It’s not just college applications and supervised meetings with the family astrologer that scream ‘casteism’. A random remark made in jest, or the lyrics of a now-viral music video — as is the case now — may just nudge the boundaries of casual casteism. Note: If you won’t approve of sexism, even in humour, why should something as rampant and backward as casteism get a leeway? These were the accusations and criticism leveled against Sofia Ashraf for the video Tam-Brahm Boy, which she penned and sung a few parts in.
Those who viewed the video, now standing at close to 40,000 views, didn’t miss the irony. This is the raptivist behind Kodaikanal Won’t, an adaptation that made her a household name. Then why did she fall into the same trap of glamourising the poonal — the sacred thread among Brahmins? Sofia is currently on a visitor’s program in Germany along with a multi-disciplinary team of artists, architects, activists etc to study water projects all over the country, and figure out how the same practices could be put into effect back home in Chennai to solve the city’s water issues.
She responds to the backlash surrounding her video online — “A couple of months ago, I was given a chance to start my own series that focussed on the identity, struggles and culture of a south Indian woman. This was such an exciting canvas for me. What it meant to me was the freedom to make jokes with local references and pop culture tropes that I grew up with. So, I planned a series of videos on Kollywood spoofs, on anime obsessed feminerds and marriage obsessed mallu moms. The first video to release in the series was ‘Tam Brahm Boy’. It started off as a funny song that played on every stereotype I could think of about Chennai boys and eventually evolved into a risque piece about a woman expressing her desires. The ‘Tam Brahm’ identity was added to give it a further cultural layer.”
Sofia goes on, “And here’s the clincher — nowhere, from the moment I came up with the idea to the day I released it, did I think of this as a casteist statement. I always thought my blindness to caste was a virtue. But today, I have suddenly realised that there is a huge difference between denouncing caste and denying caste. The critics are right. I have been caste blind. I have also been caste blinded. I have never claimed to be an enlightened soul who is the sole crusader against every injustice in the world. But, I have always considered myself to have enough foresight to not be part of the problem.”
“How this could have happened is a question I am asking myself and something we, as a society, need to explore. Nobody is born free of every form of culture washing. Nobody is born aware of their privilege. These things need to be learnt and experienced. But, that’s the beauty of social media. It can be used to start dialogue. This video has started so many dialogues for me personally,” she concludes....