The Muslim music teacher is teaching Hey Ram (a hindi devotional song) to first graders in the school adjacent to my house, even as the Sikh headmistress talked about and explained the meaning and significance of Easter during the school assembly this morning.
It reminded me of our school days where we were taught the Shabad (the Sikh prayers), The Lord's Prayer and the Hindu devotional bhajans along with the other songs and anthems, and made to recite them as one unit, together, the whole school.
I am a Hindu girl who has studied her entire life in an all girls Christian (Protestant) school for fourteen years and grown up with kids of all religions and regions. Neither was a reference to your religious or regional background ever encouraged, but more importantly, nor was the need ever felt to refer to them. Why would you? Our uniforms were the same, the lengths of our skirts standard (mandatorily 3 inches above our knees, in case you're interested in knowing haha), the hair to be tied back, shoes to be polished and nails to be clipped. When we rebelled, by pulling our skirts further up or taking our shirts half out of the seems, or getting extra piercings or bringing cell phones to school (YES, there was a time when that was prohibited), or spray painting the washrooms on holi, or throwing pastries in the church compound because they tasted back (I'm not proud of it!), we did them together. Hell, we even got punished together, missing out on picnics, or being grounded on Children's Day. Nobody gave the culprits away because of religious or regional or casteist pettiness! As kids we were taught to not even consider or look at these paltry things, and it naturally never came to us to do so. We were young, carefree, lacking any kind of responsibility or obligation back then and happy in our own worlds!
And now, 8 years later, I see the world around me has changed. Not necessarily matured but changed...and it wants me to change as well.
When people ask me my name, I tell them. Next they want to know my last name. Then they want to know if I'm Panjabi. My saying I am not isn't sufficient. They insist on knowing my caste and if I don't, they look at me like I'm the village idiot. Tired of being asked the same thing plenty of times, at the age of 23, I finally asked my parents, "what ARE Mathurs?" They said, "Kayasthas", and that was that. They didn't give any further explanation (they aren't believers of these things themselves, nor do they remotely encourage us to indulge in these things, though yes, on being asked specific questions they do tell) and nor was I interested. I was satisfied that finally if someone insisted now, I would at least have an answer, one worded as it might be. Turns out that it wasn't sufficient. They wanted to know if not panjabi, then what were kayasthas. I decided to revert back to my age old answer.. non panjabi hindus. Fuck the world, I said.
Being an adult seems to be a constant learning process. Everyday life teaches you something... what works in the real world (earlier it could be a 50 rupee note, now sometimes even 500 is too less) and what doesn't, or how important it is to sometimes take the most despicable of the uttered words and let go of them with a deep breath else you stand to be labelled temperamental or arrogant, or so many similar things. The most important lesson that one has to undo from their childhood? That women infact are NOT equal to men. That for most people around, brute strength is the only recognizable strength and nothing compares.
Oh, and that power is everything. Everything and everywhere...
Power will make you, and give you all that you and your ascendants and descendants ever wanted. And once you gain that knowledge, attainment of that power is the sole purpose of your life!
Some say they seek to attain power so that they can help the downtrodden and bring about a much needed change in the society, the country, their notoriety be damned. Some say they need power to become the guardians of the social and secular fabric of our great nation, that they are qualified to do so, thanks to the history of their inherited credentials. Some say they wish for, nay, NEED the power, to fight those in power.
All different prima facie, but all who couldn't be more similar if they were brothers. They hanker for the same thing, yet each denies that and accuses the other. The same cacophonous sounds and voices pervade your space from all of them, and yet they claim that they're different from the other.
Every group, every sound, every voice seeks to drive home how the other is drawing blood, whereas in reality they're all mixing venom in our very bloodstream, and enjoying the results.
And people listen to them, day in and day out. They listen and absorb. They hate and are hated back in equal measure. That's what they all believe, and that's what they all feed their millions of followers.
And yet, people believe that children are immature and gullible. They are so innocent and can be misled so easily. They fight on public forums arguing and counter arguing their points.. how they are the change that's required, how everything that they plan is so perfect. How the interim mishaps are a part of the learning curve. How they're all fighting for the change. And for those who don't agree.. my way or the highway.
To them I'd like to implore. . Look at what you've become. See that when you accuse someone of curtailing free thought, what are you trying to do. Look at the chaos you're creating while criticizing others for the same. Remember the child you were. . Would he recognize the adult you've become?