Thursday, October 25, 2007

India's community identities

It is the way one wears her sari, the fabric her sari is made of, the way one greets a friend, the way one cooks chicken, or whether one eats chicken at all. “We are this way” is a common expression pronounced with the Indian equivalent of a Talmudic shrug. “We” refers to the mirco-identity of a small group, categorized and defined by a complex intersection of race, religion, geography, occupation, social standing, family ties. It’s like looking under a microscope at what would be a monolith to the naked eye. At my Aunt’s home the other day, four guests were saying goodbye. I just nodded and smiled at the Manglorian Hindu couple, but kissed the Manglorian Christian woman on both cheeks and shook the hand of the Manglorian Christian man – everyone participated in the goodbye rituals intuitively and seamlessly and to have done anything differently would have crossed a subtle line in social conduct.

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