Dear Hardikbhai, Respect. You have achieved what we Patels have been trying to achieve for 30 years: bring national attention to our demands. It was 1985 when we first agitated against reservations. I was 15 and press-ganged into agitating on the streets of Surat by older friends. They assured me our collective future was at stake if other castes were given access to education and government service. I use that word ‘agitated’ euphemistically. What I mean is of course we ‘rioted’. Over 100 Gujaratis were killed by Gujaratis in those heady days when, as Wordsworth put it, to have been young was very heaven. Patel efficiency at dispatching fellow Gujaratis would get better in the coming decades, but that is another story. It is remarkable and humbling to me, but you were only nine years old in 2002. A new generation of leaders has already been produced since that afternoon when a train was attacked? Astonishing. Let’s return to more ancient days, but remain with the same ‘we Patels must not be denied’ theme. The only niggle in my otherwise convinced mind in 1985 was: why were we opposing reservations when none of us Patels seemed inclined either to education or government service? The answer of course was that we didn’t care about any of that. No need to go far to seek demonstration of this fact. There is not a single graduate in my family and the only Patel with a white -collar job I know is… me. Loser. The black sheep in a clan that otherwise excels at running motels and building malls. What we did care about, mind you, was that those other castes should be put in their place. And not be seen to receive advantage over us. I am delighted we have consistently followed this noble principle, and that it is echoed in your ‘agitation’ (wink). Hardikbhai, you were two years old when the Bharatiya Janata Party took power in Gujarat. Its policy of Hindutva you clearly love. I know this because you are a Patel: no further explanation needed! But also because I have heard some of your magnificent speeches where, while speaking of reservations, you have introduced the themes of the Supreme Court’s 3am mollycoddling of terrorists and of biryani in jails. As a fellow lover of Hindutva, it may interest you to know that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has denied the children of Gujarat’s poor families access to English for 20 years. It is the reason why you, though middle class and educated, do not speak it yourself. ABCD is not taught in Gujarat’s government schools till Class 5, by which time it is too late. An entire generation has been denied entry into the middle class through white-collar jobs because of this. The children of the poor in Gujarat cannot harbour dreams of social mobility because of this. But see if you can get any of Hindutva’s enthusiasts (some of them lurking nearby) to address this aspect of ‘development’. My point is this, my brother. If you love Hindutva, you gotta live with it and all its cultural baggage. All right, enough background. Now for some proper advice. There is one very easy way for Patels to get white-collar jobs. You need to leave Gujarat and go to a place that is called ‘India’. You should visit it. It has cities like ‘Bangalore’ and ‘Mumbai’ and ‘Gurgaon’ and ‘Noida’ and ‘Chennai’ and ‘Hyderabad’. In these places people, including the children of servants and drivers, have been entering the middle class through white-collar jobs in the last decade. There is not as much whining about reservations by the urban middle class in these cities any longer. Want to know why? English. These are places where the services sector is bigger than manufacturing. Did you know, Hardikbhai, that Gujarat is the only major state whose GDP split favours manufacturing over services? Betcha didn’t. What that means is: more blue-collar jobs than white-collar jobs. The Gujarat Model is good in some ways, not good in other ways. One last thing, Hardikbhai. When you set great store by government, when all fine things in Gujarat come from the genius of one man in office, then it is the government that has to deliver. Your agitation shows that it had failed the lakhs who follow you. I can no longer count myself among the citizens of Garvi Gujarat, having left ten years after the 1985 agitation, for Bombay (as we once called it). Should you wish to follow suit, and want to try your hand at a white-collar career, I have tips on some excellent and cheap places to live and eat there. But I suspect you will not be needing that. You are already a national hero and have big things ahead of you. This agitation has delivered success to at least one Patel: you. Your seat is reserved. Respect. Aakarbhai.

Vinod Agarwal, 22 July, 2017 (7:12 AM)

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