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Book Review: Untouchables (Escape From Indian Caste System)

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Blackcobra’s Posterous

This review is from: Untouchables: My Family’s Triumphant Escape from India’s Caste System, An International Best Seller (Paperback) I’m Indian but I grew up here in the US and I wanted to learn about the caste system as I was raised Christian and my family does not believe in this backwards tradition. I’ve heard stories about the caste system but I thought this book would give me a better understanding of it’s origins and ideology.

The book is actually very easy to read and you could finish it off in a day or two. The language is easy to understand and it flows very well. The story being told is the author’s translation of his parents recollections during the early 1900’s under the caste system in India. The book starts out well and hooks you immediately. The beginning story of how the author’s father was beaten and treated as less-than-human really helps you to see how cruel the system is. Unfortunately that is really the only part in the book when you are able to see the cruelness of this system. The rest of the book reads more like a narrative. Somewhere in the middle, I started to lose my interest because I was expecting to see more of this cruel injustice but the author started discussing how his parents were walking on the beach, having kids, and traveling back and forth to Mumbai. That didn’t sound like oppression to me. As an Indian, I’ve visited India and I have seen low caste people get treated like garbage and it breaks my heart because, as Americans, we just can’t understand that in this society. I was expecting to understand why they do this in India but I didn’t get that in this book. Actually, the first thing that came to my mind was that the way the author portrayed the caste system wasn’t nearly as bad as what African-American’s had to go through here in the US not so long ago. In reality, I know the caste system in India is far worse and inhuman but the author simply did not portray it as such.

Sure, the author’s parents fought to stand up for what is right and vowed to give their kids a better life but there are countless other people in India who’s story is very different. I was thinking I was going to get some insight into that. It’s great that the author wrote a book about an untouchable who succeeded and rose above the oppression but I think the story would have been so much more effective if we understood more about what the caste system is all about, why people still believe in it, and why India just can’t get rid of it.

Overall, it was a decent read but I didn’t come away with a good understanding of the caste system after reading it. Maybe if you are not Indian, this might be a good starting point but if you are buying this book to understand the Indian caste system, you will be disappointed.

Also, the epilogue which is written by Jadhav’s daughter really didn’t add to the book as it seemed more like she was gloating about her accomplishments. I know she was trying to portray that she, living in America, does not have to deal with the injustices that her grandparents had to but it just didn’t come across as such.

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McGandhi? India Now Closer To McDonald’s Than To Mahatma

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Today, Gandhi’s nation is teeming with Hindu extremist groups and the state is armed to the teeth with latest weapons, while most Indians remain poor. Gandhi admirers forget that he was assassinated by the Indians themselves.

NEW YORK, U.S.-Modern India, which is moving towards “tighter’ military ties with the United States, is hardly the country envisioned by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, an advocate of nonviolence, The New York Times commented Sunday.

Obama can't find his idol Gandhi in today's McBrahmin India
Obama can’t find his idol Gandhi in today’s McBrahmin India

“Gandhi remains India’s patriarch, the founding father whose face is printed on the currency, but modern India is hardly a Gandhian nation, if it ever was one,” the newspaper said in a dispatch on President Barack Obama’s visit on Saturday to the Mani Bhavan Gandhi Museum in Mumbai, housed in a private residence where the Indian leader once stayed.

Gandhi is one of Obama’s political heroes, along with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, the American civil rights leader who fought for the rights of African-Americans, and Abraham Lincoln, a former US president who successfully led the country through its greatest internal crisis – the American Civil War, preserved the Union, and ended slavery.

“His (Gandhi’s) vision of a village-dominated economy was shunted aside during his lifetime as rural romanticism, and his call for a national ethos of personal austerity and nonviolence has proved antithetical to the goals of an aspiring economic and military power,” correspondent Jim Yardley wrote.

“If anything, India’s rise as a global power seems likely to distance it even further from Gandhi. India is inching toward a tighter military relationship with the United States, once distrusted as an imperialist power, even as the Americans are fighting a war in nearby Afghanistan,” the dispatch from Mumbai said.

“India also has an urbanizing consumer-driven economy and a growing middle class that indulges itself in cars, apartments and other goods. It is this economic progress that underpins India’s rising geopolitical clout and its attractiveness to the United States as a global partner.

“Gandhi is still revered here, and credited with shaping India’s political identity as a self-claimed and alleged tolerant, secular democracy. But he can sometimes seem to hover over modern India like a parent whose expectations are rarely met.”

“Mr. Obama, too, has experienced the clash of those lofty expectations with political realities. When he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, even as he was conducting two wars, he described himself as ‘living testimony to the moral force’ of the non-violent movement embodied by Dr King and Gandhi.”

“That paradox was on vivid display on Saturday when Mr. Obama arrived in Mumbai, an event carried live on national television, celebrating Gandhi’s legacy but also selling military transport planes and bringing along 200 American business leaders.

“India’s political establishment, if thrilled by the visit, is also withholding judgment. Mr. Obama was faulted in New Delhi for some early missteps, including his comment that China should play an active role in South Asia. His battering in the midterm elections has raised concerns about his political viability. And many Indian officials still hold a torch for former President George W Bush, who was popular for pushing through a landmark civilian nuclear deal between the two countries.

“Mr. Obama’s visit is intended to dispel those doubts and deepen a partnership rooted in shared democratic values. Since taking office, he has already met several times with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as well as with other delegations of Indian officials. On several occasions, he has cited his deep admiration for Gandhi, perhaps as evidence of his fondness for India.”

“The impression on the Indian side is every time you meet him, he talks about Gandhi,” Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express, was quoted as saying by the Times. He remarked that the repeated references to Gandhi struck some officials as “platitudinous.”

On Sunday, Obama will fly to New Delhi and, like Dr. King in 1959, visit the Rajghat, where Gandhi was cremated after his assassination in 1948.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi, a grandson of Gandhi, bemoaned the corruption and money contaminating Indian politics, but was quoted as saying that Gandhi’s spirit could still be found among the Indian civil society groups helping the poor and protecting the environment.