Only yesterday someone asked me, “How would you describe yourself?” How I wished to tell her that this is ‘THE’ most irritating, vague and done to death question that I have been asked since birth. And interestingly enough, my answers have always differed in its context, meaning and implication. Fervent Indian, emotion driven practical female (sounds oxymoronic), intellectually sound Bengali, dreamer, romanticist, shy, sleepy and lazy are some of the many compliments that I have used to felicitate myself (half of the above is pure boasting).
But really who am I? What do I perceive myself to be? Let us see. After a lot of deliberation, I have finally decided that firstly I am an Indian, then a female, thenceforth a Hindu, thereafter a Bengali and lastly a thinking individual. This is roughly the order I would use to describe my identity.
Well, being an Indian, gives me the very essence of my existence. It’s the only country which owns me and which I own back. And as they say, you can take an Indian out of India, but not India out of an Indian.
Now coming to the female bit. Trying to be liberal, I would say someone’s sex is just a physical trapping- the intricacies of one’s soul can’t be judged by it. This is very well the truth, but my mind is too well conditioned to be completely ignorant of my sex. Being a woman is not only an extension of my identity but the very fact on which my identity is based. It is what gives me a definite feminine flavour, a baggage of emotions, a treasure of intuition and a truckload of prejudices and suspicion (mainly against men).
But really, why a Hindu? Is it because I believe in religious differences or because sub-consciously I know being a Hindu in India is an advantage of sorts. The truth is- I don’t know. Although I have immense faith in God (whom I believe to be a bundle of positive energy rather than any divine human form), I am not someone who observes Hindu traditions with regularity or fervour. In spite of all I still consider being a Hindu a crucial part of my identity.
Now I progress to the Bengali bit. Well, Bengal has had a tradition of artistic and intellectual excellence. Somehow being a Bengali seems to be a compliment. In an invisible way it seems to elevate me to the ranks of Rabindranath Tagore, Amartya Sen, Bankim Chandra and the list goes on and on. It brings me undeserved glory. So associating Bengali with my identity is pure self- interest, I guess.
And finally…….thinking individual. I basically attribute it to myself because it sounds nice and because I am one. I love to think, think and think…
But now that I reflect and contemplate, I suddenly realize that I have missed out something. Why didn’t it occur to me earlier? Without this something, I am nothing, I have no identity. Because first and foremost, I am a Human Being. I am someone who lives, breathes and has a soul. Someone who can relate to others’ emotions, shed tears for others, laugh with others and be selfless to help others. I am someone who is sensitive to others pain- someone who has a bond of humanity with every living being on earth. And humanity has no boundaries, no barriers, no differences. It is free-flowing, omnipresent just like love. Humanism is why every war distresses me, every drop of blood shed pains me, seeing people deprived and starving haunts me and witnessing the self-destructive ways of mankind devastate me. Humanism is why I long for peace, happiness and harmony.
So why do I forget that I am a humanist? Why do I allow myself to be divided by nationality, gender, religion and region? Why do I give in to hatred when all I want is love? Why do trivial considerations erase the very being I am?
Well maybe because I am a human being and humans only learn by making mistakes. Till then I can only hope that this bond of humanism is only forgotten but not lost.
(image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aphrodite/59306504/ )