Yes, People Still Care About Caste in Australia.

They’re well educated too.

I spent the the weekend watching Daughters of Destiny on Netflix, a 4 part documenary that vividly captures the stories of girls who attend Shanti Bhavan boarding school in India, just outside Bangalore.

It’s moving and I cried. I cried because it pains me to see how we limit opportunities for very capable young people simply because of who they are and where they live. How disempowered and worthless we make them feel. At the same time I was very inspired by Abraham and Ajit George’s ambitious approach to tackle inequality and empower these very children.

One could say it’s a lottery to be born in Australia. But it’s more complicated than that. Discrimination isn’t a ‘systematic problem’, it’s a people problem and that becomes pretty evident throughout this documentary.

Many NGO’s say ‘basic literacy’ is one of the key solutions to poverty, however this is questionable. Quite frankly, I would say basic literacy in itself is not worth investing in without further intervention and a more holistic approach to tackling poverty.

Someone who is raised in an environment to believe they are an inferior caste, worthless and destined for slavery will not simply succeed with basic literacy and a scrappy education. They need to be empowered, their sense of self belief needs to be fundamentally elevated so they have a sense or purpose and value themselves. And they certainly can’t be going back home every day to a community that reinforces their worthlessness.

Here in Australia, I hate to admit this but I’ve now heard this ‘caste’ issue come up several times in the Indian community. The first time I was a shocked, confused and thought the person was joking — they said it so casually.

They said something like this ‘I’d only marry someone from X caste’, I asked but what if everything else was fine — values, goals and proximity (in the era of Tinder that seems to be priority No 1). They still insisted caste would ultimately be a deciding factor.

Then I heard it again, and again and had a close friend experience an awful break up simply because she wasn’t from a particular caste. I’m talking about very well educated, well to do people born and brought up in Australia. I thought to myself what on earth has gone wrong here, how has our system failed? Or more accurately what have we as a community not done right?

This is where values comes in, we tend to inherit the values we are raised with or out of so called ‘respect’ for our parents abide their demands for us to perpetuate decisions depsite how illogical and unfair they may be.

So yes sometimes people in Australia still care about caste and it’s very much driven by their home environment. I’m very glad it only matters for relationships and doesn’t extend to jobs, opportunities and how society at large treats you.

India has a long way to go in this realm. However I’m sure with organisations like Shanti Bhavan, we will reach a place where one day where despite their caste every child will have the opportunity to reach for the stars and the only deciding factor will be their ambition.
If you have 4 hours this weekend, I recommend watching the 4 episodes →