“Bhaiya, aap ka jaath kya hai?”
“Bhaiya, aap Christian hoon?”
“Ya aap Muslim hoon?”
“Aap konsi jaath se hai?”
And the questions go on and on.. And these are kids from class 3 to class 8 who are asking me such questions. And I always reply that I don’t have a religion or a caste. Then the next question arises. “Aap ka surname kya hai?” Again, they are not able to figure out anything from my surname. Actually it makes them even more confused.
And the next question comes. “Aap kahan se hoon?” I reply that I was born and brought up in Kerala. Then the next question comes. “Kerala mein koi jaath nahi hai kya?” I take a deep sigh and say, “The people in my life either don’t have any, or they have all.” And what happens next is that they run away to engage themselves in their own little activities.
I wouldn’t say that it was strange for me to see the idea of religion and caste to be so grounded in their minds, but at some level, I denounce it. When I once told an 8th standard kid that I didn’t have any religion, he went on call out his friends to share the “news”. It is not from my students that I’ve faced this question. Even teachers have asked for my surname and been unable to decipher my religion. All thanks to my parents.