I was born in February (or so I have been told). And since about 10 years now, Februarys are extremely tough for me. The kind of introspection that they push me into… with the comparison of what I planned and imagined to achieve and haven’t yet makes me go crazy. (Without wanting to be sounding sexist in Februarys I could be worse than a girl on PMS… seriously). Right now I think I have found a way of dealing with it. I would post here, few works of mine – some old, some new, but not necessarily known to all of my friends or family members etc. Some are just random thoughts and some would be short stories (if I can find them) I had written in the past. The idea is not to correct / edit anything except for a few typos; instead I have to let these thoughts out (with a hope that they might reach people who care about them).
(This piece I wrote 2-3 years ago.)
It was around 11.00 am in the morning and it wasn’t the time to sleep. But after getting a few chores done early in the morning I had given into some sleep on the floor just like that.
And then they came – the Three Brahmins.
I call them Brahmins because I have no other name. From their distinct pilaka on their shaved heads, the sacred janjamu going along from their left shoulder to the right waist, and the dhoti with silk border – what else do you call them!
The moment I saw them, I knew I was going to give them money, I just had to know WHY! The very fact that I don’t believe in giving alms and yet why I sometimes give away money is a contradiction I have long ceased to ponder upon.
They asked me to come out of the gadapa (threshold) or let them in. I asked them inside. They asked me if I belonged to the Reddy caste. I waited a second. I didn’t know I would.
12-13 years ago, I had then just come to Hyderabad, looking for a nice place to settle down in. Owners of places who were ready to let out their places would ask me my caste, and the moment I replied Madiga, some would raise their eyebrows, some would say they are not ready to let out their homes for me despite the fact that I am a vegetarian (and didn’t even booze until much later!) I vaguely remember a professor of Physics telling me that his house was let out only for brahmins and vysyas!
My mom taught me a trick. To tell them a different caste name – “what’s the big deal” she would ask as long as I could get a place! I remember my mom not trying to hide her caste with people, but for her son, she was ready to give up her ideals!
Few years ago, my then girlfriend had asked her father to allow me to talk to him so that I could request him to permit us to get married. He knew my caste, and associated a funny swear word with it. My girl friend is now my wife anyways. It is only recently that my father in law and I have begun talking to each other. Now they are looking for a guy for their second daughter, with some relaxed caste requirements. The guy has to be a Hindu though.
The three Brahmins asked me my caste. I waited a second. I didn’t know I would.
I always thought that I would say the answer to such a question easily and would laugh at people who were afraid to say out the name of the caste they belong to. But at that moment I gave in.
I had a feeling deep in my guts that the moment I told them I belonged to a pretty lower caste, they would run away, and here I was a man trying to give alms eh! I managed to skip the topic. I asked them what they needed. They persisted. I skipped it again even more persistently.
It was the oldest Brahmins daughter’s wedding. I gave them 51/- (now the hell do I add ONE to the FIFTY… hello I am supposed to be rationale, scientific, etc.) They needed another 50! I lied to them that I had given them whatever I had in my purse.
They asked my gothram – which I don’t remember. I didn’t lie this time. They stared at me.
They inquired if I was studying. I told them I work. They blessed me in Sanskrit. The moment I heard the word “Kalyanam”, I told them I was married anyway. The next words they used were Putra Poutri . I told them I am not interested in kids right now! (Hello… why did I tell them… wasn’t it my problem!) They said it was all in God’s Hands! And then they left. I was glad and sad.
As they left, I remembered my other three friends.
One, a friend from the childhood, and in whose home I reside now, sometimes not even caring to pay the rent. He just won’t ask! (He doesn’t mention that money till now yet, and I don’t have any plans to return it to him in case he is reading!)
Another, probably most educated amongst my friends and a doctor, has been a thorough supporter, no matter what I do. He just trusts me completely!
The other one, used to ensure that I don’t fall in his grandfather’s eyes, lest I will have to face a question on my caste, and would ensure that I ended up at their home every Thursday night, so that we could savor his mother’s dinner!
All three were/are Brahmins, by caste!
There is no relation to the three Brahmins I mentioned earlier, and my three Brahmin friends, and there is no aim that I intend to achieve or ponder upon through this piece. But by the end of today’s incident, I felt a deep sense of gratitude to my friends – whether it comes from my deep insecurity of being in a position where I have to be helped by upper caste to survive, which I never knew I had or from my belief in Rhond Byrne’s The Secret, I don’t want to know.
Otherwise I will have to try and raise my circle of influence to change
– the system which sees that people born in certain race need the state’s help.
– a powerful woman who thinks that the only way to raise attention towards lower caste’s problem is by spending crores of money on her statues among those of others
– all the mindsets that have degrees, phds and yet have demands of marrying people from the same caste
That’s difficult isn’t it? To change and to bring change! So I won’t think about it.