By: Keyur Seta
“This is utterly shameful,” said Ashok with a disgusted look on his face. The 55-year-old bank employee was sitting with his gang of like-minded friends at their usual hangout place at Shivaji Park. Located in the Dadar locality of Mumbai, the place is thronged by people of all ages.
While teenagers and the ones in the 20s are either seen playing some sport or jogging, the elderly ones like Ashok and company usually, after a leisurely walk, gather around at their habitual spot to discuss and debate on various topics, mostly cricket or politics.
Today was the turn of politics. The reason for Ashok’s anger was a statement by an MLA from the opposition party in Uttar Pradesh. The state elections were due and the wily politician smartly played the caste card to woo voters belonging to his ‘caste’. Even in 2015, vote bank politics, especially with regards to religion and caste, was still prevalent in India.
“There are already various forces that are dividing the country on the basis of religion,” continued Ashok, “If this wasn’t enough, morons like him are stooping even lower by using something as shameful as casteism, even in 2015. How further backwards are we going? Only God knows when our late freedom fighters’ dream of a united India would come true.”
Normally, the gang would debate and, at times, argue like panelists on a news debate show. Over the last few years, people, who generally hated politics, have strong political opinions, so much so that any disagreement makes them aggressive. But as far as Ashok and gang are concerned, their debates or arguments always automatically ended with the rise of darkness as all disperse to their respective homes.
But today, that was not the case. The statement by the MLA found no takers. Agreeing with him would mean defending the indefensible. So, this time, each went to his respective home in a calm state. But Ashok was not only calm but also excited for what he had planned before dinner.
Swati, his 25-year-old daughter, was of marriageable age, he thought. Like every parent, he wanted her to have a life-partner, who would shower her with happiness and care. Ashok’s excitement knew no bounds as he braced himself to prepare a matrimonial advertisement for her. It took him 40 years back in time. The feeling was similar when he was filling his college admission form after passing 10th standard.
Despite the digital age, people from Ashok’s generation still couldn’t do without the morning newspaper. Daily he used to eagerly wait for the newspaper guy. But today, the excitement was uncontrollable. Unlike other days, Ashok didn’t even glance at the important front page news. He quickly turned to the matrimonial page. He couldn’t stop smiling as his eyes fell on Swati’s matrimonial ad that appeared under the section of their ‘caste’.