Of Indian descent, but virtually a lifelong New Yorker, Anil Jethmal is often asked about the caste system in India. Many confuse the "caste system" with the similar sounding "class system". Anil Jethmal is quick to point out that the Indian caste system is vastly different from the American class system.
The class system, in the Western world, is generally about money. The upper class is defined by those having more money than those in the middle class….and the middle class is defined by those having more money than those in the lower class. Some might quip that the word “class” is a misnomer. However, in general American parlance, those with higher levels of monetary wealth are considered to be in a higher class.
In the Indian caste system, the wealthiest business people belong to just the third highest of the four caste levels. The highest caste is the Brahman (spiritual)…then, the Kshatriya (warrior or ruler)….third, the Vaisya (skilled worker/businessman) and last, the Sudra (unskilled worker). Thankfully, the caste classification of “untouchable”, a despicable period in Indian history, no longer exists, having been banned in 1949.
The highest caste, the Brahmans, understand that making money, in itself, should not be an end, or even the sole means to an end. They understand the need for balance and that contributing to the common good is a necessary ingredient to attain that balance—not just giving money, but also giving of one’s self.
Many Vaisyas (businessmen) in India instinctively aspire to a higher caste by attempting to incorporate those Brahman ideals not only into their daily lives, but also into their own day to day business.
From early childhood, Anil’s family adopted those ideals and led by example. They demonstrated, time after time, how many spectacular successes can occur in business, seemingly effortlessly, when a truly worthy purpose was intrinsic to the goal.
Anil Jethmal recalls his father speaking about “tapping into an energy” when one is doing what is right. More than that, his father continued, those who do garner that energy never seemed to care who got the credit for a successful endeavor, often donating to others and giving of themselves anonymously. As proof to his skeptical son, he pointed out that the best colleges and universities (with presumably the most accomplished alumni) receive the most and largest anonymous donations.
Through the years, Anil Jethmal recalls several instances where his father would act in a similar manner---often going well out of his way, in order to do the right thing---even if he thought no one was watching. It is a philosophy truly worth following. And for Anil, it has the added benefit of connecting him to his family and to his heritage.