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One of the origami cranes with the message of acceptance on the bottom of the wings is shown above. Credit: Shivani Pal
Shivani Pal, a fan of Origami, residing in Bangalore, firmly believes she can overturn the societal conviction where inter-caste marriage is treated as a “crime.”
Shivani is working on a project to promote acceptance of inter-caste marriage as part of her education at the Landmark Worldwide group. The project is two-fold: Her and a close group of family and friends make origami cranes with a message about “A Community of Love: Look beyond caste, creed and religion” with a link to a Facebook page.
The second part of the project is an online petition to government officials to create and expand incentives for inter-caste and inter-religion marriages.
Why she’s doing it?
She has a personal stake, as she is also trying to marry a person from a different caste, and some of his family members disagree with the idea of their marriage.
“It has been a tough battle for me,” she says.
The project has given her perspective, and made her realise it’s not just about her struggle. She read many stories about families being broken apart because of fear of social ridicule and being an outcaste.
“If we can overcome fear and replace it with love, just imagine what can happen,” she says. “All this fear we have, fear of not being accepted by society, that has to go.”
Pal says caste was something her Indian ancestors created for a good reason, but now over the last 100-odd years it has been used as a means of discrimination. People use it to look at someone as superior, someone as inferior.
“The only way, I believe, that we can all move towards a society where caste is not discrimination is by inter-caste marriage,” she says.
Message of love through creative medium
So far, the origami cranes have only been distributed to one restaurant, the Malleshwaram branch of the Mast Kalandar restaurant chain, about three weeks ago. K G Pal is the manager of the restaurant. He says he agreed to participate in Shivani’s project because it’s a good concept. He hasn’t heard much feedback from his customers yet.
Shivani is hoping to expand the crane programme to other restaurant. She is speaking to the management at the McDonald’s in Malleshwaram to implement a pilot programme. She is choosing family restaurants to spread the message as a way to reach the older population.
“The real crux is the older generation, our parents, who have more influence,” she says.
Petition to the government
She knows spreading the message is not enough, so she is also petitioning the government to expand its current incentive scheme for inter-caste marriage. Shivani started a Change.org petition addressed to government officials from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
“I was very happy, very surprised that the government has recognized this problem and has taken action,” she says. “I ask that they spread it.”
She wants incentives to be available to inter-religion marriages, marriages between general categories, not just scheduled castes, and include a programme with benefits to parents, such as a reward or a certificate, since they are the ones who need to be persuaded the most.
Fifty-eight people have signed the online petition so far. Manish Garg from Bangalore commented on the page for the petition: “Love knows no boundaries. Every human has the right to love and be loved. This is a good initiative to promote the ‘right to love’.”
Others shared the same opinion. Ravichandra B commented: “Inter-caste proves that we can live in unity and be free despite of the various castes and creeds in their society. They show how love and respect creates a free and happy generation.”
Not an easy sailing
Shivani has struggled to scale up the size of the project since she only works with close friends and family to make the origami cranes.
With afull time job, she only has time on the weekends to devote to the project. She knows the model is not sustainable right now, and that is why she would like to see the restaurants that participate to eventually have their employees make the cranes.
“I’m very clear, whether my marriage happens or not, this project has to take a big, big life of it’s own,” she says.
She remains optimistic about changing cultural attitudes.
“Times are changing,” she says. “It will take another century at least for the whole mindset to go. Caste will be there, caste will not disappear, but this discrimination will go.”