Archive for novembre, 2012
Journalist: So Mrs Amman, could you please tell us a few words about the caste system in India?
S. Amman: Well, it has a religious basis, actually. It originates in the Hindus’ belief in reincarnation. As a matter of fact, they believe that our present life is conditioned by our previous lives, which constitute our karma – meaning purity. So according to our actions and attitudes in our past lives, we are reincarnated in one caste or another, depending on what we deserve. Those categories are called castes and constitute the whole structure of the Indian society.
Journalist: Could you give us a few examples, please?
S. Amman: Of course! Our society has a sort of pyramidal structure: At its very top, you find the Brahmans, who are priests and teachers. Then you find the Kshatriyas, who are the rulers and soldiers, the Vaishyas who are merchants and traders, and lastly the Sudras who are farmers. Now each of these castes is divided into thousands of sub-categories, related to professions, regions or dialects, for example.
Lastly at the very bottom of the pyramid you find the Dalits, what we used to call the Untouchables, who do not constitute a caste properly speaking, but nevertheless form a category. They form about 20% of the entire population of India, that means there are about 170 million Dalits in India today. They are outside the caste system and have the lowest social status. They are considered totally unworthy. Consequently the people of higher castes would not interact with them. They occupy the lowest jobs, such as scavengers, for example. They clean latrines and sewers, they clear away dead animals, those kinds of jobs. They are in charge of all the tasks that are considered unclean, and they earn very little money. Or they are agricultural workers, toiling for farmers. Many of them work to pay off debts they have inherited from their ancestors. They are the poorest group in Indian society.
Journalist: But I thought the caste system had been declared illegal…
S. Amman: You’re right, it is illegal today. Caste discrimination was abolished in 1950. Since then the government has made strong efforts to minimize the importance of caste through active affirmative action and social policies. But it is so deeply rooted in our society that it hasn’t been possible to really eradicate it yet. Some people consider the caste system as a form of racial discrimination. They call it India’s hidden apartheid. We can only keep hoping for a better future…
Journalist: Well, thank you Mrs Amman. It has been fascinating talking to you.
S. Amman: It’s been a pleasure being here. Thank you.
Journalist: The world’s movie capital is not Hollywood but Bollywood. Bollywood is the nickname for the Indian film industry located in Bombay, now known as Mumbai. It is considered the largest in the world in terms of number of films produced, and maybe also the number of tickets sold.
Journalist: Indian movies are very popular in India, aren’t they?
Indian man: Indians are in love with movies. Fourteen million Indians go to the movies on a daily basis. This represents about 1.4% of the population of more than 1 billion.
Journalist: How many films are produced every year?
Indian man: Over 800 films are produced out by Bollywood each year. That’s more than double the number of feature films produced in the United States.
Journalist: What do these films have in common?
Indian man: Bollywood films are ususally musicals. Indian audiences expect full value for their money. They want songs, dances, love stories, comedy. Most films follow a similar pattern called masala, the word for a collection of spices.
Journalist: Can you tell us more? What are the usual ingredients?
Indian man: Movies are three to four hours long and include an intermission. They also include dozens of songs and dances. Some films feature 100 or so choreographed dancers. The story is usually about a boy who meets a girl, there is no kissing nor sexual contact, of course. There’s lots of action, there’s no bloodshed though. There is always a happy ending.
Journalist: What about the stars?
Indian man: The stars of Bollywood are very popular and highly paid, considering the budget of the films. Stars may be in such high demand that they’re working on ten films at the same time. Bollywood stars are so popular that their photographs can be seen in shop windows and homes throughout the country. Because these films provide three to four hours of escapism, Bollywood movies are becoming more and more popular around the world. So watch one Bollywood film, you’ll certainly enjoy it!
Journalist: Thank you very much, that was most interesting.