Among the very many things that have always left me bewildered is this thing about 'belonging'. All my life, I have had to face this "You do not look like a typical IIM student" and things like that. I look into the mirror and see that I too have a couple of eyes, a nose and a mouth like everyone else and wonder what is missing. It is true that I look more like a gargoyle than like Ranbir Kapoor but then not all my batch-mates could have modeled for Armani or whatever. And, at IIM at least, they were as disreputably dressed as I was and am. So, WHAT was this thing about my not belonging?
Now, again, there is the same issue but, at least, I know the reason why. To not be married and to not work automatically labels me a maverick, but I still cannot fathom why people do not see this as respectable. I mean, should the fact that I have not contributed to the increase in the world's population - something it is in dire need of - matter so much? And, why should my bundling derivatives and bringing down the world's economy be more respectable than reading a book?
It is not like single people not visibly earning money are all disrespected. Any sanyasin worth his salt is both AND has no dearth of respect. So, why is it respectable for them and not for me? After long cogitation and soul-searching I think I have found the answer. My problem is that I am not in the right uniform AND belong to the wrong class.
If I can dress up in flowing robes and adhere to the proper color code I would be respected as a sanyasin. Saffron or white are the only accepted colors. Who can ever consider someone a sanyasin if he is dressed in tracks and tees? A proper disregard for desires - including that of clothing - can only be expressed in saffron or white robes. Any other dress and you merely look silly claiming to be a sanyasin.
If you are an upper-class sanyasin, you live in a sprawling Ashram with all modern conveniences and cutting edge technology - suitably hidden behind a huge auditorium where devotees can reverently assemble to hear you. A beard is a huge help - but it must appear to be naturally growing, no matter how much the hair-stylist had to work to get it to appear graceful. Ever considered anyone with a french beard a sanyasin? IF he takes so much care over his personal appearance, how can he be above mundane earthly desires? Of course, we do not like our upmarket sanyasins to be unkempt BUT they just cannot parade their attention to personal appearance with french beards and dreadlocks. It just will not do.
The lower-class sanyasin has it relatively easier. Matted locks and unkempt beards; soiled saffron dhotis and bare upper body; everything is allowed. The one problem is that he just cannot dress in jeans and a shirt or have a regular haircut. Oh! No! Either shaved bald OR coiled locks is acceptable. As long as he does not approach a haberdashery or a barber, his position is safe. Of course, he sleeps where he will with no roof to call his own unless it is the roof of a temple.
My problem is that I am a middle-class sanyasin. I live in a flat - not an Ashram OR under a tree - and, being unable to keep a hair-stylist at my beck and call, I have a barbered beard. I dress in tracks and tees. So, even if I were free of worldly desires, I just do not belong in the elite group of sanyasins. Oh! Before I forget, the problem also is that I get high on the wrong things. If I could do with a chillum and bhang I could be with the in-crowd. Scotch just does not cut the mustard.
So, as it stands, I am doomed not to belong. So, if I go to someone's place for a meal and refuse the sweet dish, people do not say in hushed tones, "See, how he has renounced worldly desires". They merely sneer,"This is what comes of gorging on food like there is no tomorrow. He has no space left for the sweet."
Hmm! I just hope that in my next birth, assuming there is one for me, I will be born to belong - somewhere!