shades of brown

How many of us have been asked about our family background? In an interview for a job, or maybe for a scholarship. Or perhaps by a new acquaintance. How innocent was that query? Surely, the person was attempting to get a measure of our background or our character?

Are you sure that was the only thing the interviewer was doing?

Do read the comments, even if comments on rediff and indiatimes test our sanity and patience a lot. Most of the respondents think the researchers are implying that Indian companies are engaging in direct caste discrimination. The article implies something far more dangerous – that people are discriminating without knowing it. Their decision making process is influenced by the answers they receive to all the questions, which includes a background check. Why ask for background if you are going to ignore it? Why ask for background if it is irrelevant? Thats because sub-consciously, we are equating backgrounds with castes. And our decisions are being influenced by the background of the applicant.

Caste discrimination is a practice that has had thousands of years for perfection. It has been taken to such a level of perfection that its practice is so subtle, so innocuous that an accuser would be treated as irrationally paranoid. You will have to bore into the very nuances of language, behavior and culture to know it is occuring.

It s a fight that has to be fought on a different level.

7 thoughts on “shades of brown

  1. Vidyadhar

    I believe you have some point here. Yes, it is subtle.
    A maratha feels a maratha should be taken. A brahmin feels same for a brahmin. Or as someone says, higher classes hate lower classes and so on.
    But for me, this background question comes from a mindset that sees whether the applicant is suitable enough viz whether his parents do a steady job? generally the family background implies the candidate’s behaviour. and as far as i go. I have given 4-5 interviews and no one while asking my family background, enquired about my caste. they enquired about, what my parents do or what my brother does? and I dont think its wrong asking this, because this to some extent defines how is the candidate mentally and socially. Thats it. If someone asks about caste, you may show him middle finger. I never needed it yet.

  2. Amey Kulkarni

    Bhute, you have tried to underline that caste “discrimination” runs so deep in the society that people knowingly-unknowingly practice it.
    For me, I would obviuosly prefer my cook to be a Brahmin (because he/she will tend to cook in a way that I like than a cook of the other caste), but I won’t hesitate to hire another cook if the first one is dishonest, kamchor, too expensive etc.

    Yes, family and personal history,background including caste do come into the play but, caste should not be the only or the dominating factor. Eg. recruiting tonnes of yadavs in the UP police. Putting up statues of Dalit icons (living and dead) all over Lucknow, naming every institute, airport after memebers of the Gandhi family…

    When it comes to public institutions they don’t belong to any particular caste hence discrimination including on the basis of caste should not find any place.
    So, when it comes to hiring people for my company, I will try and hire from my acquantances because I am more sure about their reliability (50 % of recruitments happen through referrals not to be confused with sifarish).

    Drawing conslusions of the survey finding to unwarranted levels is not called for.

  3. Rohit

    Bhise, this is not about a Maratha feeling a Maratha should be hired.

    Bhim, STFU. This is not about your cook (where caste sensitivity does play a legitimate role, as does religious sensitivity). I don’t mind eating chicken biryani cooked by a Muslim on a Thursday; but I will also take care not to serve a dish cooked by that guy to you, when you are obviously sensitive about it. Neither is it about stocking police and bureaucracy with your own biradari.

    This research is done on India’s forward facing, private sector companies. The same corporates we mention when we talk of a new, resurgent India. The same corporates who face off with foreign competitors and are expected to adopt industry standard practices. It does not talk about anything else. No other accusations are made or implied. So quit with the off-topic examples.

    What it implies is, in spite of the official policies regarding discrimination, hiring patterns reveal a similarity to caste bias influenced patterns. The foremost revealing factor for caste, in the absence of a direct caste query, is background; specially for first generation achievers.

    No one will guess I’m an OBC from my background. But it will not be so easy for someone whose parents work as daily wage laborers in Latur. After all that work and shit and mud-slinging and soul corrosion that education through reservation involves and implies, he will have to face this final test.

    For what it is worth, the researchers maintain this discrimination is involuntary – it is just a mindset we have change.

  4. Varun

    I somewhat agree with Bhise on the topic.

    To tell my views, Private sector companies don’t give a damn about the caste of the individual. They are concerned with only the right people for the job. The back ground question as Bhise says, is asked for verifying the credentials of a person; simply put.. it is highly likely that a Guy who’s father is CA and has a good family background is less likely to indulge in any thing crooked rather than say a guy who’s father is a Mill Worker and Mother a House wife.

    Most of the comments in are better off when taken in a light manner. I sometimes find it shocking as to how users could use such strong words to justify their approval or disapproval of the issue.

    As far as the mindset of the persons involved are concerned, we have to learn to live with it. I remember reading in one of the magazine published by a leading Management coaching institute written by a IIM student, ” An MBA is the only degree that would give you a bright future and a beautiful /handsome wife/husband.” This is the way an IIM student, one of the brightest minds in the country thinks. Our country is better off telling such people to FO …

    On a lighter note though … now that my CATs been screwed… are my chances of marrying Priyanka Chopra effectively over ?? 😉

  5. Rohit

    The study says otherwise… but then, studies can be wrong. I have appeared for a grand total of one serious interview in my short life; so I wouldn’t know.

    All in all, we have to keep a vigil to prevent such a practice, if it occurs. It is a price for all those “-isms” we have.

    @Chopra, aim higher. Padukone, maybe?

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