Monday, October 14, 2013

Letter to Zuri-- I lived in a neighborhood segregated by caste...

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Mahatma Gandhi
Namaste Zuri,

A long time ago, I used to live in a neighborhood that was segregated by caste. Walk a few streets from my home and you would arrive at slums where the ‘untouchables’ lived. As a child I made many friends there and they are some of the kindest, smartest people I have met to date. I have worked very hard to communicate my deep appreciation of equality and rejection of the idea of caste segregation.

Even as I write to you, I remember it uncomfortably because it was filled with unfairness. It was painful to watch the struggles of the lower caste people just because they were not allowed to take up certain occupations or go to a certain school because of their scheduled caste. There is also a societal understanding of physical features that go with each caste. Members of the upper caste would most likely be fair, have a high bridged nose structure and would look very prosperous in terms of nutrition and health as opposed to the lower caste people. All of these man-made characteristics created a society that would work to dominate and/or suppress the ones who did not fit the bill. This is what I thought of immediately when I read about some of the hurtful things the students at your school said to you in the cafeteria. I know how you must have felt. But you can choose to feel otherwise.

I made it a choice to dine, study and play with friends from every caste from the day I understood how this system worked. I have found it to be very gratifying and painful at times. Painful especially when friends from higher castes would turn me down because of my liberal ways of associating with the ‘others’. But, I have always found it gratifying. 

You see Zuri, there will always be negativity around us, whether it is a parent struggling with substance addictions, a brother who is never present, negative impressions of body image or a societal construct that works to suppress her people. I have always believed that when the going gets tough, the answers very often lie deep within us. Look inside yourself and recognize that both happiness and sorrow dwell within you. 

You have a choice, choose happiness over suffering and bring your attention back to dharma instead of falsehood. 

I must ask that you consider wishing well upon Eric, for seeing his demise before his death removes the possibility of the purpose of his life for himself and takes you far from your dharma. Be kind to him, for the kindness will take you closer to him and in doing so- you will find yourself.  

I wish you well.

Your friend

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