Saturday, September 10, 2005

Notes on my Brahmin Self

-By S. Anand

I was born a Tamil-brahmin (of the iyengar caste) and had my upbringing mostly in Hyderabad and other parts of Andhra Pradesh. My early upbringing was under the totalizing spell of the Tamil-brahmin sub-culture—in terms of language, food, circle of friends, aesthetics—so much that my access to other social worlds was cut off by sheer prejudice nurtured by the family. An extended spell of hostel life since graduation helped me escape familial colonialism, but I carried with me all the unearned privileges and the earned prejudices of a brahmin birth. College and university life (1990-1997) exposed me to a burgeoning student dalit movement in the post-Ambedkar centenary phase, though I did not make immediate sense of Mandal or the Ambedkarite movement. While working on my M.Phil. With the English Department of University of Hyderabad, I took up my first journalistic job—as a subeditor—with Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad, in 1996. I literally walked into the job, unalive to the fact of how brahmin privilege works in unstated ways. While on my first job, I acquired some political and cultural perspective on the several ‘caste issues’ I faced in university life, and in my own life, on reading Kancha Ilaiah’s Why I am Not a Hindu: A Sudra Critique of Hindutva, Philosophy, Culture and Political Economy (Samya, 1996). I wrote a full-page review of the work in Deccan Chronicle, which I began by introducing myself as a brahmin, quite like Ilaiah foregrounds his shudra-OBC identity. I then discovered the writings of Ambedkar. Around the time, my marriage to my non-brahmin partner also caused a rupture in my caste self, and forced a rethink on my own undying brahminism. I began writing occasionally on caste in Deccan Chronicle, and also commissioned others to write, and this did not necessarily mean writing about dalits. The fact that I was a born-brahmin enabled me to express a few anti-brahmin ideas with ease.
Starting 1998, I was with the copydesk of The Indian Express, Chennai, for a year where I did manage a few analytical pieces on caste against several odds. I was still not a reporter. In 1999, I joined the brahmin-dominated desk of The Hindu. I had always considered The Hindu as my last option since my grandmother used to say after I completed my M.A., “Wear a namam [a caste mark worn on the forehead], and tell them you belong to such and such iyengar subcaste; who knows we may be related to The Hindu editors! They will certainly give you a job.” I was utterly embarrassed by this frank advice, but also knew that there was truth in this claim since The Hindu had a fair share of namam journalists. After circumstances forced me to quit The (New) Indian Express, when I did seek employment with The Hindu, I did not use the caste card like my grandmother would have wanted me to, but I do realize one’s brahmin-ness is not necessarily or always inscribed on one’s forehead or caste tag (which I did not bear). The advantages of being born in the ‘right caste’, I think, equally helped me with my other jobs, as also in other spheres in my life, sometimes without my even being aware of these advantages.
Since mid-2001 I have been working as the Chennai correspondent of the weekly Outlook—my first reporting job. Here, to my own surprise, I have had greater success in writing occasional analytical articles and news-reports on brahmin hegemony than in writing about oppression of dalits. Again, my being a non-dalit, a born-brahmin, has, I think, enabled me in several invisible ways. Perhaps this has partly enabled a tolerant reception to some views extremely critical of brahmins in a mainstream media forum.
After marriage, I moved away from my parents in Hyderabad, to Chennai in 1998 and exposure to the mostly debrahminised (yet strangely anti-dalit) Tamil political and intellectual cultures heightened my brahminical guilt and pressured me to seriously rescript my sense of the ‘personal’—this was almost a conversion sans a formal change of religion. This primarily involved two issues.
i) Unlearning the brahminised variation of Tamil that I spoke: Tamil-brahmins speak a Tamil that is markedly different from that of nonbrahmins; it carries a heavy dose of sanskritic influence. I speak, read and write Telugu as well; and though Telugu brahmins sometimes have a stylistic inflection distinct from nonbrahmin Telugus, they do not attempt to fundamentally change the language like Tamil brahmins tend to do. Within Tamil Nadu, given the penetrative thrust of the periyarite nonbrahmin movement, some brahmins self-consciously use a slightly debrahminised variation in their public sphere–usage while relapsing into the unselfconscious comfort of a brahminical register in the domestic sphere. Several brahmins do not even bother to effect such a switchover and unabashedly speak a brahminised Tamil all the time. However, increasingly in Tamil Nadu today, with the nonbrahmins seeking to imitate the brahminical register, certain brahminical modes of expression have crept into the nonbrahminised mode of speaking.
Being born and bred outside Tamil Nadu, I had never really been exposed to the nonbrahmin way(s) of speaking Tamil. The only Tamil I knew was what my parents and circle of relatives made available to me. In Chennai, with active support from my wife, who belongs to the land-owing Tamil shudra community of gounders (classified as OBC), and a few other friends, I gradually weeded out the brahminical expressions I was prone to. After six months of conscious efforts, I could speak a decent, nonbrahminised Tamil. Even then, the brahminical Tamil embedded in my subconscious would occasionally slip out and cause me embarrassment. This continues to happen, but rather infrequently these days since my interaction with the brahmin community now is almost negligible, given that I am estranged from my family and relations.
ii) The second crucial change effected in my personal self was with respect to food habits. The family I was born into ate only vegetarian food. Egg, boiled, was a rare indulgence, that too as a dietary supplement since I played tennis during my childhood. This too had to be done secretively by my mother without my grandparents coming to know of it. I knew how to cook, partly because I helped my mother, and handled kitchen duties whenever she menstruated. After marriage, it was I who cooked and was in charge of the kitchen. In our early days in Chennai, when my partner sought to eat meat, mostly chicken, she would buy it from hotels. At her behest, I used to try it occasionally, but did not enjoy the taste. Since I approached the issue politically, I understood that my inability to appreciate the taste of meat owed not to an inherent, ‘natural’ repugnance to it, but rather to the fact of my lack of exposure to its taste. For the first eighteen years of my life, my tongue had been colonised by vegetarian home food. In my six years of hostel life, I was too conservative and brahminical to have tried meat. Most crucially, I was not politically conscious those days. Not liking the idea of my partner having to buy oily meat from hotels, I decided that I would at least cook it at home. Soon, I began tasting it. Over the years, I have come to really enjoy it and realise what I had been missing all these years. What really got me hooked to the taste of meat was my liking for kebabs—burnt mutton. (In 2003, I also savoured succulent beef kebabs at Bade Miyan in Mumbai thanks to my friend Sharmila.) Since 2001, I have turned quite a decent meat-eater. Yet, nonbrahmin friends would point to how I am a bit clumsy in my inability to clean up the bones dry. Today, we cook mutton, beef, all kinds of seafood and chicken at home. I have not yet conquered pork, though I love bacon the way it is served continental style.
