Sunday, December 24, 2006

Low life, high life!

By John Cheeran
It cannot be simply serendipity that two Dalits who have been elevated to Indian Republic's highest chairs come from that tiny southern state Kerala.
K.R. Narayanan became India's first Dalit President. Now Justice K. G. Balakrishnan is set to become India's first Dalit Supreme Court Chief Justice.
May be something has got to do with Kerala's social environment that helps the lower strata to move forward with dignity.
Human interventions were, indeed, needed to arrive at this happy state of affairs and Communists to Christian missionaries to enlightened Maharajas all had played their roles in making education available to all sections of the society in Kerala.
It is often asked in such instances as this, why the fact that Narayanan and Balakrishnan are Dalits need to be brought up and highlighted.
Why can't we just say Narayanan and Balakrishnan achieved their exalted status just being themselves, and just based on their competency. Why bring up the point that they are Dalits?I remember K.R. Narayanan telling a few months prior to his death in an interview to Rajiv Mehrotra that when he visited France as Indian President, the newspaper Le Figaro reported his visit with a front page headline "An Untouchable in Elysee Palace."
This is quite like Lady Macbeth complaining that not all perfumes of Arabia can sweeten her little hand.
I, for one, believe none should be ashamed of being born low. And I'm against reservations based on caste and religion.
If you can exploit the system, by accepting what it offers, then one should not have any quibble with being what you are. The fact that Dalits can occupy high chairs in India should act as inspiration for India's millions of benighted Dalits.
They should be at least free to think without fear and take what the system offers.
It is really interesting to know how street smart Gopinathan, father of India's new Supreme Court Chief Justice, K. G. Balakrishnan, was in exploiting the opportunities he had during his time.
India's Supreme Court Chief Justice's father embraced Christianity and became Joseph so that he will not be denied entry to schools and colleges.
In the Kerala of those times, the low-born, were denied access to education.
Balakrishnan's father abandoned Hinduism so that he can learn. After studies and getting a government job, he returned to the Hindu folds, observing all the necessary rituals.
If this is not being street-smart, I don't know what else is. Ambedkar achieved everything, all his high points, technically remaining in the folds of Hinduism.
But he did not want to die as Hindu. No one can control the way we come into this world. But it is possible to decide how you want to die. Ambedkar did not want to die as a Hindu. So he embraced Buddhism.
At least Ambedkar was truthful to his self.
There was no trickery in what he did or spoke. Today, India has changed.
And it has really changed for a majority of the low-caste too.
Today it pays to be street smart. Today the only conversion that matters is rupees to euro or rupees to dollars.
Long live Indian Republic.

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