My great great Nanny, Phooljarria Ramnarian who arrived in Suriname in 1881, broke from India as a 28 year old widow of a pandit to escape the ravages of religious dogmas. She left India at 28 with a 14 year old son and she remarried a non brahmin in Suriname. She went on to become a pretty influencial person for Indian rights in Suriname and the first Indian woman to own her own rice mill.
Perhaps some of you may have heard of Guyana's first millionaire, Resaul Maraj. His wife was a non brahmin and was the catalyst to his financial and business success. Today in Guyana, the USA and all over the world we see people of lower caste and women breaking barriers and achieving great accomplishments in every field and discipline.
It is no surprise to me that my family became very matriarchial since the women were treated as equals, with great respect and reverence since the 1880's.
I still meet many indians from India who are very educated and successful but still submit to caste as westerners do class. It is no wonder India's advance is slower than other other large democracies. In the 1960's, my parents adopted students in India of low castes to be educated and they were very strict that they must come from lower castes and deprived homes.
Guyana's ambassador to India in the 1960's was the man who did all the selections. My aunt, who was very succesful and wealthy, adopted small entire villages and built schools for these untouchables who became educated and move forward and upward in life but India needed legislation coupled with national conversation to end not only the systems but the mindset that one indian is of higher grade than others.
My ancestors on all sides always opposed the caste system and me and my descendents do also. We believe all men and women can aspire to greatness and great things which has nothing to do with any preconceived notions or stereotypes.
Caste in India, as has been viewed and institutionalized, is an evil not to be equated with any other social issues of other countries since it is steeped in the hindu religion, which goes against the tenets of Sanatan Dharma.
©JS S. Photo :
West Indian Bharat-Natyam Dancer
and Choreograph Consuelo Marlin