Social change does happen

Having complained about the lack of courtesy towards strangers in India, I should point out one area where I'm seeing a lot of change in Indian mores.

It's in terms of class (caste) consciousness.  When I was growing up in India, uneducated rural lower-caste folk would not even come close to educated, city-dwelling upper caste folk. More and more, I am seeing, that is no longer the case.

On this trip to visit my parents in rural South India, I found that strangers joked easily with my six-year old, pinched her cheeks, offered her food, etc.  Interestingly, though, it was only with my daughter that they interacted freely. With me, they were not so forthcoming. I had to initiate the conversations and once they saw that I was safe, they opened up to me as well.

I also experienced change from the other end of the caste spectrum. I remember going to a Brahmin household with my father when I was a boy.  We had to talk to the priest of some temple that my dad was giving money to and the priest wasn't present. We waited outside, standing, until he came back. Almost a mirror image of that encounter happened recently. We went to another Brahmin household, this time to talk to a man who might be able to give Carnatic music lessons to my ten-year old. He wasn't home, but we were instantly invited inside while his family dug up his mobile phone number. Both these happened in the same rural part of South India, but the thirty intervening years probably explains the different attitudes to having a person of unknown caste enter one's home.

The old class-and-caste hangups seem to be vanishing.

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