Yesterday, my cousin told me that one of his friends landed a good job because he had graduated from a premier institute. Today, one of my friends said that Biharis could adjust to any place. In the latter case, of course, he was jesting. Nevertheless, it made me wonder how easily we compartmentalize people owing to the community they belong to.
Some of these name-calling activities are subtle and said in veneration or awe. These are further carried on by people who are being tagged themselves. It soon becomes part of their ‘culture‘. Such labels are called upon whenever a person of that community needs to elaborate on their ‘special ways’ on social media or otherwise. On the other end are the communities that are shamed because of historical, political or economic reasons.
A person justifiably takes every recourse possible to shrug off their identity linked to that community. Although, only the latter kind is actually deplorable, categorizing people according to something not in their control at all, is meaningless in any case. This behaviour has so much historical precedent, that we hardly ever question the preposterous nature of such name-calling.
How does such compartmentalizing come about? We meet a person and notice a peculiar trait. When we notice a similar trait in another, we look for the connecting link. We build a causality relationship between the trait and that section of people, even if there is no logic supporting such reasoning. Every time we find the trait in someone belonging to the said section, our theory gets verified and soon we pass on the Archimedean discovery to our peers.
Eventually, all of us are armed with a set of traits to look out for, when we meet an individual of that section of society. Maybe, this habit is attributable to evolution. In itself, it is not so pernicious. But, grading people based on such traits, is. Moreover, what if the person we meet is an outlier! In any case, we lose out on knowing a person for what they are, devoid of such appellations as name, religion, caste, ethnicity etc.
Another kind of classification Indians most religiously follow is related to institutes and awards. I am aware of the fact that the rationale behind awards is that – to tag someone as the best in some field. Yet, I believe it would be better if we were to know how someone is good than just believing it, for the certificate says so. Once proven to be better than the rest, such marked people get uninhibited respect and land better jobs (in the case of institutes). Once again, we run the risk of forgetting the person behind the tag imposed on them. The person, the subject of societal adulation, also feels fettered when they are expected to be perfect all the time.
I wish, we could all burn our certificates as Vinoba Bhave did; lose our surnames as Kailash Satyarthi did! But, it isn’t an easy path to be nameless, classless in a society as divided as ours. The least we could do is, not look at a person for the tags she holds, but for the person she is. To look beyond the names!
Here Are A Few Inspiring Lyrics From ‘Imagine’ By John Lennon:
“..You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one..”