Castes and Jobs: S. Gias-Ud-Din’s contact and exposure theory
By M J Aslam –
Some years before, in downtown of non-egalitarian city of Srinagar, the Srinagarities were socially stratified into two groups, high-caste and low-caste, each caste subdivided into several subgroups merely on the theories of casteism & jobism, in direct antagonism of the universal principle that all humans are children of the same Adam & Eve.
Those born in high-caste (Asal Zaat) enjoyed monopoly of preaching & teaching religion, but in a distorted version, for a pretty good period of time for furtherance of their own ends of maintaining socio-religious hegemony over the low-caste social groups (Kamin Zaat). But then, times changed when people from low-castes realized the need to break the religious monopoly of high-castes, little by little, and indeed they succeeded, successfully, and excelled them in better and truer expatiation and interpretation of the religion. However, the Srinagarities’ caste-malady continued as those in high-castes, as usual, derided those in low–castes, sometimes in their faces, sometimes on their backs.
One S. Gias-Ud-Din fell in the self-woven net of social stratification of first category. His mind was overcrowded with hereditary bogeys of superiority complexes of better and nobler blood, running fast through their arteries and veins, in comparison to those of the low-caste social groups [Kamin Zaat]. He erroneously believed their families stood on higher social altitudes of respect and dignity, in accord with their castes and jobs, than the families of low-castes in the society. He supposed their actions, functions, deeds, words, thoughts and every feature of theirs, their personalities & families, were distinctively far superior to that of those in low-caste categories. All that divisive and destructive thinking was, in sooth, entrenched in self-invented relic of the past—‘Jhandari’s casteism among Muslims’—-worsened by condemnable connection with job categorisation.
He had prepared a drawing of his family-tree, showing its roots directly sprouting from a ‘heavenly-seed’ and its branches & branchlets, leaves & leaflets, going heavenward. The genealogy drawn, thus, on the chart showed ancestors forming the bole & branches giving birth to the shoots and twigs of the descendants with members of family, of the immediate past & present, sitting on leaves & leaflets. So, S. Gias-Ud-Din with his family of two daughters & a wife with their names inscribed with indelible black ink on leaves & leaflets formed the canopy of that family tree. He, a retired senior gazetted officer of the State, Jahandari, was often found dipping deep into an ocean of thoughts, while quietly staring at the self-drawn penciled-penned-drawing of his family-tree. This Narcissus-type of self-love would, seemingly, get him disconnected with the physical world & ‘spiritually’ connected, for a while though, with his forbears’ souls hovering high up in the blue sky. He was getting lost in an imaginary world.
In an interior lane of his mohalla road, there resided Samad Gur & Razak Kandur, deliberate distortion of the actual names of (Ab) Samad Gujree & (Ab) Razak Sofi by upper-caste groups of the Kashmiri community under the predominant influence of local Batas/Brahmans’ casteism. The deliberate distortion was done to cause on the minds of the Kamin-Zat, theimpressions of inferiority of their low-caste-belonging, carrying with them the ‘meanest occupations’; something like the night-soil-carriers of the past.
The grandfather of Samad Gujree had carved out a small milkshop in the ground floor of their three storey house which had a cowshed in its backyard that housed half a dozen cows with one ox & a calf. The milk was got by hands from the udders of their own six domesticated cows and then sold, besides curd & cheese, to the locals at that small shop of their house by Biba, Samad Gujree’s wife.
Likewise, the excited forefather of Razak Sofi had decades before converted the ground floor of their three storey house into a bakery-shop that was fitted with a tandoor in its centre in which he & his family baked traditional variety of bread ( Zchochi, Lavase, & Zcochiver in Kashmiri) at pre-dawn & post-noon times of each day, selling them to the locals of the area, for breakfast and mid-afternoon tea.
As Samad Gujree was assisted in maintaining, milking and producing of dairy items from little dairy at their home by his wife & a young daughter, Shameema, so the help to Razak Sofi in making, baking & selling of traditional bread came from his wife, Taje & a young daughter, Naseema.
S. Gias-Ud-Din was a regular daily purchaser of dairy & bread items for his home from the shops of Samad Gujree & Razak Sofi. But, he had inherited a notorious habit of dissing them [Samad Gujree & Razak Sofi] & their families on back with his friends—-caste-egoists—-and many a times he would, with them, make fun of their ancestral jobs by using cuss words directly against, or sometimes directed through insinuations on, their ancestral professions of selling milk & bread through their womenfolk: wives, sisters & daughters. He & likeminded people of his caste stratum thought the jobs of milkmen, bakers, vegetable vendors & the others in that category were menially low and socially downgraded as their jobs, they believed, exposed their women to strangers . Not only this, he with his self-superiority group of men would sometimes visit good-looking fisherwomen selling fish in fish-markets & throw on them vile jokes while buying fish. In short, he & his likeminded class had pigeonholed them, milkmen, bakers, vegetable-vendors & fisherwomen, & their hereditary jobs under ‘Exposure Theory’. Pure hogwash!
