As far back as he can remember, people told Hari Kishan Pippal that he was unclean, with a filthiness that had tainted his family for centuries. Teachers forced him to sit apart from other students. Employers sometimes didn't bother to pay him.
Pippal is a dalit. That meant he could not eat with people from higher castes or drink from their wells when he was young. He was not supposed to aspire to a life beyond that of his father, an illiterate cobbler. Years later, he still won't repeat the slurs that people called him.
Now, though, people call him something else.
They call him rich.
Pippal (seen here at his Agra office) owns a hospital, a shoe factory, a car dealership and a publishing company. He owns six cars. He lives in a maze of linked apartments in a quiet if dusty neighborhood of high walls and wrought-iron gates.
"In my heart I am dalit. But with good clothes, good food, good business, it is like I am high-caste," he said, a 60-year-old with a shock of white hair, a well-tailored vest and the girth of a Victorian gentleman.
Now, he points out, he is richer than most Brahmins, who sit at the top of the caste hierarchy: "I am more than Brahmin!"
Text: Tom Sullivan, Associated Press