture and thought. The result is, some begin to confuse bahujan culture for Hindu culture and become the most vocal mouthpieces for them, as I remember being. Our parents, on the other hand, know the ground reality. They know for a fact the kind of dirty politics and discrimination that takes place in institutions of higher learning in this country.

 

We are naive if we think that we will be treated as equals in the modern agraharas, run by brahmins. Hansraj College in Delhi University, from where I received my Master’s degree actually has a permanent shed built for havans  (hindu religious ritual involving fire) and “vedic research” activities. My time at the college of my graduation too, Ramjas College, was not free from instances of caste discrimination from some of the esteemed faculty of the time, either. This is a note to my younger brothers and sisters who are about to join the best-known colleges of the country for their education about what they should expect from places such as these and how to navigate through this quarry. I write this because when I was new to the city, and in the first year of my college, I made friends that I later realized where blood-sucking and poisonous to me. They turned out to be a waste of precious time, energy, and resources. Had anyone given me a word of advice then,  I might have cultivated relationships that nurtured my faith. If you are reading this, then you're acquainted with Round Table India and probably have already read life-affirming words of wisdom from this portal. Still, this is a way for me to give back what I had, in turn, received, things that helped me when I needed them the most. I will try to sum up my experiences regarding studying in an institute full of savarna students and academics and share with the students on what to expect from them.

 

The new generation coming to the “hallowed grounds” of the “premier” institutes should be realistic about their hopes, so that they don’t suffer heartbreaks once they meet their first obstacle, in the form of a casteist remark or jibe at the hands of classmates/professors. Getting into a college for higher education is not a war already won, rather, it’s a continuing battle, one that has begun already when they were in school, when they first meet a Pandey/ Tripathi/ Mishra teacher who used to pick on them unnecessarily/ awarded them fewer marks for unknown reasons. Actually, the stakes here in college are higher, since we generally do not have the ever-present support of our parents. Bahujan students should have a heart of steel in order to make it, first and foremost. Since one can well imagine the average intellectual capacity of the leading academicians of a country where only a certain group of people are said to be the inheritors of knowledge, and the others are kept from it by decree of their religious law and holy books. This is the reason why there has been no Voltaire in India, as Babasaheb said, a somebody who criticizes his own community for its perverted ways.

 

It is, therefore, a matter of being emotionally strong. Only then will the bahujan student benefit the most. Also, s/he/they should be cunning, in the Joycean sense of the term. Embrace the necessary evil. Look for things that will personally help you, go out, make friends, but know which of them will actually come to your help in times of need. Fall in love, but never let go of the truths that this society is built upon. Take care of your mental health, seek guidance from seniors and professors who have probably once been on the same spot as you have been. Choose your idols carefully, or better still, be your own idol. Because you realize later that everyone is there to save one’s own skin, be it in the form of friends, family or community. “Atta deep bhava”- Be thine own light, the Buddhist dictum, which teaches us to have faith in our abilities and strengths. Read about Babasaheb Ambedkar’s life, his struggle, the Buddhist philosophy. Be inspired and learn from the sacrifices made by great personalities from history. Do not follow the herd. Always leave room for doubt, no matter how promising the lead. Never let go of your family, since they will be there for you when no one else is. Your own ideas on certain issues may clash with those from your immediate family, but remember that they may not have gone through the same experiences as you, received the same education or read the same stuff as them. Always be mindful of the fact that political ideology may change, and it is you who has to subvert, mold their ideas, or simply wait out the duration because your own actions will influence those around you. This is what Babasaheb taught us, and this how we are going to succeed in our individual paths. For success will be ours eventually, that is certain.

 

~~~

 

Chanchal Kumar is a student at Delhi University.