Thursday, September 6, 2012

Reservation Quota for an "Indian"

The quota issue has raised its head again (I won’t say ‘ugly head’ for fear of being chastised as privileged-educated-middle class-drives a car-has a maid-kids study in private school-nondalit-Hindu and who knows what else) and I have serious issues with the “let us reserve for those who are needy/underprivileged/minority/victims of casteism” simply because the other side (not necessarily the opposite of the adjectives that describe the “need reservations” group) is unrepresented and therefore, ignored.

To understand what I am getting at, all you would have to do is go to the Tehsil office in your district and observe the queues for ‘domicile certificates’ and hear what those standing in the queues, who are not natives of the state, have to endure.

Today the reality of an Indian like me (of Marwari origin, born in Delhi, raised in Kerala, married to a Tamilian Brahmin, lived across the country courtesy spouse’s service in the Armed Forces, now stationed in Maharashtra, and who can speak 6 Indian languages with absolute ease) is that my identity has become restrictive.

Simply because I cannot respond with confidence to queries regarding region, home state, mother tongue etc with an emphatic “I am an Indian” and leave it there. It is not enough.

“Ha ha…yes I know. We are all Indians. But really, which state do you belong to?” I am often questioned by incredulous acquaintances who also announce rather alarmingly when told the truth about my multi-cultural upbringing, “Really? Baniya from Kerala? But you don’t have a mallu accent at all!!!!” the blame of which I usually shift to the missionary-run school I attended through my academic life in uniform that insisted we speak in English all the time. “Yes, but still, your English has no malayali accent…”

Ok I admit I do feel a cheap thrill when I am told that my accent carries no traces of my education from Kerala where the accent is the butt of several thousand jokes. But that is where it ends, because inclined as I could be (or should be) to be known as a Keralite minus the accent, I am keener to be known as an Indian.

Sadly that is a card that is not working and as time goes by, it is getting tougher for our tribe to survive.

I have to belong to some place in India to qualify to be part of a socio-cultural or socio-economic group. As an out of work journalist, I am not part of any socio-economic structure any way and my socio-cultural identity was long ago snatched after it became mandatory to “belong” to some state in the country.
So while I “must” technically belong to Kerala (on paper; the heart is a different matter altogether), I do not, because I don’t vote from Kerala not having lived there for over 23 years. I do not belong to Maharashtra, where I currently live, even though I vote from here, because I have not resided here for fifteen or more years (to claim domicile). I cannot belong to Haryana, where my father grew up because we no longer have any property, friends, relatives or bonds there and furthermore I have never lived there.

Despite all this, I have managed to trundle through life proud of my unique identity as an Indian who did not base her allegiance to a region/state to feel a sense of belonging to her Motherland.

But this I reckon (practical as I am) will not be of much help to my children, who from a very young age have been questioned, amongst others, by class teachers about religion, caste and home states (to which we have continued emphasising a zealous “Indian” as an answer), and who will have to make a choice eventually because when we seek admissions into colleges, universities and the like, our ‘regional’ orientation will matter as much, if not more than our sexual orientation.

It will matter a few years from now when my daughter needs admission into a college, and where the existing sundry reservations would mean one of these three choices: either she scores a 120% marks to get a seat through merit (the cut offs for colleges are getting distressingly unachievable), look for a reservation category that we fall under (so far there isn’t any), or compel her to make a different career choice.

So, finally, after years of being subjected to religion-caste-region questions I have come to the conclusion that people like me, who are a veritable cocktail of the cultures that makes India what it is, need to have our have our very own reservation too.

There must be a reservation for those whose hearts beat for India and who do not stake a claim on any particular region, language or culture as their own – who are Indians first and Indians forever; a reservation quota for “Indians” in academic institutions, government jobs and the like.

Now that I have my ideology clear, all I would need to do is focus my energy towards finding the perfect poster boy, celebrity, mouthpiece who could be suitably instated chairperson of the movement and who will passionately vocalise our “feelings”. A dharna, march, bandh etc can follow later (those will be part of Plan B).

Please wish us luck!
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