Is Your Belief Yours? Really?

Years ago, one of my friends, who hails from a slum in south Chennai, made an observation that I still remember. ‘Almost all Puttarbarti Saibaba devotees are all rich people, and Brahmins,’ he said casually. By rich he meant relatively which means middle and upper middle class. By Brahmins he meant all upper castes. He himself is a Dalit and it didn’t make a difference to him to identify particular sub-castes. I had known very few Saibaba devotees at that time. I have come across several of them since then and, in my experience, almost all were Brahmins belonging to upper middle class strata.

I remembered this when I was looking at the social network and wondering about the ‘allegiances’ exhibited there. Is it possible to ‘classify’ them in similar brackets? Are we getting increasingly compartmentalised to our beliefs and ideologies?

Let me explain. Take the topic that is the flavour of the season: A Modi supporter. If you analyse the background of those who passionately support Modi in the social network, they could be largely be categorised as businessmen/women, IT employees, upper caste Hindus and those who are usually on the middle-class or upper-middle-class strata. Chances are they are Brahmin too. If you’re a Hindu from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and, of course, Gujarat, you would tend to support Modi more passionately.

Of course, it is obvious that you’re a Modi-basher and hater if you’re a Muslim. But why is it obvious?

Also, Dalits too are generally wary of Modi as they probably see him as the upper-caste stooge. I have yet to come across a Dalit who advocates Modi as passionately as a Brahmin or a caste Hindu does.

If you belong to the Vanniar caste, you’d not be very critical of the Ilavarasan episode. You would try to justify the problem. If you come across someone being critical of Ramadoss, you would drag Thiruma into the debate and ask them why they are not criticising Thiruma ‘equally’. It doesn’t mean you’re a caste-fanatic, just like it doesn’t mean you’re a Bajrang Dal activist if you support Modi. But you see, as much as the world has moved to 3-D and Dolby Atmos, we still live in a black-and-white world. Greys are not tolerated, because we don’t understand them.

Have you ever seen a Muslim who supports Modi? A Brahmin who thinks Nitish Kumar might be a better alternative? A Rajasthani who is critical of Modi? A vanniyar who thinks PMK needs to be vanquished?

Then, are our backgrounds increasingly determining what we believe in? J Krishnamurti, a revered philosopher, believed that we don’t carry any original opinion on our own and our schools, family, friends, religion and society determine everything that we believe in. Is it becoming increasingly pronounced in social network and spills over as our political and ideological belief?

How do we understand that what we believe in are in sync with our love for humanity rather than our caste, clan and community? Mind you this is not about not having any opinion at all. I’m not advocating that we go into those ‘Don’t Know/Can’t Say’ categories of opinion polls. I passionately hate those who don’t know and can’t say anything. But will you be able to know and say something original that attempts to defy the lines drawn by your social background? Can you be a Dalit and see the idea that Modi represents? Or can you be a Brahmin and empathise with the Dalit protests? Krishnamurti suggests ‘observing’ as a solution towards shirking off these layers. Is it possible for us to quietly, patiently and non-judgementally observe our mind and see through the tricks it plays? Of course, you don’t have to remove the Saibaba’s picture from your living room wall, but can you question how the picture entered your mind first ?


Disclaimer: This post is written purely based on the anecdotal evidence and not on any empirical research. I merely intended to share those questions and thoughts that arose in my mind in relation to my observations.