Saturday, May 21, 2011

Hard to defy categorization

Recently a friend called me a tea-man to ration a portion of coffee offered to me.

It was treat to read anther friend’s craftily written thesis on Metrosexuals as urban-e men who defy stereotypes.

Dalits. Corrupt. Compromised. Talented. Gay. Lesbian. Criminal. Terrorist. Saint. Learned. Nationality. Religion. Colour. Creed and many more identity points that humanity is compartmentalised into.

The only saving grace is that humans (who I will dare refer to as we and us) can have multiple identities.

We have categorised us in many names, ways. It is about exclusivity, also about predictability and stereotyping of behaviour, custom, attitude and more.

I always question this business of caging us into categories. It is a tool of some of opportunist us to deny the legitimate to many, many more others of us. Categories are a rallying point to humans like ants converge on a sugar cube till it is finished. And before they are finish one, they find another sugar cube kind of stimulant. To us it provides reason/s to fight for, to die for.

The fact that we are different from others is no surprise. The fact that we have similarities with others is no surprise, either. The fact that we get influenced by plethora of things does not require rocket science to understand. But, these are not reasons to fight. Diversity is to be celebrated. And we need to be connected with different parts of the world so we fuse to form amazing music, literature and art. It is the cultural imbalance (difference) amongst regions enables fruitful exchanges. It should not be a cause of dispute, or exclusion, but a reason to celebrate.

We get militant about our differences, it starts with battle of tongue and ends up in a war with guns, followed by battle of tongue, it's a vicious cycle.

Segmentation of us with restrictive entry should be curbed. Temple is where Hindu gods reside but Muslims should be welcome there. And all those who visit temple, mosque, church, gurudwara, synagogue should respect the sanctity and popular sentiments attached to that place. So the idea is to celebrate the fact that we are different but that is not a reason to segregate.

I approached an American friend residing in Mumbai with a certain honorable (another category) request and used the word ‘expat’ for him. I am guilt of categorising him, alienating him in a way. He felt bad about it, replied saying: “I am not an expat in India,” with a strong sense of belonging and ownership. I send him a long note telling that though I did categorise him, the idea was not to alienate him. But, usually, when we categorise people, like I was told you are a tea-drinker in a company of coffee-drinkers, it is about denying and alienating, like here, in this case, a ploy to serve less coffee. It is also about who owns the infrastructure, here the French press to make coffee.

Colonial setup was about exclusivity that came from the ownership: 'Indian and Dogs are not allowed' would read the placard outside a posh hotel. Now, after 60 years of Independence it is, there is only a slight modification, now it's 'poor and dogs'. In some places pedigreed dogs are welcome but not poor. So more than the political, it is the economic considerations at play, sometimes the two are indistinguishable.

'The poor' itself is an interesting categorisation of us. Non-possession is a demon-like quality that dehumanise people of this category amongst the category of 'the rich' people as pests. And they are shooed away, hidden and ignored.

Coming to the categorisation of us as Metrosexuals. Now this categorisation is interesting because it a category of men that defy long held, stereotype categorisation of men. There is another interesting category by the name pomosexual that shuns the categorisation of people based on their sexual preferences. I am excited about this category because it rejects all forms of sexual categorisation to form another category. It's like a religion of atheists.

But giving devil its due, categorisation and segmentation of humanity into various categories is like organising books in a library. So everyone knows where to go for what. But the problem starts, unlike books, us fall in multiple categories, and there cannot be many copies of us like books, so we kind of struggle to balance demands of various identities.

And the problem is also because identity is not a passive concept. It is demanding. People live and die to serve their identity, sometimes live a life of denial if that is what our segmented identity demands. It add layers to our existence. And more the number of layers we add, the further we are from the reality of self.

I wonder: Is there anything I can do without causing harm to others and not be labelled for it?

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