Dealing with reservations is a part of life. Whether one needs it or not, it is inescapable.

Whenever I fill out an application form, whether it’s for applying for a course or a job, I always get peeved at a certain point. Among details like name, age and qualifications, there is this little tab that asks us to fill in our religion. I always wonder what purpose this little information would serve to the institution or organisation. How would this be a derivative for accepting or rejecting an application? Aren’t qualifications and eligibility criteria enough? Of course, if I am seeking acceptance through a reservation, especially a caste-based quota, then maybe I need to provide this information. But when I am not making use of any such quotas, why do I have to provide information about my religion?

For me, the path that I tread, the beliefs that I have, the choices that I make are entirely personal. They don’t ask which brands I use in my daily life. Which TV I have at home? Which cable network is it connected to? Which AC brand is installed in my home? Which gas company I am registered with? Also, whether I am a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian? When none of these matter, my religious preferences shouldn’t matter too.

So I wonder, what do they do after collecting such data? Do they send it for census purpose? Not required, the government is quite capable of collecting data on its own. So perhaps, it is for fulfilling certain reservation quotas after all. Which brings me back to this question – when I am not seeking any reservation, why do I have to provide such details?

Recently, we’ve been applying for various colleges and I’ve been stumped with the details that are asked. To start with, no two college application forms are similar. Each has their own set of questions. Apart from the basic information, each has some unique queries. Even the set of documents that are to be attached with the application, varies.

And then comes my pet peeve, the religion tab. By this time, I am used to fill that column with a heavy sigh. But in one application, they decided to stretch my pet peeve a little further. Not only did they ask for the religion, they required details for the caste and sub-caste too. The sub-caste tab had a big drop-down menu, filled with names that I had never heard of. On one hand, I was proud to be part of such a diverse society; on the other hand, I was miffed at the extent of details that was being asked. Made me wonder – along with campus interviews, would they also be providing matrimonial services during the final year? Why else would they want so many details?

While filling out applications is one battle, getting enrolled in the course and college of one’s choice is a whole different ball game. Lot of factors come into play; various reservations like caste-based quotas, sports quota, quota for the physically challenged, quota for children of armed forces and government employees, etc. And like the cherry on the top, there is an unspecified special category – recommendations. Although, to some extent, the above quotas are essential, it is the recommendations that make the situation messy.

For the unreserved lot, the space only becomes tighter. It is like a race among the toppers from the unreserved category to get the few remaining seats that are left after all the quotas (and of course, recommendations) are fulfilled. A split second finish and the winners get a sense of ‘mission accomplished’. For the rest who couldn’t make it, the dash shifts to the next best college.

It is not that the hard work put in for the exams, the good marks earned do not matter, whether one is in the reserved category or otherwise. But the roads to success are often riddled with hurdles and obstructions.

One may feel, ‘This is not fair’
The other may feel, ‘I was almost there’
Life is just a conical sphere
When it’s day here, it’s night there