It goes somewhat like this. There is the old zamindar family. Actually, it’s not that old a family as zamindar families goes. Before they became zamindars they didn’t amount to much, but they immigrated, they worked hard, and were absolutely ruthless. So they did very well for themselves, more so after they got into industry after two centuries of farming.
But of late the shine seems to be waning. There is still plenty left though, and it’d take at least a couple of generations before there’s any serious damage. Anyway, they rule the roost. Besides, they have the henchmen, and might is right. Much might is absolutely right.
Then there are the traders. Actually, they were traders for most of their history, which is very long. In the middle, they fell in bad days, when their headman went cuckoo. However, of late they have taken over the industries that the zamindars consider it beneath themselves to run, and have prospered again. That they have no compunctions at all helps immensely.
They’ve also gotten into usury, lending mainly to the zamindars, primarily so that they can sell the produce from their factories to those zaminders. The zamindars gamble insanely too, a sure sign of irreversible decadence and decline. The end is as far as others think, hope the tradesmen-turned-industrialists. They’ve started to flex their muscles.
Finally, there are the poor Brahmins. Once they weren’t so badly off, but they fought incessantly between themselves and were reduced to slavery and penury.
When their old masters fell in bad times and abandoned them to their fate, they became hangers-on in the court of a nearby zamindar. That fellow was more a thug than anything else, and after some time he too softened and popped off.
The Brahmins had no choice but to try and live by their wits again. To their delight, they discovered that disuse hadn’t completely killed the little grey cells. They are still poor, but no longer so hopeless.
The main source of their hope is the employment they’ve got from the zamindars. The latter, as loath to use with their heads as they are to work with their hands, are only too happy to hand over the more mundane tasks to these newfound clerks.
In fact, they have discovered some of the Brahmins are quite smart, in their own way. To these, the zamindars offer a quick ticket out of poverty: “Break off from your people and live with us in our palace.”
Now, the traders want to figure out how far they can go, but without getting into trouble directly with the zamindar. Therefore, they’re pushing around the Brahmins, needlessly insulting them, and demanding various pieces of their land. The actual aim is to see how far they can go before the zamindars read out the riot act.
So far, the zamindars have looked the other way. Apparently, their debts have sealed their lips. Or so the traders hope.
The Brahmins, on the other hand, hope otherwise. “The zamindar is the traders’ biggest customer,” they say, “and if the traders have lent money, it’s only to keep their many factories running. Besides, the zaminders still have enormous muscle power. If they decide not to repay, there’s nothing those traders can do. Besides, if there’s any pushing around to be done around here, surely the zamindars would want a monopoly of that.”
And so we have a rather interesting situation. Nothing much is happening, though there’s a good deal of huffing and puffing. Let’s see how it goes.
PS: We are poor. We may have some dream, but not much to lose really. The US have a lot to lose - symbolically, for now; actually, later. And if we should remember 1962, the Chinese will do well to remember the Opium Wars.