Selective Discrimination

On International Women’s Day, there were many discussions about women who were/are a source of inspiration to other women. On the sidelines of one such discussion, a family friend described how her mother-in-law, who had passed away over 3 decades back, was very particular about caste segregation. For example, a certain domestic help, a young woman, was not allowed entry into the kitchen or the ‘Pooja Room’ (Prayer Room) in their house because she belonged to a lower caste. If, by chance, the same domestic help happened to touch any item of clothing on the clothes-line, that item of clothing would have to be washed again.

Strangely, however, whenever a large quantity of green chillies had to be chopped, the work was assigned to the same domestic help! The mother-in-law explained to her daughters-in-law that any person who chopped so many green chillies would have a severe burning sensation on the fingers. Hence, she assigned that task to the domestic help!

Our friend had never mustered the courage (understandable since this happened over 50 years back) to ask her super-orthodox mother-in-law why the domestic help’s touch made an item of clothing ‘impure’, and why the same domestic help’s touch did not make the chillies ‘impure’!!

My tongue-in-cheek response to my friend was that she should be thankful for the fact that her mother-in-law did not want her daughters-in-law to suffer by chopping large quantities of green chillies! Not many mothers-in-law would have been so considerate 50 years back!!

All around us, we see people who practise discrimination very religiously (pun intended) temporarily suspending their beliefs when it suits them.

In many religious institutions, widows are not permitted in the presence of the pontiff because it is considered inauspicious. Even wealthy widows are not exempted from this discrimination. However, many of these pontiffs are extremely enthusiastic about granting audiences to politically powerful widows! Obviously, political power carries more weight than ‘divine’ power! Unfortunately, these politically powerful widows apparently do not even try to put a complete end to the discrimination from which they are exempted.

On a private level, people impose discriminatory restrictions on their daughters-in-law, but do not impose the same restrictions on their daughters.

Why do a person’s beliefs/practices change depending on who is affected by these beliefs?

When a belief/practice can be suspended for a few persons, can’t that belief/practice be suspended, nay abolished, for all persons?

Isn’t it ridiculous to say that all other cars must stop when the traffic signal shows RED, but BMWs and Mercedes Benz cars need not stop?

Selective discrimination is even more ridiculous. It’s like saying that the maximum speed for all other cars is 10 kilometers/hour, but there is no speed restriction whatsoever for BMWs and Mercedes Benz cars!

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12 thoughts on “Selective Discrimination

  1. Even today it still exists.
    Sometime ago, in Mumbai, some well known women who had lost their spouses – somehow I don’t like the term ‘widows’ – personally approached the senior Swamiji of their community to get this ban overturned.
    Your example of the BMW/Mercedes Benz and other cars at the signals is just awesome!

  2. Need to ascertain.
    I, for one, don’t believe in ‘middlemen’, be it priests or a Swamiji, between me and my Maker. I’ve direct line of communication with Him/Her – before my early morning cycle-cum-walks waking up early in the morning Shiva on Monday, Ganapathi on Tuesday, St. Micheal on Wednesday, Gurudev Datta on Thursday, Sitaladevi on Friday, Maruti on Saturday in a silent one-on-one disturbance-free request session to take care of us all. Sunday is a day of rest for the Gods – Quote/unquote the old English hit “Never on a Sunday” by Melina Mercury who later rose to be the Minister for Culture in Greece.

  3. You have highlighted quite a lovely point in this post, about the fact that the rules apply to us only when they are mildly favorable to us. In case they aren’t, they automatically don’t apply to us, do they??

    Such a wonderfully hypocritic world we live in, don’t we?

  4. Fortunately in my family I can truly & honestly say there has never been any discrimination against the domestic helps. As a matter of fact the maid (Nanny) who came to look after my brother some 60 odd yrs ago is still with us & after forcing her to stay at home she insists on coming to “work”. She does what she likes & leaves when she feels.Firing us & the spouses if something was done wrong.She had full run of the house & would open cupboards to put in place money & stuff left out. She was more of a mother hen, even firing us if she found something wrong. Hats of to both my grandparents & my mum & dad for it was they who taught us equality to all humans with their simple gestures to the maids & other help.

  5. Still happens, Pro, in many houses. I remember when we visited a classmate’s during my school days, they wouldn’t let us inside the house – we were “entertained” in the little open room at the entrance. We were served in plastic glasses, not the steel tumblers they used.

    My Grandma used to say – I suppose it is okay to use shoes, clothes, jewelry and hundreds of other products made by “lower caste” people…yet consider them “unholy”

    Short of a brain transplant, nothing works for some people!

  6. Nice thought provoking post. Discrimination happens everywhere. Recently was surprised to read in some private schools there is discrimation between students based on marks scored. The students who score more are given more attention than weak students to get more result percentage for the school.

  7. “On a private level, people impose discriminatory restrictions on their daughters-in-law, but do not impose the same restrictions on their daughters.”

    This happens even now.

  8. You have so rightly pointed out so many things here. We, as a society are hell bent on keeping the caste discrimination alive as if it were some sacred practice. And the difference between daughters and daughter-in-laws, yes they still exist.

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