Eating meat should hardly be considered a means of running away from one’s brahminic identity. Historically, the brahmins consumed all kinds of meat—including beef. Pulao made of veal (tender calf) was a delicacy served to the guests during the vedic period. It was only Buddhism that forced the brahmins to swing to the other extreme and give up on meat altogether. Just as my dalit friends who rediscover and revert to Buddhism, and hence turn vegetarian, are not ceasing to be dalits by refusing to eat meat, I would not cease to be a brahmin my merely eating meat. It is not a certificate of progressiveness or regressiveness. But when the choice of not eating or not eating certain foods is not based on self-made decisions but based on irrationally inherited caste culture, then as rational human beings we need to rethink and question the same.
Why this conscious effort at making, and now marking, these changes in my personal self? Do I want to pass for a nonbrahmin? Does one cease to be a brahmin just by speaking a different register and by eating different kinds of food? I have seen several brahmins in the modern, urban context assuming progressive postures—as liberals, marxists, feminists, poststructuralists, radicals of various hues. These are largely public postures. In the private sphere, they tend to remain true to their castes. They tend to marry within caste (even accidentally falling in love with a person of the same caste), sometimes even go through traditional marriage rituals and justify it as meant to satisfy parents/ relations, they even indulge in some rituals for the dead, they continue to eat what they have been used to eating. In the personal sphere, the language of modernity takes a backseat and the premodern caste self is allowed a free reign. In other words, not much changes in their personal lives. My fundamental problem was: how can one don a progressive hat in public and continue to indulge in practices inflected by one’s caste in the personal realm? How can one be modern and feudal at the same time? I was convinced that the personal and political had to be made compatible and complementary. I could not be someone who keenly engaged with Ambedkar’s ideas, interacted with the dalit movement, benefited a lot intellectually from my interactions with dalit and nonbrahmin friends, and yet keep intact a brahminical core.
Not that a conscious rescripting of the ‘personal’ makes me cease to be a brahmin. For all effective purposes, I shall remain one. I cannot erase the unearned privileges being born in this caste have given me. I believe caste will continue to function for me not as an originary identity but as a social location that I cannot often exit. Since both the identitarian and hierarchical aspects of caste function in a relational, relative sense, I cannot individually cease to be a brahmin. I cannot annihilate my identity as a brahmin unless all individuals belonging to all castes begin to do so. Who I am will continue to be defined in relation to what others are.
Of late, I have come to be deeply skeptical about my brahminhood as an originary identity. Castes are essentially maintained by patriarchy. My father and grandfather (father’s father) claimed that we belong(ed) to the ‘Kousika gotra’. Kousika is another name for Vishwamitra, the mythical sage who figures in the Hindu myth Ramayana. Vishwamitra, a kshatriya by birth, aspires to be a brahmin, a brahma-rishi (super-brahmin) in fact. The brahmins, led by brahma-rishi Vashishta, resent Vishwamitra’s aspirations. Today, I see the entire Vishwamitra story in the light of my reading of Ambedkar, especially his ‘Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Ancient India’ (see Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Writing and Speeches, Vol. 3, pp 151–440, especially Chapter 15 titles ‘Brahmins Versus Kshatriyas’ pp. 392–415). Ambedkar describes Vishwamitra as someone who was ‘anxious to become a brahmin’. Vishwamitra was probably someone who was the first to question the birthright of the brahmins to be the interpreters of the vedas and sanskritic knowledge that the brahmins monopolised. He goes on to overcome the various obstacles that Vashishta and other brahmins throw in his path and finally becomes brahma-rishi. If my father, grandfather, great grandfather and so on trace their lineage—their gotra—from this mythical Vishwamitra, then by default they are admitting to having had nonbrahmin origins. The Vishwamitra story is of course myth, not history, but since most Indian history is spiked with a heavy dose of myths, we have to give such myths some credence, especially since identities claimed today are based on sustaining and believing in such myths.
What I am saying here could of course be interpreted a clever, brahminical way of trying to claim a ‘nonbrahmin’ origin for myself! Far from it. The myth/story has not been completely told. If Vishwamitra is being discussed, how can Menaka be forgotten? This dancer from heaven should have been the devadasi equivalent of those mythical days. Vashishta and his cohorts are supposed to have sent Menaka to distract Vishwamitra from the meditation/ penance he had undertaken to become brahma-rishi. In what comes in storybooks, and even TV serial interpretations, Menaka dances an ‘item number’ and seduces Vishwamitra (on TV Meenakshi Seshadri as Menaka seduced N.T. Rama Rao who played Vishwamitra’s character). Menaka bears Vishwamitra’s child as well. What is the guarantee that the patriarchal lineage that my father traces does not lead to Menaka? I could well claim to be a Menaka-putra! If Vishwamitra could be ‘tempted’ by Menaka, how many men, over several generations, in such a patriarchal clan, might not have been tempted by various women? Similarly, brahmin women could have had affairs with nonbrahmins. What about my mother’s gotra? Before she married my father she claimed to belong to ‘Koundinya gotra’ of her father. But the patriarchal marriage system changed her gotra to my father’s. What about my father’s mother’s originary gotra? If women have to always lose their father’s gotra with marriage, how reliable can these gotra lineages be? Besides, when we can be definitive only about motherhood and since patriarchy is largely inferential, why should we believe patriarchal lineages? Where would all this lead brahmins? How far should we dig?
My contention is that all stories/ myths/ beliefs about caste identities can similarly be interrogated and demolished. Caste—and the caste system—sustains itself not because there has not been enough miscegenation. There should have been several intercaste affairs and marriages in history; yet the newly emergent miscegenated groups are fitted into some caste or the other. Sometimes, new castes were created, new myths/stories woven. While Vishwamitra, a nonbrahmin, upgraded himself, some castes would have been degraded. After all, Ambedkar, and before him Iyothee Thass in Tamil Nadu, had argued that today’s untouchables were former Buddhists. From brahmin to dalit, there cannot be any ‘pure’ castes. Yet, in the given moment, caste identity operates strongly and effectively as a social category. Therefore, I could theoretically have had nonbrahmin origins, but what matters today is my brahmin identity and the benefits and privileges that have accrued to me from it. My brahmin identity today is as real as a dalit’s identity is.
In November 2003, my friend Ravikumar, a leading dalit intellectual based in Pondicherry, and I started a publishing house called Navayana. We focus on caste as an issue, not just on dalits. One of the forthcoming titles from Navayana is called ‘Narrating the Brahmin Self’ where I have invited several brahmins from across the world to talk about their brahmin selves. Several brahmins are uneasy indulging in such a reflective exercise. Many pretend that caste does not matter for them. Some see no point in such an exercise. Some think they have risen beyond caste. In the contemporary context, dalits and other ‘lower’ castes are being made to bear the burden of caste; as if caste exists only in them. It is time brahmins and other privileged castes started reflecting upon their own caste selves.

