a matter of identity

Who are you? This is a question that each one of us have faced, or will have to face, at some point of our lives. What is it, exactly, that constitutes our identity?

Each one of us likes to believe that we are the protagonists in a world that seems to revolve entirely around us, in a universe that seems to be continuously conspiring to either drench us in incredible showers of golden luck or cause the very ground to fall out from beneath your feet.

Each one of us likes to pride ourselves on the individuality, the self-identified zaniness of our personality. We like to believe that we are one of a kind, that there can’t possibly be another in this world that may be a twin to us in mind and soul. That there is something special about each one of us, that makes us stand apart and above the milling crowds that roam this earth.

Yet, as we commune with our fellows, we discover in each of them a mixture of traits; some are almost alien to us, inconceivable as part of our day-to-day life, and yet somehow it has become part of the way they live their lives, everyday. But some are so known to us, so uncannily familiar, that you feel as though you are looking in a mirror, as if you find a part of yourself in that person.

And it is then that we realise that no identity is ever completely and unequivocally unique to you. Each individual in this world may be tailored to a different specification, may be the product of a new and different recipe altogether. But however varied the ingredients may be, ultimately there is a limit to all creativity, and the ingredients stay the same.

And it is this truth that we try to hide from, when, in a vain effort, we attempt to pull the wool over our eyes. For this realisation shatters our entire sense of ego, and thus we are plagued with questions: if we are not individual, then who are we? Are we mere mindless drones, shackled to the incessant cycles of routine? Then, in the course of life, are we creatures of such insignificance? What role can we possibly play in the grander scale of the universe?

The answers to these questions may not be pleasant to think of, or may even be beyond our comprehension. But when we look at the scope of our daily life, where we struggle so much just to continue our existence from one day to another, with all our faculties intact— mental, spiritual, emotional— we may find that we do not even need the answers to these questions yet. For first we have to figure out the answer of what we are in our daily life before we move on to the questions that deal with higher planes of existence.

And what I’ve always observed is that even if ingredients are limited, each recipe is still different. Each ingredient is mixed together in a way all its own, each recipe has just the right sprinkle of seasoning that lends a subtle hint of new, rare, flavour to each different soul. It is the permutation and combination of these ingredients in new and different ways in each person that provides the transfiguring spark that differentiates us from each and every other individual that walks this world.

But the line that separates idiosyncrasy from monotony is a very fine one, and we ourselves may fail to envision the tiny glow of that transfiguring spark extending its influence over each soul it beautifies. And often, we give up in despair— for the relentless restlessness of our mind can never be quietened without the answers to these questions, but what do you do if there are no answers to be found?

It is bad enough that we grapple with these questions, struggling to form coherent answers to them, trying to sort the tangled threads of our thoughts. But it is not only we who require the answers to these questions— for, even as we begin to make our way along the twists and turns of the road that is life, there are others who wait, armed with this question we all dread, primed to judge us, to test our worth. And I’ve seen so many people, in a last-ditch effort, throw together a mish-mash of words in an effort to paint a faithful word-portrait of themselves. And so, I too have always racked my mind to find that quintessential word that can perfectly describe each and every aspect of my entire identity.

Shopping for dresses, we survey the bewildering array of beautiful garments on display, and we enthusiastically gather the ones that catch our eye and strike our fancy. But we cannot possibly buy all of them, for there are many constraints, the least of which is its fit. And so we try on all the garments that we desire, searching for that perfect fit. Like so, in search of a mantle that I may wholeheartedly embrace, I’ve tried so many words— learner, dreamer, stargazer, cloudcuckoolander, introvert, answer-seeker, word-lover. But somehow, no one word ever seems to completely fit.

So I’ve never been able to make peace with this assumption that one single word, or a few simple sentences, can ever accurately convey everything about you that makes you you. Because the character of each one of us is composed of a myriad of rhythms and hues that subtly interweave to form a soul that is streaked with a thousand different colours. No person is just a simple collection of cliches. No person is ever only what they appear on the surface. Behind the crystal-calm (or bat-crazy, as it may be) skin that is stretched over the soul of each person, are contained hidden depths, the true extent of which may never be comprehended by even their closest confidantes— and here, chaos reigns, like the hellfires that simmer and rage, bound beneath the obsidian slopes of the silent volcano.

Perhaps it is true that no single word can ever completely describe the myriad of hues that our characters are composed of. But still— there are certain words that we can’t help but fall in love with. At first sight, instinctively, we feel as though somehow, they were made, nay, crafted for us. We wonder how it is that we have not met before, and they appeal to our psyche with an irresistible allure.

