I believe I was in 4th standard or so, in a Christian management run English medium school in a semi-town in Kerala. One day, the class teacher asked us all to ask our parents, and write on a neat sheet of paper, a bunch of things about our family.. like parents name, occupation.... the usual stuff and caste !
Now, I would be surprised if such details were already not there in the school records, including the caste. So then, I am not so sure why exactly this was done. I sincerely do not believe that it had anything to do with the fact that it was a christian management, but I have a gut feeling that in the entire data that they collected, caste was what they were really looking for - may be that was the time when reservations and so on had started taking center stage, and proper records about one's caste was important.
Whatever it may be, overnite, it turned me caste conscious. I would come back and ask my parents "So, what is our caste ? Why is it considered OBC ? Whats so backward about us ?".. No, that is not all .. " What about Kumar , my friend, what caste is he ? Is he 'above' us or 'below' us ? " .. you get the picture, don't you. ?
The next day, kids are all ready with their papers, and not surprisingly, not just me, but many more had just found out a new tag to their identities !! We would ask each other, hide our papers until we were assured that the other kid would "reveal" his caste. Christian classmates of mine were asking us around curiously as to what each one of us were. Of course, we did not have, at that time, the knowledge to ask back if they were RC or SC or Jacobite or Syrian or Marthoma.... For a while it looked like hitherto friends had starting viewing each other in a different light
But then, kids we were, and so the innocence took over.. and I don't think there was ever a caste based friendship ever that I saw in the school, anymore
Why did I write this ? I think the entire thrust of this second part of my write up, is the importance of "self healing" . And I believe, institutionalisation of caste has been the biggest hindrance in solving what should have been an evolutionary process to solve the problems that arose out of it
Let me try to explain - imagine you do not consider caste as relevant anymore in your life. Can you still write that in your school records ? I believe you can choose not be from any religion, but once you are a Hindu, can you choose not to have a caste ? Unlike the Vedic period where movement within varnas (which is NOT equivalent of castes) was possible, movement within the British introduced system of castes is not possible, and I guess much less to not choose one
Okay, I admit, I do not know the technicalities of the above issue vis-a-vis the school records part- so let me talk about a more down-to-earth scenario. In fact this came up as part of dicussions on this very blog. - I have said this before and so let me be brief. I did not want to use my OBC quota while I was filling my application form for Kerala Engg Entrance, simply bacause, given my reasonably well off family background, I do not need that "mercy". But then, by putting myself in general category, I may have obstructed the chances of another GC candidate.. yeah it may have helped another OBC candidate, but what decides who is more deserving ?
So the catch-22 is such that even if AS AN ELIGIBLE PERSON, I decide that I do not want the mercy, and that I do not agree with the system, my hands are tied by the very system so that I cannot make a logical decision. Damn it if I do, damn it if I don't.
I brought this up, for the reason that many people, after my first part write up asked me, "So whats the solution ?" No, I do not have a magic pill, but I think most of you would agree that instead of what-should ideally have been a catalyst to a natural healing process, the government is actually trying to cut off the very veins that supply blood to the injured part just because there is bleeding (Oh well, the MBBS would correct me and say, its the arteries)
For one full hour, my housemate and I sat together and tried to evolve one model after another, to try to see if there is a workable and reasonable way to have reservations, and at the same time, not let the country down. And we failed miserably. I believe we failed, not because those models were useless, but the simple fact that after putting down a model, we would start discussing the practicality of it being implemented, and then some politician's or some community leaders name would come up, or some practically un-changeable law written up in the constitution would come up or the image of the greedy jackal, waiting to prey upon a disintegrating Hinduism would come up and there goes the plan, down the drain..
There is a Malayalam movies of the 90s.. can't recollect its name. There is a character acted by Mamukoya in that movie, where he is supposed to be a Tabla player. However, the singer (played by Kaithapram) and the rest of the musicians do not allow to touch the tabla at all, becuase he is so bad at it (Its a movie, so no questions) . He just sits there as a on-paper artist, the moment his hands strech towards the table, the others just pounce on him and pull his arms back
These are times when I wish, we had the magic hands to do the same to the goverment as was done to Mamukoya in the movie. Why don't u people just sit there and do nothing ? Would be a great service to the Nation
-to be continued