What caste are you?

Despite being born and raised in the US, I know a great deal about the Indian culture. I can speak Gujarati. I know the story of the Ramayana and Mahabharat. I have some shloks (prayers) memorized. I’ve read a lot about Indian history and have done kathak (Indian classical dance) for 12 years.

I was getting my make-up done for my brother’s garba-raas event (an Indian folk dance). The girl was an Indian-American (like me), just a few years older. While putting on my foundation she asks, “What caste are you?” I honestly replied, “I don’t know.”

I was taken aback by the question. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that before from someone in my own generation. What does it matter, especially here in America?

She then said “Oh you are so cute”, which annoyed me. I could tell she thought I was a naive little girl, but caste has never been a big factor in my life. I know I’ve asked my parents what our caste is on numerous occasions, but they themselves are not concerned with it. Therefore it was never anything important enough that I felt the need to remember.

It has never been a restriction for me. I’ve never been told I only have to marry only within my caste..in fact, my parents themselves didn’t.

It makes me wonder why this girl who was born and raised in the States was so interested in knowing my caste. Perhaps she just meant it to be small talk or maybe she was genuinely interested. If these are the questions she asks during small talk, well then…that’s a whole other blog post.

Does it make me a bad Indian for not knowing my caste? I don’t think so! It’s an outdated practice that has no place in the US and now has no relevance in big cities in India.

Has caste played a big part in your life? Why or why not? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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