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13

THURSDAY

At the age of 15, I had to clean the bathrooms of the restaurant where I worked. When my grandfather, who’d always refused to wear the sacred thread that marked his high-caste status, found out about it, he had a fit. “We’re Brahmans,” he said sadly. “We’re not toilet-cleaners! Is this what you’ve come to America to do?” I liked my $5.15 an hour too much to mind polluting my caste status, though; it allowed me extravagant dreams. Maybe I’d go see OutKast live and ask Andre 3000 to autograph my boob. (I did; he didn’t.) Maybe I’d take a white guy on a date. Meanwhile, in India, many still have the nerve to grumble about affirmative-action-esque programs intended to help millions of Dalits, whom higher castes treated as “untouchable,” and less than human, for centuries. Tonight, I’m going listen to Dalit economist Narendra Jadhav read from The Untouchables: One Family’s Triumph Over the Caste System in Modern India. And then I’m gonna happily take the Swiffer to my bathroom. Jadhav reads at 7 p.m. at Olsson’s Books & Records, 2111 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. Free. (703) 525-4227. (Bidisha Banerjee)