Cuteness and Caste

Jessica and I were at a mall in Ahmedabad recently. A really swanky place right next to a multiplex on the SG Highway, a places that in a lot senses signifies the new emerging rich modern Ahmedabad. We were getting some instant photos of our son for his passport application. I was walking Jahan up and down the foyer as we waited for the prints to arrive. A young man in his mid 20s walked over to us. I was carrying Jahan. He was awake and at his best and looked adorable. This guy comes over and sticks his hands out and says ‘can I take him’. I was taken aback and Jess more so. I know we can be very friendly to stranger kids, but this was wierd even to me. For a moment I thought, given how confidently he was asking for our son, that he must be a friend I didn’t recognize. But that wasn’t the case. He was a perfect stranger attracted by baby cuteness.  “I don’t think so”, I said. He was sort of surprised that I denied him. I didn’t want to be impolite and explained that he is really tiny, only 6 weeks old for getting into strange hands. He was disappointed and gave a goofy look to this girl friend who was sitting.a few meters away in a coffee shop. He hung around, retreating immediately would have been accepting defeat, and asked “what name is baby”?.  “Jahan”, I said quite proudly. His face changed a bit and looked at me quite quizzically and as if checking me for some tell-tale signs. “Which caste”, he asked me looking straight into my eyes. Although, I am very aware of Indians, and Gujarati’s in aprticular, being obsessed with caste and reilgion, this one was too much. “He does not have any catse or religion or country”, I said. “I hope you have no problem with that”. He didn’t hang too much after that. Just gave me a look, as if trying to see if he can see anything Muslim like in my appearance. I didn’t match his stereotype of a Muslim. Jess’s presence was even more confusing for him. He left the scene and sat next to his girl friend, clearly talking about us.

What must he be talking about, I wondered. Would he have come over to take our baby if we looked like stereotypical Muslims? What would he have done or said if I had told him that I am Muslim?

A sense of anger built up inside my heart. Why are people so interested to know the caste or religion of a 6 week old baby? Is cuteness subject to caste and religion?!


~ by stalink on April 6, 2010.

3 Responses to “Cuteness and Caste”

  1. Adaab

    Sickening… though, “Jess’s presence was even more confusing for him,” added some element of humor!

    Let me sing the song penned by Sahir Ludhianvi “Tu Hindu Banega Na Musalmaan Banega, Insaan Ki Aulaad Hai Insaan Banegaa,” for Jahaan.


    – Samvartha ‘Sahil’

  2. Ok, this has got to be the most disgusting thing I have heard in a long time. My flatmate gets it all the time because her name is Samina. There are some people in Tamil Nadu who won’t even speak to her because of her name. She sometimes has to say her name’s Mina!

  3. I agree. With the anger and the shock. But I will tell you this too: that I have been on the receiving end many times when I’ve smiled or tried to make conversation with a child whose parents happen to be Muslim. At waiting-lines for restaurant tables. Or in the Auda park. In bathroom queues at malls where kids are lined up to use the loo. I don’t know if they can make out what religion I belong to, when I shun most visual symbols of it. It is not the young cocky teenager who speaks incorrect English, who needs to be loathed here. It is the fear of the unknown.

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