Tell me about India's caste system.

Are there stereotypes based on caste?

Is there job discrimination based on caste? Do people with low-caste names have a harder time getting jobs than an equally qualified person with a high-caste name would, the way people with stereotypically black first names have problems getting jobs in the US? Is it legal to discriminate on the basis of caste when hiring or firing?

Is this common?

Is there reverse prejudice, where a member of a high caste is considered “too good” for certain jobs, or does that prejudice work on socioeconomic lines the way it does in the US (wealthy parents getting upset that their child is interested in a low-status job)?

Do neighborhoods tend to be well-mixed in terms of caste, or do people of a caste tend to live together, the way there are ethnic neighborhoods in the US? Is there (or did there used to be) housing discrimination against people of certain castes, the way there used to be housing discrimination against blacks and Jews in the US? Is it legal or socially acceptable to refuse to sell or rent a house to someone because of their caste?

Are there different religious obligations for people of different castes? Are there religious ceremonies that are open only to people of a certain caste?

Is marrying within your gotra becoming more acceptable as intercaste marriage does, or is that still taboo?

Can anyone recommend a good book on modern-day life in India, especially how things like caste influence it? I find this fascinating, and would love to read more about it. Something sort of like “Indian Society for American Dummies”, that kind of thing.

If a non-Indian were to convert to Hinduism, what (if any) caste would they have?

I read in an account of the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857 that a Hindu sepoy was afraid he would lose his caste if he shared his canteen with a low-caste laborer. The laborer then told him that he would lose his caste anyway when he bit bullets that had been greased with beef tallow (and the rest is history). How did losing your caste work? Was there any way to get it back if you did lose it? Does anyone worry about losing their caste now, or can people no longer lose their caste?

Would they have been equally opposed to any other interfaith marriage for you, or just one with a Muslim?

They were opposed to any interfaith marriage on sensible, if dated ideas, such as “The differences are too extreme;” “You are very much committed to your religion/culture;” “His parents will give trouble”. They were fairly hysterical when it came to Muslim men (as well as black men but that’s a different kettle of fish).

Muslim men were whole different level. And on some level I kind of understand that, too. I mean my parents were kids during the Partition. They fled across the border. They were refugees! They heard stories of my grandparents’ ordeals. Everyone knew someone who had family members murdered or raped by Muslims*. This was real to them, it wasn’t something that happened a thousand years ago, it was in their lifetime.

*I’m sure a lot of Western Pakistani people told the same stories to their kids & grandkids from the opposite perspective.

You can’t really “convert” to Hinduism.

Caste is something you’re born with. You can’t acquire it. The only way it could conceivably work is if your entire identity group joined Hindu society en masse. Then all of you would collectively become a new caste, at the bottom of the heap.

But that would require all of you to live in India for generations. Hinduism is really more geographical than it is doctrinal. All the people living in a particular area got absorbed into Hindu/Indian culture along with thei customs and beliefs just by bring there when Hindu/ Indian culture reached them.

I do not claim to be an expert on India at ALL. Anecdotally, I spent last summer in India, and I never once heard any of my coworkers refer to caste. Religion seemed to be a bigger deal.

I was interested to realize how common arranged marriages are. My young, female coworkers were surprised to know that I was 30 and unmarried, and asked me if I didn’t find a husband soon, would my parents help me find one. Another time, I was in Mumbai for work, and everyone in the group had to find out some random stuff about the person sitting next to them and then introduce them to the rest of the group; typical icebreaker game. One of the facts about one of my coworkers was that his marriage was a love match. All of the women in the room went “awwwwww!”. How romantic!

I was in Hyderabad, btw, which is in South India, but a lot of my coworkers were from North India, so I think I got a muddled view and I’m not sure what foods I ate were local and what weren’t, that sort of thing. (Except I know that biryani is local! Hyderabadis are very proud of their biryani.)

You don’t need to convert to Hinduism anyway. All paths lead to God eventually, or so Hinduism says. Eventually, you are going to be reborn as a Hindu.

It is illegal to discriminate on the basis of caste. But other than that, this question is too complicated for me to answer off the top of my head.

Basically speaking, Indian society is not a society of individuals, it’s a society of identity groups and families and extended families and corporations and other kinds of group structures. Nobody is judged on their individual merit. People don’t get jobs from their own resumes. It’s all about whom you know. No, actually, it’s about whom your dad knows or his dad or his uncle or his boss or his former college buddy. That’s what gets you into a job or whatever.

So it might not be very easy to isolate exactly what role caste-based discrimination plays in these things. There’s every other kind of discrimination as well: gender, religion, skin color, socioeconomic level, ethnic, linguistic, etc., it’s all there.

Parents often have a very narrow set of ideas of what kinds of subjects their kids can study - Boys have to study medicine, or engineering, or I.T., or law, or whatever. Girls can become doctor or a schoolteacher. That’s it. (The specifics depend on the individual circumstances of course.)

If you’re having an arranged marriage, you’re going to follow as many rules as you can, including gotra. If you’re not, then you’re not going to worry about any of it, including gotra. Gotra essentially tells you whom you’re related to through male lineage. It’s not a basis for discrimination or anything.

