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FR. KULANDAI

An Annan Story
‘Overcoming Caste-ism’

Fr. Kulandai

I grew up in Christian village called Thinaikulam. For 250 years the caste people of our village had been Christians. For 250 years we treated the non-Christian Dalits as polluted Hindus. They were forced to live as untouchables, drinking from their hands rather than polluting a tumbler.

When my father was elected as the local panchayat president he wanted to begin changing things, but no one really supported him. He had sympathy for the plight of the Dalits but the community had an Indian Christian caste heritage which viewed them as unclean and inferior. One of his first moves was to declare that Dalits could drink from the same pond as the caste Christians—but on opposite sides of the pond.

My father inspired me to work for the poor. So when I began my work experience as a Jesuit, I volunteered to work in the villages of the Dalits and Tribals. I felt an inner joy when I worked with and for the poor.

When Fr Arockiam visited the Jesuit novitiate in Dindigul and described the work among the poor in Kodaikanal, including the Grihini program, I felt a calling to be part of the program. From 1995 until the present I have worked in various aspects of the Grihini and PEAK team programs, including being director of Grihini for 7 years. As such I became part of the family, the chinna annan, the younger elder brother.

We Christians must shed our caste heritage and be human together!

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