[S. Anand is the Chennai-based Special Correspondent of Outlook newsmagazine. He is also the cofounder of Navayana Publishing.]


At 5:34 PM, Blogger Vijay Nagaraj said...

Dear Friends,

I just read through Anand's interesting piece, 'Notes on my Brahmin Self'. I too would like to share some of my own thoughts on the subject. Like Anand, I too was born into a brahmin family. From a very early age my family ensured that we were conscious about our brahmin roots and I think this actually helped fashion my own resistance. Much like Anand I too learnt and continue to learn about my brahmin self from a range of encounters and experiences.

My socialisation however was not just as a brahmin, it had three other very important dimensions: masculinity, heterosexuality and middle class urbanity. Over a period of time each of these four dimensions have unraveled themselves in various ways. And over the same period of time I have engaged with a large number of people and ideas and have seen myself in these different guises, with a deep sense of anguish.

I do agree with Anand that those of us born as Brahmins must reflect on the privileges and power that our birth brings along with it. I would only like to add however that in my own experience my engagement with some of other ‘selves’—male, heterosexual and urban middle class—has actually been of immense value in deconstructing for me my Brahmin self and vice-versa.

I am living-in with someone who is a brahmin by birth. She works with animals and pointed out to me how I (and many others) are caste-like in more ways than we are aware. She pointed out that the middle and upper class people who keep pets prefer pedigree dogs—jati nai in Tamil—rather than mongrels and strays. In fact, based on her many years of experience of working in this field she also maintains that people actually show a male preference even when it comes to pets, let alone children and not to omit her assertion that most of the animals we term strays are actually pets of the poor, including the homeless—and she has innumerable examples to prove her point!

My partner mocks me for how I am unable to unhesitatingly pet a dirty stray dog while I am at ease with a dog on a leash that looks clean. And so much for your political consciousness she says! Now my partner claims she is not moved by politics or political activists, but clearly she is moved by something else—being able to extend physical care to a homeless woman or an animal on the street with a ghastly smelly wound is, as I have discovered, no easy task. It requires a degree of inner strength that mere political consciousness cannot bring.

Late last year when I was taking a lecture as TISS, Mumbai (where I currently work) on Ambedkar’s vision in welding together the Marxist perspective with Buddhist reasoning, it occurred to me that this was one of the most significant but least emphasized aspect of his work. Ambedkar’s anti-caste agenda is often reduced to a political and ideological one, while the agenda of compassion and rational humanism that he drew from Buddha, is seldom given equal footing. It is often forgotten that Ambedkar choose Buddhism primarily because of the centrality it gives to reason and compassion.

My point is that merely critiquing and deconstructing my Brahmin, or patriarchal, heterosexual or urban middle class, self has not and perhaps will not help me. Indeed I also need a ledge on which to stand and do so, one that has to be rational—so it can stand the test of reason and experience—and compassionate—lest my act of critiquing makes me arrogant. It is also that ‘self’ that I think we must all search for and reflect on.

Vijay K Nagaraj

At 1:42 AM, Blogger Marx Kannan said...

Dear Friends,
after reading the article titled 'Notes on my Brahmin Self' posted by S.Anand, I do not know whether to laugh at this article or to blame our “Dalit”JNU friends who have fallen into the trap of our “former” Brahmin Anand whose job is to translate any work that criticizes Periyar’s life achievement-“unveiling and uprooting Brahmanical caste system”. Anand’s painful efforts to narrate his gradual development in understanding caste issues and its functional mechanism (marriage system, inter-dining, etc...) may be very interesting for those who have become mere “sympathizers” of victims of Brahmin Hinduism. A Brahmin who is one of those sympathizers can not become real champion of Caste Victims just by eating so-called non-Veg food items (the concept Veg and non-veg itself is a NO.1 cheating of Brahmanism).

