I’m an upper caste, Hindu, Brahmin, North indian
Posted by pratyush on August 27, 2008
The first thing that people ask me when I introduce myself is why is my name Pratyush Pankaj and why don’t I have a surname. There is a very simple answer to that – its because my Father didn’t want me to use our surname. He believes that surnames are used to distinguish people on the basis of their caste and religion. A Sharma or a Singh would be an upper caste and Mahto or Ahir would be a lower caste. He never believed in Caste system and he didn’t want his children to get into this either. Hence, none of us has a surname.
When I was a young kid, I only knew I was an Indian and I very firmly believed that. I didn’t even know what my caste was. I realized that I’m a Hindu during my history lessons in school when I was told that people in India are mainly divided into four religions – Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christians. It was somewhere in the early nineties that I realized that apart from being a Hindu, I’m also a Brahmin – which means an upper caste (thanks to Mandal Commission).
These things were irrelevant to me until I witnessed a riot after the Babri Masjid demolition where I lost one of my best friends who was a Muslim. I realized the implications of being an upper caste when I was denied admission in city’s top college despite getting very good marks in my Boards exams, and another friend of mine who got much less then me, got through on ‘Quota’ (he was a ‘schedule caste’ – incidentally, he was always this rich spoilt kid)
As a young boy, I never understood this logic of treating the citizens of same country in different manner. I never understood the logic behind “special treatment” to these poor (?) minorities (?). I don’t know if my forefathers didn’t let them enter the temples or to fetch waters from the well (I’ve heard people narrating such stories on TV – specially the politicians). All I know is that by virtue of being born in an upper caste Brahmin family, I couldn’t get through the best college in the city even after securing much higher marks (trust me – much higher) then the so called lower caste kids (who would zoom around on their bikes and waste time everywhere except studying).
So, by the time I came to Pune for higher studies, I knew I was an upper caste, Hindu, Brahmin boy and not just an Indian which I always thought I was. And then, after spending almost 10 years in Maharashtra, I got a new identity. I was told that I was a North Indian and hence I shall go back to North India.
So now, In 25 years of my life in India, where my father wanted me to be a proud Indian, I’ve been given different identities. Thanks to politicians, so called social activists, Human rights activists and few others, I feel like an outsider in my own country because I’ve realized that I’m not just an Indian. I’m an upper caste, Hindu, Brahmin, North Indian and I’m not very sure how many more tags I’ll have to add to my identity.
I always wondered if my father has failed. He wanted to give me one identity but now I’ve so many. But i when i think about it, its not my father’s fault. He had a very noble intention. He wanted his children to be above caste, religion and regionalism. But thanks to the dirty politics of dividing the country into castes religion and regions, none of us is just an Indian – we all have multiple identities.