I spent my first 24 years of life in India and moved back to the land of my birth to spend more than one year there when I was around the age of 26. So I have seen enough of India and enough of America, I guess I can say, to last more than a decade or two!
As it is, I come from a hardcore socialist background. My father was a prominent leader in a trade union. To add to this, however, I also experienced 13 years of schooling in a hardcore right-wing Hindu nationalist school.
So I was a socialist, a Hindu nationalist and last but not the least a male chauvinist for a significant period of my life.
Now I am a hardcore capitalist, spiritual to the core and a strong advocate for women’s rights. I guess I can say that I have come a long way and this journey has been anything but smooth.
I started schooling in 1980 in Adarsh Vidya Mandir, which was part of Vidya Bharati, the educational wing of RSS. It was one of the finest schools in Jaipur during the 1980s. I am a third child, and both my elder brother and sister went to public schools. So sending a kid to a private school was a big deal at the time. Though school was part of the RSS family, there was no direct focus on Hinduism, but rather on inculcating Indian values.
It was not until 6th standard that I came in contact with Hindu nationalism. There were some teachers in school who were ardent RSS followers, and it definitely influenced me. Though there was no direct push in school towards Hinduism, there was absolutely zero religious diversity. That made it easier for a few teachers to express their opinions.
I started going to Shakha and very soon became in charge of a shakha. In 1989 the erstwhile prime minister of India, V. P Singh, implemented a mandal commission, which was basically affirmative action for backward castes in India. The definition of backward was expanded significantly to widen the net, and it included my own community.
This led to a lot of protests in India at this time, primarily by upper caste people. Since RSS primarily consisted of upper caste people, the Mandal agitation showed me that I was made for the upper caste. Interestingly, my father who was president of the local community did not push me to leave RSS. But these events did lead me to slowly drift away from RSS and Hindu nationalism.