The next time someone asks me, 'what are you?' I'm just going to tell them "I'm a baby kangaroo". I know this question may sound confusing. But to me, it's just a bit amusing. Let me paint you a picture. So you understand the basic structure. This question usually follows your name. After you've introduced yourself without mentioning your surname. Well, you see - your surname is their cue. But if you don't give them that, 'what are you?', That's a guaranteed question for you. Because now they only have guesses to figure their view. They're just asking for your religion-community-caste. So in their minds, they can begin to typecast. Oh, nobody feels offended; it's just what we do! In this sub continent, we like asking, 'what are you?' Within religions, we have denominations and sub denominations. And castes and sub castes and subsets of those that form our foundations. Rural India is about seventy percent. In many places, a lower caste doesn't have consent. To speak up, to mingle or to marry. Intercaste marriages will destroy us apparently. Language, food choices, dress codes, jewellery customs. They all separate us, our extremely fancy traditions. Green glass bangles or white plastic ones. Silver oxidized kadhas or black beaded gold bangles. Each of them, even the type of design and beads have meaning. They all depict and categorize us into a something. A widow must not wear red or a bindi. A south married woman must wear a gold chain. A north married woman must wear her black beads. Even the way you drape your saree or outfit, secrets it reveals. India is so diverse; every state has its own official language. Amongst other languages and several dialects all together bandaged. But just being Indian is not enough. Religion-community-caste, that's the important stuff. If I'm a Brahmin and a pure vegetarian, I'll probably not even let you enter my kitchen. And in some parts, your shadow must not fall upon me. Of course, all this is practised in varying degrees. Have you ever heard of honour-killings? It's where your own family does something so bone-chilling, will murder you and your lower-caste spouse. Stabbed to death by your own brothers and father or maybe with fire and kerosene doused. Much of rural India is very much like this. It's not like the cities are absolutely free of the crisis. Well, that depends on which city we're talking about. So we're back to 'where' and what are you, this question devout. So, what are you? Just a monkey in a zoo. That's what it feels like when they're trying to assess you. Sure, some things and traits are inherent. You're entitled to a preference and an opinion. But is that all that matters to you? Unity in diversity, within this integrated complexity. Can we look beyond social boundaries and correspond? -RUELHA www.ruelha.com © Copyright Protected. All Rights Reserved.
I do not intend to hurt the sentiments of any group/person/custom/tradition/belief/faith/class/creed/caste/race etc. Please read with an open mind. I am very proud to be Indian and respect the diverse cultural heritage our nation has to offer.