Friday, September 30, 2005

Being Indian 1

There cannot be any method to bring back the worldview that I held when I was a kid. I always knew I was from one particular community, but I could never be able to differentiate myself from anyone else in the country. The issue was mu. Not applicable.

Every land I stepped on, every person I met was my own. And there was a lot to experience thanks to being part of an Army family, posted from place to place. North-East, South, West and East. I could not ever fathom anything but the highest of respect for teachers, elders, officers and hard-working farmers. To the extent that I used to think that newspapers reporting crime were actually fiction. 'How could adults be bad?,' I would wonder.

And then the edifices fell one by one. And here are the symbolic events that did it.

First, it all began when I was sent to a hostel. I was probably one of the better students and hence used to always have a load of class-mates seeking my support when we approached exams. It was my first exam period in hostel, and I of course was studying with a friend - from Himachal. But suddenly a group of Jat Sikhs came to me and asked me to join them in the studies. 'Why?', " I asked. "Because you are a jat sikh and we stick together."
And thereon I began to find out who we were - Baniyas, Jats, South Indians, North Indians, North-Easterners, fishermen, Babus, Papas, schedule castes...

Two years down in hostel and I soon find why a few students never joined us in the class rooms during exams. They had special rooms to take their tests. And why not? Their parents were also our teachers!!

And then one day my best friend in hostel, from Mizoram, refused to let me join him home for a holiday. Because, he said, reluctantly, "we are different and you will not be comfortable. There are no outsiders in my village."

And then one day my close relatives (local guardians) on seeing a friend I used to play football with mentioned. "Who are your friends? This one is got such a fat nose!" they giggled.

And then when I moved on to engineering college, I started be-friending a group of class mates from South. For six months, I was overly curious with there unique religious and social customs. I probed, I joked, I demanded to get a closer idea - to the extent of ridiculing them and making it all look a joke. Its then when I realised what I was becoming. I was expressing my anger at life for showing me that it was full of social conflicts and for destroying the image of my sweet world. I was panicking. I was becoming what must be called- a barbarian. The destroyer of anything different. The plunderer of beauty. The one who had so little within, that stealing the world was the only mission.

And that is the day I decided that I will not wait for the world to be good, before deciding that I am good. I will try to be benevolent, by choice. Not reacting to the world outside me, but instead nurturing what should be me. And so is how I began my journey forward. A long one and not always so simple.


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