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Author Topic: "Patel" and the Indian Caste System?
Smooth Lou
The Red and the Green Stamps


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I heard this from a history teacher (mighty spreaders of ULs that they are):

He says that the last name of Patel (which has lately become very popular in and around the Chicagoland area) is the Indian word for "farmer" and as such, Indians (from India mind you) cannot aspire to be anything greater than farmers in their native land due to the caste system in effect there; but they can come to America and become doctors and lawyers and computer programmers or what have you.

My girlfriend works at a pharmacy where she is the only non-Patel (seriously. They're all Patels and none of them are related), and none of them are familiar with this urban legend (I asked one of them very politely, but maybe he just didn't get the question).

Anyone care to shed some light on this?

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I saw Mommy kismet Santa Claus
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I know several Patels. It is the Indian equivalant of Smith or Jones, so you're likely to find a high percentage of Indians with that last name who are not related. I have met a Patel who was a doctor in India, FWIW

Currently, there is no formal caste system in India. Abject poverty, not last names, is what keeps the poor from aspiring to become educated and wealthy in India.

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Jason Threadslayer
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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Several of my coworkers are named Patel. One of them told me that Patel was the name of a very prominent family, so all the local families took that name to claim to be related to them.

Wikipedia on Patel.

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Mad Jay
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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Patel is a common family name for people who live in the western state of Gujurat. Here's a short article on wikipedia. There are many variations of Patel used throughout India like Patil or Patidar. Patel literally means land-owner, and in Gujurat (a long long time ago) any land-owner was called Patel. So, during those times, a Patel may or may not be a farmer. Most probably, a Patel would the owner of the land who employs share-croppers to actually, or a PAtel would be the family that manages the land for the king. I think the closest anaolgy is that a Patel is more like a Count or a Lord that has been given land by the king for care-taking.

Over time, Patels started using their resources and experience in managing land and became traders. Nowdays, the name Patel is synomynous with being a businessman. You can pick any random Patel of the road, and most probably he owns a business or his father does (or atleat his uncle does). So, to answer the questions, Patels are not farmers. Patels are businessmen

Now, concerning the Patel backlash in US. After US relaxed it's immigration rules in the 70's, a lot of people from all over the world found an opportunity to come to US, espescially the wealthy ones. A lot of Patels (who were usually wealthier than average) found it easy and profitable to send some relatives to US and open businesses in the US. Patels started cornering the market on gas stations and 7-elevens, because a)they are easy to open and b)there's always high demand and c)a Patel who has worked in a grocery store in India needs minimal training to manage a 7 eleven/gas station in the US . This has probably contributed to the stereotype of Indians owning all the 7-Elevens in US.

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Nico Sasha
In between my father's fields;And the citadels of the rule; Lies a no-man's land which I must cross; To find my stolen jewel.

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Mad Jay
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by kismet:

Currently, there is no formal caste system in India. Abject poverty, not last names, is what keeps the poor from aspiring to become educated and wealthy in India.

Right and wrong. There is a caste system in India, and many people still refuse to touch people of lower castes. To this day, my wife's grandmother doesn't let a lower caste person enter her kitchen, although a cat is allowed in [Roll Eyes] In fact she has her kitchen partitioned in 2. In one area, all objects like utensils or vegetables that might had contact with untouchable people get washed. The second area is reserved for cooking and storage. Nothing can enter the cooking area unless it's washed and cleaned in the first area. The caste system is slowly dissolving, mainly in metropolitian cities. But, in the heartland, caste system is alive and well

Also, more often than not, people of lower caste are the people who are dirt poor. This is because there were systems in place that kept lower caste people from obtaining education or starting a business. It's kind of hard to go to school when everyone else insists that you should not touch them, don't you think. Very hard to start a business when people won't touch what you are trying to sell, right?

Now, there are a lot of Affirmative Action like programs that give preference to backward castes in colleges and businesses. SOmetimes, they go to far. Some state colleges have about 40% of their seats reserved for backward castes [Eek!]

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Nico Sasha
In between my father's fields;And the citadels of the rule; Lies a no-man's land which I must cross; To find my stolen jewel.

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bufungla
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quote:
Originally posted by Mad Jay:
Over time, Patels started using their resources and experience in managing land and became traders. Nowdays, the name Patel is synomynous with being a businessman. You can pick any random Patel of the road, and most probably he owns a business or his father does (or atleat his uncle does). So, to answer the questions, Patels are not farmers. Patels are businessmen

Now, concerning the Patel backlash in US. After US relaxed it's immigration rules in the 70's, a lot of people from all over the world found an opportunity to come to US, espescially the wealthy ones. A lot of Patels (who were usually wealthier than average) found it easy and profitable to send some relatives to US and open businesses in the US. Patels started cornering the market on gas stations and 7-elevens, because a)they are easy to open and b)there's always high demand and c)a Patel who has worked in a grocery store in India needs minimal training to manage a 7 eleven/gas station in the US . This has probably contributed to the stereotype of Indians owning all the 7-Elevens in US.

How could you forget hotels? [Wink]

buf 'Patel hotel' ungla

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"Pardon him. Theodotus: he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature."

George Bernard Shaw, Caesar and Cleopatra

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Ana Ng
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Did anyone see Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle?

Ana

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My great grandfather planted that tree!

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Dogwater
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quote:
Originally posted by Ana Ng:
Did anyone see Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle?

Ana

YES!! It reminded me very much of my friends in college who were from India [lol] One I spoke to the other day told me about this hilarious skit he saw on the 'India' channel (It's UHF 23 in the Chicago area that has Indian, Asian, Polish and the classic TV shows depending on the time of day)that had a intercom message in a restaurant sayiong "Mr. Patel, the lights on your Toyota Camry are on"...and the entire restaurant clears out to go check [lol]

These same friends have had similiar 'last name/caste' discussions with me in the past (going on several years back) that there is a certain 'history' to a last name that will vaguely tell you about the family, but that time is passing and pretty unreliable today.

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As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.

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Ana Ng
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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Two hilarious lines:

"Daddy is not coming on anything!"

And of course, "...c'mon... let her touch your penis."

Ana

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My great grandfather planted that tree!

Posts: 4862 | From: Brooklyn | Registered: Sep 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
   

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