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Not reserved at all

india Updated: Nov 27, 2006 00:57 IST
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An informed citizen of the republic — that is what my wife is. Naturally, on all public issues, she has an opinion — a strong one. Moreover, she is quick to bring me around to her side so that we can put up a united front.

She is in favour of reservations, as I am too. But the other day, just to test the strength of her convictions, I provoked her by saying, “Aren’t these reservations going too far?” She took the bait and the response was characteristic. “How can you say that? It is the only way to undo the injustice of centuries?”

“But, what about merit?” I asked. “This merit argument has no merit. Anyway, how can you judge it on the basis of a test or an exam? Luck plays a far greater role there. Look at yourself,” she replied.

She thinks the success I had in my third and last attempt at the competitive exam for my job was one of the two ‘lucky’ things that happened to me. My marriage to her being the other. I sense the debate taking an entirely different direction and ask, “Shouldn’t opportunities be equal for all?”

“Yes certainly! That is why I say no upper-caste candidate should be admitted to any higher learning institution till their share is reduced to their proportion in the population,” she said, raising her voice.

I got a jolt. The mathematical force behind the argument had enriched it to a potential weapon of class destruction. Sensing the urgency for non-proliferation, I said, lowering my voice, “Hush dear! An ‘idea’ is now mobile and travels faster than sound.”

“When you begin to lose an argument, you pick on my voice. How I hate this Brahmanical trait,” she said even louder. I had asked for it. Yet, ignoring the undercut, I said, “But where will the able-bodied high-caste males go for higher education?”

“Why, they can seek minority status and open their own educational institutions. That way, they can avoid reservation,” she said so simply that I was speechless.

Can you beat that? The solution may not be one of the best. But women certainly are better at out-of-the-box thinking than men. That is why more and more people are electing them to run their countries. And that is why I am firmly in favour of reservation for women in Parliament.