I am a modern Indian

I am a modern Indian. Caste does not exist any more, but I do not bother when we insist that the servant uses separate utensils. She can wash ours, but never eat off the same plates as us. Caste does not exist any more; that’s why I shout vociferously that reservation must go, but I do not bother about the servant’s daughter, several times brighter than me, and yet denied an opportunity to study further, a present day victim of a blatantly unfair past, of centuries of oppression and exploitation. Caste does not exist any more; and yet, marrying outside the community still opens a Pandora’s box of problems. Deep rooted prejudices are masked by pretences of concern — Our ways are different from theirs. In what way are we different? Some accident of birth that placed me on a higher rung of the invisible caste ladder?

I am a modern Indian. I scoff at old traditions, rituals, and practices, but will immediately approve them once it has been validated by the western world. Yoga? So communal! But once Hillary endorses it, yoga is the best thing to happen to mankind.

I am a modern Indian. It is a matter of pride to me to speak English elegantly. I may not speak the vernacular in the same way, but that does not stop me from making fun of those whose English is specked with several vernacular influences. ‘Seero’ instead of zero, says the Malayalee. And I will burst into peals of laughter. I will read Tolstoy, but shrug away Tagore. Magical realism? Of course, there’s Marquez! Who heard of O V Vijayan?

I am a modern Indian. I will discuss Marxism over martinis; poverty eradication is my favourite kitty party discussion. I will talk about hunger and famine over caviar and champagne. I must speak up for the poor; if not me, who else will? And so, I spend my weekends with the children in the slums, teaching them, and playing with them. I am careful to take enough photographs and upload them online. Everything is reduced to a matter of gathering evidence, proof of my passion. Who cares what happens after those few weekends? I was just helping out in my free time, trying to do good, earn a few karma points, perhaps. Are we really helping them or merely trying to make ourselves feel better?

I am a modern Indian. I may be a flirt, toying along with the emotions and feelings of others. Look, I’m just trying to have a bit of fun, alright? At the end, I’ll only marry the person Mummy and Daddy choose for me.

I am a modern Indian. “Choice” is always about having the freedom to wear short skirts and drink beer. But a girl who wears a headscarf or chooses to wear a salwar kameez is scorned, dismissed as a “behenjee”. And yet, despite choice, a girl who drinks or wears short clothes must be characterless.