durga Rambles, Rhymes and Tales

Reservations: An observation – All in good humour

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


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  • Reply
    indrani robbins
    June 10, 2019 at 10:45 pm

    hi durga, really? they asked for the caste and sub-castes too? only in india. i think most parts of the western world religion is never asked. and really, why should it be? your point is totally valid. it is a private and personal thing and if it has no bearing on the issue at hand, why bring up religion at all. hahahhha, i loved that matrimonial services thought.

    • Reply
      rhea sinha
      June 13, 2019 at 9:57 am

      Indi di they have these questions here too. Much less variations I would assume but there are voluntary sections to fill out ethnicity and special push to get “minority” representation.

      Durga di loved the humour wrapped around the stark observations.

      • Reply
        indrani robbins
        June 14, 2019 at 12:08 pm

        okay, my reaction i guess was to the words caste and sub-caste…somehow, talk of caste, sub-caste rattles me. could be because no part of my mind can be comfortable with the varna and caste idea. i see a very ugly kind of racism wrapped neatly in it, and an illogical fantasy that categorises people at birth. perhaps these classifications helped people at one time to build a society that had seeming cohesion, but today, it just feels wrong and fairly distasteful. protecting and/or helping minorities or the disadvantaged i think i am all for. but it really is time to let go of the varna categorisation, and those born into disadvantaged-for-millennia varna and jati, can still be helped to come up based on what their community has been historically. there might be a better way of finding out their particulars without expecting everyine to fill up these details. i know many people look a bit uncomfortable when i say it’s time to let go of the varna thing… but it really is, this is a means of essentially assigning privilege and resources to a group without them having done anything special to deserve it, and burdening another group in ways pretty horrible. i realise it’s hard to do away with, but must take steps and keep walking towards a world that is free of this setting forth of inequality in this blithe way. even if people do not wish to give up caste as an idea, the hierarchy, one above the other, that must go… otherwise, what republic, what democracy, what great culture. the very fact that we associate fairer skin with higher caste should give us thought and scrunched eyebrows… what the. okay i suttupiya now.

        • Reply
          July 15, 2019 at 7:30 pm

          Thanks for the comments girls. I have taken some pretty good time to come back to replying. Sorry for that. Indi, the system shows no signs of withering away. It stays firm solid. I do like your point of removing the hierarchy if one is not willing to give up caste system in its entirety. That would bring everyone at par. Oh, but that might take a 100 years more for even that to achieve. Although, I do meet more and more people who are letting go of their age old practices and shirking meaningless prejudices. The new generation wants to dig deep, explore and understand their traditions, instead of blindly following them. So, I do see a glimmer of hope. But the percentage of obstinate persons is quite vast.

          Rhea, had to take a humorous angle. This article would have been up in flames otherwise. I was quite furious. 😀

  • Reply
    indrani robbins
    July 26, 2019 at 9:58 am

    ah, don’t apologise, durga. real life. very demanding. glad you notice signs of change, and the young want to delve deeper, find their own understanding. yes, will take centuries, but worth taking this direction and taking the steps, steadily even if slowly.

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