“Hey, where are you from?”

An essential note to anyone who reads this column: I am an Indian by birth and origin, although my appearance may reveal some suspicious vibes in your mind due to my elongate-tapered face with a dusky complexion and extremely short hair. Also, requests for proofs and evidences for authentication are not entertained.

Known to most who are involved in the academics or simply those who serf through countless channels on the television sets or those who inattentively give an unfair hearing to the blaring on the radio, at least for once might have heard of the eternally contested issue of an Indian Identity. The only relief is that this debate stages before us in various forms. It ensues in every other debate and discussion on any question relating to education, health care or governance. The paradox of an Indian identity, plurality of an Indian identity and crisis of an Indian identity in the changing nature of Globalisation are some of the frequently encountered thoughts. Most of us should have infinitely differing perceptions and perspectives on the matter. This is inevitable of the very same Indian identity!

What when an individual who is by origin and birth an Indian, but is purportedly forced to escape the clutches of a pan-Indian identity? What when most of all, irrespective of class and region, fiendishly refuse to identify that individual as anything but an Indian? Without a pinch of doubt, anyone would say this to be a case of crisis of identity. Of course, it is true, but does anyone really know what it is to live in a socially false identity? I am sceptical if many who read should have an affirmative response.

I face this crisis, of which I would not claim to be a victim without being reminded of the rewards of being identified as the ‘other’. Initially, it was lamenting to be enquired which part of the world could possibly claim my identity. It was annoying and thwarting that another Indian does not recognize me. If the answer to the question mentions India then the next question that routinely follows is a clarification of whether my origin is ‘purely’ that of an Indian or if I am moderately having my roots elsewhere. During the early days of this crisis, I marvelled at the subsistence of those few outlandish souls raising this question at the most unexpected settings. Gradually, the query regarding my identity became a hackneyed one. I was wistful for the eccentricity of more and more strangers, raising this repugnant question, whom I stumbled upon in my neighbourhood, on the traffic ridden roads of Delhi, airports, railway stations, cafeterias, at academic sessions and anywhere and everywhere anyone could possibly think of. What is that makes me an ‘alien’?

I am not at liberty to tag myself a victim of a racist society, for the active members of the “Mission with an Obsession to Discover Identities” does not bother my friends whose skin colour equals mine. My attempt to track down the plausible causes of a mistaken identity has not yielded any commendable upshots. The stereotypical perception ideally should connect me to an African descent, but I could not ground a cause on social prejudices the day a fellow student from Delhi University casually inquired which of my parents is Japanese. Until that moment, not even, in the wildest of my imaginations did, I think of the critical role that my eyes (the justification that the student had given) played in the tragedy of my identity. To many, I am a hybrid. Either one of my parents is linked to a foreign land. During my month-long stay in Geneva, colleagues from office and then newly acquainted friends could not believe that I am an Indian in entirety. They exposed me to a revelation that my genesis, perhaps asserts traits from the Middle East and the Caribbean. If any reader still fails to accept the credibility of my catastrophic identity in society, then there is more to the mayhem. On my journey from Boston to Ohio, the passenger in the front seat looked askance at me when I disclosed the contested India-ness in my identity. Although nonchalantly, the gentle man clarified if I am genetically affiliated to a European stock. Even so I grinned at his rhetorical question, I could not digest a potential association at least with Germanic Tribe, for in no way does the scab on my flesh reflects the slightest proximity. Fortuitously, scientists have not made any substantiation on the survival of life on any other planet until now, or else, there is a higher risk of some acquaintance dropping by to say, “Anna, I suppose you have a trifling resemblance with the alien on the other planet.”

I am amenable to performance of any analysis or comparative studies on my identity by anyone interested. I have been a victim of this calamity, especially in the University. While other Indian students could easily get away with the administrative procedures, I am required, in most cases, to submit either my passport or any identity card. When the administrative obligations made me weary and wrath, I decided not to correct any future misunderstanding in this regard. So when I had approached the administrative session of the university and as usual and expected received a query regarding my land of origin, I spontaniously responded, though politely saying,”I belong to Namibia”. To my utter revulsion, the administrative officer did not decipher any humour in my response. As of today, I still have not found why I named Namibia out of a wide range and variety of countries in the world. Since lot many opportunities were to follow, I could comfortably claim my identity to every geographical area on this planet.

Had not been for this disguise, I would not have ever understood the depth of the colonial mindset that is prevalent among our common people in this era of neo-colonialism. I have received unnecessary privileges that is denied to a rightful fellow Indian all because the concerned authorities felt the need to serve the outsider than their own people, whether with a hidden agenda or not. Of late, I have been inquisitive about the ultra-desire in people to be identified with a nation-state. The territorial boundary of one’s own soil is prioritized over the humanity on the ‘other’ side of the barbed fence. The drivel jingoism reverberates in the ongoing cataclysm between Israel and Palestine, the upheaval between Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Georgia, in the catastrophe in Somalia, in the genocide in Darfur and even in the tragedies of ‘NATO-occupied’ Afghanistan.

I declare to all readers that my conscience does not confront any crisis in my identity. The tragedy in the identity transpires when external factors enter your life through society, which is predestined to our social existence. I am a woman and a human life well cognisant that human beings are the most perilous of all living beings on this planet, in spite of being the most sagacious ones. This is my identity.

Annapoorna Karthika

[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ashleyrosex/2800930151/]