Wed, 26 Jun, 2019

Identity crisis and beyond!

If our identity comprises of many varied & wonderful factors, why should we brand ourselves with a label which cannot even define an iota of one’s self?

13th April 2019, 02:50 Hrs

Sajla Chawla  

The claim to ‘Identity’ in narrow terms of caste, religion, state and race seems extremely suspect. I wonder what the whole noise is about. Can even one person proclaim, he is only this or only that, and validate it with a convincing argument? If so, then the person has to be either an idiot or a fanatic.  

Racial inter-mixing, mass migrations, cultural amalgamations, inter-religious influences, have happened ever since man started from that common identity of being a Homo sapien. Then where is the question of absolute purity of even one social institution/identity, that we can fervently subscribe to?  

If one views from a historic perspective, the very nature of religion or caste, or race or nation state has been different in different times. Society is constantly in a state of flux, such that even moral or ethical values are relative, then which ‘identity’ does one so faithfully adhere to, when that identity is always changing?  

The fall of Communist Russia and yet the mammoth rise of Red China, the famines in Ethiopia, the homeless on the roads in Delhi winters, the rise of the extreme right in so many parts of the world, the enormous power that media wields in our lives today, and the pathetic way in which it has sold itself in India, the corruption at every level in our government offices, the music we listen to, the movies we watch, Google, cell phones, global warming -- all, and many more, are factors which form our identities.  

To just brand oneself as a Marathi manoos, or a Punjab da puttar or niz Goencar is a deliberate delimiting, diminishing, and falsification of one’s vast identity. All of us, individually and collectively, are so much more than our states or religions or castes or even our genes.  

In philosophical terms too, the concept of “I” continuously changes and grows in context of the “other”. The “I” is not a fixed entity. Our thought process at one point and place in your life might be totally different, at another point in life.  

So anyone who tells us that our identity is definable in just one word -- as a Hindu or a Muslim or an Aryan or Dravidian or Marathi or Bengali or Brahmin or Shudra….is definitely involved in some propaganda, is using us and is pitting us against one another.  

In the process, he or she or they are also crushing our infinite “identity” and turning us into brainwashed uni-dimensional zombies. The question is, why on Earth would we allow anyone to do that to us?  

Which is the Hindu identity that is being proclaimed from roof tops by the likes of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the far right? Does Hinduism itself have a regimented and uniform identity all through this nation of ours? No.  

The Hindus in Punjab have more in common with Sikhs and Muslims of the region that is now Pakistan, than they have with Hindus in South India.  

While Hindus are largely vegetarian on Shiva Raatri, there is necessarily the sacrifice of a goat in the celebration of the same festival among Hindus in Kashmir. While Brahmins are traditionally vegetarian in UP and Bihar, the ones in Goa cannot do without fish. Hinduism, in the way it is practiced, varies from place to place, person to person, and era to era.  

If celebrating Valentine and cozying up as a couple is anti-Hindu in modern India, what about the whole tradition of the Kaam Sutra and the ancient Hindu temples exhibiting sexual postures?  

Similarly, what is the absurd concept of a “Jihad” propagated by Islamist fundamentalists, in modern times? The misplaced faith in fighting for one’s religion just brings death, terror and destruction for ordinary people. And it also brands the whole religion and its people, such that even the secular ones are always defensive because however innocent they might be, they are looked at with suspicion. Why make your own people go through such trauma by giving them a false and narrow idea of identity?   

Many Hindus have undying faith in Muslim Mazaars in this country. Many Catholics go to Zambavli temple. Many people from all religious faiths visit the church of St Francis in Goa, with awe and veneration. The cities have their unique architectural character because of the forts built by the Mughals and the majestic buildings built by the British.  

So much of our Indian music is influenced by the Sufi gayaki and ghazals of the undivided Punjab.   

We incorporate the western culture in so many ways in our life, whether it is our democracy or our clothing. Our common identity comprises of too many varied and wonderful factors. Then why brand ourselves with a label which cannot even define an iota of one’s self?  

This is a country of ancient wisdom, tolerance and acceptance. We are a smart people and the whole world recognizes that. So please do not sell us some nonsense of caste based, regional, religious or racial identities. We do not buy it. We do not wish to live in these, small, cocoon like definitions of our ‘Identity’.  

All we want is a safe life, with a measure of economic stability and a clean progressive government. Both the government and the opposition need to have an ideology based on real issues which can give a better life to the country’s citizens. We cannot be a nation of under-nourished, illiterate, below poverty line, unhappy people……but content to live in narrow concepts of regional identities?!  

What really is identity and for how long can we hold on to it? We are a vulnerable lot with short tempestuous lives on this Earth and all our sense of identity is going to finish in our individual death.  

We are all a part of the cycle of life and death. We are all a part of a universe that is in each one of us and much larger than each one of us. There is a huge space within each of us that is the common ground in every human heart. Maybe we need to look at that common ground rather than the differences.  

Ultimately, we are one.  

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