Arranged marriages are the default, but not necessarily in the way you might think.

I’m not sure how common it is. I’ve heard people say that people can always figure it out, so changing your name isn’t going to work in the long run.

And in a society in which your family is the key to your progress, it’s not necessarily going to be very helpful to cut yourself off from your background.

As acsenray said most of them have migrated to israel /western nations.

There are some jews still in Mumbai / Cochin/Kolkata.

Lt General JFR Jacob, a bagdadi jew , is known as the jew who beat pakistan. He is still alive and active.

I think this is an exaggeration. It might be true of some of the old family-run sector but it's not true of most of the modern corporate sector. If you graduate from a top business school with good marks you are pretty much guaranteed a decent job even if you have no connections. Obviously networking and connections can play a role but it's not nearly as dominant as you seem to think it is.

I’m sure ascenray could write one for you :p. His answers are very good - I find most of my observations matches his. Anyway - in my very first thread on the dope I made a list of several novels from and about India. I would say that most of them address the caste system in one way or another. It’s not exactly what you are asking for, but I can’t really think of anything other than the (very outdated) classical sociological work Homo Hierarchicus by Louis Dumont. I’m sure that there are better and more recent works available.

Can you elaborate? I know nothing at all about this, and I find it fascinating.

I’ve actually read most of the fiction you list in your thread. But I’ll check out the ones I haven’t! Thanks!

**Arranged marriages : **Takes place within same caste . These are arranged by a relative or a well wisher of the bride or groom , who happen to know the family on the otherside also. A known person will always try to match the social standing of both families . Eg They will mostly not bring a proposal for the son of 2 doctors from the daughter of a railway clerk. ( Things are of course changing in urban india ).

The horoscope has to match for bride and groom , in hindu families. If they do not match ,the process stops immediately. If you have the planets in certain positions in your horoscope (manglik), then you wait till you get a matching manglik horoscope. I learnt just last week that my friend from 20 years ago is still unmarried, since his elder sister is yet to marry due to a horoscope issue .

In some hindu families marriages between same subsect ( gotra) of your caste is also prohibited. It is considered incest and has lead to honour killings .This happens mostly in northern India.

Since arranged marraiges have the blessings of both sets of families, the support system is very good . You are assured of a share in your ancestaral property also. If you elope with a girl /boy of your choice , you are disowned by your families.

marriage agencies also play matchmakers ,who keeps a database of eligible grooms and brides . Upon payment of a fees, they give you access to their database and and you can choose nearest matching profiles. Web based portals have classified the data by caste,religion,job,demography etc. to make the process easier .

In big cities this has changed a lot , with youngsters (especially in IT field ) doing their own matchmaking and marrying against family wishes.

Of course it’s an exaggeration but it also isn’t. As I said when I started India is too diverse - paraphrasing Sashi Tharoor, every statement is simultaneously true and false.

It’s also an exaggeration that the right degree “guarantees” you the job you want. Nothing is simple in India.

No, what I said is not an exaggeration. I didn’t say that people with the right degrees were guaranteed the job they want. Obviously they tend to have high expectations so they may be disappointed. But they are pretty much guaranteed good jobs regardless of their family connections. If you graduate from an IIM with decent marks you will get a good job. It really is that simple.

There are really too many individual stories out there for you to say it is that simple. There is always the possibility of complication. Look a little further, and you will find the anecdotes of careers derailed for the strangest of reasons. It’s not a mechanical society.

Indian newspapers often have a classified section for matrimonial ads, especially prevalent on Sundays. They may run for several pages, and are divided into those seeking brides, grooms, various ethnicities, religions, and caste. Other qualifications such as height, skin colour, height, income, and Green Card status are not in the classification headings but are mentioned in the text. Here’s a link to a site on the Times of India website. Link.. Note: this is mostly for urban educated professionals seeking their own mate rather than having it imposed by the family.

The perception that arranged marriages are “imposed” is not necessarily valid. Modern, young, educated Indians these days often choose to engage their extended families in helping them find a mate. The family in this case is often used as a type of introduction service, one that is more likely to produce someone compatible with the whole family.

About half of my relatives of my generation have opted for a “love match,” but the ones who haven’t have done it by choice. I was talking to one of my cousins who had dated several different women while he was in college. He said that by the time it came to thinking about settling down, one of his prime concerns was this was someone who was going to move into his parents’ tiny little two-bedroom, two-bath apartment (real estate in Bombay is very expensive). And he didn’t think that any of his college girlfriends were likely to fit in to that scenario. So he went the “arranged” route. That meant he got to meet with several different candidates and meet them on a one-to-one basis before anyone made any decisions. Of course, there was sort of an expectation that he couldn’t keep just “dating” them forever. They were looking to get married as well, so there was sort of a vaguely defined unspoken limitation on the number of times he could meet with any one person before he would have to give a thumbs up or thumbs down. It seems to have worked out very well for him and as far as fitting in with the family, she seems to have done very well also. Now, things don’t always work out perfectly, of course, but what people now generally believe is that the ultimate success of a relationship isn’t really dependent on whether the match was arranged or not. There seems to be about an equal level of success and failure on both levels.