Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Two Points of View

This is a school assignment I did yesterday. I wrote from two perspectives--one from that of an untouchable (the lowest class in the old Indian caste system) another from the point of view of a girl kshatriya, or noble. The first is that of the untouchable, the second of the kshatriya.


A bonfire flickered in the distance. I could see it clearly against the starry night sky. I ran ahead to inspect it further. Perhaps there would be some food to beg, for it was Holi and I knew that everybody, even the poorest, would probably be in a good mood today.

As I came closer, I could see people singing loudly and dancing around the bonfire in a semicircle. Most of them appeared to be vaishyas, or farmers. I felt like a worm, creeping toward them in their fine clothes. Nobody noticed me at first.

Soon, though, I wished that it had stayed that way. As soon as they noticed me, I wished that they hadn't; the disgust etched on their faces as they backed away made me feel only more an outcast.

A little girl stared at me in fascination, as though I were some strange animal, until her mother pulled her by her sari back into the crowd. I ran away. It did not matter how silly I looked, for no one would bother to tell me.

Later I came back, more discreetly, to watch the festivities. Some kshatriyas' servants had come to dance. I envied them. Servants though they were, they would not be kicked aside like rags when the came to join in.

Some of the young women began to dance. I watched them. Their yellow saris twirled around them and sparkled. The others soon followed suit.

"To Vishnu!" a young man cried.

"To Krishna!" said another.

The crowd laughed together with one voice. How I wished that I could join in with them. But there was no way that a lowly street-sweeping child like myself would be able to do that. It would get me in trouble with my mother. And then everybody would know that I was there, contaminating the air with my unholy breath.


Inside the cool courtyard of my family's house, my father paced back and forth, surveying the shudras hard at work watering plants and pulling up weeds. He hem-hemmed under his breath, snapped his fingers, and walked briskly to me.

"Have the cooks made naan for the festival?" he asked curtly.

"Yes, Father," I said obediently, and nearly groaned out loud. My sari, which was yellow and beautiful to look at, was not so comfortable to wear. It wrapped tightly around my legs and made walking hard. I made my way outside slowly, worried that my sari would trip me and make me look like a loon. My cousins had already gathered outside on the grass.

"Indira, your sari is too tight," my older cousin Kali said, her own sari's hem flecked with dew. She helped me tuck in a loose fold. The boys sniggered and said that we talked only about girlish things.

"Oh--do we have to do rites today?" Sita asked with a catch in her breath.

"I don't think so. Why?" I asked.

"I saw a brahman," Sita said.

"Oh--the bonfire's starting!" I shouted as I noticed flames in the distance. Everyone ran forth to the smell of warm curry and naan. It was heaped upon golden platters, ready to be eaten.

"There goes the daughter of Harsha Varyana," I heard the vaishyas whisper. They were sitting on the ground in orderly rows. This was one of the few times they saw me, and I saw them. Behind the vaishyas were some dirty untouchables, still busy sweeping pathways. The dirty rags they wore as clothes teemed with vermin. I looked at them with disgust and glared into their eyes. Stupid beggars, I thought. Ruining Holi with their dirty clothes and contaminated shadows. I smiled at my cousins and walked demurely to a tasseled carpet that had been placed on the grass for us. Some shudras came forth to serve me and my cousins. My father looked proudly at me . This sari perhaps is not too bad, I thought, and glanced haughtily at the vaishyas and the untouchables who still lingered sadly there.


  1. Anonymous3:50 PM

    I liked reading your assignment about Two Points of View. It reminded me that we should look and listen with compassion, when people have different points of view.

    When Rev. Wright spoke out about mistreatment of African Americans, we can listen with compassion, without judgement.

    Thank you for this reminder.

  2. I loved them both.

    I loved the first one a lot.