It was most helpful having a good guide while in India because we got to see and experience a variety of things we otherwise wouldn’t have. An example was a stop at one of our guide’s friend’s homes while in a small village in Rajasthan.
As part of our education about the Caste system of India, wherein people are born into certain groups or Castes, our guide explained this man was born into the lower Sudra (labor) cast. He was a potter, just like generations of his ancestors before had been.
The potter adeptly demonstrated his ability to mold wet clay into usable vessels, like drinking cups and small bowls. The drinking cups we were especially familiar with as we had a cup of chai every day in such vessels, purchased from street vendors. When done with the chai, the vessel is discarded, creating an ongoing demand for these clay cups.
It took the potter just a few seconds to craft a perfect cup, so experienced and skilled was this man. The wet clay vessels were allowed to dry in the sun before being baked in a kiln and sold.
Our guide also pointed out that Caste system was changing and that people born into a lower class could become quite successful. Just because the Potter’s Caste made him a laborer, it did not mean he was poor. This man was quite wealthy, as you might gather from the nice clothes he and his wife wore. They lived simply in a tiny home, but he owned many acres of land and was a millionaire. Many people born into lower Castes are successful physicians and professionals, although most had to emigrate from India because they would not be accepted in these roles here.
The couple couldn’t speak a word of English and, of course, we knew no Hindi, but a connection was made and a lesson learned.
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