24 April 2013

Crushed People

I am now in Delhi. I am very tired but I can't sleep. Hard travel does that to me and sleep has always been mine enemy. I have spent much of today in cars and planes. I drove all over Bombay looking at buildings for potential offices. Then I dashed to the airport to get the plane here to Delhi. It has been a long day. We are in a building frenzy in India. 

Business here is booming.

I am staying at the Oberoi hotel in the heart of New Delhi. I have stayed here several times before and it is very nice. The rooms are opulent and the hotel is grandiose. It is British Colonial in style and is set in beautifully manicured lush green gardens. It is tranquil. It is peaceful. The hotel is within walking distance of many international consulates. New Delhi is the political capital of India. There are politicians and diplomats everywhere around here.

There is some sort of political conference going on here at the hotel. When I checked in this evening there were a couple of dozen of them with large Security and Identity cards hanging on lanyards around their necks. I heard snatches of conversations in accents of Americans and Italians and Germans. The English are also amongst their throng. They usually are. The consulates were in the Lobby Bar. I was at the check in desk. They sounded like they were having a good time. They were hurling down tall gins and tonic like there was no tomorrow. They looked like they had been doing it for a while. 

All payed for by we taxpayers of the world.

Oberoi is a very prominent surname in the Khastri caste of India. The name is Punjabi. The Punjab district is in the northern part of India. When India and Pakistan became independent of each other the Oberoi people of the Khastri caste moved to India. They are however originally from what is now Pakistan. The Oberoi family is large and powerful and their name is revered across India.

The caste system of India is Hindi in origin. It has been around a very long time. At a very basic level it means that you are born into an occupation or serving. If your father was a laundryman - or a ghaut - then you would be too. The educated and wealthy begat their own as too did the impoverished. Ne'er the twain would meet.

The caste system is based on the concept of four varnas. These order and rank spirituality in a hierarchy that supposedly reflects spiritual purity. The Brahmins are at the top of the tree. The lowest are the Untouchables. These are the often homeless and very impoverished of India. The caste system is rapidly breaking down in modern India with the government enacting significant and prolonged reforms. An Act of Parliament changed the constitution to prevent the use of the term "Untouchable" and replaced it instead with the word "Dalit". "Dalit" translates to the "Crushed People". Despite the reforms it is estimated that the Dalit currently make up about fifteen percent of the population of India. 

That is about one hundred and fifty million crushed people.

The Khastri caste of people of which the Oberoi are a prominent part are right up there near the Brahmins. They are high caste and are associated as being the keepers of the Dharma. The Dharma is an ancient sanskrit law that basically is believed by Hindis to hold the Universe together. It is the "Root dhri" which means "That which upholds and supports the regulatory order of the universe ...... without which nothing can stand". "Root Dhiri" is stability and harmony. It is morality and goodness and kindness and consideration.

It is a very good thing.

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