Iyer. Anita Iyer. That is my name. And Iyer indicates that I am a Hindu, a Tamil Brahmin albeit from Kerala. Brahmin. Funny term that…considering that I now belong to a 'business' family. Aren’t Vaishyas traditionally the traders and businessmen? Aah! But then there are Brahmins in the army fighting wars and in Mc Donald’s sweeping floors and cleaning tables. Not that that is wrong… it is just not ‘Brahmin” if you know what I mean.
I wonder why the priests who conduct these ‘thread’ ceremonies and other such ridiculous functions for ‘Brahmin’ families don’t explain the meaning of the word ‘Brahmin” before they begin their acts. Is it only about knowing the Gayatri mantra and a few other Sanskrit Shlokas and mantras and some yogic postures? What does that sacred thread really indicate? That we are above the others? How? No, really, how?
Most of these priests have day jobs offering steady incomes after they’re done with their morning circuses. Many are accountants and clerks and sales executives and BPO employees and CEOs of little companies even. One of these days I’m going to gather the courage to ask a couple of them if they’re Brahmins only in the mornings and Vaishyas and Shudhras otherwise. Idiots!
It also really isn’t about not drinking or smoking or being vegetarian in my opinion. If it were, everyone who doesn’t smoke or drink or eat meat must be a Brahmin. It is more about the person one is…to me a Brahmin is a person who is close to God, who is highly knowledgeable yet seeks knowledge and shares it unconditionally with those he meets…someone who is superior to others in his intentions and actions. He is superior because of what he chooses to be, not because of the family he is born into or the religion he decides or is forced to follow. He is someone who can be looked up to, respected, of pure heart and pure affection. But then the Qoran says that is also what a true Muslim is. I think I would be a good Muslim if I were a superior Hindu – a Brahmin…automatically.
So... a name or symbol is no certificate of character or religion and mustn’t be, which is why no religion really advocates the use of any symbol. A name is a symbol too…it is designed to label you as belonging to a certain faith or position. It mustn’t. It is given to you BEFORE you develop your own character, without giving you a choice…the choice every religion bestows you with…that of choosing your own path irrespective of its name…your name.
So how then am I an Iyer? How then does my surname proclaim my religion or caste and position as a human being in society? Am I a Brahmin? I honestly hope I’ll learn to be one as per my definition of the word and be worthy of the surname for atleast one day in my life as an Iyer.