A brass Nandi at our local temple

Being a Brahmin: Nov. 9th
This weekend Uncle took a very disparaging attitude towards "the labored class". When the topic of servants is brought up in conversation, every Indian native I have met with a servant will say "Our maid-servant (driver, cook, etc.) has been with us for 10 years, and is a member of the family", followed by "You have to watch these servants very carefully, they steal, slack-off, etc., all the time, but with such a nice tongue". I thought we had great servants. In the last few days, I’ve learned why uncle says these things. Yesterday Jude complained that he was being worked too hard; we have kept him for 12-hour days about every other day in the last week. He wanted 10 rupees an hour for every hour past 9 hours. He gave me the standard pity pitch — "food is so expensive, my mother is old and ill, and can’t cook breakfast for me", etc. We’ve treated Jude very well; his salary is 3,000 rupees per month, compared to the average of 1500 for a driver. So after a chat with Sue, I suggested to Jude that he had a choice. He could continue to work as a salaried employee; this would mean that he would be paid when we were gone 4 weeks of the year to the states, and that when we gave him days off, like Sunday, he would still be paid. Alternatively, Jude could be paid hourly. Wisely Jude saw the light and chose salary at 3000 rupees. Then Ramesh, the security guard took off for coffee, and never came back for the night shift. It was followed the next morning by my call to his company, and a subsequent fine of 50 rupees (two days wages). I paid Ramesh’s fine, out of kindness, and out of fear of retaliation, but I also gave him a lecture about not leaving the place unguarded. Today, Lakhshmi, the maid, took about 25% of our clothespins hanging off the clothesline. So Sue now has to watch the servants, and I have to change my messy habits, and keep everything in locked drawers.
Sue is trying to learn all she can about Indian religion. Her current research is on Shiva. When you go to a Shiva temple, there is always a "nandi" pointing to the direction of the Shiva lingam. A nandi is a bull, and is Shiva’s vehicle. Every god rides on some animal - Shiva’s is nandi, Ganesh, the elephant god rides on a rat (If you think that an elephant riding on a rat is silly, then you haven’t seen the size of the rats in India). Anyway, when you see a nandi, the equivalent of a catholic genuflect is to grab nandi’s testicles, This is the desired movement for maximum fertility. Since nandi is always sitting down, I don’t quite know how this is done.
We’re also learning a lot about what Brahmins have done to rule India. The caste system appears to be a Brahmin invention. It’s a sad thing. Because respect is based on rigid and hierarchical rules, genuine respect for your fellow man is rare. Instead respect is based on relationship; are you inferior, or superior? This rule seems to extend to nature. If you’re one of the god’s sacred vehicles you are treated with respect. Consequently cows get respect, as do the bandicoots, the largest rats in the world. But if you go to the zoo, you see folks throwing stones and sticks at the rhinoceros.
Sue tells me that Brahmins only play string instruments. Lower castes are allowed to play woodwinds. Being mouth instruments, they get filled with, as Sue says, "one of the twelve, icky, secretions of the body" (saliva). I don’t know what Brahmins would do with a MIDI clarinet.
I had a Brahmin grandmother who came to America to stay with us for a while. She would not eat off of our plastic or china plates. These were made of earth, and unclean (those 12 icky secretions again). She insisted on only eating off of metal plates. She found a metal pie-plate in the laundry room. In no position to argue, we quickly washed the plate. No one told her that until that moment it had been the dog dish.