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"Ghar Wapasi" ~ Guest Post By: Biju Joseph

Ghar Wapasi” – Does it mean I am not home? Hmmm !!!

I am giving it a serious thought. Why not? I was always comfortable with Hinduism. My knowledge in Hindu mythology is fairly decent – even better than some of my Hindu friends. I have always respected and enjoyed Hindu traditions, culture, heritage – well at least most of them (Could never figure out Kathakali for instance – my ignorance, I guess). Was in love with at least half of the Hindu girls in my class (along with half of Christian girls - incidentally there were very few Muslims in our class). They used to look so cute with those chandana pottu, long hair & Jasmine flowers. I can assure you, proselytising was the last thing on our mind - me and friends - when those teenage dolls came trotting down the corridors.

Of course none of us could take this to the next level due to utter lack of support from our parents and teachers alike – especially the head master – who used to be a priest - always. I see them as predecessors of today’s moral police. We always (mistakenly) assumed that they were doing it for our own good.

I sometimes wonder – What if they were more liberal? What if they had not taken that spoilsport / anti-romantic stand and allowed us to grow naturally and bloom. Probably I would have lost interest in studies and dropped out like Bill Gates.

Or would have just scraped through the finals, failed to get admission in any professional college, joined English literature, became a lecturer in local college (after donating a couple of lakhs to Father Principal's auditorium construction fund) and lived happily ever after.

Or started a company after teaching English for sometime - like 'Jack Ma' and named it – Kerala being a communist state. Who knows ...

I loved the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharath, just as I loved the Biblical stories. I savoured the adventures of Ram, Krishna and Arjun with the same excitement as the adventures of Moses, David and Solomon. I guess it is the same with many of my Hindu friends who were lucky enough to have been brought up in the multi-religious environment. When I was a child, I used to make “Atham” during Onam and crib during Xmas with same fervour. We hardly noticed any difference among my classmates – between Hindu and Christians – except during that 3rd period, once a week – when Christian students had to move to catechism class and others to moral science class.

Back to our present issue – Ghar Wapasi. Of course there is a small issue - which God to worship?
I am sure some solution can be found - Hinduism is such a broad & tolerant religion. After all, Hinduism can accommodate thousands of Gods & the patriarchs do not have any issue with followers worshipping any God of their choice. I am sure one more shouldn't really matter. That's not the issue here.

Main issue is the Caste – which is the corner stone of the Hinduism. I am going to have a problem, if I decide for Ghar Wapasi. to which caste can I go back?

You see – my family has been Christian for centuries. Many ancient Christian families from Kerala have records dating back to 2nd or 3rd centuries. We have been Christians long before Vasco Da Gama landed at our shores. Long before America was founded – even before the continent was discovered. Before the Vikings were plotting their first raid on the British monasteries. When Romans were having orgy sessions to please their Pantheon, our forefathers were already saying their evening Rosaries. (I guess I have covered most of the so called Christian countries). Kerala had Christians even before Europe did. Westerners didn't introduce Christianity to us. Earlier Kerala Christian communities used to keep close relationship with Church of Antioch – which is the present day Syria - one of the first countries to embrace Christianity. Not Rome, Not England.

In fact folks back home are proud of the fact that their forefathers stood up to the western Christian missionaries who reached our shores much later.

In my opinion, Christians and Hindus share very similar values except the “touching part”. Caste system and untouchability are the only two things that sets us apart. An average Christian can any day relate to their Hindu neighbour in values, culture, heritage than to some western Christian from a far away land.

When you think on those lines, Ghar Wapasi – whatever it means - is worth giving it a thought.

But which caste can I go back to? I have no idea what my original caste was to start with. I am sure there must have been many naughty forefathers in every caste - who had the "vision" to over look caste boundaries when it came to extra curricular activities. So DNA tests are unlikely to throw up any conclusive results.

Under the circumstances, I feel the best option would be to let me pick one of my choice.

Being a Keralite, I guess I shall settle for a Caste from my own state – although I wouldn't mind a VIP sounding one like Chakraborty. Even a cute one like Topiwala. It’s alright – since I look like one, I shall settle for one from my state.

Let us start with Brahmins – Kerala has Iyers - Palghat Iyers to be precise. Confused lot. They are yet to figure out if Palghat is in Kerala or Tamil Nadu.

Then we have Namboothiris - Pass. Too difficult to pronounce. And who wants to add an extra costume to the wardrobe. (What is the dry cleaning charge for a poonool anyway).
Varma is good. Royal one – but suddenly the face of Prince Charles comes to my mind. And treasures of Padmanabha temple. No royal surnames. I will opt for a caste which has a tradition of paying taxes.

Of course the most common is Nair. But then why pick a common one, when you have such a vast platter to choose from. Nambiar sounds good. Menon - even better. I am sure my children stand a better chance to get into foreign service with a Menon surname. Most of the Menons I know either “was” or “is” working for the Consulate (Foreign Services). Or how about a beautiful sounding one like “Pisharadi”. Ask an Italian to pronounce and it sounds so exotic – like Prada or Trussardi. Or perhaps the most ferocious sounding Malayali Surname - Warrier (Only when non-Malayali pronounce it though). But I can foresee how my Chinese colleagues are going to struggle with it – I will pass.

No untouchable surname please – I would like to touch and be touched. I have been like that for so many years - so it would be difficult to change my behaviour all of a sudden.

While I take time to figure out a suitable surname and caste, let me ask - What am I going to do with this Ghar Wapasi thing? I am not interested in ration card or Aadhar card. I have no interest in Politics. And absolutely no interest in changing my eating habits.

I am an Indian. I am a Malayali. I am a Christian – you choose the order. I am comfortable with it and proud of my identity. Is there any particular reason why I should consider Ghar Wapasi? Is any one guaranteeing me “Live happily ever after”? Last I checked – there was none.
No discount sale offer / No 'buy-one-get-free' – Nothing . If then, what this fuss is all about?

Whatever you say - you see, I am already Home.

Author: Biju Joseph.