Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Public holiday India

Apart from it being various forms of New Year today, April 14 is celebrated as a public holiday every year in India in honour of Dr Ambedkar, the leading light of the social revolution in India to release the lower castes from their downtrodden status. While Mahatma Gandhi certainly did much for the Dalits/Untouchables by calling them Harijans (children of God), Ambedkar argued that this still left them in the Hindu caste system, and didn't free them from their situation. Although both men had the same end result in mind, they took very different routes. Ambedkar was one of the first Dalits to receive a college education, then he went abroad and studied in the USA. On his return to India he helped write the new constitution, and became India's first law minister after Independence. In the 1950's he became a Buddhist, and urged many of his Dalit followers to do likewise. To many he is still a hero, with his catchcry "Eduate!! Agitate!! Organize!!"
So around India, and especially in Mumbai where he studied, there are many rallies going on in honour of him. The 2 major political parties, BJP and Congress (think Gandhi) are having rival rallies in an effort to convince people that THEY are the party with the legacy of Dr Ambedkar- that is, to look after the Dalit people who still today are not even treated as 2nd class citizens by many.
The life of a Dalit is not easy. They are forbidden to even cast a shadow on a higher caste person, and in many villages they are not allowed water from the well, to walk on the roads with others, or even to get their hair cut. When Ambedkar was a small boy, he and his family were denied many things we take for granted every day, just because of their name or caste. It was this constant ill treatment, for which he could find no apparent logical reason, that led him on to be one of India's greatest modern politicians and social reformers.
So that is today's history lesson. Meanwhile I had a night in with Carmen and Isabelle, a 75 year old ex Embassy lady who is pretty damn lively! Today was more pool action - did a few extra laps today - and a lot of internetverke - and I'm going to have a bit of a nanna nap now before Robin rings - though I have no doubt he will, as usual, interrupt! More karaoke tonight - look out world!
Oh and yes, it is still HOT, and Robin is still WET.

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