Actually, the traditional characteristics and power of the Brahmins in the traditional upper caste hierarchy (high learning, arrogance and clever use of a certain elite language to build firewalls around knowledge and information to keep it away from the commoners) are now much more visible among India’s upper middle-class professionals, whatever their caste. Whether backward, Dalit or forward, successful children of the new dominant classes no longer acquire their basic knowledge, skills and networking abilities in Brahminical Sanskrit, but in English. Likewise, the power of the old-style, landowning Thakur (Kshatriya), who killed a thousand tigers and routinely torched Dalit huts, has been usurped by today’s political class, who ride lal batti cars with similar disregard for laws, sirens blaring and black cat commandos in tow. They hold power dialogues with neighbouring warlords, make and break treaties—not the princes and nawabs who, if they have not become penniless, have turned hoteliers and protectors of wildlife. The traditional merchant class, thanks to family-based businesses, may have retained some part of their old glory, but in the global arena they are now heavily dependent on the neo-Brahmin: the Indian Institute of Management-trained, multinationalized manager, banker and expat consultant, who strides the global village and carries vital knowledge in his laptop, as a Brahmin once carried in his almanac.
All caste systems need a cleaning class. They are today the invisible and unorganized freelancers. Moving from job to job, they help mop up the night soil of the global village and provide the paymasters with linguistic bridges into the vernacular heartland, where the markets are also the votes.