Sunday, May 22, 2011

Caste discrimination through language

Subversion of "lower" castes in India has been a result of the hierarchical caste system. I used the quotes when I mentioned the word 'lower' because how you say something differs from what it actually is. This brings us to something all of us (Indians) have been using or uttering for decades now. One of the directive principles of the Indian Constitution states that "provisions have to be made for the upliftment of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other  Backward Classes." In this context, the language matters.

Terming people from "backward" classes as BCs. Similarly using "Scheduled Castes", "Scheduled Tribes", "Dalits" or "Harijans" (Though it means servants of god, they are treated as "our" servants)  to describe a particular set of people, referring to their caste, is derogatory. For example: The use of the word "Nigger" or Negro" referring to African-Americans (who were racially disadvantaged people), is considered extremely disparaging and the most offensive word in English, which has given rise to a revolutionary movement in the world.

Usage of such terms has to be stopped. Such terms, used intentionally or unintentionally or officially in texts, manuals, scripts, etc, cause harm or often, degrade people belonging to socially and economically disadvantaged groups. Having arrived at this point, it is necessary to replace such terms which publicize inequality, with words that do not perpetuate caste. However, this will not be a major contributor to abolish caste system, but will make a difference in eliminating caste system, at least in our daily lives.

While the Civil Rights Act of 1871 in the United States prohibits discrimination of African-Americans and protects them under the law,  our country needs a law or probably, rules or a nationally accepted or "politically correct" book with such words  (because, for a bill to become a LAW takes decades) which doesn't perpetuate caste and prevents the discrimination of socially disadvantaged groups, at least through the use of language.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

First day jitters

I probably thought this post will be different from the others because I would be explaining how my first day at work was. But, it turned out to be dramatic and unexpectedly, sad. So, Here I go....

I do not know if I had expected too much  on the very first day ( I mean work at office), but it was disastrous. I was asked to join around 11 a.m. But, because of my mom's superstitions or beliefs or whatever you call it (I don't blame her for it), she had advised me to join after 11 a.m. because of "auspicious time." And, expecting the "auspicious" time to be auspicious, I reached office by 11.20 a.m. and was asked by one of the assistants to finish the formalities of joining.

I had to meet the head of the personnel department and fill some form, which had questions almost like I was joining another institute. I finished the formalities and was about to meet the Resident Editor and then, then an incident happened. Probably the auspicious time was gone, I was stuck in the elevator for 20 minutes. It was quite funny. It was stuck in between two floors and the auspicious time was so "auspicious" that I couldn't escape at all. I cursed my luck for it. Whatever! I got out of it once the assistant saw me - expressionless, speechless and motionless. The trick was to switch off the main power and switch it on. I felt like the elevator was diseased. Finally, I met the resident editor and he smiled and asked me to come to office at 5.30 p.m.

To add to my misery, I had to go back home in the scorching sun and come back in the evening. I nodded my head cursing the resident editor and walked out. It was 5 p.m and my dad was sick of driving me to the office in the morning and had asked me to take a bus. I got to the office at around 5.45 p.m. I did not know anyone and therefore, one of my classmates from IIJNM came to my rescue, because she is also working in the same office.

I felt like I was in a land of aliens,. May be I was too nervous, scared and what not. I was shown my desk and a computer and then, the News Bureau Chief came and asked me to edit a story to check my editing skills.  It was worse that a moffusil copy because the language was not understandable. I had to understand what the reporter meant and  re-structure it well until the whole story made sense. I did it. But, another tragedy happened. After I finished, I refreshed the page assuming it was the "SAVE" option. Everything got deleted.
And then, I had to re-type everything and it took me an hour. I was tensed because I was taking a lot of time and then, the tragedy made my life worse. At that very moment, the News bureau chief walked up to me and asked why I was taking so long. He was not-so-humble or not-so-rude, but I was petrified at his arrival and somehow, took it negatively. (which I shouldn't have).

I spoilt my mood and my day. I was feeling scared, unworthy and flushed out completely. Probably, because I never expected this to happen on the first day. But , it did and I had to accept it. In that mood, I drank three cups of coffee, which ruined my night's sleep. I was drooped back home by a kind but irksome cab driver. I was not happy. My first day at work wasn't good at all. I was thinking about the same thing again and again and therefore, couldn't sleep too. My best friend came to my rescue and brought me out of it, just by texting. And I thank him for bringing me out of it because, if it were not him, my disaster management skills would be worse.

Today is my second day at work. Few faces look familiar because I met them yesterday. Still, a few look at me as if I'm standing NAKED in front of them. Anyways, hope to start loving this place and get to know a few more people.