I, too, have words beloved to me. Like a dress that is, and remains for much time, our very favourite— inspite of its imperfections, its faded colour, that torn thread, or its less-than-perfect fit. But still we insist on wearing it every time that it is possible to do so. Only because of the one thing about that dress that we are enamoured by, that blinds us to all of its other flaws— that pattern we adore, or the comfort we find in its familiar embrace.

Even so, these favourites never stay the same. As seasons pass, they change— for we find that we outgrow them— and no matter how hard we try to cling on them, it is in vain, for no longer can they be of any use to us.

Once upon a time, I used to call myself a stargazer— because I was a dreamer, because I aspired to, one day, seek the secrets of the stars. Many a time I found myself lost in thought— lost in the confusion of my own rambling thoughts, enthralled by the fantastic visions I saw in my mind’s eye, happily swathed in a cocoon of vivid dreams, incredible fancies, entire imaginary worlds that seemed to be bursting with life.

But things change. Life happened. And now, to call myself a dreamer only brings heaviness to my heart. For it reminds me of how I have never been able to bring myself to actually act on them, and how, when I finally work up the courage and the grit to try, it is never quite enough—and those provocative visions of dreams are reduced to nothing more than weak imitations, echoes of themselves, leaving you hungering for better. And so the shadowy spirits of disillusionment cast its evil spell over that first blush of intense passion for the first word that I’d fallen in love with.

I realised that dreams are not the most important things in my life, and I can’t stress this enough. Even if once this was true— it really isn’t anymore.

It isn’t that I’ve renounced my dreams. But I’ve been growing.

For, once upon a time, all the wonders of the world failed to make an impression on my young mind, enraptured as I was by the entire universe I could see within my mind. But now— even the tiniest bit of the world never ceases to amaze me, and I’ve learnt to find pleasure not only in the cosy retreat of my mind, but also in all the little details of this world that make life worth living.

And I’ve found new friends, really amazing people who accept my whole being, replete with its every feature and flaw, and love me, truly, for the person that I am— people who I never get tired of talking to, with us bouncing random ideas and musings and our fantastical dreams back and forth. I’ve found new interests, things that really bring a big smile to my face and make the day a little better, things that make my eyes light up and stimulate my mind like never before, as I try to learn as much as I can about them.

And now slowly I’m growing more and more conscious of a vast, fascinating world that stretches beyond the limits of what I could ever imagine. A wider world that is out there, waiting, seemingly for me, with bated breath, poised to draw me with much fanfare into its realm of excitement and exuberance and serendipity. And the thought of all these unexplored possibilities that just lie out there, waiting to be unearthed, calls out to me in voices that are irresistible, inducing a wanderlust in my spirit that cannot be quenched, urging me to take flight, to soar, beyond the boundaries of my home, my city, beyond everything I’ve ever known.

It’s time for me to expand my horizons, to broaden my mind, to reconcile the expansive realm of my imagination with the expanding domain of my awareness all that is real and joyfully alive and thus achieve the realisation of infinity. “And yes, on a scale from one to over-trusting I am pretty damn naive but……this world is made out of sugar. It can crumble so easily but don’t be afraid to stick your tongue out and taste it.”

No more can these dreams be at the forefront of my life, my mind; from now on, all they can be to me, are pleasant hopes and visions of the future, stored at the back of my mind, as I take on the world, as I work and hope and pray, making the most of each day, finding joy in all the little things of life, with the allure of an occasional dream to enchant my day. For my priorities have shifted— I don’t just want to be lost in a dream— I want my impossible dreams, not as goals, but guidelines, so I can sway my path towards the goal I strive for, and I can live, hoping for the best, while preparing for the worst.

And maybe I’m not quite there yet. Maybe I find it hard to leave the comfort of my own shell, maybe sometimes I feel the world is far too big for me to even dare to dream of traversing it with these tiny footsteps of mine. But I’m still here. I’m taking baby steps. I try to raise my voice, even as my knees tremble. I try to be as authentically me as I can be. I try not to run after people. I learn to be comfortable in my own skin, to be comfortable whether I’m alone or with friends. I learn to let myself free, to let myself spread my wings, to let go of my invisible restraints that prevent me from finding genuine joy in each moment of life, finding a world of happiness in each laugh shared with friends, finding a universe of love in all the little kindnesses you find scattered around your neighbourhood.

And so, despite all of my misgivings with matters of identity, yet again, I’ve fallen in love. I’ve fallen in love with yet another word that is just too beautiful to let go.

Now, I like to call myself a fledgling.

According to the dictionary, for a bird to fledge means to develop, for the very first time, wing feathers that are just large enough to take flight— so a fledgling means a bird that is preparing to leave the nest, to venture into the world, to fly, for the very first time.

