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Tamil Brahmin’s transformation to urban middle class

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By- M R Narayan Swamy

Title: Tamil Brahmans, The Making of a Middle Class Caste, Authors: CJ Fuller and Haripriya Narasimhan, Publisher: Social Science Press.

This is a fascinating, scholarly work, yet eminently readable, on how Tamil Brahmans, who for centuries were a traditional, mainly rural, caste elite, occupying the throne of a caste order, transformed over time into a modern, urban, middle-class community.

In this clearly first exhaustive book on the subject, CJ Fuller and Haripriya Narasimhan combine original research and extensive study to explain how Tamil Brahmans embraced education and job opportunities during the British Raj to become the middle class they are today, with a strong presence particularly in the booming private sector.

In this they were “an unusual social group” which knew how to remain in touch with the past even as it climbed the ladder of economic success – something that, the authors point out, the Telugu Brahmans or the Kerala Namboodiris failed to do. The Tamil Brahmans are a good example of “how and why privileged status within a hierarchical society can be perpetuated in the face of major social, cultural, economic, political, and ideological changes”.

The number of Brahmans in Tamil Nadu, according to the 2011 Census, is about 1.78 million, of whom Tamil Brahmans account for 1.40 million. Overall, in India and abroad, this must be 1.85 million. Today, the vast majority of them have been drawn into the urban middle class, leaving behind their once exclusive quarters in villages known as “agraharams”.

The Brahmans’ role as the custodian of Sanskritic Hinduism has always been salient for their caste status. This eventually pitted them against the Dravidian mass in Tamil Nadu, rapidly reducing the Tamil Brahmans’ once influential hold over politics into a virtual zero. But instead of going into a shell, the Tamil Brahmans adapted more easily to newer opportunities and saw modernity as less threatening to their social and cultural traditions. In the process, an old caste elite got transformed into a modern middle-class group.

Among the Tamil Brahmans who rose to prominence in both an early era and later included T Muthusamy Iyer, the first Indian judge in the Madras High Court, lawyers V Bhashyam Iyengar, S Subramania Iyer and CP Ramaswamy Aiyar, engineers SA Subrahmanyar Aiyar and V Ganesh Iyer, mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, scientists and Nobel laureates CV.Raman (1930), his nephew Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (1983) and Venkatraman Ramakrishnan (2009). That Tamil Brahmans bagged three Nobel prices should not be surprising because the community took to law, science and civil service in a big way – and then made its mark in many other professions.

The Tamil Brahmans have also changed in many other ways. Although they tend to marry within the community, Iyers (or Shaivites) are seen as less conservative than Iyengars (or Vaishnavites). Their family sizes have shrunk, and parents rarely worry if both their children are daughters. Young Tamil Brahman women have more control over their matrimonial affairs. And today, Tamil Brahmans are dispersed across India and abroad, mainly in urban centres, and rural Tamil Naduis no longer their homeland in any meaningful sense.

The majority of Tamil Brahmans see themselves as both fully modern and authentically traditional, the authors say. Dislocation and disorientation are actually remarkably absent from the Tamil Brahman’s certain sense of themselves as both modern and traditional. But, then, this book is mainly about the Tamil Brahman upper middle class.

(IANS) (pic courtesy: amazon.in)

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Urban Consumption Accounts for 10% of Global Emissions

Urban consumption-based emissions must be cut by at least 50 per cent by 2030

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Without urgent action, those emissions will nearly double by 2050. Pixabay

Consumption-based emissions from nearly 100 of the world’s big cities already represent 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, a new study said on Wednesday.

Without urgent action, those emissions will nearly double by 2050.

The study by C40 Cities revealed an incredible opportunity for cities and their citizens to contribute even more to the global effort to cut emissions and address the climate emergency.

The research tiled ‘The future of urban consumption in a 1.5 degrees Celsius world’ was produced in partnership with Arup – The University of Leeds, and cautioned that urban consumption-based emissions must be cut by at least 50 per cent by 2030 in order to maintain the possibility of keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees.

Urban, Global, Emissions
Consumption-based emissions from nearly 100 of the world’s big cities already represent 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Pixabay

When combined with firm city efforts to reduce local emissions, this would allow cities to deliver 35 per cent of the emission savings needed to put them on a path to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

High income areas, which generate the bulk of emissions, need to cut their emissions much faster — two-thirds by 2030. Fortunately, the research finds that if nations, business, cities and citizens take ambitious climate action over the next 10 years, cities will be on track to reduce their emissions in line with a 1.5 degrees Celsius world.

“Stopping the climate crisis requires keeping global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Transforming the global economy to deliver on that goal will require action on a scale never seen before in peacetime,” said Mark Watts, Executive Director of C40 Cities.

“This is a wake-up call for all leaders, business, and citizens to consider both the local and global climate impact of the things they consume, and an opportunity to better engage citizens and businesses in solving the climate emergency.

Also Read- Super Drug to Take on Stubborn Tuberculosis in Uttar Pradesh, India

The report explores six sectors where leaders, businesses, and citizens in the world’s cities can take rapid action to address consumption-based emissions: food, construction, clothing, vehicles, aviation, and electronics.

There is significant potential to cut consumption-based emissions in these sectors.

Together these actions would save around 1.5 GtCO2e per year by 2030. When combined with existing city climate commitments, this would deliver 35 per cent of necessary reductions in consumption-based emissions needed to put C40 cities on a 1.5 degrees Celsius trajectory. (IANS)