This incident, however, also added fuel to the fire of resentment some people had already started feeling about me. They resented the reservation policy and my caste, because of which I got the promotion. In truth, my promotion hardly meant anything to me. There would be a meager raise in my salary, some fifty or sixty rupees. But I had achieved some power, and that was precisely what irked people. I had taken this job in 1966. During the ten years after that, that is, up to 1976, it was rare to hear people say, "Oh these low castes! No less than the sons-in-law of the government!" or "They are such a pampered lot!" or they would refer to low castes as "the arrogant," "the bigheaded!"
But in 1970 the roster system was introduced in government jobs, and it became mandatory to appoint Dalit and tribal candidates. The resentment against the Dalits and other reserved category people began to rise. This was the period during which such expressions began to be increasingly used against the Dalits! This was also around the time I had become the branch manager. Sitting in my chair at work would make me very happy. Up until that day I would have to ask my boss for his permission; now I would be the one to grant permission to my juniors! Those who felt happy about it congratulated me from the bottoms of their hearts, while some others just pretended to be happy, since they very much resented my promotion! The moment a man was promoted, he immediately became a bhausaheb or raosaheb. But women remained simply bai, without the saheb, even after their promotions! Besides I was a Dalit! "Why should she expect to be addressed as baisaheb?" "Why should we ask for her permission?" some people grumbled.
These days, however, every woman, whether a housewife or a working girl, has become madam, because of the tremendous influence of English, which has reached our kitchens. Because of this verbal promotion, even a woman peon is now addressed in the plural form, with a show of outward respect. This has generated self-respect, which finds expression even in the lowest of the low.
Friday, October 9, 2009
From The Weave of My Life by Urmila Pawar (pages 196-197):