And……I’ve always identified with that feeling. Every December, for as long as I can remember, as the beginnings of a new year approach closer and closer, I’ve always been seized by a mixture of conflicting feelings— anticipation and trepidation, all in the same measure. For I await with bated breath and an uncontainable eagerness to see what breathtaking change the new year will bring, to approach once again a pivotal crossroads, that fork in the road beyond which you know not what comes, beyond which life will never be the same again. And the fear that lingers behind it all is that of having, once again, the responsibility of choice being thrust on your shoulders— the apprehension that haunts you after you make your choice— that persistent question of whether you will be blessed with fair fortune or befallen by misfortune.

Each year leaves me with an exalting sense of having so many lessons learnt, and as my knowledge grows from year to passing year, my awareness of the extent of my ignorance only broadens. And thus I have resolved to always heed this absolute truth: how much ever I learn, there will always be so much left to know; so many ways I can grow.

And with other words, as the seasons pass, we may begin to fall out of love— we may think that we’ve outgrown them. But not so with this one.

For, however far we fly from our nest, within us there will be always be a part of the nature of the fledgling. Awkward. Reluctant. Hesitant. Yet testing the waters. Testing their strength. Learning to raise their voice— and sing, loud and clear and proud! Spreading their wings, discovering with delight new and fair skies. And that, you see, is the intrinsic beauty of this word. And that’s why I have this presentiment……that even if I happen to add more words to my repertoire, this one will always stay close to my heart. ❤️

So there you have it. I’m this girl, who likes to call herself a fledgling; perennially awkward, hopelessly clumsy, both in social graces and the affairs of daily life. Someone who is still very much a kid at heart, although there are too many days when she struggles with the shadows that shroud her soul. With weird tastes in everything, rambling excitedly and incoherently about things no one else cares about. Hopelessly head over heels in love with the written word. Feels like she belongs more in a fictional world than a real one— with innumerable crushes, even, on fictional characters. I’m on a quest to learn as much as I can about the world around me, to soak in as much as I can of all the amazing happenings and opportunities that surround me, and to thus make the most of each day— to learn to be proud of the person that I already am, and to be decidedly, unapologetically myself. Even if it means being that kid at the back of the room who never has much to say, except when it is really her time to shine.

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hush

He lies in the bed. Still. More still than he has ever been his entire life.

His eyes, once sparkling with the brilliance of the million questions that sprung without end from his rapid train of thought— now veiled by the darkness of his eyelids.

His skin, once aglow with the flush of youth, the colours of sunrise— now drained of blood, the colour of ash.

His chest, barely lifted by the air that whooshes in and out of his nose; his breath, only a whisper.

And a man stands over the bed. His fingers twist together, over, and over again. His heartbeat drums against his ribs, his insides are searing and he. cannot. breathe.

And it is now, for the first time, that it occurs to him— the boy in the bed is just that— a boy.

The one who had dispelled the impenetrable gloom that once clouded every waking moment of his life; his constant companion throughout these golden years of his life, the one reason these years had started to matter to him— just a little child.

It wasn’t that he’d never noticed before. There had always been a tiny part of him that realised just how young the boy was— that feared for every scrape that he got into.

But it was always so hard to keep it in mind, not when he had always been so burstingly full of life— wild with energy, alight with enthusiasm, burning with curiosity. Not when his legs never tired of running, not when his mind never stopped its relentless drive to probe the secrets of whatever intrigued his searching gaze.

He’d always seen the kid as something else altogether: the invulnerable, the unstoppable, the irrepressible. Like a wildfire, like a battering ram— he would tear through whatever barriers stood in his way. He was not just a boy— he was a force of nature. Even if he ever faced death itself, he’d be holding his head high, looking it in the eye, invincible, unconquerable.

Never before had there been reason to notice the slightness of his stature. Never before had there been reason to notice the rather babyish features of his face— or that ridiculously juvenile tuft of hair that always stuck up from his head.

But now, with him curled up under the sheets, with his lips puckered and a little crease between his eyebrows and his eyelashes cast tightly down on his cheeks, the truth is:

He has never looked so small.

And now— he lies here, as still as almost death itself— and it feels so unreal, so unnatural, so terribly wrong. As though the sun has finally stopped rising, as though the stars have finally stopped shining. For he was the last person you could ever imagine to be shrouded in this inexplicable stillness.

But then, the man supposes, sooner or later, every soul on earth is consumed by this irrevocable silence, every body is befallen by the stillness of death.

And he can only pray that there is time yet for the kid.

.

when we’re young, we refuse to believe in the vulnerability of the people we love.

but then, there comes that point in everyone’s life when the rose-tinted glasses shatter.

and nothing is ever the same since.

( hush | the stillness of death )