63 pages 2 hours read

Deepti Kapoor

Age of Vice

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2023

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Social Context: Caste in Modern India

Age of Vice contains several references to caste groups, such as Dalits, Kshatriyas, Jats, and Gujjars. As such, the socioeconomic context of the novel is best read by understanding the caste system in India. Broadly speaking, the caste system refers to a social classification persistent from antiquity, in which society was roughly divided into four hierarchical groups. Brahmins, the caste of teachers and priests, and Kshatriyas, the rulers and warriors, occupied the top of the caste ladder. They traditionally discriminated against those who were considered to be at the bottom. Marginalized groups such as the Dalits were forced into physical and unwanted labor and were socially and physically isolated, and their presence was considered polluting. Ajay, one of the novel’s three key protagonists, is a Dalit, a fact central to his marginalization and poverty. Ajay’s family is forced to live on the outskirts of their village and are not allowed to use the village’s common well.

Historically, caste hierarchies were enforced through extreme violence and social boycotts. By the middle of the 20th century, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar—one of modern India’s most pathbreaking political thinkers as well as the architect of the Indian Constitution—and other activists called for the complete dismantling of the caste system.