Above all, a Brahmin - turned Dalit sympathizer has nothing to do with Dalit community, but he has “a lot of uprooting works” in Temples and Aghrahara. Of late, it has become a kind fashion (lucrative Job also) for caste –minded fellows to talk about caste, to arrange seminars, to write books on Ambedkarism (often to make Dalits understand (as if they are poor in understanding caste issues) and purchase the printed materials).If it is that a Brahmin can understand caste and system just by eating meat and join in the task of caste eradicationwith Dalits, I will show a number of Brahmins who eat Beef and buttress Brahmin caste orthodoxy and lakh of Brahmins who work in the Beef shops in USA. I do not know how a Journal, “with a commitment of caste eradication”, that too being published by JNU Scholars who are supposed to be the most intellectuals in understanding multi dimensional shapes and tactics of Brahmanism ,publish these kind of articles.

Periyar told once that we can believe a Brahmin who goes to temple carrying pooja –basket, but we should not believe an official Brahmin who wears the sacred-thread (?) "inside his Raymond coat(my usage)". It is also sad to know that most of Dalits have developed a Brahmanical kind of anti-periyarism attitude in understanding periyar's rationalism. Even Ambedkar sought suggestions from Periyar in Burma regarding the conversion into Buddhism. Periyar suggested him not to go alone, but with the whole Dalit community itself.

Now a days, the so-called Dalit scholars, like Ravi Kumar in Pondicherry, who write in The Brahmin-funded magazines criticizing periyarism for the mistakes of DMK and AIADMK Leaders (see outlook article 'Periyar’s Hindutva', by Ravikumar in Tamil, Translated by S.Anand).But one thing is very sure that without understanding Periyar's method of rationalism and other scientific methodology, no one can understand caste system and Ambedkarism.

At 12:39 AM, Blogger Uppili said...

I don't kno wwho gave you a job as a journalist. If you were a walk-in, god help the Indian media. No wonder it stinks. You are a disgrace to Goundars and Brahmins, not to mention the Tamilians as such. According to you the Nagercoil tamilians should give up their accent and become true tamilians by adapting the Goundar accent.

Yendaapaa ambi ipdi olare... or

Yennangaa ipdi sollipOteenga naamaa iyer maarungalai pathi

Yendaelai.. ingittu pesittelei mosamaaittu.

Take any accent dude.. every thing has a beauty, if you know how to appreciate it. BTW, you know zilch about Periyar, his philadering, or his so-called followers.

Quit your journalism job (you are too biased). Just my sueegstion.

At 3:09 AM, Blogger arul said...

If we're talking about contact with a person from a very low-caste, such as street-cleaner or tribal people - then almost everyone is prejudiced - not just brahmins. A wealthy mill-owning gounder family is likely to be just as squeamish. It's just expressed in different ways.

I think where Brahmin Colonialism is likely to be expressed is in history. Writing history. If you pick up a history book written by an englishman, for example, the role of the english is almost always magnified (either good or bad) and others are either diminished or edited out. To give a specific example: you will not find mention of Gallipolli - where the english were defeated by the turks. Or, I remember now, my english-authored book on the 18th century gives very little room to french philosophers.

Ditto with brahmin accounts: whether liberal or conservative, they tend to augment the importance of brahmin roles. The guilt and neuroses and self-flagellation is only apparent - a form of noblesse oblige - it doesnt really change anything fundamental in the power equation.

At 4:43 PM, Blogger genuinedalit said...

hi rajini is a dalit. his wife is a brahmin. rajini's daugter married a dalit.

one more thing, brahmins eat drink and do everything that even a nonbrahmin wont do.

to s anand,

i appreciate ur writing for the cause of dalits. but there is no need to eat all those non veg stuff just to support dalits. i hope you get the point. i was stumbled to know that you were a brahmin. i liked your writing.

alas, the sad part is we need one more brahmin to give a voice for us. what a pity. god, save the people.

At 3:15 AM, Blogger Dee said...

I find the point on meat quite irrelevant. Yes it came about with Buddhism, the extreme avoidance of it but because a logic was seen - nonviolence. Is that now redundant? While some Hindus [for this practice is not just restricted to Brahmins] may do it without knowing the reason, one cannot eliminate the reason behind it.

I do not believe history books are primarily written through Brahmin eyes only. They are also written through self-hatred, an internalization of inferiority and justifying the colonial rules by providing lame reasons like 'unification' of India as a consequence of British colonial rule.

At 6:31 AM, Blogger omkara said...

It is dissappointing to note that we are lost in the world of stereotyping and political agenda behind such outbursts against normal citizens and honored traditions.

True Brahamanisim is not your birth lineage or the way you look or your social status.

It is truly an intellectual and spiritual pursuit. Many great Rishis were non-brahmins or great kings.

It is time we shed the stereotyping and think a true Indian that Gandhi wanted every one to be.

At 8:52 PM, Blogger A.R.Ramachandran said...

there is an wonderful article about S.Anand at 'De Brahmanizing Anand'

Kind Regards, A

At 3:35 PM, Blogger I think therefore I am. said...

