For the first nineteen years of my life I hadn't any idea of the cultural and social fabric that made India. My primary schooling was at an IB school in Bangkok, and most of the kids around me were rich. The tuition fee paid here was nearly as much as what my dad made on his own, so he wouldn't have put me in that school if it weren't for the full funding we received from the Indian Government. So for the first four years of my education, I was around kids whose mums and dads were mostly stinking-rich. Like any other place on the globe, this place also had many Indians, and I remember having lunch at school with Indian kids most of the time.
When we were back in India, I got the first taste of what my class of society – the middle class – was like. Kids were brash and I got my first dose of bullying. There was more shouting, punching, running around and sweating – I learnt to swear, and we all found that cool. The standard of education was nothing compared to what I had experienced earlier, and that hit me the most. I can almost say that my early impressions helped me understand the intellectual differences across sections and classes of society. I knew them well, and over the years my natural inclinations led me towards better education and the more refined. All through these years in India, I lived in the capital and it goes without saying that I rarely came across people from rural or economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
I'm in college now, in a campus where there are people from economically and socially diametric strata of society – rich, poor; sons of cobblers and domestic workers, sons of diplomats, doctors, and engineers. Our campus has students who are a subset of India's brightest minds, and even in such an intellectually charged Diaspora one can easily spot the tendency to cluster based on region/caste/language. A closer look indicates clustering based on socio-economic status too.
The thing that surprised me – which also indicated my naivety – was that all this wasn't organized. People naturally blended with those from their own communities and economic backgrounds. The entire organized flocking, based on factors such as caste, region and the like, was spontaneous at best. What I'm trying to point out is that even among the 'brighter minds' there exists such a primitive sub-conscious urge to form packs. Even though we all feel comfortable with our own kind, learning and growth might be stifled as a result. If all people act instinctively in a certain way, should there be some reason to it? What I see here, in my campus – where Indians from all through the length and breadth of the country live together – gives me the actual picture of things. How overrated is unity!
All through my boyhood and schooling, we were taught that all men are made equal and that we must shed our differences of caste, region, color, etc. The universal-brotherhood rhetoric seems all for naught. Ultimately, what prevails is human instinct. Unless we don't realize that we are made equal, we might even subscribe to Hitler's view of the world upon intellectualizing!