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Social Integration is the way to nation building!

I saw two movies today- Pride and Glory Road - coincidentally both of them focus on how the sportsmen overcame racial challenges.  While Pride focuses on a black swimming team from Philadelphia rising above competition and winning under guidance of a black coach; Glory Road is about a underdog basketball team from Texas (comprising of both blacks and whites) beating the champions Kentucky in national championship in spite of all hardships.

While the coach in Glory Road,  Don Haskins is not black himself - the story revolves round the racial undercurrents that he has to struggle against to retain the proportion of blacks in his team (7:5) and the repeated sabotage attempts that the team members have to face. Pride is more about how coach Jim Ellis must fight not only racism, but also protect his swimmers - most of them from poor background - from social evils which surround them.

Both movies go a long way to tell the tale of how America as a nation has had to fight a long battle with itself to eradicate racism from its society and culture. It also shows how progress and success depends on individuals like Jim Ellis and Don Haskins who fight the situation out for themselves. 

Remarkably, none of the protagonists make it felt explicitly that they are fighting racism - no great anti-racial speeches, not virtues of equality being praised, no thoughts on 'god made us all equal'. In fact Don Haskins has even said in real life- "I really didn't think about starting [with] five black guys. I just wanted to put my five best guys on the court. I just wanted to win the game ... I certainly did not expect to be some racial pioneer or change the world." That makes both movies even more real, watchable and remarkable to relate to.

India too has been struggling with an ugly cousin of racism - castiesm. We too have had numerous attempts by elites, by the underdogs and by foreigners to fight off this disease. But unfortunately, most of these fights have only been successful in removing the symptoms of the disease from our society - the disease is still lurking inside. 

From the time of Kabir, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Sant Tukaram, through the times of Swami Vivekanand, Jamnalal Bajaj, Jyotiba Phule, Mahatma Gandhi - many have fought the disease. As a result, today there is no untouchability in India (at least not in urban and semi-rural areas), no temple can deny entry to anyone, no school can stop anyone from getting educated - but deep down inside people still believe in caste. So, while you can no more stop your child to study with another's irrespective of their caste, people still don't marry across castes. Friends is okay, but family - no no!!

More so, leaders like Mayawati who openly ask for votes on the basis of caste keep the poison alive in the annals of our society. They do not let you forget that you belong to a given caste and you will be expected to vote based on it. Psephologists appearing on TV are bed-fellows of such politicians - even if all constituencies voted independent of caste equations, and even if the ballot has always been secret - psephologists posses the capability to mine data in such mannerisms as to make caste classifications appear out of this unclassified data.

The poison has many more forms - for example - not explicitly, but in their living rooms are several intellectuals who still believe in the power of the bloodline(read:caste), looking at the capabilities or behaviour and mannerisms of students or sportspersons not as individuals, but relating to them by the caste they belong to.

Unless each individual in this country realises that we are all individuals (something which Gandhiji tried to teach us), unless we stop looking at ourselves as masses as hoards of upper caste and lower castes or for that matter as majorities and minorities, unless we appreciate that we can respect ourselves only when we respect the individual in ourselves and others, unless the individual in us wins over the caste/community in us - we cannot start winning the games of our lives


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