All I can say is that you are a fool. Why because you have never analyzed the meaning of any Hindu beliefs. Being born a Brahmin is not sin, it is not something you have to be apologetic about. The gotra signifies your genetic lineage and the reason you take your paternal gotra is because the Y chromosome is what is passed on from one generation to the next. And a woman loses her gotra as she loses her X chromosome ancestry . Also eating meat has psychological effects that enhances an aggressive disposition and it is counter to the peaceful state desired by a true Brahmin. Now who is a Brahmin? Its not just one who is just born a Brahmin but one who attains that sattva state of mind. And you have squandered your chances of becoming one because you voluntarily choose to do so. Non Brahmins eat meat more because they are raised that way. Eating meat for living is not wrong . But relishing it shows your animal disposition. I will advise you to read and understand the Bhagavad Gita and then conclude that Brahmanism and Hinduism is flawed. And is you think everything Brahmin is still wrong let me tell you that everything you are doing that is non Brahmin is worse. Brahmanism is not a caste its a state of mind that everyone should strive to attain.I think to fight caste system everyone should rise to become a Brahmin, not a Brahmin stoop to become a ignorant and prejudiced brute like you. And I see in modern India everyone is rising to the Brahminical state. Also why are you so apologetic about your Tamil. Brahmin Tamil is just a dialect like numerous others. There is nothing to feel guilty about it. Some of the greatest Tamil Scholars since ancient times spoke this version of colloquial Tamil. All I can say is that you need some introspection and its never too late to change and become human.

At 4:16 PM, Blogger I think therefore I am. said...

One more thing. If Dalits where Buddhists and Buddhists were vegetarian and Brahmins were veal eaters then how and why did they switch eating habits?

Also if you hate sanskrit so much and love 'pure' non Brahmin Tamil, why did you not come up with a pure Tamil name and instead call your website Navayana?

The most appalling thing abt your blog is how you doubt the character of the women in your Brahmin descent.
Your arguments makes me think,you are more Anti-Brahman than pro Dalit.

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Siddesh said...

You're so disbelieving that a Tamil Brahmin *COULD* ever "rise above caste". I'm 23 and I'm one. I'm atheist and rational and barely even bother to look up the history of my people. I do harbour a fair deal of Brahminical guilt but I wouldn't go out of my way to separate my "Brahmin core" whatever on earth that is. Yes I was brought up in a Brahmin household for the first 17 years of my life as well, albeit a very liberal one. But mind space is so sparse to be conscious of this "core" when you just open your eyes and realise people across all economic brackets and social structures in our country share one thing in their lives intimately - misery.

It doesn't matter to me at all that I'm a 'born-Brahmin'. There is absolutely no guaranty that my child will be born to another Brahmin as well, and purely statistically, it is indeed negligible. Hell, the world being the way it is, I might pass on even introducing another individual into our species, with none of its problems looking anywhere close to resolution. I'd probably go for adoption.

At 3:58 PM, Blogger RacingKid said...

What a pity? Fools bashing Brahminism as if something is wrong being a brahmin or bashing Dalits as if they made a mistake being born as one. One thing is clear. Pseudo Tamils who will not know Tamizgh when written Tamil, who eat Koli Kari (not Kozhi etc) talk about Brahminism, Dalits, Tamil etc.
Tamilians have become national jokers outside Tamil nadu, mostly because they dont hold any sensible identity.
So our great stupid Ambi editor is another faux paus, who things by writing anti brahminism as a brahmin he is a big shot. Actually he is bull shit.
Learn to appreciate your culture, whether Brahminical or Dalit or anything and make sure you dont infringe on other's cultures. Every culture has its value and in today's money bag world, who cares a shit for Brahmin or Dalit or for that matter for Periyar or Gounder (I dont know how many understand that Periyar is a caste name and the famous one in that list was against other caste names but is called Periyar and not Ramasamy!). Finally, Rajnikanth is a Maharastrian brahmin. Just because he is dark coloured dont tell me he is a brahmin.
Incidentally I noticed yday in a shop in Bangalore a bunch of tamilians where two of them were asking the other guy whether he has grown fairer because of soap x or y! What a shame, these guys cant appreciate their natural colour. And to me all the three looked no different in colour.
Just that all these folks have a darkened mind.

At 12:09 PM, Blogger Krish said...


I am also born in a brahmin family by birth. Take it easy buddy. You give way too much importance to brahminism. I also hate my caste lineage. As far as I am concerned, brahminism doesn't exist. But from your post I get an impression that you give way too much importance to brahminism. It just doesn't deserve such an importance. Just ignore it and work towards uplifting people who are facing injustice in our society.

At 1:04 AM, Blogger Ram said...

This being such a late response, I don't know if anyone would even get to read it:
Anand, kudos to you for sharing your thoughts and worldview! However, my only request to you is to stop eating meat, and become not just a vegetarian, but a vegan. There are several reasons why it's a good idea to become a vegan - from abstaining from cruelty to animals, a lighter footprint on the environment to reducing our share of intake so that more people can have the minimum food to survive - the reasons are many. There are also many reasons why eating meat is a bad idea.

Here's something you have probably never thought about: when you say that you enjoy the taste of meat, what you are really enjoying is the spices and the salt that's used to cook the meat. True, some people like the texture of the meat, and yes, animal fats such as butter and cheese have some kind of taste to them. But, by understanding the fact that the so-called "taste" of meat actually comes from the spices used (in fact, that's one reason Europeans were desperate to find trading routes to India - because meat would be horrible to eat without the salt and the spices). Please do yourself a favor and try and get a copy of the book "Beyond Beef" by Jeremy Rifkin. As a non-brahmin, non-Dalit and someone who used to enjoy "delicious" meat in my earlier years, I can say from my experience in the last 23 years that I haven't missed anything by becoming a vegetarian first, and a vegan soon after.

To RacingKid: I think you are getting carried away with your own flippant use of words: first of all, there is no phrase like "faux paus" and secondly, "faux pas" (which is probably what you had in mind) has a different meaning and usage. But frankly, I couldn't care less about the correct usage of English, much less French - seriously! I just wanted to point out that you are being flippant - because "Periyar" is NOT a caste name - it is a title of respect, meaning "elder" or "great man". Periyar's actual caste name is Naicker - yes, he was originally E.V.Ramasamy Naicker. For people like you who are glib with facts and history, I want to say - go easy on that, will you! :)

At 9:00 AM, Blogger harish said...

