(A satirical column published in DNA edition dated August 14, 2010.)
Dear Ms Julia Roberts
It has been brought to our attention, here at the Census bureau of India, that you have recently proclaimed yourself a “practising Hindu” who goes to temples to “chant and pray”. Representatives of overseas Hindu organisations, seeing you as a brand ambassador who can elevate their religious-spiritual order into a higher visibility orbit, have enthusiastically welcomed you into the Hindu Very Divided Family.
A few dharmic organisations have made solicitous enquires about the precise nature of the rituals you underwent as part of your formal initiation into the Hindu fold. Being fastidious custodians of dharmic purity, they would like to re-enact your rite of initiation in the proper way whenever you are in India next.
A few of our god-men who were unfortunately embroiled in sex scandals with our own desi actresses have crawled out of the woodworks to articulate their desire to welcome you into the warm embrace of the Hindu order. However, given their recent experience of embraces involving film stars, you might be well advised to give them a wide berth.
As you may have inferred from all this, and from the extensive coverage you’ve received in the Indian media, you’ve created quite a stir here. There have sadly been a few uncharitable and snarky commentaries suggesting that your search for a higher spiritual plane was, in fact, a lowly marketing gimmick for your latest movie. But that apart, it’s all been positive.
Which brings us to the subject of this letter. As an official body in a secular republic, we merely take academic note of your proselytisation. In any case, since you’re not an Indian citizen, you fall outside the purview of our decennial census enumeration exercise. In other words, from our perspective, you’re practically ‘untouchable’.
Even so, we’re writing to enlist your help with a matter that currently has all of India agitated: the proposed caste enumeration as part of the Census 2011 exercise. There’s been considerable opposition to the proposal on the grounds that it will be ‘socially divisive’. Yet, you only have to look at matrimonial ads in our newspapers to know that caste considerations are alive and well in our society.
Perhaps the opposition to caste enumeration springs from an inhibition about proclaiming our caste identity. Perhaps all it takes to break the ice is a celebrity endorsement of the caste enumeration project, a brand ambassador of caste identity. We believe that as the newest star to embrace Hinduism, as someone whose 1990 film Sundar Kanya (‘Pretty Woman’, dubbed in Hindi) had a silver jubilee run, and who currently enjoys enormous goodwill in India, that ambassador ought to be you.
So, Ms Roberts, please tell us: what is your caste? Are you Julia Iyer or Jat Julia?
Census bureau of India