Live and Let Others Live
By Bindu Chaudhary
Thank God, it was only a dream after all! I had just a few hours of sleep and the time seemed an eternity. I was perspiring and my hands were clasped with fear. I took a deep breath, and thought, could there be any bigger relief than waking up from a horrible, terrible nightmare? And I imagined how some people have to actually live with this nightmare, day in, day out.
I dreamt I wanted to go to a temple and I mustered all my courage to go this time…and the next thing I remembered was lying on the middle of road, unable to stand up, exhausted. I was beaten and thrashed, assaulted and trampled. I faintly remembered them saying, “Go off and dare not impure this place again!”
I gathered myself up and could think of going nowhere else in the blazing sun but stop by a water tap to quench my thirst. I saw dogs and cats having gulps of water. I could not resist anymore and before I had a sip, I was thrashed for polluting the water. Haunted by fear, I ran pulling myself up to cry my souls out inside the four walls of my room.
The previous incidents of similar hatred and exclusion came as a flashback in my mind. I remembered how frightening my school days were, when I often used to come home crying being beaten up at school, being made to sit and eat separately… as if I was punished for who I was born.
Then I recalled how difficult it was for me to get admission in college, and how my hostel room-mate threw my belongings and pushed me off, threatening me if I ever entered the hostel. I went on remembering the endless incidents that I had experienced in the past.
Oh, the life is such a suffering because of some people who do not want you to be around. Why at all do they bother us, if not befriend us? Why can’t they just tolerate, respect and appreciate the expression and ways of being human? Why, in spite of being an educated lot, do they act so irrational…? I woke up asking these questions, simple, yet complex.
The discrimination and prejudice that I faced being a Dalit was one of the worst nightmares I had ever had. It is such a terrible feeling of being treated dirty and filthy. Perhaps, we need to step into a Dalit shoe to experience the thorny, bristling reality of oppression. What could make us feel more inferior and worthless than being considered polluting people- unseeable, unapproachable and untouchable? Excuse me if I sound offensive, but I believe we need to keep both feet on the ground and liberate ourselves from the shackle of superior- inferior hypocrisy. It is not impossible to appreciate diversity, neither is it impractical to live and let others live. It sounds perfectly sensible to adhere to one’s convictions while accepting that others adhere to theirs. Above and beyond, it is flawlessly judicious to enjoy one’s rights and freedoms without infringing on those of others.
The Hindu caste system, with its ascending order of reverence and descending degree of contempt, has been degenerated and exploited over the course of centuries. The caste system, which was originally based on a system of social diversification according to karma and not by birth, has been extensively misrepresented, misinformed, misunderstood, and misused by some of the vested socio-economic elements of the society.
No ifs and buts, if the so-called upper castes make up for the disgraceful news headlines such as – Dalits injured in caste clash, Dalits beaten up for entering temple, Dalit beaten for asking his wages, Dalit thrashed for using public tap, Dalit home demolished etc, do the so-called high castes really commend respect and admiration that they claim for? We need to emerge out of this unjustified hereditary based caste system and see the world afresh appreciating every existence worthy of human dignity and reverence.