School taught me to consider all individuals in the same light (I was probably the only kid that paid attention in Value Education), but I never could do that so well. My father always takes pride in saying that I am a purebred Jaat. For those who never lived in north India, Jaat is a caste of physically excellent individuals. Almost all of India’s boxing and wrestling teams are made up of Jaats (Including Yogeshawar Dutt and Sushil Kumar) and a large part of the Indian Olympic team is Jaats. Physical labour is a part of the average Jaat youth’s lifestyle. Working in fields or mills, Jaats are a long line of men and women known for their tough nature and honest attitude.
I am not a lot like one of them. My height is somewhat average and I am physically capable, but hardly close to what is expected of my lineage. Out of a convenient rebellion, I don’t like being labelled as a Jaat - it is a subconscious vanity of the fact that I don’t fit the alpha male image, alongside with a conscious disgust towards the labels that follow after (mostly illiterate, usually dumb, highly rude, extremely crude and uncultured, sexist, sarcastic). But the truth is that at the most basic level of behaviour and thought, I am a Jaat. It is in the upbringing, it’s in the family lingo, and it’s in the excessive body hair.
We all like to believe that we are unique individuals of a completely solo identity, fully controlled by our actions, but the harsh reality is that two people made us, and we are the result of the upbringing and DNA of those two individuals (mostly). The mind is already close to 75% of its potential the moment we are born, and even though our body increases in size by at least 50 times from what we were at birth, the mind grows by a mere 25%. Genes decide a lot about our personality, and our capacities. So, the way that it can be put most simply beside all the stories that you are one in a million, you are one from a pair (no pun intended). And those two were from their specific pairs, and so on until the beginning of time.
While they say that all individuals should be considered individuals, the Indian Army makes sure to ask your caste in every form you enter, and if you are worth anything, and you choose to be infantry, you will be preferably put in a regiment of that caste. This is not because of some sick compartmentalisation theory or some medieval culture; it is simple trial and error logic. Unit made up of soldiers with similar or same backgrounds have always been the ones that outshone other mixed units. This is because the officers speak the same language in the same dialect, have common grounds of discussion and thus form strong bonds quickly, and because these units develop traditions that all individuals in this unit will feel comfortable in performing.
As far as we run away from it, our families, cultures, traditions, and behaviour, all suck us back to our roots. Once, I had a heated argument with my father over the fact that he always had to ask the caste of individuals before he hired them, and he said “It gives me an idea of what his upbringing was like and what kind of place he comes from.” I said “How does the caste matter? Ask him where he comes from then.” And he said the one most disgusting, but true sentence that I will ever hear “Can you not tell a lot about a dog by its breed?” I was stunned. Very rarely is something so racist said in front of me. But then he explained “I am not calling anyone an animal, I’m just saying that if we know the kind of people that made this person, we can predict some of the behaviours and habits they will have.” While I did continue arguing with him about it, every observation or prediction he made about the servant was correct.
I can’t argue with live examples and facts. When India was fighting the Kargil war, Sikh, Jaat, Maratha, and Rajput Regiments were sent first. Caste and culture, as discriminatory as they are, are a large part of our personalities (most of the time, unless you were brought up in a very depressing household). Our way of speaking, judgments of people, etiquette and behaviour are all affected by the culture we have. This applies to every social group you belong to (all the overlaps). This does not mean that we should go around labelling people about everything based on the group they come from (Gujjus are money-minded and travel a lot, Tamilians study a lot and eat a lot of idlis …). Yes, people can be completely different from their stereotypes sometimes, but the fact that they are still following most of them implies it is safe to assume that they will follow some.