Anand , you say you have thought about a lot of things , but the reality is you have not.

ancient tamils were not fools. Brahmins have their presense in tamil nadu for atleast 3000 years - OK for your satisfaction I will cut it down to 1500 years.In spite of that, ,for atleast a 1000 years kings have been inviting and honouring brahmins. This is not only true about tamil nadu, this is true with regard to all hindu kingdoms. If we proceed by your logic, then the rest of non brahmins were stupid people who did not realize that brahmins were out to deceive them not or 1 or 2 years but for 1000 years. Brahmins have been becoming more and more materialistic and did not live life according to what was expected of them. It has been only then, that anti brahminism became popular. Not before that. You might speak about buddhism, but even when buddhism was most popular, brahmins were still the most respected section in society and they were welcomed into buddhism with great honour whenever they turned to it.Whether or not you choose to accept it , I have travelled across the globe and what I have noticed is that if there is some spirituality left in the world, it is because of India. And only the presense of brahminic ideals have made India a spiritual nation. And once all brahmins loose their caste ( by their conduct not by inter marriage), India will be no different from the rest of the world. Every hotel will serve beef in its menu and men and women will wait for fridays to booze together. Great Going. You probably dont think it matters. But believe me , this earth is tolerating humans only because the humans have capacity to rise above the conduct of animals.But with the kind of unspiritual and chemical life style that people are adopting , their intelligence is going to continue falling and their behaviour is going to be more agressive and animal like. Moreover Anand, our ancestors( just to add that even I am a descendant of brahmins, which you would have already deduced) were given land and houses so that we should preserve the vedic tradition and guide people. If such people like us continue throwing away our customs, it is then that the anti brahminism becomes justified.Forget about anti brahminism, as long as there are two humans, there is bound to be quarrels.But the fact is that, on the judgement day or immediately after death, what ever you would like to call it, you/me have to answer for our conduct. There is nothing at all here to feel proud about eating meat. A brahmin who eats meat commits more sin than a non brahmin. It does not matter whether some brahmins ate meat at a certain point of time. What is wrong is wrong. It is as sinful to hurt a fellow human, as it is to hurt an animal.That said, it does not matter, because both of us have commited sufficient sin by straying away from vedic path. And today neither you nor I can claim to be brahmins. What however prompted me to reply to ur essay is that you have the audacity to call yourself a brahmin. Moreover you are nobody to critiscize brahmins( you probably dont even know whom you are talking about-and you cant use the word brahmin without understanding what it means). The true brahmins have voluntarily stayed away from wealth and money and live a life of great self disciple. They bear all the critiscisms from other fallen brahmins like us and ignorant people like periyar , suffer in silence , without fighting back. These unfortunate people have to put up with your taunts inspite of living a life of great self discipline and poverty. I know whom I am talking about and unfortunately you dont, thats the resason why you are writing all this nonsense. And I say this without regret , dalits may have suffered a lot. But these brahmins have suffered as much and they have a lead of life of better conduct then the dalits and are therefore more important to mother earth.
Note: It is not viswamitra who had to fight against injustice, it was vasistha who had to tolerate the nonsense of viswamitra. Viswamitra craved for the respect of vasistha, once he realized that vasistha was superior to him in conduct. Vasistha did not do anything when he was physically attacked nor did he react when his sons were cursed. Further viswamitra did not fight to get vedic learning. He had already acquired it before he aspired to be a brahmin. Of course if a story is allowed to be twisted out of context everyone can write his or her own interpretation . You make vasitha look like a villain, inspite of the fact that he was the victim of viswamitra's arrogance and tantrums.Point noted that viswamitra did not start out as a brahmin. But he had to improve his conduct in order to become a brahmin. That is to be noted.

Full Stop,

At 11:20 AM, Blogger sudarshna.gemini said...

I was utterly embarrassed by this The Hindu had a fair share of namam journalists....

1. the hindu was started by an iyengar, a tupendous achievement and hence will continue to have brahimins because of that origin.there is no tangible reason why it must not.
2.the paper is one of the sanest voices out there and far less right oriented than the new indian express which you seemed to have liked so much.

Unlearning the brahminised variation of Tamil that I spoke
1. the brahmin tamil is distinct like so other forms of tamil. its influenced by sanskrit as tradiotionally brahmins learnt sanskrit.its a wonderful form of tamil .its very similar to the distinction between the english of a well educated and uneducated American.
it surprises me that you call the bastardised form of tamil,the madras tamil as being better.As someone involved in the literary field you ought to have not made that judgement.

non vegetarian

1. it would be better if you quote the exact reference which led you to claim that brahmins ate beef.tahts a serious allegation without substantiating.
2.the veal or calf meat you claim is not that of the cow . it refers to the not seek to misconstrue facts.
3. your basis for eating meat stems from you not wanting to relate to your brahmin identity. that is no way reletd to any kind of forward vegetarianism is afterall at the end of the day a more civilised way of living. the reasons for that are obvious.and besides one community not eating meat brings a balance to teh system and works to the advantage.

4. vishwamitra.
you dont understand the implications of that particular story and you have sadly misinterpreted it. it serves to illustrate that no one is born a brahmin so according to that you can be rest assured you are not one. its the cations and deeds that make one a brahmin.

5.Tamil nadu's forward outlook.

i am a person born and brought up in tamil nadu. i could only say lucky you, if yu enjoyed privileges by being abrahmin there.
1. the reservations against brahmins.
2.the brahmins do not seek to speak about their caste and the tamil characteristic of them not due to the aversion to their caste but because they are marginalised if they let out their identity.Karunanidhi.stop.

i am an iyengar and proud of that . i would have been proud even if i belonged to anyother caste.for caste in india brings with it a certain set of ideals,values and identity which is not necessarily bad.

i feel you are paradoxically caught in your 'brahmin'self!in trying to be not one all your life you have been so very aware of it. thats pretty claustrophobic. afterall you have always tried to not to be,to not to belong,to not to do,to undo and never the otherway around.

and yes so much biasness in thought is unbecoming of a journalist and never rational.