For financial constraints at their families, Shameema and Naseema couldn’t pursue their education after secondary school, so mostly they had been, thence, sitting at their family- shops vending dairy and bread to the locals of the area.
S. Gias-Ud-Din’s two daughters, S. Mah Haseen & S. Mah Jabeen had a better financial- cushion available at home that was prepared, over years, by their father during his employment days, with both right & left hands. Naturally, it buttressed their ambitions of acquiring higher & better education than that of poor girls, Shameema & Naseema, that ultimately enabled them, S. Mah Haseen & S. Mah Jabeen, to get jobs, respectively, in a bank and a three-star hotel as relationship-executive & receptionist-cum-anchor.
S. Gias-Ud-Din, who was a symbolic representation of high-castes (ashrafs or shurfa) in the Srinagarities’ community, had all along his life held the people of low-castes (ajlafs) in disgusting disdain and odious disrespect for, in his flawed view, people were to be valued and judged on the basis of their castes and jobs. So, the jobs performed by the milkman & the baker were socially downgraded, inter alia, on the premise of that their women had been coming in contact with the strange-men, while doing their ancestral jobs of selling their consumable commodities to them—the locals. But, the fact was that the sales were made by those women from their own home-shops when their other family members, parents & siblings, continued to be usually present. So, their jobs didn’t warrant social castigating from that angle by such self-upper-castes of the Srinagarities’ community.
But S. Gias-Ud-Din’s two modish daughters were required by their professions to be always in charming & smiling moods while receiving & dealing with the customers & guests of their organisations for which they were paid hefty sums of money. So, the day arrived when the curtain of façade was removed from the poorly built edifice of social categorisation of people by S Gias-ud-Din & his ilk. It happened when Samad Gujree had a cheque drawn on a bank branch in which S. Mah Haseen was working to develop relationship between the bank & its clients as per her job mandate, and naïve Samad Gujree knowing nothing previously of that S. Gias-Ud-Din’s daughter was employed there, rubbed his eyes in an astonishment of disbelief in what he was seeing: S. Mah Haseen Ji in full glittering make up & dazzling dress attending a crowd of customers of all sort. It instantly flashed across his mind how S. Gias-Ud-Din had all along his life been censuring their daughters, their women, for their jobs exposing them to strange-men (ghair moharm)by proudly declaring & claiming that the women of high-castes (ashrafs or shurfa), like theirs, do not come in contact with strange-men. S. Gias-Ud-Din’s daughter miles away from home was attending whom—strange-men or moharm **? Samad Gujree repeatedly & mutely posed the question to himself but, there wasn’t any one in the locality to answer his question. He went to the home of his neighbour, Razak Sofi, and told him how S. Gias-Ud-Din had been always looking down on them & their women for so called exposing-downgraded-hereditary-jobs of theirs but , how could he justify his own daughters’ jobs that exposed them not only to few locals but to the whole world. What about S. Gias-Ud-Din’s ‘Exposure Theory’?
“Samad! My brother, not only one, his second daughter, S. Mah Jabeen, I have heard from the neighbours, is a receptionist in some big hotel in uptown of the city where she daily in a super model’s attire & mien welcomes and hosts guests and parties to the hotel ………” informed Razak Sofi.
“Truly, my God..?”, Samad Gujree sought confirmation of his double-astonishment on the unbelievable leak.
“Yes, yes, it’s true! The man (S. Gias-Ud-Din) is exposed for his abject hypocrisy and cant. How can he justify the utter public-exposing-jobs of his daughters & stigmatize our daughters’ ancestral modest jobs in the same breath? How can he all the time throw taunting & sensual jeers at fisherwomen of the city? How can he explain vulnerable jobs of his own daughters more than ours most guarded ones, in that sense, on the same logic of Exposure Theory”? Razak Sofi had a valid argument which couldn’t, however, be got rebutted or responded to by S. Gias-Ud-Din as he had shifted his residence days before somewhere in circumferential uptown areas of Srinagar city where impudent, brazen-faced caste-egoist was hiding himself after an alim revealed to him that casteism & social stratification are men’s creation, in God’s Eye all are equal & dignified.