Many visitors to India notice the seemingly willful indifference of many Indians towards their fellow countrymen who have been much more fortunate than themselves. We do not share that indifference. Below you will find a few terms that have been discussed very briefly. All these topics have been studied extensively from all conceivable angles. We do not pretend to add anything to this. With the explanations below we can more or less move between the harrowing images that keep coming towards us. Our activities do indicate that we do not accept them.


Caste system


The caste system dates from the Vedic period (from 1600 BC). There are four casts, each with its own duties and responsibilities, from highest to lowest:


The thinkers, philosophers and priests. They provide spiritual guidance to society.


Rulers and soldiers. They protect the state from enemies.


Traders and landowners. They are, as it were, the suppliers of the population.


The labourers. They have a serving function.

Each caste has more than 100 subdivisions. It is considered impossible to behave in accordance with another (sub) caste. It's always noticed; even if someone moves to another region or city. It is customs and traditions that would betray anyone in such a case.

Then there are the outcasts, also called dalits. They do the unclean work, come into contact with animals, animal products and human and animal waste. Touching a dalit is not allowed in general manners, it would be unclean. That is why these people are also called the untouchables.

Dalits are treated badly, literally untouched, and completely ignored. In many places they are not allowed to fetch water from the well when there are other people. In many towns and villages they have to live separately. Their position is reminiscent of pre-1990 apartheid South Africa and anti-Semitism. These forms of rejection are timeless.


Reincarnation and Karma


In general, people in India assume reincarnation. After you die, your soul returns to earth in a new person, who therefore has a soul that has lived before. If you do your best in life, you will return to earth as an "advanced" person. The intention is that you, life after life, perfect yourself more and more and reach an ever higher spiritual level as you go along. The highest stage that you can reach is that you can live (almost) completely spiritualized, no longer attach any importance to earthly things (materiality). Time is then no longer important for what takes place in it as human work, but goes back to the order of elements and seasons. The art is: to identify with the great, the universal. The rhythm of nature, of sun and moon, of ebb and flow, of day and night is above human work.

If you are born in bad circumstances (for example, poor, handicapped, low caste or casteless), according to many, it means that you have to blame it on yourself because you have apparently made it according to it in previous lives. It is then seen as your karma to complete your life through your bad perspectives. If you do that well, your next life will be better, is the widespread thought. You will not be helped, because you have to unwind that karma.


Equality between men and women


It is not only in India that women are at a disadvantage compared to men from birth. Less than 70 years ago, sons of families in the Netherlands continued to study more often than daughters on average. When did women in the Netherlands receive active and passive voting rights? In strictly Christian circles, women's political freedom of movement is still a matter of debate.

Back to India: Sons remain part of the family. Relationship runs through the male line, a patrilineal system. After the marriage, the bride is accepted into her husband's family and thus leaves her own family. Sons care for their parents' old age, daughters care for their parents-in-law. That is why parents “invest” mainly in their sons and less in their daughters. If a couple has daughters and no sons, their future is not assured.

Marriages are generally engaged in India. This means that parents look for a suitable partner for their child. In this way they want to achieve that their child gets a partner who suits her / him, but especially also the environment, the caste and the financial situation of the family. The conditions for a good relationship are then present: it is assumed that love will come naturally afterwards. In India, people have a strange view of marriages as they come about here. Our argument that in the Netherlands people often marry out of love is often not valid; it would only be love. Once that is over, the question is how permanent that relationship will be, is their opinion.

The number of marriages that are not committed has clearly increased in recent years.


The dowry


Then there is the dowry that women should bring in. For a relatively short time now a dowry has been banned by law. However, the reality is that it is still very much in vogue, especially in rural areas. It will remain so for the time being. So, if the parents of a son can look forward to a dowry, the parents of a daughter must muster it. The greater the dowry, the better the husband, it is assumed. In the West, too, there is often still an uncomfortable feeling when people marry "below or above their means". In India, the status of the groom's family determines the size of the dowry. In other words, can't the bride's family muster an attractive dowry? Then she will not find an attractive groom. It gets really dire when it comes to poor families. In Jalihal and the surrounding area many people live with an income of less than one to a maximum of two dollars a day. The brides are then sentenced to partners with a bad past, a disability or a man twenty or thirty years older.

Not getting married at all is a shame, it is prevented at all times. In poor families, daughters are sometimes married off as early as thirteen or fourteen years old. When families have even a little better life situation, that does not happen. Again: old customs, traditions, etc. will lose their meaning. The middle class that has already emerged and is still expanding, the cities with their modernity and greater tolerances will eventually lead to different value patterns. But now this is still the India where the traditions rule and certainly in the countryside this will be the case for decades to come.