At 3:37 PM, Blogger Raji said...

U r such a looser. Denying once family and values which comes with birth is not something to be proud of.
Stop saying that u got a job because u were an iyengar.(dumbest thing that too coming from a journalist)

Hav u ever seen any non-brahmin change himself for others?
Why should U?

Be proud of what u r. dont try to be someone else

At 9:02 PM, Blogger Randhir said...

Tamilnadu topped the list of states committing crimes against untouchables.

No surprises by loking at the comments of the champions of Brahminism!

At 4:22 AM, Blogger Krishnan Iyer said...

All the criminals, illicit liquor makers and followers of the sickle culture indulge in caste riots and they exist in towns and villages where there have never been any traces of Brahmins throughout history. A majority of post-independence leaders of the country were Tamil Brahmins and they approved the reservation policy. I wonder why people blame the Brahmins for every nonsense that may happen in the country.

At 6:49 AM, Blogger kmrkrishnan said...

My story is different. My father was a Tirunelveli 'smartha Brahmin'
He left home to join the Gandhi Ashram founded by Rajaji near Tiruchengodu,Salem district. As is known, Gandhians are to leave their caste identity and mingle with all communities,my father follwed the rules of the Ashram in letter and spirit. We were brought up in a cosmopolitan way. All my father's friends and co-workers belonging to all communities including Dalits had free access to our home upto the dining room.My mother did not leave any of her Brahmin traits like wearing 9 yards madisar, Lakshmi pooja on Fridays etc.,etc.,All the same she was a devoted wife and never objected to my father's ways and acts. She cooperated with him willingly, I presume.This went on till my father was 55 years of age. Suddenly one day he started to behave like a traditional Brahmin, wearing the thread, pooja et al.
When I asked him why the change,he said "none of my non-brahmin friends left their culture and tradition.They kept their caste identity intact. I look like a fool with out my roots" But my father never changed his food habits. He was a lacto-vegetarian through out his life.I shall be thankful to Mr.Anand if he quotes the relevent proof of Vedic Brahmins eating meat.The benefits of natural veg food and the disadvantages of animal food are now discussed world over. I suggest to Anand to switchover to vegan atleast for health reasons.You know your wife's community Gounders are the
worst communalists? In Erode and Gobi? If a Dalit enters the streets of Gounders,it is doubtful weather he can return without getting beaten up.Okay. you have left all your Brahmin moorings. For what purpose? Did that any way helped any poor man either from Brahmin caste or from non-Brahmin caste?
I tell you a secret.The non Brahmins give respect to a devout Brahmin.Periyar also said that the Vaidika Brahmana are not his enemy.Only the Loukikas who take any colour like a chemeleon was his enemy.I think he meant Loukikas like you, Mr.Anand!

At 7:29 AM, Blogger kmrkrishnan said...

"The Hindu" is no more an Iyengar paper.It is largely rumoured its
majority shares are held by Maran family.There is also a marrige 'sambandam' between Maran family and "The Hindu" Iyengar family. Hindu and the DMK are now
"sambandhis". Mr.Karunanidhi no more addressess "The Hindu" with his sarcastic epithet "mount road Mahavishnu".

Further Mr.N.Ram editor of The Hindu is a CPI(M) follower from his student days.His Marxist moorings still persists.You can see front page coverage for Yechury,Karat,Brinda Karat, Buddhadeb,and Kerala Marxists day in and day out.I am perplexed why they cling to the old name The Hindu still, when they shun calling themselves Hindu and want to pose as "secularists"(?)
whatever that means!

At 8:12 AM, Blogger Vamsi Mamillapalli said...

you christian convert like Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YSR. dont talk like a loser

At 6:58 PM, Blogger Kumar said...

I after reading all the comments with respect to Mr. Anands writeup, would like to say that a person doesn't becomes Brahmin by birth but by his deeds.So If a person wants to taste some non-vegetarian food he shouldn't resist him just because he is afraid of what will others think.If he likes it he should go ahead and satisfy his taste and not control himself because others are watching.


At 1:28 PM, Blogger K.M.Venugopalan said...

Nicely writte.; hope to come back to the contents with a few more words here.

At 3:17 PM, Blogger Vidya said...

"Several brahmins do not even bother to effect such a switchover and unabashedly speak a brahminised Tamil all the time."
- Amazing...! The way you package your demonstrably nonsensical argument in such a polished manner.

You, sir, are an educated fool.

At 1:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not a Brahmin but a Gounder/Tamil farmer caste like S. Anand's wife. We are reportedly registered as a 'backward caste' - not because we lack power which we have traditionally had in ample measure in rural South India - but because of our political clout to register ourselves as such in order to partake of Government jobs reserved for us as 'backward castes'.

S. Anand is a complex figure psychologically in that he ignores the political influence of 'castes' such as ours which he then calls 'Shudra' in tandem with Brahmin nomenclature reinforced by colonial historiagraphy - which we never viewed ourselves as. Hitting out at the politically uninfluential Brahmin community in Tamil Nadu is hardly heroism! Hit out at the political hypocracy of the Dravidian intelligentsia in Tamil Nadu instead. What have we done for the Dalit cause??

He also praises Beef eating which is hardly heroism and is a non-starter, not to mention the much hackneyed JNU Marxist viewpoint that ancient Brahmins served Beef pulau!!! Pulau was a Persian introduction to the Indian culinary menu.

