I wrote the first draft of this article two years back on my train journey from Delhi to Gorakhpur. The context to write on this was instigated by a small incident on the journey itself. The train was just a few kilometres away from reaching the Gorakhpur railway station and had halted for 5 minutes at a small station called Domingarh. While a few passengers were packing their stuff to get down at Gorakhpur, others were busy in a conversation about the delays one has to go through in train journeys.
Meanwhile, one of the local people who was sharing the coach with us mentioned Domingarh. He informed that the area was given this name due to a majority of the population belonging to the Dom community (a Shudra sub-caste).
In my first draft, I talked more about our obsession with the last names of people and the names of places. How your last name is required everywhere – from applying for admission to colleges, for jobs or even a passport. It also talked about the name change of Aurangzeb Road to Dr APJ Kalam road in the national capital Delhi. However, that time I felt that people might not relate/understand the kind of challenges my article will talk about, especially the urban crowd. Maybe it was my bias that missed how a difference in attitude based on one name is prevalent even in the metropolitan cities of our country.
I had forgotten about this article or this social issue until recently. This was triggered when I was being introduced to a person and was asked for my last name. It took me ten seconds to process the question and understand what information was really required. If you still haven’t understood, then to simplify, it was to know what caste I belonged to, which can easily be deduced from my last name. Like me, if all this is new information and sounds weird, then I recommend you to watch the movie Article 15, starring Ayushmann Khurrana.
You might feel depressed watching it as it moves from reel to real too quick. One might get over the depressing thoughts after coming out of that PVR multiplex as they get busy looking for the perfect dress on sale. However, I couldn’t.
The complexity of this subject can be seen in the movie itself when the character played by Ayushmann Khurrana tries to understand the categorization/structure of the caste system.
As per government regulations, the national anthem should be played before the screening of the movie. I saw everyone standing in attention position and a few people even singing it word by word with complete passion for our nation. If you have been to a movie hall, then you would relate to this nationalist emotion which can be seen and felt during the national anthem. I advise you to be ready as this movie will show you the picture due to which you might start questioning those shallow emotions.
Besides, you might end up questioning yourself whether you ever discriminated against anyone based on caste, consciously or unconsciously. You might not need to tell this to anyone but yourself. There is a part in the movie where a character talks about how in old times, different utensils were used by their grandparents while serving those from disadvantaged caste backgrounds. I am sure each one of us can relate to this example in one way or another.
It is time for us to not teach the Constitution to our kids, rather let them learn by seeing us implementing these ideals in real life. I am still struggling, however, I have taken one decision which is to use my first name only as that is my identity, not my last name.
I understand that this action may take many years to convert to change in the mindset of millions of people, but as the saying goes, “change starts from yourself.”