In THE HINDU dated 19-01-2009 Mr. S.Gurumurthy has written an article titled Is caste an economic development vehicle?, wherein he has concluded that the caste system’s perceived nuisance in politics can be mitigated by promoting the economic potential of caste.
In the said article, he has brought out the bright side of the caste system as was prevalent in India. Inter-alia he has made the following statements which have been excerpted for affording greater clarity.
“The Nadar caste runs over three-fourths of the retail trade, match works, and fireworks in Tamil Nadu.
An empirical study was conducted in some 25 caste-based industrial clusters in different places in India by a team of academics and professionals trained in modern business under the aegis of the Tamil Nadu Swadeshi Academic Council. It showed that whether it is the Jatavs of Agra and Kanpur, or the Nadars, Naidus, or Goundars of Tamil Nadu, or the Patels of Gujarat, or the artisan Ramgadiyas of Punjab, they have risen as competent entrepreneurs – many at the global level – mostly by leveraging on their kinship-based social capital.
It is the community that has acted as the knowledge provider thorough kinship and social network.”
Before making a sweeping statement that the NADARS of Tamil Nadu had leveraged their caste connections to propel themselves to their position of predominance in Retail, match works & cracker industry, he shud have done a background check for the reasons leading to such predominance, than to use the success of the NADAR caste for his half-baked hypothesis of leveraging the caste connections.
The reasons are manifold.
In my opinion, the NADARS were built for hard labour and completing the tasks ahead of them in a manner that is instructed them. The reason being that NADARS were from the community of palmyra climbers and were able bodied. The men folks’ greatest investment was in their body and subsequently in their skills. They had to climb the tall palmyra trees and cannot afford to lose their grip on the tree even in the event of being stung by a scorpion or a bee (it is very common to experience these threats at the top of the tree). This trait of sticking to their tasks even in the event of pain, had inculcated in them a strong ability to hold on to the basic reality of sticking to the task.
Besides the fact that the NADARS had to have capable bodies, they had built a capacity to endure pain and finish the objectives set before them.
Further, all the nectar gathered cannot be sold therefore they had to decide based on the local saleability, as to how much had to be brought down as nectar (in Tamil padhaneer, in Malayalam akkaani) and as to how much to be brought down as toddy. The unsold portion of the nectar was brewed into a type of country sugar called in Tamil a Karuppatti. To top it all, all the sprouting shoots on the tree top cannot be chosen and sliced for draining nectar. As some had to be left for the formation of the tender kernel called nongu (in Tamil) and some left for maturing into full grown fruits for the purposes of the seeds and subsequently for the harvest of the tubers that come out of those buried seeds.
The point that i am trying to bring out is that, the NADARS had to apportion the basic resource in such a way that it would fetch them the maximum returns. It is in these activities that the NADARS had learnt the basics of apportioning the resources, assessing the market conditions and saving for a rainy day. IF THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO WAS PLAYED IN THE PLAYGROUNDS OF ETON, it was surely in these circumstances that the NADARS had learnt the skills and built their character.
There were many instances where the palmyra climbers had slipped from the trees and fallen to death & sometimes crippled with disabling injuries. Constant rains deprived them of their livelihood for days on end- when climbing trees besides being hazardous ,would dilute the nectar and make the nectar useless for consumption or sale.
It is from such insecurities that the concepts of SAVING and HEALTHCARE emanated. It is a fact that there were a lot of ASANs, who were NADARS, who learnt the medicinal properties of herbs and used them in treating bone injuries. The NADAR community developed these Asans for treating their own people, who suffered grave injuries and bore the livelihood of these asans, out of their earnings and produce, as an obligation of labour towards the community and generously paid those asans .
Since the physical labour was demanding and hazardous, the life of a palmyra climber was uncertain and his work of climbing the tree did not, in any case, last beyond his middle age- as his reflexes and strength subsided with age.
The women folk had to sell the country sugar (karuppatti) in the local markets and assist their menfolk in the earnings of their household. In their spare time they had to weave baskets out of the palmyra leves, make hand fans and other fancy items out of the palmyra.
So on the whole, the NADAR community is not like what Gurumurthy says that they garnered the retail and match works business thru social networking. It is too simplistic, as probably he comes from a background where his forebears lived off selling concepts of SIN, GUILT, PROPITIATION, READING KUNDALIs and NATAL CHARTS PRESUMING TO PREDICT FUTURE, using temple lands for tenancy and produce skimming!!
The insecurity of NADARS led them, by God’s grace, to toil in areas where they could give businesses to their succeeding generations. Earlier, the father NADAR had nothing but a house and the right to tap the palmyra as a lease holder, to bequeath to his son;but the realization that each generation had to start from the scratch made them move over gradually to more steady incomes and giving their children education. If Gurumurthy is to understand this, he has to understand that it was not because of CONNING THE PUBLIC THRU RELIGIOUS CONCEPTS THAT THE NADARS CAME OUT OF SUCH PLIGHT, BUT THAT THEIR LABOUR AND HARDWORK COULD NOT KEEP THEM DOWN ANY LONGER! It was the inter-generational continuity and inter-generational sacrifice that has taken the NADARS to where they are.
Alas! Gurumurthy cannot understand that, as he probably comes from a stock that claimed pre-eminence in the society thru peddling small minded spiritualism which is NOT AN EFFORT THAT IS BASED ON HARD LABOUR, BUT SUSTAINING THE FRAUD OF HIS FOREBEARS! For his community, it is important to network and sustain the collective fraud of the consciousness promoted thru the ages.
IT IS THE NADARS WHO HAVE RETAILED THE GOODS OF THE SOCIETY TO THE POOREST OF THE POOR, NOT THROUGH PROFITEERING, BUT THROUGH RATIONALIZATION OF PROFITS.
The homogeneity of the NADAR community is zealously guarded not through myths of superiority, but because of the realization by each generation that the previous generation had suffered enough, to bring the candle of progress from afar, beguiling the MYTH CREATORS who tried in vain to snuff out the flame that the NADARS protected so carefully.
IT IS THE SACRIFICE FOR THE PURPOSE, DESPITE THE SCORPION STINGS, THAT HAS BROUGHT THE NADARS WHERE THEY ARE AND NOT BECAUSE OF THE HALF-BAKED CONCEPT OF SOCIAL CAPITAL AS INTERPRETED BY THE BIGOTED GURUMURTHY.