A Euphemism I Discovered

I come from a self-proclaimed modern family: the kind in which parents walk around with iPads and ask their children to install Viber on their smartphones (to keep in touch with family and friends scattered all over the world), also the kind in which parents allow their girl child to have male friends and congratulate themselves on how progressive they are, the kind in which elders react with (mock) horror to news of someone not allowing an inter-caste marriage and how we have all moved a long way from that, and what matters is we are all good (Hindu) human beings.

This is exactly the kind of family that does not use the word ஜாதி. While caste is something sanitized and sterilized, ஜாதி is vile and distasteful. It is acceptable to talk of “the problem of caste”, as though one were merely describing the problems encountered during an early morning emptying of the bowel; whereas it is considered best to ignore the Tamizh equivalent of this very word. Does saying the same thing in English take away the sting? As though you have the choice to mute a dog barking on the street (even if you do, the dog is still madly barking).

At times, even the word caste is studiously avoided, using circuitous phrases such as: “Are they (like) us?”, “What are they?”, followed by the inevitable “How can you not know?”, comparison along the lines of “Your friend is MBC, he need not study, but you must!”, the innocent sounding “Are they non-vegetarians?”, and if your new friend happened to be a vegetarian, there could be further analysis on which forward community they might belong to, based on their name, dialect, where they are from.

I am going to call this passive-aggressive casteism. Granted buses are not being burnt, but let us not justify this using that argument.

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2 thoughts on “A Euphemism I Discovered

    1. Also “poor” but not “ezhai”?
      Though I think the group that uses the word caste includes (and is not restricted to) the group that uses the word shit and others of its ilk..

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