'So what do you do?' is not an easy question to answer at the best of times. But this is often asked of most of us on social occasions so that the interrogator can ascertain whether we are worth further conversation.
So, most of us have learnt to make ourselves sound far more important than we are. But when ageing revolutionary Fidel Castro asked Pope Benedict XVI this question, we were taken aback. The Pope took it at face value and rattled off a string of things he does - running his ministry, service to the Church, foreign travel, yada, yada, yada. The Pope then went on to express his desire that the church be strengthened in communist Cuba. Castro, unstoppable it would seem, then went on to speak of his admiration for the late Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa. This can't have been choral music to Pope Benedict's ears. Now Pope Benedict may have answered truthfully, but to many of us, this question holds the difference between social inclusion and exclusion. In India, we leave nothing to chance. Apart from finding out what a person does, we also try and find out where they live.
The geographical location is an important determinant of your social standing. The profession of your spouse is another factor and, of course, the friends you keep. Here the Pope is at an advantage. To have the Vatican as your address puts you at a very unfair advantage. To have your very own Popemobile puts you in a class with Batman. And to have people kissing your ring, well, we would not sneeze at that. And we wonder what old Fidel does these days, apart from asking odd questions.