In short, S. Anand is psychologically complex and intellectually dishonest. If he really cared for the Dalit cause, which is indeed a worthwhile cause, do not hit out at the Brahmins alone. Hit out as us - the dominant agriculturalists in rural Tamil Nadu - who epitomize the most virulent oppression of the largely Dalit agricultural day laborer instead. And we are represented by the DMK, the AIADMK and the Dravidian ideology - hit out at the politically influential castes, not the Brahmin non-starters - who frankly count for nothing in Tamil Nadu politics!

At 2:00 AM, Blogger amboogalard said...

Your wisdom in seeing that your upbringing has and will continue to define you in ways you are not aware of is lovely. I mistrust anyone who speaks with certainty that they have let go of their upbringing; this is a life-long process. Your Brahminism will always be part of you by the simple fact that you have had freedom to make choices. Hopefully we will eventually all gain this freedom.

At 3:06 PM, Blogger ram4tambram said...

Nowadays it has become fashionable for fellow brahmins to involve in Brahmin-bashing. It was surprising to see the author write as if, by being born as a Brahmin, he has committed a serious crime. Why not highlight some positive points that can be emulated from brahmins. did the author could not see at least one aspect which is appealing in brahmin culture or in brahmins? Why such a paranoid view about brahmins?

At 1:33 PM, Blogger Vijay Rana said...

How irrationally & unscietifically he calls Vishwamitra as non-historical mythical figure?
Was he there & then in past?
Or what is his basis of this argument?
How can we reject something blindly as we do not accept blindly? That means u r accepting Vishwamitra's non-existence blindly.

On the other hand we learn & accept many scientific myths unquestionably.

E.g. Discovery of fire & wheel are taught in primary school books as if they were reported in "NATURE" journal on 31-Feb-4365BC.

I couldn't understand why such fictional stories have place in science book.

And all so-called rationals & intellectuals are brought up with & educated in such stories only.

And now they want others to believe their childish ideas about history.

At 9:41 PM, Blogger Subhodeep Mukhopadhyay said...

Brahmins are and have been only 5% of Indian population - and they had no wealth. Yet they have dominated rest 95%. Why is that? Just trying to understand.

My post: Brahmin Population in India

At 10:44 AM, Blogger Ramya said...

Mr anand. I am a Brahmin by identity. But as the former person rightly said, you are a true Brahman only if you have those satvic values in you. Now it has become a fashion by those Brahmins to bash up the caste itself. It was a Varna to perform poojas and other hindu rituals. Most of the Brahmins got jobs after British came to India. And those whose minds are corrupt now are talking all nonsense. Please think of the state of the poor Brahmins who still follow the vedic culture. You are ruining their image too. As some former person mentioned every caste has its individual identity and they have something special to contribute to our culture . these negative influences on brahmins insulting dalits is caused by the leftist thinking politicians who care only for a vote to loot india totally. And Brahmins being only 5% of the population don't have a small reservation policy either.

Eating animal is because your mind is like an animal. I will never think bad of non Brahmins eating non veg because it is their culture to eat. But sad to see people like you who call as a Brahmins and say you eat non veg with pleasure. All these strategies are to flatter the leftist minds and ruin our identity. No other country in this world will do such nonsense. If you really care about dalits or anyone poor show it in your actions by helping them and being selfless. It is of no use to convert to a Buddhist by not following his principles. It is of no use of being even terminf as Brahmins by not following the principles. Don't earn money and boast about eating flesh of an animal. Help the dalits and talk about how to remove poverty from our nation if you are a good human being instead of talking all rubbish about Brahmins. Please read ignited minds by APJ and have a learning.

lol ...I wonder if your a part of PETA too.

You deserved to be ignored.

At 10:44 PM, Blogger Translations in Tamil by Dr. S. Geetha .Fatima College -Major Research Project -English and Tamil (Interdepartmental) said...

Excellent rational sensible reply to these condescending idiots who assume they Brahmins just belonging to a community which was assigned the task of praying for the welfare of entire mankind and do Brahma Vichar

At 10:09 AM, Blogger deepak saikrishna said...

The most characterizing thing of an Indian Wedding must be the assortment of sustenance advertised. Sustenance in a wedding is to a greater degree a hallowed custom and wedding arranging would for the most part begin off by selecting the menu of the nourishment.
On veg catering services in Chennai

At 9:20 PM, Blogger Shar Yale said...

I am not a Brahmin but I don't understand why many Brahmins by birth these days like to criticise their roots? What is wrong with Brahmanism? Prejudice is wrong but the real Brahmin culture is wonderful I would say. As a non-Brahmin, I'd say that those born in Brahmin families are very blessed. What is wrong with being religious and devoted to serving the Lordships and serving his people? Why are Vedic injunctions seen as something wrong? These are the same people who take the stance of secularism. When the neighbour who spends his time to pray 5 times a day and organize a slaughtering-spree of the animals every year, these are some of the people who support them. No criticism will be forwarded to them. I am disgusted to see by-birth Brahmins 'striving' to become mlecchas. This writer has successfully converted into one by giving up the pros of his birth in terms of spiritual conduct. He is also wrong on the vegetarianism part as well. On a second thought, we shall wonder if this writer is actually a dwija or he has not been initiated yet. Why would someone who has been properly educated regarding the scriptures havr any such misunderstandings regarding our Vaidika dharma? Our sampradayas do not teach us to simply memorize scriptures like parrots. We understand. Why else would great people like Chinna Jeeyar Swami, Sri U Ve Velukkudi Krishnan Swami, Vishaka Hari and etc strive to impart the wisdom of our Vedic scriptures so much? They are not foolish people as I know.
As a non-Brahmin, I embrace the qualities of the real Brahmins. I may not be able to become a Brahmin, but I can become a Sri Vaishnava if I want to.

Anyway, author, please don't call yourself a Brahmin. Your lifestyle is worse than that of a mleccha.


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