Last week we shifted our house. Before shifting there are some minor rituals to be performed in the new house. After completing them, as I was waiting for the sweeper to come in and clean up the apartment our new neighbor barged into our house with full authority to , in her own words, ‘check on the new people coming in’.
She had a whole questionnaire prepared for me. Where did we live before this? Who all are there in our family? Am I a working woman or a house-wife? How old is my son? What does my husband do? Where is his office? And on and on and on…
Within a matter of a few minutes she managed to get all my basic details, which would’ve taken longer to summarize had I been filling up the application form for a passport. She even suggested a new maid to look after my son.
What did strike as something peculiar to me was that she assumed that we had a Marathi lineage. May be my fluent Marathi fueled that thought. She went ahead and told me that most people in our apartment are ‘apli manasa’, as in Marathi people. I had to politely correct her that we belonged to a Marwari family, after which she again assumed (!!!!) that we had some jewellery shop or something!
The lady tested my patience no end, but I managed to keep my cool. I can vouch that she looked a bit disappointed that I was not one amongst them. Within moments her language and tone changed from ‘we’ to ‘you people’. It feels very sad that we call ourselves a secular country and even then stress on the ‘caste’ part so much.
We don’t mind when we visit foreign countries and are called as Indians, but when we’re in India we’re not Indians. Here we are identified with our caste or religion. We see colonies and borders everywhere. We see people supporting only people from their own caste on various occasions.
How right is this? Isn’t it time we think beyond these petty things and look at the larger picture, our country?India’s been already broken down into many parts, are we waiting for another disaster to open our eyes?