The ‘Entertainer’ Caste Hangs on to What it Knows –

India is emerging, but it also is staying the same.  Views on the caste system, child labor, and economic realities:

“The children work for the community,” Barsati’s brother, Manish, tells me. “We did the same thing when we were their age. But once we grew big, around 13, 14, we had to stop. Who gives big children money? So what could we do? We stopped working, we married, we had children, and our children started to perform. Now we move with them, protect them. When they come of age they’ll stop and be like us. This is our tradition.”

via The ‘Entertainer’ Caste Hangs on to What it Knows –


4 thoughts on “The ‘Entertainer’ Caste Hangs on to What it Knows –”

  1. At least for me, this article recalls the haunting images I saw in “Slumdog Millionaire”, in which a little boy has his eyes burned out so that when he sings in the street, he can maximize profits for his own “minder”. These kind of stories remind one that as much as the occupy wall street protestors claim anger at the 1%, they are themselves much more privileged than most of the developing world. And as the article points out, India, as the world’s most populous democracy, has been making rapid strides economically and politically. In fact, exactly a year ago today, President Obama endorsed India to have a seat on an expanded UNSC. ( However, socially, India still struggles–the caste system haunts the population and huge slums litter the cities. India needs to find a way to combat these age-old divisions and stigmas so that they may achieve lasting social development. The thought that children are being denied free, public government schooling because of their born social status is appalling. In my opinion, education for all will be what can equalize and progress Indian society in the end anyway. They just need to find a way to get there.

  2. India’s cast system encourages the poverty that many ethnic and social minorities deal with. The Nats are a perfect example of this. People born into a low cast will most likely live their life in poverty. The government has been blamed for the continuation of the cast system, and the poor social and economic conditions that many Indians face, however, while the government is corrupt, it’s at least attempting to improve the lives of its poorest citizens. One reform that the government is implementing is the Identity Project. India is attempting to scan the eyes of its 2.4 billion citizens, so that it can better identify its people. This program will help improve India’s social services, while allowing for better voter registration. It will also make emigration and travel paperwork more accessible to the poor. This program may help alleviate poverty, because it will ensure that food hand outs are being given to those that actually need it. It will also ensure that each citizen has an identity. This could be one reason why the cast system has continued in India. Lower cast members are not seen as human beings. Once they are identified in India’s database and are given the ability to vote and requests work papers, the government and upper casts may finally see them as valuable citizens. The link below is to a New York Times article that outlines the details of the Identity Project.

  3. It’s interesting to contrast this post about India with the one about China’s evolving cultural ambitions. China is struggling to develop culturally at the same rate it has developed economically, while India has been more open and vibrant culturally while, as shown in the lives of the people in the article, it struggles to a much greater degree to develop economically. The graph of GDP growth in the link below is revealing- just look at the last 20 years.

    So which value comes higher? China has gleaming new airports and highways while in India the infrastructure is so bad that businesses are paying to build roads themselves (see ; great article if you’re interested in the subject). At the same time India produces hundreds of movies in Bollywood every year while the most famous ‘Chinese’ movie, Mulan, was made in California.

    Its a complicated question, but I would argue that in the information age the freedom and creativity allowed by India’s open democratic system will ultimately be more valuable than the quicker growth provided by the controlled Chinese system. Why is this? With current and future improvements in technology, manual labor is becoming less and less valuable. Machines can do much of what humans used to be needed to do. That trend will only increase. What matter now are ideas. In China you have to be fearful of saying, creating, or doing anything that the government could see as dissension (look at how they shut down that art exhibit). The cultural norm is to try to fit in. The best ideas of the future will be hard to develop in that kind of intellectual environment.

    It’s tragic to read about the lives of children such as those mentioned in the article but one can take comfort both in the general direction of India’s economy (which is still moving up, albeit at a slower rate) and the greater potential growth that only a free-thinking populace can provide.

  4. Reading Sonia Faleiro’s article was interesting; however, I was left with a question, “When will the people in the lower caste be able to feel free and socially be acceptable?” When I was little, my family would watch Indian movies because it had good life lessons to learn. I often cried during and after each movie because they were sad even though it was entertaining to watch. The social status played an important role in people’s everyday life and it made things more complicated between rich and poor people over marriage, work, and education. At that time, I did not understand how the caste system worked, but now that I am older I understand it better from an academic setting.

    I personally think that caste system is not the best system because it does not allow poor people to be motivated to receive education and achieve the best in their personal lives. The system does not encourage poor people to have the motivation to rise up because they are still not socially acceptable. This makes me feel sad because you and I have the opportunity to get a higher education and prepare ourselves to work in a competitive job in our desired work field. Knowing that many people in India still follow the tradition of their parents tell us that there are still more work need to be done in India in order to allow equality to work for everyone at equal basis.

    I found a short information on the caste system today. It says that “the rules are not as rigid as they were in the past. Because of western education, contact with foreigners, media, and modern communications, people are progressive in many aspects. In 1962, a law was passed making it illegal to discriminate against the untouchable castes. In practice however, discrimination still continues today.” The law does not really help in solving the problem in the short run, but it is a great start in the long run. In my opinion, one way to promote equal opportunities in school, work, and church is that Indians themselves need to take an action in enforcing the law in real life. Media is a very effective way to do this because Indians love entertainment. Discrimination is not healthy for the future of India.

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