Thursday, June 15, 2006

How deep are we divided?

I happened to travel to my native town, down south of Tamil Nadu, over the weekend. To travel around the city and some surrounding villages, the ‘mini bus’ is the most preferred mode in such small townships. I boarded a green painted bus. Enquired the conductor about what time would it leave. ’11.15AM’ he replied. I had another full twenty minutes to go. As I looked around, I noticed only a couple of lazy passengers like me in the bus. The bus was full of decoration – color papers, scenery snaps, a small LCD screen and a good sound box. They were playing some tamil film songs. The lyricist should be hanged – such a cheap and dirty sequencing of lines! What do they do in the censor board? Two more men in uniforms boarded the bus. Heading straight to the front side of the bus, they started conversing with the driver & conductor of our bus.

I shifted my seat closer to them, just enough to overhear what they are talking about. The talk was about the color of the bus. The bus I was in, belonged to a different owner than the other two in uniforms. As soon as Jayalalitha was sworn in as Chief Minister of TN last time, she ensured that all the ‘mini-busses’ were painted ‘Green’ – her favorite/lucky color. Before her tenure, they were sporting ‘yellow’ color – the favorite/lucky color for the then CM M Karunanidhi. Now that MK is back as CM the hot topic among these mini bus owners is about the potential government rule regarding the color change. Apparently these folks are pretty small time business people for whom repainting the buses every five years is no joke. So the conversation went like this.

Our Bus Driver: Our owner has set us very steep collection targets for the next two months. He is expecting to gain as much as possible before the government sends out the change of color memo again.
Our Bus Conductor: Also, I heard that he is planning to sell his two buses before this rule.
New Bus Driver: Even my owner is pretty much worried. Unlike your boss, mine has around 12 buses to repaint and he is discussing the same with the association.
New Bus Conductor: The politicians will not allow us to live. I am so fed up that I didn’t vote to anyone this time.
OBC: Some time back, we used to say ‘Let either Ram or Ravan rule the land. We need to worry about our bread’. But nowadays we cannot be like that because all those are left in competition are only ‘Ravans’. There are no Rams around anymore.
NBD: When is your scheduled time?OBD: Still some fifteen minutes away.
NBD (looking inside the bus): There are not many boarded. Come let us go for a coffee.
OBD: Okay. Lets go.
NBC: To OBC, let the ‘driver Inam’ go for a coffee! We belong to ‘conductor Inam’ – lets go to the other shop for a tea! (Inam – translates to ‘clan’)

I suddenly realized – how even in our day to day life we have started differentiating ourselves from others! I mean all the four of them belong to same worker community – the mini bus workmen! But still from within they felt the need to identify themselves differently! The Dravidian parties are to be blamed for this. They have first created the concept of identifying themselves to be associated with the language and call themselves as ‘Tamil Inam’. I don’t think there was such a usage in TN before the 60s! To my knowledge there was only Manidha Inam (Human Clan), Miruga Inam (Animal Clan) etc., before that. We are already divided in so many ways – Caste, Religion, Rich, Poor, North Indian, South Indian, Aryan, Dravidian etc. The politicians started a new Inam associated with the Language. Each one of the Dravidian leader claims himself to be ‘Tamil Ina Kaavalar’ – Savior of Tamil clan!

They gained mileage over the Brahmins by kindling in the ‘language’ war (against Sanskrit / Hindi later). Brahmin bashing is the main agenda of the Dravidian parties even today. Today this concept is so imbibed to our society that even the uneducated laborers in remote villages have started identifying themselves belonging to different Inams! Where is the end for these divisions? Tomorrow every working community could identify themselves belonging to different ‘Inams’ – Like Paalkaara Inam (Milkmen Clan), Vivasaayi Inam (Agriculture Clan) etc. And within Paalkaara Inam you could have ‘Yerumai Maadu Paalkara Inam’ (Buffalo Milkmen Clan), ‘Pasu Maadu Paalkara Inam’ (Cow Milkmen Clan) etc. Each them already have their own associations! Each of them would have their own list of grievances! If they manage to show their vote bank to any of these politicians, am sure they would encourage such divisive thought process! Just thinking about the potential threat of such divisive thought process, scares me!

So do I sound stupid? May be not – ten years from now!

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