It was another day of teaching them. Usual energy. Usual menace. Usual "Dada, he just kicked me". Since I keep asking them to say "I like to eat ice cream | I like to eat mango | I like to eat vada-pav", in order to improve their enunciation, they keep on asking me about new words for their favourite food items. It's a fun exercise, no doubts!
Amidst the usual chaos, someone replaced ice cream with mutton. In most scenarios that is a rather harmless statement. Over here, it took a turn that made me think.
A kid asked me " दादा तू दहा नंबरी मटण खातोस का? [Dada, do you eat number 10/ quality10 mutton?].
Puzzled, I told him that I am unaware of such categories. Two of them had a good laugh.
One of them couldn't believe me. He decided to express his disbelief with a laughter.
I told them "I eat whatever is in front of me. I do not ask what is it or why is it so."
The next statement cum question was rather tricky to handle. One of the kids who was hysterical by my statement, sits next to me & says "I eat cow (mutton) because I am from mang caste [ a scheduled caste - very high in numbers in the state of Maharashtra ]."
It wasn't a casual chat about have you ever tried ham or beef. This made sense with pain and questions. He laughed but I couldn't hear his laughter. I was perplexed. I wondered about the pain caused by society to an individual who said - I am Matang, I am Bhangi, I am Mang, I am Mahar, I am...... Not sure if I could call it a natural statement. Perhaps it was a forced social statement. Perhaps it was a statement by practice. Perhaps it was a statement by his genes. I don't know the intensity of those words.
May be I could just ignore it and not overthink it.
But I can't ignore the fact that yesterday I looked into the depths of caste system because of a casual remark. Perhaps this changes a few things....perhaps.