Monday, December 6, 2010

When they hear my name…

“Whats your name?”

“Neha Ghatpande”

“ahh… Brahmin?”

This is a usual conversation I have heard since my childhood. From the peun in my school to my landlady in Mahim get the community I belong to (My family belongs to: I still don’t know about me) be recognized by just hearing my sir name.

I used to think people in Pune have this habit of gathering extra information about each and everybody (even god doesn’t know for what) but my such basic misconceptions are coming to an end when most of the (open Minded) Mumbaikars also react in the same way.

Being in Marathi medium school casteism was part of life. Starting from the teachers asking questions in a study tour like:“How can you eat an egg? Aren’t you a Brahmin? I seriously didn’t know how to answer that question. As my parents never really told me that we are Brahmins! Especially my father and his vast social network, he has got friends in almost every community and so we never really recognized ourselves by the community.

So many times I had seen forms lying on the table at my fathers desk with a heading —‘Membership of Deshastha Rigvedi Brahmin Sangha’, biting dust before being thrown in the dustbin.

“We should be united,” they say!

Then they will start with your cast and then you as a Maharashtrian then your religious identity and then you as an Indian, I forgot race here! Hushhhh…..

I have never really understood this concept of unity! First they will tag themselves with a community name, they will make friends belonging to that community and then they will use the word unity! How ironical they can get!

But when I introspect I am ashamed to admit how much it is in my blood! It’s that part of conscience which pops up suddenly and unknowingly while mingling with the other community or even talking with the same! The feeling of insecurity fills me up when somebody asks my cast! I am left with no other option but to say yes or avoid the question with a smile (which has absolutely no meaning).

It becomes part of your identity socially. I feel glad about leaving that protected cushion blinded by the community bias to go to a temple like Fergussion College and a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai!

In last two and half months I have roamed in and around Dharavi, slums in wadala and Bandra, recently covered the death anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar at Shivaji Park. Everywhere what mattered to me is my Identity as a reporter as they looked at me with respect.

As my father always tells me, “You should be known as a good and capable human being.”

So the ‘Ultimate Realization’ is that I might have to live with my cast identity for life but carving out an identity myself is so much more fun than leading blissfully closed life!