I was doing an assignment on Cultural Diversity with a friend today, and we repeatedly came across the word "caste" in relation to India. So he asked me what the word "Caste" meant since he had never heard it before.
I was flummoxed. How do you explain caste?
How does one condense several hundred years of history into a few pithy sentences? A hundred years of opression and injustice? I tried, of course. And gave him a crash course on the Hindu caste system.
I started with the four castes. How people were classified by birth (though it was hard to explain "untouchables"- he did not get the concept). Schedules castes and tribes. OBC's. How marriages were fixed only within castes. The caste honor system.
Reservations. Mandal Commision. Self-immolation. Supreme court rulings, the creamy layer, admissions in college. Caste Politics, Mayawati, Laloo Prasad Yadav.
He resolved never to ask me the meaning of any word he did not know.