Friday, October 10, 2008
Caste? Indian. Thank you very much.
Towards the end of November 2001, we were nearly into the final days of school, class10 i.e. S.S.C. we had to fill out our application forms for the Secondary School certificate examination. Before filling out the final form, we were given a dummy form to fill. The dummies were supposed to be checked by checked by the administrative staff of the school to rule out idiotic errors. Once, a boy supposedly filled in the name of his father as Reverend Father Ivan Mascharenas instead of his own father’s name! Can you beat that? At the age of 15? Anyway, the poor soul must have been confused or simply absent-minded. So we got along the business of filling our forms and submitted them. Some students were summoned to the office of the administration for errors in their forms. I was one of them. I was baffled. Errors? In my form? Impossible! I went to the office. I was handed over my form. Not a single problem. Most of my schoolmates standing there were called for the verification of their caste status. It was my turn. I asked the officer what was wrong. She said I had not entered my caste. Indeed I had not and on purpose. I had left it blank. I told her that I was not interested in filling that detail. I didn’t even know my caste to fill it in the first place. She said it was mandatory as incase if I belonged to some backward caste I would be eligible for government benefits. I said I was not interested. My dad is an orthopedic surgeon and my mom has studied law. I was more than privileged. Thank you very much. Moreover, I continued my tirade by stating that throughout our school days we had been ingrained with the idea that we were Indians first and Indians last. Nothing in between. She refused to accept my form. I argued that the form stated (in very fine print) that the candidate should have be an Indian national and must be born before 30th of December, 1986. I fulfilled the criteria. No success. She refused to accept the form. Instead she gave me a file of our admission forms that we had submitted at the time of taking admission into school. I was told to find out the caste entered in my form. I grudgingly did that but I did have my revenge because I got to joke about my schoolmates looks in their photos as 4 year olds. I reached my form in that file. I recognized Dad’s handwriting. He had entered both religion and caste as Hindu. I saw no problem with that. I filled in that stupid detail.