Dr. Abhijit Khandkar
Many Indians are getting offended by the picture of Australian cricketer, Mitch Marsh sitting with his feet perched on the Cricket World Cup Trophy.
Since he has put his feet up, so it means disrespect.
This concept of respect being equated with body parts is an exclusively Indian concept, stemming from Hindu beliefs and tradition.
Why is a body part considered inferior?
Why are hands auspicious and feet inferior?
Now dig a bit more.
Purushasukta from Rigveda says that Brahmin was born from the mouth, Kshatriya from the shoulders, Vaishya from the thighs and Shudra from the feet of the Creator.
Hence the feet from where a Shudra is born are to be considered inferior.
Hierarchy of caste equated with hierarchy of the body.
A bit out of your comfort zone?
Surely this wasn’t why you remove your chappals outside a temple or when starting something auspicious to show ‘respect’
But it is.
You remove your chappals because your feet are considered inferior, impure.
Similarly when you bow down to someone or touch their feet, you accept your inferiority in comparison to them.
Your ‘respect’ stems from this acceptance.
Body parts and attire, footwear are intricately linked to hindu casteist beliefs.
The concept of pure and impure.
All of it has deeper undercurrents and undertones.
Deva and Asura.
Yes there are instances of body parts being assigned hierarchy across cultures but in no other part of the world, something like this prevails to this extent and there is a clear cut reasoning given in Hindu scriptures (believed to be the final word) behind it.
For an Australian, the feet are equally auspicious or inauspicious as the hands.
And it’s perfectly normal for him to put his feet up on the trophy.
What is called the Indian culture (which is blindly taken as the majoritarian hindu culture) is vehemently seeped in casteist gestures like this.
Things we do mindlessly on a daily basis without any awareness of the how and why of it.
But yes it has been told, my feet are inferior as per our culture so I will follow.
This is a casteist culture and it shows at every step if you have the gumption to stand back and understand, observe.
What is considered and passes for ‘culture’, in reality is nothing but centuries of discrimination, oppression, appropriation.
What makes this picture revolting to most Indians, is this deeply ingrained casteist connotations which goes against what they have always albeit naively followed.
Hence touching anything with our feet is disrespectful, polluting, inferior.
You may not be casteist per se and may not even have this thought when your feet touch something, and you immediately bow down to apologise but that’s how it plays out and perpetuates.
That’s your deeply rooted conditioning.
It’s you saying,
“I am sorry, an inferior part of my body (from where the Shudra emerged) has touched you.
I apologise for it.”
You may not be doing it from this intent but this is where it stems from.
It’s at the root.
When one talks about learning and unlearning, this is how it is.
You will see casteism at every step, in plain sight and in most of the subtle things.
It’s perfectly fine for him to celebrate his hard – earned achievement this way.
Perhaps next time when your feet touch something, you too can try and be okay with it.
Every part of your body is as auspicious and inauspicious as the other.
I can tell you as a Medical Doctor even science agrees with this.
Dr. Abhijit Shahaji Khandkar is a pathologist and writer with a keen interest in translation. He observes the microcosm world under the lens of his microscope and macrocosm of society with his writing. He is a Dalit poet by assertion and believes all art is political.